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The Dodos, Ruby Suns stake claim at the Turf Club

The Dodos, Ruby Suns stake claim at the Turf Club
The Dodos brought their much-vaunted live act to a packed house at the Turf Club Tuesday night, and they didn't disappoint. Deftly wielding their mix of folk, country blues, metal, and African Ewe music, the California trio put on an electrifying performance that held the audience at rapt attention.

The Ruby Suns opened for the Dodos, their effervescent brand of New Zealand psych pop starting the night on a festive note. Frontman Ryan McPhun is originally from California, but he played the part of the endearing foreigner consummately, speaking with a thick accent and asking innocently whether anyone in the audience disliked the Yankees. As if to emphasize their fun-loving intentions, the band even strung Christmas lights across their instruments.

Such obscurements were appropriate for a band that writes lush melodies and insists on exploding them at every opportunity, inserting frequent interludes and near non sequiturs before any song gains too much momentum. The result is a patchwork of indie and international flavors, and last night the Ruby Suns placed the emphasis firmly on the latter. "Oh Mojave," their most recognizable song, was transformed into a salsa, riffing around a party groove and singalong Os Mutantes choruses as the band members passed around their instruments.

After a jubilant version of "Tane Mahuta," the Ruby Suns rounded off their set with "Kenya Dig It?," its swaggering Madchester bassline, processed keyboards, and looped atmospherics warped into a Caribbean celebration.
 
If the Ruby Suns, however scattershot, kept things brief, then the Dodos quickly indicated other intentions, confidently swinging into "Paint the Rust" and stretching it into a soaring jam. Meric Long was the most energetic performer, dancing around and dripping sweat as he tore through a galloping Skip James riff with aggressive slide guitar flurries. His collection of acoustic guitars was run through a series of pedals that lent his playing a raunchy, visceral edge, peppered with shredding and snapped strings.

There was a vibraphone in the background, but it largely provided accents to what was essentially a two man show, with Long and drummer Logan Kroeber in lockstep throughout. As Long unwound his elliptical guitar work, Kroeber methodically rode the edges of his snare and floor tom, a tambourine taped to his foot as he drove the rhythms with dense percussiveness and complex synchopations.

The Dodos' strength lies not in their pop sensibility so much as their ability to take a catchy melody and explore its dynamic shifts; played live, their rich mix of genres owed much to Led Zeppelin showmanship. While Long's vocals remained warm and vulnerable, the delicacy of the music gave way to sheer forcefulness: "Fools" featured violin bows being run along the sides of the vibraphone, while "Jodi" brought the show to a stirring climax with a massive drum breakdown as Long joined Kroeber on a second kit.

The crowd abuzz, the Dodos returned for an encore, breaking into a bubbly, bouncing rendition of "Walking" that led straight into "Red and Purple." It was the most straightforward part of the evening, a serene end to an otherwise dramatic performance.


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