Dawes Drive-In Concert: A Tall Cool Glass of Water in a Desert Without Live Music

When was your last live concert? About a decade ago, right? Even if you are an avid attendee of live shows, it probably seems like a decade ago that you sat there with the band playing right there.

Last night we saw Dawes at a drive-in concert. With understandable trepidation, we drove into the parking lot at Cal State San Marcos in Escondido, CA. The socially distanced traffic gendarmes pointed us to our parking spot. We landed near the middle of the set up, which meant we were in front of the stage. Other folks opted to be in front of either high-res screen flanking the main stage. We pulled out our camp chairs, and set up in front of our car. Other folks parked backwards in their SUVs and kicked back. A pair of clever couples came in a convertible.

It was so great being enveloped in live music.

And Dawes was the perfect band to re-initiate us into a live concert setting.

Dawes at Cal State San Marcos in Escondido, CA, October 16, 2020.

On the heels of their recent Good Luck With Whatever album, the band played two live shows in SoCal. We were at their first gig, and the band seemed truly moved to be back out in front of fans in the same space. A recent appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert was a good preview.

WATCH “Didn’t Fix Me”

The band’s new studio album comes with a stellar pedigree: production by 6x GRAMMY® Award-winner Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit), recorded at Nashville’s famed RCA Studio A and released by Rounder.

The setlist in Escondido stretched across Dawes’ prolific career, and ably grew in energy as they approached the close of their set. They kicked off the evening with “Still Feel Like a Kid,” which also opens the new album. A very evocative moment was the poignant “St. Augustine at Night,” also getting its first public airing.

No question the drive-in concert is only a half-step substitute for the real thing at a traditional venue. But last night was a welcome oasis in the months-long desert of live music.

It reminded me of the Disney film Cars, with all the autos pointed at the stage and applause represented by honking horns and flashing headlights.

Invariably, Dawes closed with their stirring “All Your Favorite Bands.” It is an uplifting message to either a distant friend or a former lover. I am confident when the band performed it previously, the acapella sing along by the audience was a loud and stirring coda. But with many watching from their cars last night, it was a bit melancholy and bittersweet that the audience’s voices seemed distant, yet heartfelt.

There is legislation being proposed to save independent venues. If you love live music, it all starts at independent venues.

To learn more about NIVA’s quest to gain federal funding for independent venues, visit https://www.nivassoc.org/take-action. To learn more about the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund, visit https://www.nivassoc.org/erf.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.