Dopapod 6.16 - 6.18.17
Words by Joel Whitmore
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media
Originally hailing from Boston and now largely residing in Denver, Dopapod is a musical machine that careens through a sea of genres leaving a joyously intense experience in it’s wake. Dopapod made a triumphant return to Portland, Seattle, and Eugene to the pleasure of avid and new listeners alike. They last performed in the Pacific Northwest in July of 2015, a string of shows that were musically excellent, but sparsely attended. The band has been steadily growing for nearly a decade and represents some of the most energetic and engaging music in the jam scene today. Any given song can take listeners from the depths of space, to a twangy southern blues jam, to an LCD Soundsystem type groove, and wrap it all up with a ferocious head-banging detonation.
The crowd at the Star was strong and on their feet for the opening act. Swatkins and The Positive Agenda got the people in the mood with a handful of infectiously loving originals and some succulent covers, most notably “P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)” by Michael Jackson. Swatkins prominently featured the vocoder and guest vocalist, Arietta Ward, delivered one smashing vocal performance after the next. The interplay between the musicians on stage was smooth and dance inspiring, and the positivity radiating from Swatkins and Arietta set the stage for Dopapod.
Dopapod used the first set to showcase several of their lyrically driven songs. Set opener "Braindead" was an intense beginning to an excellent first set. The song choices remained relatively short time-wise for Dopapod, and they quickly moved from one to the next. A favorite moment with song choice was the move from “Super Bowl” to “Roid Rage.” “Super Bowl” is a somewhat newer addition to the song-book and takes the audience on a journey with a smooth slide guitar opening, a tale told of adventure and the pursuit of personal understanding, and an ending that builds incessantly and culminates with both Compa and Winderman delivering an impressive vocal harmony. “Super Bowl” is a growth in the band’s ability to write songs that demonstrate their diverse skills and hold a more familiar song structure for newer fans that are not as familiar with the path of a song like “Roid Rage.” “Roid Rage” is one of the most classic Dopapod songs, from their second album Drawn Onward. While “Super Bowl” is largely written and only has a few moments of variation between each performance, “Roid Rage” is an intense funk weapon that jumps into pure improvisational territory within a minute of it’s introduction. Seeing the two songs back to back was an unexpected joy, and a great demonstration of the progress they’ve made with song writing and the effortless nature of their more experimental jams.
Whereas the first set featured some of the bands shorter songs, the second set was packed full of jam heavy crowd favorites. The first song they played, “Indian Grits,” is another off of Drawn Onward. This song goes in and out of the live performance rotation, but the Star Theater was blessed to receive this exceptional version. The band stretched the song to impressive territory with a jam that felt like a renegade crew of martian motorcycle cowboys took over your favorite discoteque. The crowd was taken on a ride of segues from that point on and Dopapod really hit their stride. “Mucho,” another highlight of the evening, has become a crowd favorite of late. It bounces on an uplifting Rhodes piano groove and hefty bassline, this version featured Chuck Jones rattling our bones with extended bass improvisations - a somewhat rare and beloved treat at any Dopapod show.
If there was anyone in the crowd who had not quite been won over by the band, the encore sealed the deal with a playful cover of "Toxic" by Britney Spears. In years past the band would sprinkle little pieces of "Toxic" into jams and tease the audience with the 2003 Spears smash hit, a habit common in the jam scene, but taken to new highs by Dopapod of late.
Coleman's Photo Gallery
Set One: Braindead, Present Ghosts, Cloud World, Super Bowl, Roid Rage, Sleeping Giant, Trickery*
No One Knows *^
Set Two: Indian Grits > Bats in the Cave, Nuggy Jawson, Mucho, Nerds
*with Steve Watkins
^Queens of the Stone Age cover
&Britney Spears cover
With a relatively unfamiliar audience, the band went for a bold opening choice with “Dracula’s Monk,” a song with waves of dissonance and heavy opening synth lines. The crowd bought in immediately and followed the band through a powerful first set that featured some of the most classic and immersive songs with long jams. The most exceptional standout moment from the first set was “Blast.” “Blast” is another crowd favorite that was placed on the shelf for nearly three years until Neal Evans returned to the band. The song alternates between punishingly heavy licks and light, almost silly, interludes before concluding in iconic Dopapod fashion. “Blast” captures so much of what there is to love about the band. It demonstrates their masterful instrumentation, dynamic song structure, ability to jam and rewrite on the fly, and features portions of musical humor that is so rare for a band to convey. The crowd turned to a soupy mess as “Blast” went through its powerful ending, and the crowd gave Dopapod the most enthusiastic response of the first half.
