After listening to The Dolomites’ 2000 release, Lovely Day for a Hogshead of Whiskey, I was encouraged about checking out the band live. With lyrics like, “We’ll drink all day and heave away” and “I was all boozed up and could barely think straight” set to the tune of Irish drinking anthems and Celtic tales of the sea, how could I go wrong?
Similarly, I can relate to a group of guys proclaiming to be “drunk rawkers. ” I came to find out that dolomite is the name of an alleged hangover-curing mineral. So after getting appropriately liquored up, yet hoping not to need any dolomite myself, I headed downtown.
The Portland-based group describes its music as acoustic punk with a mixture of global odds and ends. Although I expected to lock shoulders with other like-minded drunks, swigging Guinness and swinging mugs back and forth with a musical backdrop laid down by the band, its live performance proved to offer much more than a caricature.
It’s not often that a band takes the stage and opens with the theme of “The Muppet Show.” But that’s what The Dolomites did, playing to a sparse, but attentive crowd at The Launchpad on Tuesday night.
The band ripped through a themed set of polkas, Irish drinking singalongs and fast-paced Arabic-flavored waltzes, and threw in a bit of country and blues to round things out. The theme centered around a Russian man named Boris, and lead singer/accordionist Koji B. took on a Ukrainian persona replete with thick accent to describe Boris’ travails through love and life.
From Koji B.’s seat atop a large tin trash can, he rocked and reeled in a seeming trance while pounding on his accordion. Guitarist Chris Harrison also helped with vocals, as did jackhammer operator-turned-bass player Eric Longbine from under his pork pie hat and dark sunglasses. Clarinetist Nate Twiggs’ bizarre facial expressions did not detract from his craft, while saxophonist Chris Larsen — who wore some type of wicker hat — squealed, squeaked and squawked his way through the set while often dancing a jig on stage.
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While occasionally tipping up the front of his police helmet to suck down suds, drummer Chris Slowik provided the loose percussive framework that had a few audience members high stepping.
The show was a unique one for the Launchpad set. While the venue typically has bands of a more aggressive genre, the punkish attitude of The Dolomites played well. It was clear that the band’s style of choice is not a gimmick, as I initially feared it would be. One can easily see the dedication of these accomplished musicians as they cut a unique swath into the current state of music.
A friend of mine said, “They either love what they’re doing, or they’re insane,” and I would agree completely with the former and in part with the latter. But quirkiness can help endear fans of music. All quirks aside, though, The Dolomites deserve a heap of praise — and, of course, a raised glass of your favorite ale — for their venturesome approach.