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Odd Fellows, great music.

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At first blush, Odd Fellows Hall in Davis seems like it would be more suited to host Jazzercize and Bible classes, bingo, and fraternal fundraising dinners than an epic rock show.

This makes sense, seeing as the former are exactly the type of events the venue generally holds.

But on Tuesday night, there were no bingo cards, no Bibles, no rubbery chicken, (there may have been some spandex — I'll have to check the tape), just a glorious display of musicianship and singer-songwriting. (And despite appearances, the sound was great)

Shannon Harney, Johnny Corndawg and Dawes took ownership of the junior high school auditorium-esque venue, and, if for only for a night, it was Davis' answer to Harlow's or the Independent. Well, minus the hard alcohol. Plus a handful of elementary-age kids with really cool parents.

The show started off with Harney, at first alone with her keyboard, later joined by Ben Lewis on acoustic guitar. Indicative of her sense of humor, her MySpace page describes her music as Christian rap, but I would go with Americanasoulfolk. Ms. Harney was mind-blowing on several levels.

Firstly, there's the shock of hearing such a huge, soulful voice coming from a cute, elfin hippie-ish chick who absolutely still gets carded for cigarettes, or would if she weren't such a badass.

Unexpected.

Then there's her lyrics, ranging from poignant and cynical ("I love you is ambitious, I would settle for goodbye") to mischievous and sensual ("Take off my dress, go down below my waist/ If you have something to say, now would be the time"), but always unconventional, clever and deeply emotive.

Wow.

Lastly is her commanding stage presence and the absolute ease with which she developed a rapport with the audience. "Davis people, you're so polite," she teased, belying (or maybe not) her own Davis roots. "Find me after the show," she said, before adding impishly, "I'm in a purple dress." When she asked the audience, the bulk of whom were seated up to that point, to get up for her last song, they did, to a man.

This is the first opener? Unreal.

Gauntlet thrown, Southern-fried alt-country singer-songwriter Johnny Corndawg took the stage next with his more than able backup band, Dawes, who were opening for themselves. (At one point during the show, the singer asked the crowd, "How are you liking CornDawes?")
The smorgasbord of brilliant lyricism continued, this time with a good ol’ country twang. "When a Ford man turns to Chevy," the Nashville-based Corndawg sings on the song of the same name, "an angel gets it's wings, and the babies, they won't ever cry no more."

He dedicated his next song to anyone who is married. The title of the song? "Shut Up." Needless to say, it's not an ode to marital bliss. "Tired of hearing about your terrible life, I'm livin’ the exact same one, but on the other side of your voice, and I hate that I need to raise mine."

My favorite song of the set was the funny yet mournful ballad "Trashday." "Monday is the day that the trash goes out, I can't forget/ Monday morning I wake up when the truck rolls by . . . She's gonna be so God damn mad at me when she gets home. . . Andersons they put their trash out Friday night, and they never forget, and they never fight. I hate them." Who can't relate to that?

This is the second opener? What a night.

Gauntlet thrown a second time, Dawes, who had left the stage briefly for Corndawg's a cappella encore, returned to the stage around a quarter to 10 p.m. As impressive as the opening acts had been (very), it took Dawes just a few moments to remind everyone why they were the headliners.

I had seen Dawes once before, at Outside Lands at the back of a large packed field, which is to say, I hadn't ever really seen Dawes before. I had only the slightest knowledge of their oeuvre, and what little I had was only recently acquired. I went in almost blind.

But now, now I see. They were absolutely phenomenal.

They played a lot of tracks off their debut studio album, “North Hills.” Crowd favorites, including "Give Me Time," "Peace in the Valley," "That Western Skyline" and "Love Is All I Am," had many in the predominantly college age to slightly older crowd singing along passionately, particularly those of the female persuasion.

They closed the set with their anthemnic hit "When My Time Comes." Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith at one point turned over lead-singing duties to us, the audience. A young boy in particular was perched atop his father’s shoulders front and center, directly in front of the out-turned mic. The kid, who had been splayed on the ground ready to conk out just a song before, belted out the chorus with all his might.

Continuing with one of the recurring themes of the evening, love gone awry, they mixed in an inspired and upbeat cover of Warren Zevon's classic "Hula Hula Boys."

Some of the best moments of the set came on songs from their upcoming album, which they just finished recording.

"So Well" is a powerful ballad (not to be confused with a power ballad), soulful and yearning. Often when a band plays a new ballad, they are opening the bathroom and smoke-break floodgates. Not this time. Taylor's younger brother, 20-year-old drummer Griffin Goldsmith, took over lead-singing duties (admirably) on the rollicking "How Far We've Come.” "Fire Away" is a drum- and keys-heavy ‘70s-style track that brings to mind Fleetwood Mac.

Which brings us to the encore, "A Little Bit of Everything.”

It's a tour de force. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I was affected as strongly by a song upon first listen. It's songwriting at its best. A beautiful melody, an infectious chorus, a captivating tale of hope and hopelessness, love and despair, fear and regret, with a dash of humor and a healthy slathering of wisdom. As soon as I had heard it, I couldn't imagine not having heard it. Know what I mean?

When I went home, I found a clip of it on Youtube and watched it a half-dozen more times. I didn't get the least bit emotional or weepy. As far as you know.

As we strolled out of the venue, Mike Tobias, a Davis local and an accomplished musician in his own right, exclaimed "An amazing show! What a treat it is to have a place like this in Davis!" It certainly was, and certainly is. 

You have one more chance to catch a show during  Sophia's Thai Kitchen Presents: 2011 Winter Concert Series at Odd Fellows Hall.  (catch a show at the Independant Order of Odd Fellows Lodge!  It's like an assembly, except awesome!)  

If Telekinesis, The Love Language and Jake Mann & The Upper Hand put on half the show that Dawes, Corndawg and Harney did, you'll be in for a treat.  

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