(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Review: The Dodos with Springtime Carnivore at Club Congress, Tucson, AZ – 16th February 2015

By on Friday, 20th February 2015 at 2:00 pm

Touring musicians don’t always get holidays off, and so it was on Presidents’ Day (a federal holiday here in America) that I headed to downtown Tucson to see San Francisco alt-rock duo The Dodos at Club Congress. Club Congress is an intimate standing-room only venue situated inside the historic Hotel Congress, but its atmosphere is surprisingly casual for such a location. I arrived a few minutes before the doors opened for the show, and for the sake of accuracy, I should mention here that “doors” is largely a figurative phrase at Club Congress. There is only one door leading into the club from the hotel lobby, and it can be opened and closed at will. I took a seat inside the door and just next to the ticket desk while I waited, and I spied members of the band and crew passing through as they made their preparations for the show. This happens at Club Congress because, aside from the single front door, the club has only one loading door at the back of the stage, and no backstage area at all.

Springtime Carnivore at Club Congress 16 Feb 2015

When the “doors” officially opened, I was able to get inside quickly and claim a spot directly in front of the stage. While I normally covet the opportunity to be front and center, it turned out to be unnecessary for this show. The opening act, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Springtime Carnivore (aka Greta Morgan), turned up with a full band supporting her sound. And because the sound in the venue is quite good, I wouldn’t have needed to be up close to hear all the finely-tuned details of Morgan’s exquisite singing voice. Springtime Carnivore’s set was made up exclusively of tracks from her self-titled debut album, the instrumental arrangements varying from vibrant keyboard-laced pop to a simpler Greta-with-guitar approach. Though I wasn’t familiar with the songs before Monday night, I quickly found myself humming along with the catchy ‘Keep Confessing’ and grooving to the darker sound of ‘Sun Went Black.’ Springtime Carnivore left us whistling the charming chorus riff of ‘Name on a Matchbook’, and I made a quick dash to the merch table to grab a copy of her CD.

Springtime Carnivore at Club Congress 16 Feb 2015

The transition time between Springtime Carnivore’s support set and The Dodos’ highly-anticipated set was amazingly brief, especially considering that the bands were fully responsible for their own gear. The room had filled in considerably while Springtime Carnivore was on stage and looked full to capacity by the time The Dodos struck into the opening chord of ‘Goodbyes and Endings’. Despite being a rather ironic opening choice, the forceful performance immediately captivated the attention of the audience. From the very outset, the duo endeavored to recreate the relentless wall of sound they achieved on recent album ‘Individ’, following their opening number with another track from that LP, current single ‘Competition’.

The Dodos at Club Congress 16 Feb 2015

After the incredible concentration and physical exertion of these first two songs, drummer Logan Kroeber was obliged to stop and ask a crew member to bring him a towel. His request provided one of several welcome breaks in the action where The Dodos showed themselves to be more mellow and relaxed on stage than the rigorous mood of their music might indicate. Their back-and-forth banter was low-key but engaging, touching on the opening act, the local weather, and few inside jokes that their longtime fans seemed to appreciate.

The Dodos at Club Congress 16 Feb 2015

The more dedicated fans in the audience also appreciated the opportunity to hear a few songs from The Dodos’ back catalogue. Playing without the aid of a written script, Long and Kroeber debated briefly about which “deep tracks” they might include, in the end deciding to stick with their original game plan. Two songs each from 2008 album ‘Visiter’ and 2013 LP ‘Carrier’ punctuated the newer material, along with a vigourous performance of ‘Black Night’ from the pair’s fourth studio album ‘No Color’.

The Dodos at Club Congress 16 Feb 2015

The set proper was bookended by another huge sonic bulwark in the form of two more tracks from ‘Individ’, culminating with the album’s resonating final track ‘Pattern/Shadow’. It was a dramatic finale to an intense program of music, and the The Dodos left the stage without further remarks, allowing the song its full impact.

When Long and Kroeber returned to the stage for the encore, their mood was substantially lighter. They engaged in a bit of conversation with the audience, even considering a request someone had passed forward on a napkin from the bar. There was a bit of tongue-in-cheek discussion about whether to address Springtime Carnivore by her stage name or her given name before she was invited back to the stage to join in a light-hearted and harmonious version of ‘Sleep’, originally recorded with Neko Case. After a round of applause for the angel-voiced Ms. Morgan, The Dodos wrapped up with apparent crowd favorite ‘Men’.

The Dodos with Springtime Carnivore at Club Congress 16 Feb 2015

The brute sonic force of ‘Individ’ proved itself to be more impressive in person than in the studio recording, which is occasionally mired in its own emotional and dynamic weight. The energy and spontaneity of live performance added a much-needed dimension to The Dodos’ sound, and hearing their older songs in that context has prompted me to explore their earlier music a bit further as well.

The Dodos’ sixth album ‘Individ’ is out now on Polyvinyl and Springtime Carnivore’s self-titled debut LP is available on Autumn Tone. Both acts will appear at SXSW 2015 next month in Austin, Texas.

After the cut: Springtime Carnivore and The Dodos’ set lists

Springtime Carnivore Set List:
Creature Feature
Keep Confessing
Two Scars
Last One to Know
Other Side of the Boundary
Sun Went Black
Name on a Matchbook

The Dodos set list:
Goodbyes and Endings
The Season
The Tide
Black Night
The Current
Sleep (with Springtime Carnivore)

Special thanks to Jaclyn and Ian for their help with the set lists.

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