Simon Says Rock
at the Troubadour, September 1
Seemed reasonable to assume Simon Dawes was a solo artist, but it turned out not one of these lanky lads is named Simon Dawes. Fine. And though the vintage-style rock and the low, drawling vocals on their upcoming debut, Carnivore, led me to the naive conclusion that they’re seasoned musicians, I realized on seeing them that they might be barely old enough to buy beer. It was tempting to tug them by the ear and force them to finish their homework, but their moms were already in the audience.
The Malibu-bred four bounded onstage like postadolescent heroes and stomped through their set with baffling yet admirable confidence. Singer Taylor Goldsmith, wearing a denim jacket and bearing a passion-bent Popeye snarl, sputtered through the wry lyrics of “Salute the Institution” and “Save Your Ticket” with fractured singsong whimsy and crooning melodicism, at times frantically leaping midsong between guitar and keyboard like a commuter catching a train. With beach-bum drummer Stuart Johnson sporting a perma-grin, reed-thin bassist Wiley Gelber laying out a buzzing rhythm and guitarist Blake Mills now and again trying his hand at slide, Simon Dawes churned out an impressive stream of retro-infused originals. Deviating with a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” just faithfully enough to evoke a wedding-band cringe, they nevertheless hit an undeniable high point during the orgiastically waltzy “Lazy Daisy,” which crescendoed with Mills standing on a monitor, thrusting his guitar at the crowd and screaming, “Come on, motherfuckers!” over and over like a bus-stop psychotic. Let’s hope his mom missed that part.
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