Taylor Goldsmith has no idea why his band was picked to tour with Bob Dylan.
And he’s not going to ask.
Because when you’re a 27-year-old musician in an up-and-coming band and you get a chance to tour with a guy who is nothing less than a music icon, you just say “thanks.”
In fact, Goldsmith and his mates in the band Dawes aren’t even asking when, or if, they might meet Dylan.
“I’m fully expecting we won’t meet him. And that’s fine; he’s a private person,” said Goldsmith in the break room of the Bull Moose music store in Scarborough last week as Dawes prepared to perform a short set for about 200 fans. “But if we do meet him, that’s great. When we heard we’d be doing this, we were over the moon.”
When Dawes opens for Dylan Wednesday at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, it will be during the first week of three weeks on the road together. And even though Goldsmith doesn’t know exactly why his band got this gig, it’s easy to figure out what Dylan and Dawes have in common.
“If you play music and deal in words, if you care about lyrics, then there’s no question you’re influenced by him,” said Goldsmith. “It’s a prerequisite, I think, to listen to his work.”
In addition to Goldsmith on lead vocals and guitar and his brother, Griffin, on drums, Dawes consists of Wylie Gelber on bass and Tay Strathairn on keyboards. They’re a rock quartet with stripped-down instrumentation, thoughtful lyrics and complicated melodies and harmonies.
Besides earning a spot to play with Dylan, Dawes has also toured with the super-hot folk-rock act Mumford & Sons. In fact, it played before 15,000 people on Portland’s Eastern Promenade last August as part of Mumford’s “Gentlemen of the Road Stopover” show.
After performing nine shows at this year’s South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, Dawes was back in the Portland area in late March on a promotional tour for its third album, “Stories Never End,” which is scheduled to hit stores on Tuesday.
The single “From a Window Seat” was released in February, and quickly shot up to No. 18 on Billboard’s adult alternative chart. Once the Dylan stint ends, the band is scheduled to perform on May 16 on the late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on ABC.
So it’s hot right now, with a wide-ranging appeal. That was evidenced by the crowd of 200 or so at the Bull Moose show, which ranged from retirement-aged folks to a few pre-schoolers rocking back and fourth on their fathers’ shoulders.
The band played “From a Window Seat” and three other tracks from the new album during its six-song, 30-minute set. One of the songs, “Someone Will,” showed the passion for words and images that Goldsmith and his bandmates have while writing songs.
The song is about telling the object of your affection that you will be loved, even if it’s not by her:
“It’s the nights like this in the quieter parts of Los Angeles/ When you think you see the outline of the beast, up in the hills/ Well, you might be sitting beside the only person you could face it with/ But if you don’t want me after tonight, someone will/ I have to believe that/ Someone will.”
Taylor Pepper, 21, of Damariscotta, drove the hour or more to Scarborough and met with her friend, Elise Koomen, 21, who drove an hour more from Newburyport, Mass. They both went to the Mumford & Sons show in Portland last summer, and now share a passion for Dawes.
“I think Taylor Goldsmith’s lyrics are amazing, and I love the harmonies with his brother (Griffin Goldsmith),” said Pepper. “I grew up listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash because of my dad, and I think (Dawes) is sort of like that.”
The Goldsmith brothers come from a musical family, though they don’t necessarily have a folk or roots musician in their family tree. Their father, Lenny Goldsmith, was lead singer in the ’70s rock band Sweathog, which had a Top 40 radio hit in 1971 called “Hallelujah.”
So growing up in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles, Taylor never really thought about doing anything other than music.
“For me, it was go to school and then start singing,” he said. “It was very natural.”
Goldsmith and his brother started as teens under the nom de plume Simon Dawes, and their music was a little more akin to prog-rock influenced by David Bowie. They were basically trying to find out who they were musically, Goldsmith said.
By the time they released their first album as Dawes, “North Hills,” in 2009, they had found their sound — a stripped-down, roots-based music that evokes comparisons to early Eagles and Jackson Browne. “Nothing is Wrong” followed in 2011, and was named one of the 50 best albums of the year by Uncut magazine.
Goldsmith thinks there may be more young bands featuring a stripped-down sound with a focus on thoughtful lyrics because it’s so easy today for people to listen to different kinds of music.
A generation ago, the broadest rock audience might want the same things from their music — a rockin’ good time. But thanks to digital delivery of music, today people can listen to electronic dance music when they want to party, metal when they want to lash out, and bands like Dawes and Mumford & Sons when they want a slightly more “introspective” experience, he said.
“I think rock is no longer the one big party music,” said Goldsmith. “There are so many choices for people now.”
That’s not to say Dawes is a superstar band — yet. The members went virtually unnoticed at Bull Moose before they began playing, and they helped set up equipment prior to their set. (“It’s a small tour, and we really can’t afford a big crew,” Goldsmith said). With customers milling about, he browsed some movies on DVD in the store before doing a soundcheck.
And there were no typical rock-star trappings. The show was scheduled for 6 p.m., and it started at exactly 6 p.m.
Goldsmith thanked the crowd several times and said he hoped they “didn’t mind” hearing so many new songs. The crowd responded by cheering and by taking pictures and videos with their phones, which the band encouraged.
“It’s been really great playing for you all,” said Goldsmith.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: