Live Review: The Dodos at Fitzgerald’s, September 3, 2011 (Houston, TX)

Don’t blame the rain for The Dodos‘ show in Houston Saturday night, because it was the amateur acoustics at Fitzgerald’s that really put a damper on things.

The Dodos brought along Canadian indie rockers The Luyas, who warmed up the crowd with a mixture of moody sub-symphonic chanting, abstract discordant noise, and (my personal favorite) the zither. Other audiences might have sniffed at The Luyas’ avant gardism, but Houston gave them plenty of love. (Knowing that bands could easily just stop in Austin and call it a day makes for a polite crowd.)

At the beginning of The Dodos’ set, the headliners emphasized the heavy, steady beats of drummer Logan Kroeber. Impossible sounds emerged from Kroeber with just a snare and a couple of cymbals, and on songs like “Black Night” and “Red and Purple,” he relished the rhythm and drummed with spritely aplomb.

But some of The Dodos’ distinctive acoustic details got swallowed up in the Fitzgerald’s upstairs stage. Softer, more melodic songs like “Troll Nacht,” while still solid and emotional, could not spread their gentleness up into the rafters of the balcony, and the band had to belt its way through power indie ballad “Fools” in a fight against sonic flatness.

The Dodos, to their credit, were gracious visiters (see what we did there?) in spite of the crummy sound. Even after a long Spring world tour for their latest album, No Color, they still reminisced about playing at the filthy, defunct Proletariat and the songs of local bands. Every band says they love the city they’re playing in, but The Dodos weren’t pandering.

Saving the best for last, The Dodos’ finished their set with a well chosen and potent rendition of “God?” Singer Meric Long’s voice twisted as he screamed out to his creator, and when he sang, “Oh no, oh no, this place might explode,” it really seemed like it might. After a wild rally for an encore from the crowd, the band played an extended version of “The Season” that overcame the flat Fitzgerald’s acoustics. The song transitioned between quiet subtleties and guttural power, all stitched together by clever, melodic guitar.

While the show had a beautiful ending, it’s too bad The Dodos had to fight so hard for it. Consider this review an open letter to the Fitzgerald’s management –- now that you’re no longer booking reggae cover bands, maybe it’s time to invest in some acoustic paneling?

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