The Dodos @ The Biltmore Cabaret – September 9th 2013

I finally made it to the Biltmore for a show without getting there and having to wait for an hour and a half for things to start; unfortunately I got there as Cousins was already a bit into their set.

Cousins (at least for this evening) are Aaron Mangle and Leigh Dotey. Mangle covers lead vocals and guitar, while Dotey plays drum and sometimes provides back-up vocals where needed. A poppy garage rock band, Cousins seemed to create this bizarre wall of noise that I couldn’t pinpoint an exact origin of and then played on top of it. It made for a really interesting sound but unfortunately something about it made my ears feel like something ethereal was trying to push its way into my head. That something turned out to be wolverines that rolled around tearing up my ear drums because I still feel like my ears need to pop from it two days later. At first I thought I was crazy but my friend Joey confirmed that the wave of static I was hearing was real. It’s really unfortunate because the 7 or 8 songs that I caught sounded like some pretty great stuff but not really worth the popping and crackling inside my ears that felt like permanent hearing damage. Super cool band, totally worth a listen but if you’re going to see them, definitely bring ear plugs for that distortion effect.

That new Family Guy (why Family Guy?) pinball machine took up the empty time between sets, where I managed to do horribly while Devin and Joey both achieved the powers of mini-pinball at least once. Mini-pinball is pretty cool stuff.

The Dodos have had a couple members come and go but founding members Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have kept things together since 2005. Having released their 5th album this year, Carrier, the duo was out on tour again since I’d last seen them with Calexico almost a year ago. I was looking forward to seeing a longer set and was also surprised when I saw they had a new member, known only to me as Joe (and not Joe Haener who played with them in 2009) on guitar. So the set promised to be interesting, especially since, on top of all that, I hadn’t really listened to anything past their 2008 album Visiter. There was a bit of feedback for the a bit during their first song, and I wasn’t really paying attention at the time, so I can’t quite remember what they opened with; my best guess if I’m remembering correctly is that it was either ‘Trades & Tariffs’ from Beware of the Maniacs, or ‘Longform’ from Time to Die. My bad.

Next, however, they definitely played ‘Substance’ from the new album Carrier. It was a change to see Long playing an electric guitar for the majority of their set but I was already liking the sound of this new album from this song alone, sounding like it was pushing forwards before taking two steps back with the beat and moving forwards again. ‘Black Night’ is the first song off No Color, and I absolutely love Long’s vocals on the song. Not to say that their first two albums were simple because giving them a listen quashes that idea completely, but hearing stuff from the newer albums really highlights a lot of the skill that the band has that I think didn’t show so much on the first two albums. Also, getting to hear them play with a third member really fills out the sound on these newer songs. I don’t find that songs from their first two albums need anything more than Long and Kroeber but when it comes to the newer albums, I think it’s better to hear a fuller, richer sound with even just that one extra member.

And after all that yammering, I totally didn’t catch what the next song they played was but my deduction skills say it was ‘Stranger’ from Carrier, which was followed by ‘Relief’ and ‘The Current’ from the same album. ‘Relief’ is this light and airy song that I feel like should be played every time a baby opens its eyes, while ‘The Current’ can just be a montage of the rest of that child’s life. Don’t argue, just let me imagery at you. ‘Red and Purple’ is one of the songs that everyone seems to absolutely love and is one that keeps me coming back to the Dodos time and time again. The way Long’s words just seem to slide along the path of the song is catchy to hear as Kroeber’s thumping and ticking on the drums compliments the smooth movement of the vocals and guitar. However, even though I’d really enjoyed Joe’s addition to the group throughout the evening’s performance, when he played the odd chord on the keyboard along with the song, I found it sometimes sounded really off-key and I could’ve done without it; though let it be said, this is the only issue I had with Joe for the rest of the set (wonderful job Joe).

‘Destroyer’ is probably my favourite song from Carrier, playing with this forward, break, forward tempo that’s just so catchy. This was followed by ‘The Ocean’, the final song from the same album. With a darker and heavier sound to it, ‘The Ocean’ really pulls you in and under. They closed the set with ‘Good’, another song from No Color, which was a strong song to end with; I adore the build-ups to the shouts.

A two-song encore started with what I’m pretty sure was ‘Confidence’, the first single from Carrier, which is a strong build-up to a great instrumental section. Confidence indeed.

And at the end of it all was ‘Fools’ from Visiter. A song with pounding, driving drums before the sounds of acoustic guitar come in to help push the sound forward, ‘Fools’ is easily one of my favourite songs by the Dodos. Super catching, fast paced and always moving, it really drove the show home. They gave their thank yous and left the stage as we filed out of the Biltmore.

Love the new sound, love the Dodos; go see them.

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