The first set was packed with energy and power, and yet the second set was the what made this evening a show that the Dopafam will listen to and discuss for years to come. The band opened up with the jewel of their crown, “FABA,” a song that is epic in the truest sense of the word. Dopapod masterfully alternated between intensity and low-key melodic jams throughout the set. “Weird Charlie” opened in traditional fashion before taking on a very mellow, uplifting, and beautiful middle jam section. Whereas sometimes the band eases out of these more tame interludes, this jam seemed to be ripped in half by a screaming guitar wail and went soaring into the concluding written portion that features massive bass thumps from the song’s namesake Chuck Jones.
Dopapod closed out the set with the classically intense “French Bowling,” bookending the show with two of their heavier tunes. The new fans that were made in Seattle will have a beautiful jumping off place into one of the best live bands performing today. With the band’s new streaming music platform Podify, available through Bandcamp, we will be able to relive this great night of music for years to come.
Coleman's Photo Gallery
Set One: Dracula’s Monk > Picture in Picture > Blast, Bubble Brain, Priorities
Set Two: FABA, Confabulation, Vol. 3 #86, Weird Charlie, Indian Grits > The Happy Song > Indian Grits
Encore: French Bowling
Hifi Music Hall
Dopapod and followers spent their Sunday night at the Hi-Fi Music Hall in Eugene. The Hi-Fi is a a multi-room venue with a main stage area that allows audience members to watch from beside and behind the stage - an opportunity I used to catch some of the close-up action of Eli Winderman on keys. The Hi-Fi also has a second lounge bar and music area in which a DJ was spinning before and after the show, as well as in-between sets.The crowd for the opening act Blue Lotus was modest, but grew as the show progressed. Blue Lotus played a funky set of Americana driven rock tunes that was very enjoyable to listen to. It was a beautiful evening and the patio area at the venue allowed me to rest my dancing feet and kick back on a couch before Dopapod rocked me once again.
During set break, I had the chance to catch up a few friends and fellow fans that had tracked the last few shows as well. We agreed that Portland was fun, and that Seattle was an exceptional performance. A new friend, Susan, told me she had personally requested “Vol. 3 #86” in Seattle because it is a favorite song for her young kids to listen to when they play an imagination game. She was so thankful that the band obliged and was thrilled to be seeing Dopapod for her first three times in consecutive nights. She and her husband Derrick are even making the trek down to High Sierra to keep the party going. Getting to know the West Coast fam-base has enriched my love and appreciation for the music even more.
For the encore, the band treated the audience to two deep dives into rock history with Frank Zappa’s “I’m The Slime” and AC/DC’s “TNT.” Both songs give Rob a platform to go deep with raucous shredding. Any time the band covers “I’m The Slime,” the highlight for me is always the approach on the vocals. The terror and dominance of the performance is enthralling, and continues to be a crowd favorite when it comes to covers. The audience got extremely active for set two and the encore. When the show concluded there was a big group of folks lamenting the band’s infrequent visit to this corner of the country. Here’s to hoping that we showed them a good enough time, and then they’ll be back again soon!
Coleman's Photo Gallery
Set One: Freight Train Filled With Dynamite, Bluetooth, Like a Ball, My Elephant vs. Your Elephant, Present Ghosts, Onionhead
Set Two: Eli and Neal Jam, Please Haalp, Eight Years Ended, Bahbi > November, Brookline Bridge, Cure, Black and White
Encore: I’m The Slime*, TNT^
*Frank Zappa cover