Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Shawn Biggs
Anyone who was there, on this afternoon in February, would have uttered a similar question to Meric Long, Logan Kroeber and Keaton Snyder of the Dodos: "You guys ever thought about never leaving the house again without a choir of ladies following as you, acting as your shadows? You really should. I'm serious." The three San Francisco musicians are dumbfounding-ly spectacular in their own right, creating music that beats you up as well as makes you want to harmonize with the dude standing next to you, stranger or no stranger, but with the Magik Magik Orchestra getting down beside and around them, it's a different ballgame. This modular orchestra, made up of over 100 musicians (though not all playing or attending at the same time), all between the ages of 18 and 35, from in and around the Bay Area, are classically trained and as impressive as they come - with a director in Minna Choi, who performs magic, literally. This session took place the day after performing together for the first time at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco, during this year's edition of the Noise Pop festival in late February. We were cramped on time and the studio - Studio Paradiso, in the basement of the Mosser Hotel - was cramped for space as we had the three Dodos, along with two violin, one viola, one cello, one bass, one flute, one oboe, one French horn, one trumpet players, as well as a four-woman choir of voices. All of this in a room that barely fits a drummer, a bass player, two guitarists and a piano player comfortably, especially with a baby grand piano occupying a huge chunk of the space. Nonetheless, bodies were set into place, microphones were stationed in as many opportune spots as possible and after much trial and error and time dwindling down, tape started rolling and this is what happened. We hear three songs from the band's sophomore full-length, "Visiter," three songs that helped to establish what started out as a two-piece, into one of the most talked about and dynamic live acts in America. With Long's masterful lyrics of tough times and men teetering on the wrong side of losing the battle, not to mention his idiosyncratic and unpredictable guitar style, and Kroeber's powerful and demanding percussive work on a stripped down kit, the Dodos added substantially to an already heavy and engaging sound. What we got when they joined forces with Magik Magik - the official orchestra of John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone Studio - is an event. It's something that drew family members that hardly ever get out to see a regular Dodos show, come out to see their kin in a gorgeous theater that even they'd admit felt absurd. It created a sound that, for all intents and purposes, sounded like a Disney movie, like one of those classic Disney films with songs like "Once Upon A Dream," or something other that would involve frolicking birds doing the laundry or hemming dresses, though a thousand times less dainty. They were songs still marked by their aggressive rhythm and their confused and luckless storytellers, but what was added were countless slivers of believable sunshine, cooking through the tatters. They were turned into songs that, though made of damaged or ruined men, happened to make us believe in recovery and a strength in spirit that will be done unto you when everything is so heavenly.