The Dodos Live at the Metro in Chicago
Nothing beats summer in Chicago. Between festivals and concerts in the park opportunities to catch free live music outdoors are endless. On Monday June 6 the beloved Iron & Wine performed a free concert for the weekly New Music Mondays series held downtown at Millennium Park. Naturally the whole city took advantage of the opportunity to see Iron & Wine, packing the outdoor venue to uncomfortable proportions. Interesting how boring music can draw such a large crowd.
Other live music fans, myself included, opted to skip the park and head to Wrigleyville to catch California psych-folk rockers the Dodos. The band played indoors at the dim and dingy Metro; so wine, cheese and picnic blankets were not permitted, and technically the show was not free, but I can guarantee the music rocked ten times harder than the show in the park. The Dodos rattled the rafters with a unique powerhouse sound of polyrhythmic drumming, intricate picking and delightful harmonies reminiscent of 90’s indie folk rock.
The Dodos were preceded by Gauntlet Hair of Lafayette, Colorado. The band was headed by proclaimed BFFs (best friends forever) Andy R. (guitar/vocals) and Craig Nice (drums). Usually R. and Nice play as a duo; however they were joined by two extra musicians, making the Gauntlet Hair a four-piece. Three things struck me about Gauntlet Hair: they played in a line running across the foot of the stage, Nice was positioned center stage on an electric drum set hammering out heavy handed beats, and finally Nice’s dog freely roamed the stage during the set.
Gauntlet Hair performed a blend of experimental, psychedelic noise rock with hints of electro dream pop. Their sound was loud and border line overwhelming. If the noise aspect was scaled back they would have made for a more enjoyable show. In Gauntlet Hair’s defense, the Metro is notorious for pockets of overblown dead sound. Andy R. employed an effect mic for his vocals, making his voice echo and lyrics inaudible. Regardless I was intrigued enough to leave with Gauntlet Hair’s 7” which is not half bad.
Word around the Metro was evening ticket sales were low, so reps set out to Iron & Wine to pass out free tickets in hopes of beefing up attendance. Their plan worked for by the time the Dodos hit the stage the audience filled out. Being a Monday night I noticed many a tired and droopy faces in the crowd; The Dodos surfaced around 10:30 PM to a house of excited yawns.
Guitarist/singer Meric Long approached his pedal board and flipped an effect causing an eerie ring to fill the room. He then reached for the mic and said “Greetings Earthlings” before jumping headfirst into “Good” off the band’s latest release No Color (March 15 2011, French Kiss Records). The Dodos instantly kicked the yawn from the crowd with their round primitive groove of innovative melodies. Two traits that made the Dodos so great is their unconventional and approachable rock sound; unconventional because their sound revolved around steady, circular rhythms produced by drummer Logan Kroeber. I found them approachable for their introverted lyrics and live energy.
Kroeber was the focal point of the stage perched behind a unique drum kit of: three toms, a snare, couple of cymbals and foot powered tambourine. He relied on the deep resonate tones of the toms, employing African and metal influences to each roll. His counterpart Long was off to the left shielded by his guitar. Long had the incredible ability to simultaneously finger-pick and strum his guitar like a country blues master. Since there was no bass the music focused on the fluid relationship between drums, guitar and lyrics. The band was joined by rhythm guitarist Chris Riemer, who has been on tour with the duo as of late. Riemer added extra hints of color in between the grooves, but was no match for Long.
There were moments during the show where the band’s rhythm centric ballads spun into long play experimentation. One moment they rode quick paced folk rock with delicate harmonies, and electric guitar riffs worthy of the ‘90s. Psychedelic noise rock would follow suit complete with polyrhythmic Americana swells. Really there were no boundaries to what the band was capable of. Kroeber would rap on the rims of his drums, producing street sounds of pulsating percussion colored by the jangle of tambourine.
In response Long lovingly unleashed series of guitar shreds masked and elongated by effect pedals. Wrapped up in their jam, the boys played like they were in a private garage exploring the powers of their instruments. The audience swayed with the beauty developing onstage and definitely punched the air through choruses and power chords. The Dodos’ set primarily focused on No Color with hints of back catalog favorites primarily off their sophomore album Visiter. Towards the end Long snapped a string on his guitar, though that did not stop him from relaying a three song encore, culminating in the band’s notable pop anthem “The Fool”.