The Dodos @ Lincoln Hall, Chicago

One of the most utilized press photos for the Dodos is of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber eating in what must be a mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant. It’s unclear if the setting is a San Fran favorite of theirs or if it was a recommendation on the road, but the shot is perfect — fluorescent grid lighting, 7 Up cooler in the background, something playful about the boys’ stillness.

As I waited for the doors to open at Lincoln Hall, where the Dodos played on the first Friday of March, I weighed my food options. Pita Pit, McDonald’s, and a diner-style Mexican joint. I chose the latter. As I sat in anticipation of my pork burrito, I wished I was bold enough to have sent Long a text to grab a bite. I don’t know him personally, but I have his number from an interview I conducted with him a few months ago for PopMatters. It would have been professionally uncouth and definitely weird, but there’s something about Long that makes him somebody you’d want to eat a meal with. Somebody who could probably carry on a solid conversation while enjoying the hell out of his food. Somebody who would be comfortable wherever he is, but gracious to whoever own the space he’d briefly occupy.

The impulse passes and excitement to see the band sets in. Their newest work, Individ, is a bold battle cry forward after the decompression of Carrier, which was written in the wake of collaborator Christopher Reimer’s death. The loss of their unofficial third member left a hole that could and would not be filled — this tour is the first since Visiter to be rooted in the duo, alone together.

I paid my check and went over to the CVS to kill time before meeting Katy (who took the attached photos) outside the venue. I burned some time reading an article in Scientific American entitled “Music Can Heal the Brain”. It presented research exploring the therapeutic benefits of rhythm on the human mind, especially for people susceptible to Alzheimer’s.

Springtime Carnivore opened the night with a truly lovely set, led by Greta Morgan. The LA-by-way-of-Chicago multi-instrumentalist had a wonderful homecoming, jangling her way through the band’s specific take on pop psychedelia. It was the perfect way to attune the audience, which had sold out Lincoln Hall.

When the Dodos first hit the stage, it was not to raucous applause and strobing lights — it was to set up their own gear. In fact, if you didn’t know what the duo looked like, their eagerness to assist the road crew would have led you to believe the band was still preparing backstage. Before their tour, Long described the circuit as celebrating the band’s history, creating a space to welcome their fans back in and take stock of where the duo has been. Their first moments on stage established the tone that Long said he was looking for; celebratory yet ego-less. He and Kroeber looked like they were getting ready for a house show of 50 people, not 507. A string of backyard BBQ lights was brought out and illuminated, making the atmosphere even more intimate and informal.

The set was expansive, covering the markers folks came out for while presenting their new material with humility. The Individ tracks that inaugurated was offered with as much love and energy as “Fools”, their most mainstream hit. Though they covered the high points from their entire discography, there was a shocking cohesiveness to flow of songs. Everything rang true to the “Dodos aesthetic”, which was established in the first seconds of Visiter. When experienced live, their brand of tribal indie really proves to be wholly unique to the duo’s talents, their internal rhythms. Kroeber’s background in metal gave a sharp edge to his work that night — he played through the syncopated swells that often pepper their songs with raw energy and intention. Long’s playing style is an extension of his body’s movements, which can be best described as watching waves swell into a dangerous crest. The closest documentation that perfectly demonstrates the band’s ebb and flow is this seven second chunk (3:58-4:05) from the music video for “Competition”. Kroeber is a jackhammer while Long is wind across water.

Halfway through the show, I was reminded of the Scientific American article I’d read at the CVS. There is something mentally clarifying about rhythm, something deeply satisfying in following a pattern. As it gives the listener aural structure, it works to realign us biologically. While melodies inspire a cerebral or emotional experience, rhythm spurs us on a much more visceral level. We move in response to it, our heart rate quickens along with the BPM. In this way, the Dodos are medicine men. Every song they played reverberated with healing potential, presenting the opportunity to let loose a little and tap into something carnal. It was also just wonderful to see two friends really enjoying the shit out of each other and the thing they’ve been doing together for the last decade. Looking around, it was clear how glad the crowd was to share not only in the retrospective, but in the band’s much-needed state of joy.

All photos property of Katy Donadio

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