November 8, 2008
Seeing a show at the Echoplex is not unlike watching a band in the basement of your friend’s house: the ceiling is low, lots of concrete makes for terrible sound and you spend most of your time looking at the back of someone else’s head.
This isn’t to say all shows at the Echoplex are inherently awful. But except for those standing within a few feet of the low stage, somewhere vaguely in the middle, the chips are stacked high in advance against anyone hoping to have some sort of transcendent concert experience there.
The Dodos show Saturday night was unfortunately not an exception. While things seemed to start well enough, it became apparent two songs in, during “Red and Purple,” that something was very wrong with the sound. Every tom hit by drummer Logan Kroeber produced an overwhelming “woof” that simply drowned out most everything else. Not helping matters was guitarist/singer Meric Long’s tendency to sing with the mic practically tickling his uvula, which likewise dressed his vocals in a woofy overtone. The sound improved slightly as The Dodos’ set progressed, but the frequent addition of other instruments — including trombone, vibes and other knick-knacks that were indiscernible to anyone who wasn’t seven feet tall or standing at the edge of the stage — ensured a pleasant mix would remain fugitive for the show’s duration.
Furthering the deceleration of The Dodos’ performance were decidedly non-vital projections, low stage lighting and Long’s preference to perform (for the most part) seated. In short, while the sound went on sucking, there was little visual stimulation to provide relief of any kind.
The Dodos’ recorded work is a textured brand of polyrhythmic folk, even when they have the rhythm meter set to 11 and are beating the ever-lovin’ crap out of their instruments (which is often). But the charm of their recordings failed to come to light on this occasion. Mellower fare such as “Ashley” and more dynamic jams like “Jody” managed to shine through, but overall, the experience was the ear-equivalent of wallowing in mud. Here’s hoping the next time we see The Dodos, they’re back out of the basement and in an L.A. venue that can support the alternately delicate and bombastic dynamic of their music.