On The Dopa-Road to New Year’s Eve: Dopapod Makes a Landing at Baltimore Soundstage
Dopapod played three shows in the Northeast before hitting Worcester, MA for their New Year’s Eve extravaganza with Twiddle, and on Monday, December 29 the band touched down in Baltimore, MD for a show at the Soundstage. They might as well have beamed us up into their spaceship, because their performance that night was nothing less than stellar.
Have you ever seen one of those paintings within a painting that appear to go on indefinitely into itself? When I see Dopapod perform, this image often comes to mind. Dopapod flagrantly rejects the idea of clear genre classifications. Within one show, you will often feel a shift between musical sounds from set to set. Within each set of that show, you will again feel shifts from song to song. Even within one song, you will often feel these very same shifts. Several of their most memorable numbers have sections that seem more like movements of symphonies, movements that change in key, tempo, dynamic – sometimes feeling like entirely separate songs. Each set may feel more heavily influenced by one type of sound or another, but you are guaranteed to find an amalgam of musical soundscapes within any Dopapod show.
Monday was no different in this regard. For the first set the band came out hard and heavy, heavily channeling a metal rock vibe that had drummer Scotty Zwang shining as he exhibited the utmost control over his instrument as his hands rained down over his kit in a storm of beats. Keeping it diverse, Keyboardist Eli Winderman added elements of a dark carnival with organ-like keys, guitarist Rob Compa gave the set a taste of classic rock with some killer quick-paced runs up and down his fret board, and bassist Chuck Jones even brought in a bit of a funk feel with strolling bass lines that begged for dance. “FABA,” a song the band has been playing for quite some time which only recently made its album debut on Never Odd Or Even, was a perfect representation of the set in its entirety. It began out of a jazz-inflected segue that had a distinct lounge vibe, transitioning into weird and spacey funk before going dark and heavy into a metal-influenced conclusion to end the set, with a variety of additional sounds peeking through here and there. The song created a perfect flow between quite distinct sounds, and fit seamlessly into a set which created a similar flow on a larger scale. The effect was nothing if not artistic.
The second set, though retaining some of the former set’s heavy metal aspects, entered more deeply into the realm of space funk. Elements of metal remained, meshing organically with sounds of Spanish rock, dreamy prog, and jungle-like funk which all coalesced in a set heavily steeped in adventurous improv. While improv and funk both took center stage throughout the set, They were particularly prominent in the final two numbers, Dopapod‘s cover of the Donkey Kong Country theme song and their orchestral-like masterpiece off album Redivider called “Bubble Brain.” Playful, sexy, intense, heavy – the two songs took the crowd on a tour of the emotional spectrum and allowed the musicians to test their limits both individually and as a unit. The dynamic control in “Bubble Brain” was impressive to say the least – though the Dopapod spaceship didn’t officially beam us up, I felt as though it was happening as the band blew up into the song’s triumphant breakdown.
For the encore, just in case you needed further proof that this band will change things up in unexpected ways, they scratched their intended encore of “My Elephant Versus Your Elephant,” for a distinctive and amusing song called “Nerds,” off their newest album. It feels heavily inspired by New Wave style a la the Talking Heads or the Cure, but with silly and lighthearted lyrics and a healthy dose of that 8-bit video game feel that has become somewhat of a signature for these guys. A perfect way to end the show leaving the crowd with the impression that at a Dopapod show you should be ready for anything, because you just may get it.
Picture in picture. Dopapod may not have played that song on Monday (also featured on the band’s newest album Never Odd Or Even), but they may as well have. Each piece of their performance is carefully crafted to fit within a bigger picture, and they succeed in doing so more and more with each and every performance I witness.
Check them out yourselves; the band has already announced its first string of performances for the New Year. You can see their updated tour schedule here.