– Deaf Institute, Manchester –

Pronounced “Dog for Dog”, Dag For Dag are a brother and sister songwriting duo originate from “San Francisco, Sweden” according to lead singer and guitarist Sarah Snavely. The Deaf Institute’s crowd is undeservedly low in numbers and the between songs conversation from the band is met with embarrassed silence.

Undeterred, the siblings strut about the stage with a confident swagger as they share the vocals and compete for superior rock stance. Brother Jacob, who appears more reserved with beard and sensible shirt, occasionally launches into the split kick whilst wielding his bass. Sarah’s short dress and headband glisten with silver sequins as she prowls around her amp to skillfully tease feedback.

The first few tunes are met with polite applause, Jacob’s vocals are deep and almost monotone, reminiscent of The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster or Interpol. Sarah contrasts, using heavy reverb that sounds refreshing over the growling guitars and deep, rapid beat.

The overall sound is early U2 with a touch of 80’s Manchester, featuring lingering Chris Isaac chords that would fit nicely into a scene of Twin Peaks or Pulp Fiction… an up-tempo, more traditional Americana version of The XX.

Their fourth tune of the set is ‘Hands and Knees’, the infectious chorus produces a spine tingling moment and is an instant head turner, enough to convert any doubters. The momentum continues with ‘Ring Me, Elise’ after which the crowd heartily show their appreciation… and I pop to the cash machine so I can buy the yet to be officially released debut album ‘Boo’ from the lead singer herself, who appeared surprised and delighted.

Thao Nguyen starts to make a noise with her guitar and the chatting audience appear unaware that the sound check has finished. The Get Down Stay Down (Willis and Adam) look just as stunned as they scamper for their drumsticks and bass.

Thao has a carefree and effortlessly cool stage presence, she playfully shakes her head from side to side and kicks her left leg while breathing uplifting lyrics such as “Bring your hips to me” at a rhythmical pace.

The sound is happy and uplifting, yet too skilled and smart to be plainly referred to as ‘pop’. Thao’s voice is like a carefree Cat Power, soulful and folky. She starts the second tune by impressively beatboxing into the mic. The album ‘Know Better Learn Faster’ contains keys, brass, strings and more percussion but the stripped down live versions don’t suffer from the lack of these.

A section of the audience by the bar is quite drunk and start chatting to Thao between songs, she responds politely and humorously as the harmless hecklers eventually embarrass themselves after taking the conversation further than anyone would wish. But on the plus side, the interaction prompts Willis the drummer to request the audience help start the next song. After a count of four we sing ‘oooooooo’ at an increasing scale as if goading a goalkeeper during a goal kick. They then play ‘Fixed It!’ a ska tune of sorts. Other songs, especially ‘Body’ remind me of Vampire Weekend. She promises to get the crowd warmed up before the club night that follows… ‘Burn You Up’ shifts the drunks from the bar and onto the dance floor for some bizarre Morris dancing that intensifies the smiles on the already entertained spectators faces.

They complete the set with the title track to the album, a slower and more melancholy tune which acts as a perfect, thought provoking ending to the evening.

Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.