I arrived in front of Club Dada just three minutes before Trace Mountains’s set was supposed to start. I nervously approached the doors, certain that the crowd would be packed and I wouldn’t be able to find the perfect spot next to the stage to take photos. Luckily, fate was on my side, and just minutes before the opening set, the venue was sparsely populated with roughly two dozen people milling around, checking out the merch stands, and ordering their drinks from the bar. In fact, Dave Benton (a.k.a. Trace Mountains) himself hadn’t even taken the stage yet and was still talking to people in the crowd as I walked in. Even as the night went on and more people filtered into the venue, the crowd size stayed small. This granted a certain intimacy to the whole show as we formed a little in-crowd of those that are now lucky enough to say that they saw Tomberlin that Sunday night at Club Dada.
This was one of those rare shows where I was almost equally excited about the opener and the headliner. I had actually already seen Dave perform when he opened for Japanese Breakfast in Charlotte last summer, but he brought a completely different energy to this show in Dallas. While in Charlotte he performed with a full band, here he was on his own with just a guitar and a case full of effects pedals. This meant the songs were stripped down to just guitar and programmed drums that he controlled with a clicker on stage. On the earlier tour, he was also promoting his 2021 album House of Confusion, but on this tour, he was between albums, resulting in a setlist made up of an eclectic mix of songs from his earlier releases, a few unreleased tracks he is currently workshopping on the road, and a great cover of “Here Comes a Regular” by The Replacements.
Even though the crowd was small and many of the audience members were likely unfamiliar with his music, Dave brought a great energy to the stage. He kept the audience captivated as he moved from songs about love, heartbreak, and the “country” (a recurring theme in his music). He even played my favorite songs “If You Do” and “Eyes On The Road,” which automatically earned him my undying loyalty. I’m also definitely looking forward to the release of one of the songs he tested out that night which included the lyric “I won’t go home till I see that fucker burn.”
When Tomberlin and her band took the stage, the energy in the venue completely changed. The band opened with “easy,” which perfectly established the intimate soundscape that the crowd would be treated to for the rest of the night. My interest was immediately piqued when guitarist Chris Daley opened the song with a clarinet solo. From there, Tomberlin joined in with vocals inflected by an almost uncomfortable level of emotion, bassist/keyboardist Frank Meadows played the song’s scattered keyboard section and drummer Josh Jaeger created a background rhythm with the world’s most delicate percussion brushes. It was truly amazing to hear this very sparse indie folk sound fill the entire venue.
The rest of the set included selections from Tomberlin’s 2020 EP Projections and her 2022 album i don’t know who needs to hear this. I nearly had an out-of-body experience hearing songs like “easy,” “born again runner,” and “tap” live. These were all songs that defined summer of 2022 for me, as they would fill my mostly empty days being back home from college. It felt strange to hear these songs, which I was so used to existing only in my headphones, along with a crowd of strangers. This emotionality on my end was increased when Tomberlin brought out “Seventeen,” one of the only songs in her setlist from her first album At Weddings. I still remember sitting on the porch of my house in the early hours of my 17th birthday and playing that song to myself. Everything that night felt like a strange culmination of life events and the experience of being a Tomberlin fan for years. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who felt this, as the couples swayed to the more romantic songs, or the girl next to me — probably a truer fan than I am — sang along to each of the lyrics.
All of this emotion was balanced out by Tomberlin’s awkward crowd banter while tuning her guitar in between songs. She started off by asking the crowd if they “had any questions or comments” for her and after receiving silence, promised she would circle back later in the show. She fulfilled her promise and the crowd finally offered some questions. By the end of the concert, I knew her astrological sign (Aries), her favorite song at the moment (Lil Uzi’s “Do What I Want”), everything about the drunk guys that she yelled at during her last concert in Dallas in 2019, and that her ex-boyfriend kind of looked like Keanu Reeves.
Overall, the night was amazing. If you get the chance to see Tomberlin or Trace Mountains in concert, I highly recommend you do. Also, make sure to listen to Tomberlin’s i don’t know who needs to hear this the next time you need a good cry. My only complaint is that the show closed without an encore. For the first few minutes after Tomberlin finished her final song “Happy Accident,” I was still confident that she would come back on stage. Even as the lights came back on, the house music started playing again, and crew members started to unplug and move speakers, I continued to delude myself. Only when Tomberlin finally sat behind her merch table and started selling merch and talking to fans, I finally admitted to myself that the night was over. Maybe it was for the best that she didn’t perform “idkwntht,” the song listed at the bottom of the hand-written setlist that I assumed would be the encore. The song was my most listened to track of 2022 and I’m sure my fellow audience members would not have appreciated my attempted harmonies as I sang each lyric back at Tomberlin.