Best Backing Band: Conor Oberst and Dawes
Dawes, Oberst's current backing band, had just finished a set of their own less than an hour before joining Oberst onstage, but you wouldn't have know it from the way they played. Moving through Bright Eyes cuts like "Bowl of Oranges," solo tracks like "Danny Callahan" and new classic "Hundreds of Ways," they brought an enthusiasm that their frontman at times lacked. Oberst, meanwhile, didn't speak to his audience once, communicating instead through inventive hand gestures choreographed to his lyrics. Still, his vocals were raw, sharp and emotive, and an especially rollicking "Old Soul Song (For the New World)" was an obvious highlight even before Dawes' rock & roll breakdown. C.D.