live review

The Dodos, Bodega, Wellington

The Dodos, Bodega, Wellington

January 29 2010
Bodega, Wellington

Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam
29th March 2010

The Dodos with support from Orchestra of Spheres and Secret Knives
Friday 29th January
Bodega, Wellington

San Francisco’s The Dodos, fresh off their reportedly impressive performance at Camp A Low Hum, are embarking on a mini-New Zealand tour which includes Auckland (Bacco Room, Saturday 30 January) and Leigh (Sunday 31 January). The tour kicked off on a sweaty, clangy night in Wellington (of course, that is relatively speaking given it is Wellington), and the crowd were driven to primal distraction with Dodos’ tribal beats.

The night was opened by Secret Knives. The band is a study in angles, from the bands’ Cubist body frames to the music’s New Wave leanings. Their short and highly energetic set hardly showcased the world’s most original music, but they were tight and assured and displayed some precocious talent.

Orchestra of Spheres are starting to build a hype around them in Wellington and it’s hard not to see why. Using a kind of found sound ethic – the guitar for example is made out of biscuit tins, and also utilising ‘exotic’ instruments like theremins and gamelans well is going to guarantee some sort of attention in a city that’s always looking for something a little different. They understand melody and dissonance, and the drummer must have a metronome built in somewhere, which means even if you’re not into their hypnotic music (which I was), you can’t help but uncontrollably dance to it.

The Dodos play a kind of deranged folk, West African drumming meeting indie guitar work, and their live show is even more rhythmically driven than their albums. The drums fairly pound. Meric Long (who sings and plays guitar live) learnt Ewe drumming, and their music used dense polyrhythms to get the crowd moving, while the band also cleverly used loops and pedals to sound much richer than a three-piece would suggest. While the band’s second album, 2008’s Visiter was one of my favourite American records of the last few years, The Dodos do have an issue of samey-ness in sound. Luckily their pounding live show allows audiences to enter into that catatonic state of West African music at its best.

The interaction between the three felt intuitive, and songs which threatened to career off were kept tight. If anything, the vibraphone player Keaton Snyder, a recent addition to the band, was a bit too low on the mix, and his contribution was lost a little as a result. Songs like ‘Fools’ and ‘Jodi’ sounded fantastic, and the band fed off the crowd who would start clapping without provocation or scream at the slightest noise. And while the night continued with a dance party later on, led by the indomitable Signer and Daedelus, Dodos had made sure the crowd was exhausted and content by the halfway point of the night.

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