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April 18, 2008

Dodos rise from extinction, play in Shoreland

It was by pure chance that first-year John Paul Thompson, owner of Pandarosa Records and member of Roomsound, heard of the Dodos. His brother and bandmate Joe Thompson was seeing an Akron/Family show in Los Angeles, a show the Dodos (called Dodo Bird at the time) opened for. Joe was blown away by the Dodos’ sound, and now more than two years later, Roomsound is opening for the Dodos tonight in the Shoreland ballroom for a free concert.

The Dodos stop by the Shoreland for the one-month anniversary of their new, critically acclaimed album Visitor, released by Frenchkiss Records, a major indie label (though only barely so). The Dodos is a duo comprised of lead singer/guitarist Meric Long and percussionist Logan Kroeber. Because half of the band is made up of percussion, the Dodos have constant, driving rhythm that creates a stream of sound. The Dodos’ percussion itself defies convention, using sticks and rims in eighth and 16th notes, instead of the simple snare drum rhythm found in most rock. This has drawn led many to draw comparisons to other indie bands, such as the Hold Steady and Animal Collective.

The Dodos, however, is not the only band playing at the ballroom. The Dodos asked for an opener, and after scouring the campus for a potential band, they saw it only fitting that a band signed with Pandarosa take the gig. As it turns out, among the seven bands currently signed to Pandarosa, the band that best complements the Dodos’ rich indie sound is Roomsound, a band comprising drummer Frank Morotti, bassist Jeff Egger, and the three Thompson brothers: lead singer/guitarist Joe, guitarist David, and multi-instrumentalist John Paul. Friday night will not showcase the full Roomsound ensemble, as Jeff Egger and David Thompson stayed behind in Texas. In spite of this, John Paul is still confident about Friday’s show, saying that it is “something we’re kind of used to.” He points out that none of the five members were in the same state, much the less the same studio, during the recording of their most recent album Fire and Frontier.

Roomsound and the Dodos are not the first bands to come to the Shoreland ballroom this year. Peter and the Wolf, another indie band that actually toured with the Dodos at one time, played there earlier this year. The old ballroom that once hosted galas for the elite of Chicago is now a prime spot for indie artists to perform as part of the Chicago leg of their cross-country tours.

“The ambience of the ballroom matched perfectly with what Peter and the Wolf does with [its] music,” says John Paul Thompson, whose Pandarosa Records also hosted the last event. Thompson is only more optimistic about this show, pointing to the difference between the thrown-together sound system used in the Peter and the Wolf concert versus the more professional approach of the Dodos.

Despite the apparent shortcomings in the last show, the ballroom was still able to hold the folksy voice of Peter and the Wolf perfectly. First-year Sara Chisesi says, “When you’re in the ballroom, you completely forget that you’re in a dorm at all.”

The University has played no small part in the Dodos’ performing at the Shoreland. John Paul Thompson says, “[Shoreland’s Resident Master] Larry Rothfield has been a great help.” The Dodos’ performance is even partially funded by the Housing Activities Resource Council. Thompson’s goal is not to bring the fringes of the indie rock movement to the U of C, but rather, “great and more importantly accessible bands that people may never have heard before but would simply love.”

His hardest challenge thus far has been getting people to come out. Any student, however, can come out to the Shoreland and sign in at a special sheet specifically for this event. That, combined with the fact that it’s free, is sure to draw in the crowd that the Dodos deserve.