Northside Day Four: The Dodos, Ex-Human, King’s Crescent

06/15/2009 12:42 PM |

The Dodos — Studio B
One of the funniest spectacles in all of mid-day, spring Brooklyn concert going is watching people stumbling in from the sunny outside world and then momentarily totally blinded by the complete absence of natural light inside the confines of Studio B. Given that the room was more packed for the visiting San Francisco group than for any of the other big name acts that played there all weekend, the chances of an awkward entry collision were high. The room was seriously packed, shifting listlessly through a exacting sound set-up of the sort Spencer Krug seemed to be longing for on Friday. I think they even did a mic check on Meric Long’s wooden, back porch chair. Short of a painful knee injury, the decision to literally sit through such a well-populated gig seems a little suspect, but the man does some complicated strumming, so maybe that demands muscle memory that cannot be diverted to leg support.

I have to confess that The Dodos are one of those bands I sort of forgot to form an opinion on. You know, even for complete musical obsessives there’s a handful of bands that you mean to investigate, but just get diverted by shinier sets of keys. So perhaps these observations will be a bit on the nose for true believers, but considering that a good deal of the set was focused on new material, perhaps we’re all on the same page here. The first thing you notice is the rhythm, which is actually quite odd for such a seemingly gentle sound. Their melodic components are sort of a scrambled wash built around Logan Kroeber’s strong drumming, done on a modified set-up that seems to be without a bass drum at all. This band also had the most enormous vibraphone set-up I’ve ever seen outside of an orchestral setting, made of two giant rows, taking four mallets, and occasionally even two violin bows to play. Those sounds, wrangled by auxiliary man Keaton Snyder, added to the delicacy of the music considerably. It was all quiet storms, slow building to a head and then settling. Most of those climactic moments came from the playing, and not from Long’s light-touch vocals. I’m still not sure that it’s exactly my cup of tea, but there’s no way to claim that it wasn’t quite pretty, while still consisting of elements weirder than many other bands whose first descriptor is “pretty.”

Ex-Humans — Glasslands
Ex-Humans are the sort of muscular, no-frills punk band that I didn’t think they made anymore, or I guess, more accurately the kind I didn’t care if they made anymore. They were opening for well-regarded Atlanta ladies the Coathangers, who I didn’t actually get a chance to take in, but we had a little downtime, and figured what the hell. There’s a place in the world for fast bashing in leather jackets, I concede. Usually it isn’t Williamsburg. There was an almost suspicious amount of pretty girls in the room though, which might go a long way to explaining the desire to play in such a macho, tough style. I hate to cast aspersions (or wait, actually I love to) but I didn’t see a ton of evidence that they were in it to broaden the scope of the musical conversation.

King’s Crescent — Spike Hill
King’s Crescent are notable for the presence of two Fiery Furnaces members, the excellent drummer Bob D’Amico and their cranky synth mastermind Matthew Friedberger. Joining them were two Jeffs: J. Martini on bass, and J. Steinhauser on guitar. The group’s reason for being, they’ve said, is as a tribute to beloved New Orleans funk bands such as The Meters. You’d think the Furnaces are so past the point of giving a fuck, that they could sneak those influences in freely to their main gig. As opposed to their other records, the music they played wasn’t really a vehicle for odd digressions. Just funk, mainly vocal-free. With players as good as these guys (and really, for a dude who can absolutely punish you with strange and brutal synth sounds, Friedberger’s beat up keys just sounded buttery here) the execution was crisp and impressive. But with so much reverence in the mix, it comes down to how much you can relate to the form being performed, rather than the personalities on display. I suspect there isn’t so much devotion for New Orleans funk in this hood, but I might just be projecting. We all know how Matt likes to screw with a crowd though, so who knows, maybe on record these guys are tunefully twee indie-pop.