Street Tacos, Being Underage, and Talking to The Dodos
Despite the fact I had planned on going to see the Dodos for a while, when October 5th arrived I wasn’t prepared. It was a cold and rainy night, and the commute to and from Denver seemed not so awesome considering how gosh darn tired I was; nonetheless, I dragged my behind to the show (did you realize how deftly I avoided using expletives just there?). And I’m sure glad I did, let me tell ya.
To say seeing a band for the second time is any “better” or “worse” than the first time would not only be too subjective to be meaningful, but it would also be reductionist. It’s just different. Perhaps the initial allure and excitement of seeing the people in real life who make music you’ve listened to in private (and fawned over, let’s be honest) is gone. You no longer have empty expectations because you’ve been there before: you know what their energy is like on stage, you know how they act toward their audience, you know if their hair is really that magnificent in person – most of the time it is. Maybe this was a contributing factor to why I wasn’t as giddy as usual before a show; I saw the Dodos last year at the Fox, and though my expectations for a great show were high, by the end of the night they were absolutely shattered. The raw power produced by simply two dudes, an acoustic guitar and a set of drums translated flawlessly from their records to the stage. However, the second time around was, retrospectively, a more intimate and genuine concert experience than last year.
For those of you who haven’t been, The Larimer Lounge is equal parts dive bar and hilariously tiny concert venue. It’s the image you procure in your mind when you imagine the stage underground bands fated to gain a notable (if not enormous) following playedbefore they had any notoriety; so, essentially, it was an interesting yet compelling choice for the Dodos. When we arrived, my two adult friends who can drink alcohol legally proceeded to buy beer, leaving me and my other infant friend attempting to hide the colossal x’s on our hands and inconspicuously blend into the crowd of mid-twenties or up hipsters. It’s exhausting being the youngest person at a show, mind you.
As we arrived about an hour before the show started, people-watching commenced. After a few minutes I noticed Meric Long and Logan Kroeber (the Dodo Birds themselves!) casually walking to and from the bar and venue space, buying tacos from the street vendor outside, and setting up their merch table. Nobody seemed to take notice, or care really. From that moment on I could tell this was going to be a memorable performance.
The opener was a band called Maus Haus, a four piece who, like the Dodos, are also native to San Francisco. They’re self-described on their bandcamp page as “a confection of Kraftwerk, The Beach Boys, and Sonic Youth.” They also made us wait a half hour after the show was scheduled to begin, so immediately I was at least semi-impatient with the Haus of Maus. Their first few tracks were loud, spastic blends of dirty synth and over-powering bass, the vocals washed out (or maybe “flattened” would be a better description) by the lower end. I wasn’t entirely sure to blame the sound tech or the band for this, but as the set went on it seemed like they began to catch their stride. Their tunes were dancey, grimy, gritty jams that were – to me, at least – reminiscent of a hybrid between some of Spoon’s less-polished fare and Chromeo’s less-awful stuff. If you plan on checking them out, I suggest “Skyward Housing” from theirSea-Sides album. I bobbed my head surreptitiously while the group of wasted idiots to the left of me danced (or thrashed) embarrassingly. Near the end of their set however, I was more than ready for some psych-folk grooves.
The best part about being a huge nerd and showing up early to concerts so you can be at the front of the crowd is being closer to see/hear the music being played, obviously. An added bonus at the Larimer is if I wanted to, or, if I was crazy enough to, I could have reached out and grabbed Meric as his spider-fingers danced across the fretboard of his guitar. I did not do that though, because I’m not a psychopath. Hearing the Dodos live is impressive on two levels: 1) the quality and balance of the sounds they produce, and 2) how f***ing loud they can get during breakdowns. And they did not disappoint on either of these levels.
Although the audience, venue, and sound were noticeably smaller than the Fox’s set-up last year, I couldn’t help but feel that the Dodos played the Larimer on purpose. It felt like I was seeing a new weirdly talented band playing a set at a house party or something, their mannerisms were relaxed and informal and their set solely dictated by what they wanted to play. This was, in a word, awesome. The set was mainly comprised of a smattering of songs from their newest released LP No Color (most notably for me, excellent opener “Going Under,” and “Good”), my personal favorite album Visiter (tracks like “Ashley,” “Joe’s Waltz,” and arguably their biggest hit “Fools”), and a bunch of new stuff that has yet to be released. In fact, one of the first things Meric announced to the audience was, “Hey thanks for coming out, we’re going to play a lot of new songs tonight, I hope you don’t mind.” I don’t think anyone minded.
If I were to under exaggerate, the Dodos put on a set that was all-around solid. It’s obvious when musicians have chemistry and when they can intuitively pick up on each other’s cues; in this sense it’s like Meric and Logan were put on this green earth to make music together. And it was nothing short of beautiful to witness that in such an intimate setting.
After the show, I decided to purchase Visiter on vinyl, so I walked up to Meric and proceeded to tell him how damn great that set was and how I saw their show last year in Boulder. He thanked me modestly (of course) and told me their next leg on the tour was Omaha. And since we were dying to know and had an ongoing debate about it, my friend was courageous – or maybe just tactless – enough to ask, “What is your ethnicity?” He laughed and told us he’s half Chinese. And after my friends had a lengthy conversation with Logan about everything and nothing, there was a crystallizing moment of realization that musicians are just people after all. People with a wonderful set of skills that make them seem other-worldly, but people nonetheless.
The circumstances surrounding a concert can often make or break the experience, whether you’re familiar with the band playing or not. And even though I was tired and this was the second time around and I shelled out $6 for street tacos (totally worth it, by the way), it was a superb night.
Photos and review by Sig Steiger. Show on 10/05/12.