The Dodos | 12.19.09 | Spain

By: Ryan Torok

The Dodos :: 12.19.09 :: Club Nasti :: Madrid, Spain

The Dodos by Scott Galbraith
On December 19, the San Francisco folk-rock trio The Dodos unexpectedly conquered Madrid. Since the beginning of the month, they had been touring in support of Time to Die, their recent full-length album. The two-hour show was full of extended and improvised versions of songs spanning their five year, three album career, and included four encores - something few bands ever do.

A thick cloud of cigarette smoke hovered and drifted above the audience all night long. The venue, Club Nasti, which holds 250 people, was packed and practically sold out.

Taking the stage, the plaid-wearing Meric Long (vocals, guitar) greeted the crowd warmly, "Hola!" The band then opened with "Paint the Rust" off their critically acclaimed sophomore breakthrough Visiter (2006). The rendition, however, was mediocre, with Logan Kroeber's heavy drumming and the electric distortion from Long's finger-picking and jazz riffs swallowed up Long's Grizzly Bear-ish vocals. Plus, newest member Keaton Snyder's vibraphone didn't complement the music; rather, it sounded like it was being played on top of it. The second song, the upbeat "Longform" from Time to Die, suffered similarly. The vocals were lost in the strummy guitar playing and ceaseless, quirky drum rolls.

By the middle of the set, though, things really took off. Long finally strapped on an acoustic guitar, and the uneven start became a distant memory. The sweet tom-tom heavy, minimalist tribal rhythm of "Winter," one of the strongest tunes on Visiter, was the first highlight. It wasn't that it was the best Long had sung all night, it was that the audience could finally hear how good he sounded. Afterward, somebody in the audience handed each member of the band a shot, and the guys downed them. In Spain they say, "Salute!"

Meric Long - The Dodos by Scott Galbraith
Next came a show-stopping version of "Red and Purple" featuring tight, spitfire drum rolls and a musical mid-section that the hushed crowd watched respectfully as Snyder created an orchestral tapestry by rubbing violin bows along the edge of his vibraphone. Long grabbed a bow and assisted on the other side. It sounded the way it does when people make music with half-full water glasses. It was beautiful.

And from that point on, the greatness never subsided. During the airy, crowd-pleasing "Fools," the serenity of Long's vocals contrasted with Kroeber and Snyder's duel-drumming typhoon. "Joe's Waltz" boasted dance music percussion provided by Kroeber with rolls on the rim of his set, while Long chanted the big chorus over recorded loops. It was very journey-like, epic, and free-form. Meanwhile, the vibraphone imitated hypnotic electronic synths before eventually dropping off, leaving only Kroeber's soft strokes on the cymbal and Long's gentle finger-picking. In The Dodos' own way, this was like a composition, with three whole distinct parts. It called to mind instrumental post-rockers Explosions in the Sky - uplifting, pleasant and dramatic - with at least a ten-minute jam during which a good portion of the audience closed their eyes and happily got lost in it.

Kroeber, who, between songs, had been speaking to the audience in their native tongue, thanked the audience in Spanish. It was a perfect way to end the set.

The Dodos by Scott Galbraith
Musically, the last song of the main set was the finest moment of the night, but the acoustic-guitar driven "Walking," the first song of the first encore, proved to be the most heartwarming. "You can fight the fire in your head," Long sang. This song demonstrated that at the core of the material is a singer-songwriter who wears his heart on his sleeve.

In the second encore, the wistful love song "Ashley," which many in the audience had been yelling out requests for, was bolstered by the call-and-response of the crowd singing out the name of the title character. In the third encore, The Dodos delved into older material, playing the snappy, poetic "Men" from their 2006 debut, Beware of the Maniacs.

"You guys are fucking amazing," said the almost-in-tears Long. "Seriously. Thank you so much."

The audience responded by collectively singing in Spanish for them to kiss each other, which is what they urge the bride and groom to do at weddings.

Grinning, The Dodos mostly just looked at each other, perplexed. But before they walked off stage, they did do a group hug, sending the crowd into a merry uproar. It was all about love this night.

This would have been more than enough. Everybody assumed the show was over - the band had already done three encores, after all. But, to the astonishment of all, The Dodos returned for the fourth encore. This is what cemented it as the kind of night that the band will look back on and say, "Yeah, that one was special." Indeed, people were remarking to each other that it was one of the best shows they had ever seen, and they cheered like crazy, clapping their hands, shaking their bodies and the low ceilings. Since the stage was only barely elevated above the ground, it seemed like the audience was in the show rather than at it, a show belonging as much to them as to The Dodos. It was a celebration of the band and their accomplishments AND a celebration of life. Salute!

The Dodos tour dates available here.

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[Published on: 1/18/10]

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