Health and wealth‚ perfect body image‚ a forbidden love‚ a bit more time -- the things we want most in life‚ of course‚ are seemingly the most difficult to obtain. Try as we might and as much as we grind it out‚ those hopes always seem to fall just a bit short‚ our end game fleeting and just a bit more fanciful than what we'd hoped. But what the hell‚ right? Last Friday at the Spot Underground in Providence‚ the elusive Dopapod emphatically reminded us that in life after all‚ it's always the chase that matters.
On the first leg of an extensive tour to support their robust sophomore album‚ Drawn Onward‚ they pulled into town for an extended one-setter that reached late into the night‚ inspiring an impassioned and quite crowded house.
Easing into their set with a pensive and contemplative jazz piano introduction from wunderkind keyboardist Eli Winderman‚ they offered spooky whispers of "Hello Providence‚ hello Providence" and then‚ "only whispers‚" immediately grabbing control of the room and launching into the modish porn-funk of "New James." As in most of their offerings‚ this one quickly moved away from its basic structure into a somewhat bubbly odyssey before settling into a nice groove which had bassist Chuck Jones and drummer Neil 'Fro' Evans immediately locked in and flexing the pocket‚ and let guitarist Rob Compa step forth to carry it home.
Dopapod rarely pauses between songs‚ and Winderman kept things going with a spacey interlude before settling into 'My Elephant Versus Your Elephant'‚ a gem that is really a tale of two tunes: the first half spacious and sexy and the second a joyous climb towards the peak. Before cutting this one off‚ though‚ the band dipped into a sinister slice of things‚ highlighted by some nifty synthesizer work by Winderman that finally emerged in a massive charge led by drummer Evans‚ a player who evokes a gritty and tenacious sound that pushes the band to the brink.
Things heated up with the slinky‚ sharp funk of 'Bats in the Cave'‚ which maintained the darker vibe the band had opened up. Again they pushed past the structure of the song deeper into the abyss‚ highlighted by Winderman's pocket piano synthesizer‚ a gem of an instrument in which Nintendo meets some mad-acid wonderland. Again‚ Compa stepped forth with some passionate but graceful playing‚ allowing his notes to breathe while still maintaining attack.
Things got proggy with "Braindead‚" an agro-frenetic mindfuck that included a rare employment of lyrics. This one was happily discomforting‚ falling somewhere in the middle of Zappa meets Steely Dan meets Primus‚ with complex time signatures and plenty of changes atop a steady pocket. It was an early highlight of what Dopapod does so well: left turns within left turns‚ each member spinning outwards from the center while never sacrificing the core. The resulting schizophrenia reached a fever pitch that simply did not want to end‚ leaving both band and audience collecting their breath.
"Roid Rage" was next‚ giving guitarist Compa a full joint to flex his muscles. Compa manages a full classic sound with some bite‚ and honors each song as needs fit -- sometimes to supplement‚ others to step up; on this one‚ it was all shredfest. After some funky interplay with Winderman‚ the tempo raced off‚ the band once again managing to reach that level where they speak a language all of their own.
Slowing things down a bit with the reggae-lilted "PLSS‚" the band winked to some fans with a chants of "Super 8 Ragefest‚" an impromptu hotel throw down after last year's Halloween blizzard had cancelled the show. Winderman even pulled a melodica out of his hefty bag of tricks as the band peaked shortly‚ before returning to the rasta.
Other highlights included an enormous prog monster‚ "We Are Not Alone‚" which was sparked by a particularly emotive theme; "Volume 3 # 86‚" a percussive and playful new tune on the back of some punchy bass by Chuck Jones‚ and the not-so-gentle menace of "8 Years Ended‚" which again arrived at a raucous finale that wouldn't quit.
If this night is indicative of the way the rest of the tour will play out‚ Dopapod has big things in store. This is a band who is undeniably talented and becoming more assertive by the show‚ an amorphous beast who hasn't yet reached full strength. And one thing is for sure: the only constant with these guys is that they're going to keep changing‚ and for fans of improvisational music and pushing the envelopes of possibility‚ that's a damn good thing. Don't blink: you may miss it.