‘Taipei, we’re really f--ing excited to be here!’ enthused mop-haired Dodos frontman, Meric Long a few songs into his band’s set as he surveyed the cheering crowd in front of him at Revolver on a late Tuesday night. He didn’t seem too surprised at the response, knowingly grinning and fiddling with his guitar as a lone voice from the dark echoed the crowd’s sentiments, ‘We’re pretty f--ing excited to have you here too!’
And really, what wasn’t to be excited about? San Francisco indie-rock stalwarts ‘The Dodos’ were making their first-ever appearance in Taipei, the second stop on a whirlwind week-long tour through Asia. If they had wondered if anyone would show up to hear them play on their inaugural visit, they needn’t have worried. The Dodos are a known commodity back in North America, evidenced by the strong and rowdy showing of well-lubricated ex-pats and curious locals in the crowd. Revolver’s modest space was comfortably filled with plenty of eager ears, witnessing a blistering set which was heavy on up-tempo electrified folky-rock favorites from the Dodos’ 2008 breakout album, ‘Visiter’, 2011’s ‘No Color’ and a few brand-new songs from the upcoming ‘Carrier,’ due out on August 27th.
A screen behind the band served as the backdrop for a kaleidoscope of flashing images, which matched the band’s on-stage energy. However, The Dodos were initially playing to background images of…its own music videos? Interesting choice…and I’m not sure if the Dodos had anything to do with it or if it was just put together by the resident VJ working the video screen from the back corner of the room. Not that it necessarily took that much away from the show; it just seemed a bit odd to see singer/guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber playing in front of videos of themselves for the first few songs, as they hardly seem the narcissistic type. Which Dodos were we supposed to be watching? Like I said…interesting choice.
If the Dodos had been tagged with the acoustic-folkie tag earlier in their career, that wasn’t the very plugged-in and turned-up band that showed up at Revolver on this night. Nary an acoustic guitar was to be found as Meric stayed glued to his Fender Jaguar the entire evening, switching easily between a unique set-up of 2 adjacent vocal mics; one for normal vocals and one for echoey reverb-drenched effects and loops. Drummer Logan Kroeber is an aggressive and creative timekeeper who provided a tightly-built framework for Long to throw up layered walls of guitar loops, meteoric fingerpicking and strumming against. For a 2-piece, the Dodos made a mighty big sound that felt like a band 2 or 3 times its size was playing.
If there were any clues as to where the Dodos sound is heading, they were provided early on with a couple of new songs from the forthcoming ‘Carrier’ that sounded revelatory. You know that feeling that you get when you hear new songs from a band and you know they’ve absolutely NAILED it? You can feel the growth, experience and assured touch that comes from years of writing, playing and touring practically jumping out of the speakers. On the first of the 2 new songs, Meric carefully built several gently rising and falling guitar loops over a metronomic beat and then laid big churning chords over top of it all, creating a riff that chimed its way into your head like a relentless earworm. They absolutely crushed it, as evidenced by the roomful of bobbing, approving heads. Instant Dodos classic in my books, but time will tell. Then, they followed it up with the new radio single, ‘Confidence,’ which began with a light and stately melody that halfway through surged into a full-speed-ahead assault of soaring layered guitar leads and concussive drums. It started as a gentle tribute honoring the memory of late former Dodos touring guitarist, Christopher Reimer, and ended as a thundering declaration of the will to push onward in the face of his loss. ‘I have your will…the task is waiting. Confidence…confidence…don’t slow down.’
Indeed this was the sound of a very confident and tight Dodos unit that seems relentlessly set on pushing its sound into newer and louder, yet still very familiar melodic territory. If the rest of ‘Carrier’ lives up to the promise of these new songs, Dodos fans will be in for something special later this summer.
Encore…check. Mission accomplished. Show over…the happy crowd trickled downstairs back to the bar and into the warm spring night. A visibly weary Logan set up camp at the modest merch table (props for bringing VINYL!) to doodle cartoons and autographs on CDs and chat with lingering fans while a very sweaty Meric quickly returned to the stage to tear down his guitar rig, happily pausing to chat and take a few pictures with wellwishers. Onward to the next stop in Hong Kong. Gone almost as soon as they came, but a show not soon to be forgotten in Taipei. Don’t be surprised to see The Dodos back sooner than later.