The Dodos and Dustin Wong treated the crowd at One Eyed Jacks to a show that seemed strangely suited to this recent influx of fall weather we've been feeling in New Orleans. While the two artists use their guitars in very different ways, both brought the sort of calm, cool, and collected effect that the first seventy degree day offers after a long southern summer.
Dustin Wong began the night and played a nearly hour-long set that grew slowly from quiet guitar ripplings to wall-of-sound intensity complete with reverb-laden, wordless drone vocals. If you've yet to hear of or check out Mr. Wong’s material, now would be a good time to do so. He performs solo, seated and equipped only with a guitar and a cluster of effects pedals at his feet. His focus seemed impossible to break, and when he did manage to look up at the crowd two or three times for a quick yet sincere “Thank you,” he appeared genuinely surprised to see a bunch of people standing in front of him. Not only was his set popular among the audience, most of whom probably had no idea who this guy was or what the hell he was doing, but it also proved to be the perfect prelude to The Dodos’ driven folk-rock.
Currently touring in support of new record, Carrier, the San Francisco duo (joined by an extra touring guitarist) were in perfect form as they progressed assuredly through an extensive set that culled highlights from across their discography. Usually, it’s most exciting to see a band when they’re at the height of their buzz, fresh off the release everyone knows will define their career. With the Dodos, this is not the case. While it’s been several years since the band released a full-length that could be considered “critically-acclaimed” (see 2008’s Visiter and its 2009 follow-up Time to Die), they have never failed to meet expectations, and continue to write and record great pop songs.
Last night, they successfully pulled off the often-tried but rarely successful transition that indie-folk acts try to make between recording and stage; they ramped up the intensity, added some fuzz, and made old songs sound new again. These guys have been touring non-stop since their breakout in 2008, and it shows. They've tried different live set-ups in the past, and previously included a vibraphonist and used primarily acoustic guitars. On this tour, they've exchanged their vibraphonist for a backup guitar player, and singer-guitarist Meric Long played almost the entire set electric, a decision which benefited their live sound greatly.
They were perfectly on the mark, offsetting quiet moments of retrospective folk-rock with rousing climaxes carried by pounding drums and warm guitar rhythms. The vocals were crisp, clear (thank you One Eyed Jacks for having amazing sound), and brought a level of intensity and urgency that is oftentimes missing on their recordings. By the end of the night, there was no doubt that while The Dodos may be on the latter half of their career arc, they still care about putting on a kickass rock show, and they should be appreciated for that, if nothing else.