Though the evening started slow, with Chicago-based guitarist and songwriter Ryley Walker, The Dodos settled into Evanston’s SPACE, providing a stellar set.
Walker took the stage, bringing a second guitarist to perform with him who played nothing that seemed essential to the songs. In fact, much of his time on stage was spent thoughtlessly noodling. While both Walker and his accompanist deserve praise for their technical ability as musicians, the songs themselves were simply not interesting enough to keep the audience’s attention. Between the static, droning chords and Walker’s loud but incoherent singing, the band’s set ultimately seemed more appropriate for a trek through the Alaskan wilds than for a night out. Not to mention the bizarre, open-chord tunings that took Walker entirely too long to tune to, making for an altogether unsatisfying set, as evidenced by the persistent hum of casual conversation coming from the crowd.
The Dodos, on the other hand, demanded immediate attention not only with their music, but also their personalities. Since SPACE lacks a traditional backstage area, the band walked from the back of the room, through the crowd, and stepped on stage dressed in appropriate post-Halloween attire. Logan Kroeber, the band’s drummer, wore a cape, hood, Santa Claus beard, sunglasses, Mardi Gras beads, and a t-shirt with printed abs, making him the most badass, buff wizard I have ever seen. Guitarist/singer Meric Long opted for a more modest getup, wearing a simple and cute fairy headband. “Why aren’t any of you wearing costumes?” he asked the audience. Perhaps there was some confusion over the finer details of daylight saving time.
Jokes and other friendly remarks were a common occurrence throughout the night. Long and Kroeber have a very evident camaraderie with each other that translates well to the crowd. And with the help of SPACE’s atmosphere and stage design, it never felt like it was a concert for a famous band. Rather, it felt like the crowd was in a living room watching two cool, friendly guys play some songs. Okay, maybe they aren’t actually famous in the first place, but with the level of enthusiasm coming from the audience, it’s an easy assumption to make. After the first few songs of the set, Long admitted to the crowd that they “didn’t come very prepared,” and from that point on, their set consisted almost entirely of requests shouted from the audience. In retrospect, it was quite risky considering the complicated arrangements on many of the band’s records, but surprisingly nothing seemed absent, as any parts that differed from the recording in the live version went unnoticed, overshadowed by the enthralling performance. For one guitar, one drum set, and a couple vocal mics, The Dodos really know how to fill a room with sound.
It is also refreshing to see a band comfortable enough with its material to play what everyone is hoping to hear. In the six years since the release of Visiter, I’m sure the guys have grown tired of performing the popular hits like “Jodi” and “Winter,” but the willingness to do so anyway made The Dodos seem so much more human. Connecting on a personal level like that is one of the most valuable qualities music can have.
- “Black Night”
- “Joe’s Waltz”
- “The Current”
- “The Season”