Live Review: The Dodos

A beautiful setting doesn't make a perfect show. The J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Saturday, August 8

Los Angeles’ 405 freeway on Saturday afternoon is no place for the faint-hearted. The major north-south artery is so snarled with traffic that it’s in a constant state of emergency, trying the patience of the most determined showgoer. Still it can’t dissuade hundreds of Dodos fans from catching the San Francisco band’s free show, part of the J Paul Getty Museum’s ‘Saturdays Off The 405’ summer concert series.

Those lucky enough to bully their way into the art museum’s parking lot before it reaches capacity are rewarded with cool sea breezes and views of the sprawling city after taking a tram ride up a steep hillside. The Dodos recognise an eager crowd when they see one and don’t waste too much time road-testing new stuff. So when they kick off with the title track from their forthcoming album ‘Time To Die’, lead single ‘Fables’ follows soon after.

In truth, though, they seem almost dwarfed by their larger-than-life surroundings – the pristine white stone walls of the art galleries rise high up into the sky behind them as city lights twinkle down below. Sure, it’s gorgeous, but it’s not the best way to hear the music, as the sound gets distorted and echoes off the buildings in the outdoor courtyard. And when the new material does come, it falls a bit flat, apparently needing some fine-tuning and more punch to really connect with the crowd. Still, frontman Meric Long (who admits after the show that he was “terrified” to be performing in the austere surroundings), ploughs forward with aplomb, furiously strumming his acoustic guitar and belting out the band’s polyrhythmic tunes.

Two may be company but three’s not a crowd; the newly added vibraphone player Keaton Snyder gives the band added depth and dimension. The Dodos gather steam as the evening goes on, giving off far more fire and spark toward the end of their hour-plus set than at the beginning.
As expected, it’s the older material that electrifies the audience.

Crowd-pleasers ‘Fools’ and ‘Red And Purple’, saved for the tail end of the evening, incite furious handclaps and singalongs.
Certainly, this polite brand of indie rock may not inspire a revolution, but it’s the perfect soundtrack for sipping wine and breathing in salty sea air mixed with exhaust fumes as he 405 freeway snarls down below.

Laura Ferreiro