December 09 2023 The Bellwether in Los Angeles hosted a holiday party with a whole host of friends. by Harriet Kaplan

Going to The Bellwether in downtown LA was special for two important reasons. One was to review the folk ensemble Dawes in concert on December 9th billed as “Christmas in L.A. With Dawes and Friends.” The band had been together for more than a decade and includes Taylor Goldsmith, Griffin Goldsmith, and Lee Pardini. They recently released their eight album “Misadventures of Doomscroller” in 2022. The material delves into real-life subject matter and sometimes serious, dark topics.

The other reason was to check out this new venue for the first time. The Bellwether is very spacious, clean and modern looking. It it has a massive ballroom, open-air patio, VIP room, a big private event space, and restaurant lounge with bar. The ballroom has a state-of-art sound system, customized lighting, wrap-around balcony, wooden dance floor and more.

Right before entering The Bellwether, I stood in line hoping to talk to fans of Dawes. As luck would have it, I met a couple who flew in from New York to see the concert. The husband has seen Dawes perform 14 times. Time passed quickly as he spoke passionately about his experiences seeing Dawes, their music, songs, arrangement and knowledge about lineup changes. He said there were very few bands or artists he would travel outside of New York to see, but Dawes was one of them, because in his opinion, they are that good. Finally, the doors opened, I thanked the couple for the chat and hoped they had a good time at the show.

I was very hungry at that point and made my way to a neon sign that read “EAT.” I walked up a flight of stairs to the bar area and ordered a slice of pizza and a seltzer water and cranberry juice. The pizza was delicious and tasty and the drink simply quenched my thirst.

Afterwards, I walked over to the ballroom floor and joined Dawes fans waiting for the show to begin. It was a packed audience filled with animated and excited devotees that seemed anxious with anticipation to hear the first note of music play.

The Dawes show was truly great and a wonderful treat leading off the Christmas season. The set was comprised of over 15 songs. They were Dawes original numbers peppered with some Christmas classics. One was a cover of The Killers’ “Christmas In L.A.” Highlights from the generous set featured “From The Right Angle,” “Most People,” and “Comes In Waves.” The lead singer and guitarist Taylor Goldsmith is a talented artist. He’s a gregarious and charismatic frontman with a bit of an edgy personality. Dawes includes top-notch musicians that provide exceptional, versatile backing support.

Check out the full gallery of photos of this night here.

The show included a number of memorably engrossing, fun and entertaining performances by Dawes’ friends. Singer, songwriter and actress Mandy Moore, who is also Goldsmith’s wife, delivered a lovely rendition “How Could This Be Christmas.” Sam Nelson of X Ambassadors sang the hell out of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas.” His high-energy and fervent performance included a lot of dancing changing the melancholy mood of the original song. A four-piece horn section added the right amount of punch and dynamics.

Jim James and Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket performed the forlorn “Oh My Christmas Tree.” Madison Cunningham sang “Broken Harvest.” Her vocals were awe inspiring and breathtaking. They were simply ethereal and she hit unimaginable high notes soaring right into the air. Mike Viola of Panic At The Disco sang “Paul McCartney” and “Comes In Waves.” Matthew Koma of The Winnetka Bowling League performed “When The Tequila Runs Out” and “Feeling California.” Koma has a quirky and offbeat presence and cracked the audience up with funny comments from the stage.

As an added bonus to the show, Goldsmith reunited Simon Dawes together including Blake Mills, Wylie Gelber and more. They performed “Lazy Daisy” and “Salute The Institution.”

Concluding the night, Goldsmith reunited Simon Dawes again and the Dawes “friends” for the show’s last song, “All Your Favorite Bands.” It was a lasting testament to the musical artistry and gifts of all performers giving the evening that extra bit of Christmas magic and spirit.


From the Right Angle

With Sam Nelson of X Ambassadors
This Christmas       (Donny Hathaway cover)

As Dawes
Someone Else's Café/Doomscroller Tries to Relax

With Mike Viola
Paul McCarthy     (Mike Viola cover)

Comes in Waves

With Mandy Moore
How Could This Be Christmas?
(Mandy Moore cover)

With Matt Koma of Winnetka Bowling League
When the Tequila Runs Out

Feeling California
(Winnetka Bowling League cover)

As Dawes
Feed the Fire

With Madison Cunningham
Broken Harvest
(Madison Cunningham cover)

With Jim James and Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket
Oh My Christmas Tree
(My Morning Jacket cover)

As Dawes
Most People

Skeleton Is Walking
(Blake Mills cover)

Simon Dawes
Lazy Daisy
(Simon Dawes cover)

Salute the Institution
(Simon Dawes cover)

Ensemble With All Featured Guests
Christmas in L.A.
(The Killers cover) (Griff sang lead on the second verse)

Check out the full gallery of photos of this night here.

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