Originally published on March 9, 2012
The Dodos with Au and Cannons and Clouds :: 02.26.12 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA
|Cannons and Clouds by Annelise Poda|
It was a very busy late February for live music in San Francisco, as the 20th year of Noise Pop invaded local venues for a week packed full of exciting band lineups. This specific festival can always be counted on to get the masses excited by booking a handful of big name acts to play intimate venues, but the real beauty of Noise Pop is that just as much care is taken to feature smaller and up and coming bands to expose attendees to some fresh picked new music. I saw some really great new acts that had not previously been on my radar, and this was especially true at the closing show of the weekend, which featured Bay Area boys The Dodos along with three openers at the Great American Music Hall. All of the bands had different sounds and styles that complemented each other really well, and it made for a rousing sold out night of quality music.
Both of the opening acts I caught delivered attention-grabbing sets that will undoubtedly cause many crowd members to follow up with their music. Six-piece San Francisco locals Cannons and Clouds executed a rich mash of indie jams that incorporated dark and crawling bass lines, fleeting keyboard overtones, and reflective harp plucking from band member Brittany Gale. Their songs took on a life of their own and many casual listeners that showed up early to drink and hang out with friends stopped to take notice and gravitated to the stage to give this group a better listen.
|Au by Annelise Poda|
The next band up, Au, hailed from Portland and also played a very interesting set that was heavily based on looping numerous short riffs over one another. Multi-instrumentalist Luke Wyland whipped out notes on slide guitar and keyboard that he then continuously looped over one another, swiftly assembling deep, textured songs. Twitchy drummer Dana Valatka navigated his kit and various auxiliary percussion pieces with octopus-like dexterity, and newest band member Holland Andrewsadded additional vocals, clarinet, and xylophone loops to the fray, all coming together to create deep, trance-like cyclical jams. The songs would build up to a breaking point of supreme triumph, and then Au would let all the accumulated sounds crash down and recover into a quiet, introspective state. It was quite the stimulating set to experience, and it got the crowd even more warmed up for the headlining act.
The Dodos’ started out on a very sad note when they first took the stage with a dedication to their former touring bandmate Christopher Reimer (better known as the guitarist for Calgary noise-rock band Women), who unexpectedly passed away earlier this month. The crowd grew respectively silent as Dodos guitarist Meric Long explained that they were going to cover one of their friend’s favorite songs, “Tea Lights” by Lower Dens. Long said that Reimer first heard the chorus of “tea lights in sand” as “dude, that’s insane”, so the Dodos opted to sing this revised version. It is currently speculated that 26-year-old Reimer died because of a pre-existing heart condition, and it was a very warm gesture on the Dodos’ part to acknowledge this tragedy with such a heartfelt cover of a song that I’m sure Reimer would have loved to hear with his personally modified lyrics.
The mood at the Great American Music Hall grew more lighthearted as the night progressed, and the duo settled into their deep grooving indie rock compositions. Drummer Logan Kroebertook control of the stage as he tapped out intricate, syncopated beats that spellbound the audience until the room was full of twisting and bobbing plaid shirts. The Dodos’ songs are unique in that they are very percussion-centric as the drum parts are amazingly vibrant and full of feeling, incorporating elements of African drumming along with metal influences. They are the emotional driving force of the band, which is a really inspiring change to hear from an instrument that is usually relegated to the background of tracks. The drums interact seamlessly with Long’s clear toned and consistent chord strumming and rich vocals. The combination of these forces makes for some chilled out songs that sound simple at first, but that subsequently catch you off guard with how intensely engaging and expressive they are. Long and Kroeber play perfectly in synch with each other to grow and retract the intensity levels of the songs, and the audience is blissfully swept along for the ride.
The set that the Dodos played was definitely best experienced all together as a whole, but a couple of my favorite songs they performed were their popular single “Black Night” that started a cheerful sing-along, and also an extended version of the finger-picked “Walking”, which featured switching tempos that caused different energies to wash over the crowd at various parts of the song. The band had the audience in the palm of their hand as they headed into an encore, and they left the stage to long rolling cheers from radiating fans whose warm feelings filled the room. Noise Pop can pat themselves on the back for another year of great shows, and this particular lineup was undeniably a great way to close out the week of their 20th anniversary.