It’s a long road, getting into Phish and then Phish breaking up and trying to fill the void with jambands, then realizing that most jambands are terrible, and then Phish getting back together and being better than last time but not quite as good as WAY back in the day, and then still having this lingering hope that some day there’ll be a new band that fuses dark, psychedelic rock with wild improvisational spirit that gives you the feeling Phish used to, and then projecting that desire onto every young band that you stumble upon with even a hint of that potential, and then writing ridiculous run-on sentences about the whole thing.
Papadosio is one of the rare bands with that dramatic dark edge and somewhat of a flair for improv. Frontman Anthony Thogmartin and his crew also know how to create a natural flow of music even though the styles and moods they incorporate are radically different; I think the music only came to a halt like three times during Thursday's Turner Hall set. Like Umphrey's, Dosio could primarily be categorized as prog, but they're also masters of combining rock with EDM in a STS9-like manner. When it comes down to it, there's not a shitload of jamming going on; with Dosio it's more about crafting swells of intensity within pretty straightforward structural memes, and the tug-of-war between heavy and lighthearted musics. I have to force myself to let go of the desire for freeform improv and just dwell in what is happening, and when I do, I enjoy the hell out of a Papadosio show.
Well, for the most part. Y'know, I have a pretty forgiving cheese threshold; we're talking Journey, Castle, every note Yes played and sang throughout the 80s. But Dosio crosses that line pretty hard sometimes, even for me. It's supremely odd the way they create stunning artistic intensity for a good three-quarters of a show, but punctuate their set with these doses of painfully unoriginal, cloying pop-rock. I can't exactly fault them because I wouldn't accuse the sentiments of not being genuine, but damn, there were a couple of nauseating moments Thursday night. Phish at least had a good couple of decades under its belt before Trey started writing useless pop drivel. It doesn't seem like the Dosio guys are old enough to lose touch with what constitutes good music.
Still, the more I see Dosio, the more willing I am to look past these moments, because they consistently renew my faith that they're getting better and better at the good things they do. All four times I've seen them now I've walked away with a totally different impression. They're inconsistent, which, given the heights of greatness that they're capable of, means they're still questing. Unlike Phish, they're on a mission. I thought they were better Thursday night than I've ever seen them. I love how they lead you on to a specific sort of peak and then take an abrupt turn into something you totally weren't expecting. I like a band that can be sneaky like that. It seems like they're good at different things on different nights, and if they ever get good at all the things on the same night, look out.
The biggest and best surprise for me on Thursday was drummer Mike Healy. I don't know if I wasn't able to pay close enough attention at past shows or what, but at times he completely blew my mind. There was one brief jam that culminated in what was basically a drum solo, which ordinarily I abhor, but in this case it was more like the rest of the band just faded out in awe of what Healy was doing. And he wasn't showing off; he was just continuing to build intensity within the natural progression of the music. He is so precise, on a level with guys like Phil Selway and Mike Lowry in terms of organic EDM beats, and he seems to have the power to completely take over at any time, almost on a Carter Beauford level. Unless I just caught him on a career night, people are going to have to take notice eventually.
Basically for me it's Healy and Thogmartin up there; the other guys fill things out, but those two are in control, or at least the best parts of the show are when they're in control. Part of it actually is my love of Yes; Thogmartin is almost like Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman rolled into one, stylistically; some of his guitar work is very classically informed, and he frequently plays with the pompous lyrical flair of Wakeman when he's on the organ (I mean that in the best possible sense). I suspect he could put on a pretty amazing show all by himself, and his use of loops gets more intuitive and judicious each time I see the band. There have been times when I've felt like he's lost in his own gadgetry up there, to the detriment of playing with a band. On one hand I can't blame him, because I do think his vision is sometimes at odds with the idea of a democratic collective, and to be completely honest, I think the band could be better if he were more of a dictator.
But I'm no expert. I've only scratched the surface with this band, but unlike most bands in this scene, they keep me intrigued. I almost hate to say this, but the crowd too reminded me very much of 90s Phish crowds, where it was mostly good-natured kids coming purely to dance hard and get lost in the music. Turner Hall was the perfect room, plenty of space on the dance floor but a respectable turnout in the end. Opening act The Main Squeeze put on a solid set, too, reminiscent of a kinder, gentler Fishbone--not without their amateurish cliché bits, no standout musicians other than singer Corey Frye but they radiated a very positive, earnest vibe and they were pretty tight overall. It was a great night of music that's already got me looking forward to Dosio's next visit, hopefully to the same room.