Category Archives: Dopa-blog: The Road Journal of Dopapod

Dopapod reports back from the Rock-n-Roll front lines as they tour in support of their upcoming album, Never Odd or Even.

Dopa-Blog: The Road Journal of Dopapod #8 – Billy Joel, Bonnaroo, Synths

db1Well, I asked Billy Joel to sit in with us, but he said no. I don’t know why, maybe he was weirded out because I asked him while we were both taking a leak in the bathroom. Whatever, bro, get over yourself. It’s 2015. The walls of urination etiquette are a savage custom of the past. Live in the now.

 

Okay, so I didn’t actually ask Billy Joel to jam with us, nor did I even see him whatsoever. But on a serious note, Bonnaroo was absolutely unbelievable; without question not only the hugest crowd we’ve ever played for, but also one of the most energetic and appreciative. But I’ll start from the beginning of our Bonnaroo experience before we get into the meaty show time details.

 

We arrived nice and early in the afternoon with a lot of time to kill before our set. I usually don’t like to be at a festival all day before we play. It’s not that I don’t want to be there; I just know from experience that walking around for eight hours under the hot sun can leave me totally drained of any energy by show time. Not only that, but a lot of times I get bored and cope with it by drinking beer. And that’s definitely not something you want to consume all day before playing. In this case, though, we didn’t have a choice, so I figured I might as well walk around Bonnaroo and take it all in. I did, however, give myself a rule of no drinking before the set. I didn’t want to be a sloppy, exhausted pile of crap for one of the biggest festivals we’d ever played.

 

db2Before our set we sat down to do an interview with Red Bull TV, which was one of the stranger things I’ve experienced in my time on the road. They brought us up to a sort of tower overlooking the concert field, where they sat us down in front of super bright lights, handed us all microphones and dabbed makeup on us. I felt like I was announcing New Years Rockin’ Eve or something. It was weird. The interview itself was pretty fun, though.
The time finally came to set up our equipment, and I was surprised to see a substantial amount of people already at the stage waiting for us. To be honest, I initially told myself that they were probably just camping out for a good spot for whatever band would be playing after us, and we were just the entertainment in the meantime. As we neared completion of our sound check, we were all a bit stressed to discover that Eli’s Moog prodigy was completely incapable of staying in tune. Fun fact for those of you who don’t know much about keyboards (and I am one of you): Vintage synthesizers actually have to be tuned. I don’t know if it was the dust or the humidity or what, but the Moog was in super rough shape. But it was now or never! Gear malfunction moments are what separate the men from the boys, and if you don’t keep your cool and handle it with grace you’re bound to have a terrible time on stage. I knew that if anybody could handle it, it was Eli. He has four other keyboards on stage, and dude sounds amazing on anything that has piano keys, so I knew if something went wrong he would still play it off like a boss.

 

db3As we took a minute to collect ourselves before walking on stage, we heard the entire crowd chanting our band’s name, and I realized that the people who had been waiting while we were setting up were not just waiting for some other band to start playing. I hate to be cheesy, but we were really moved by it. As we finally took the stage, I was absolutely dumbfounded at how much the crowd had grown since I had walked off after sound check. I had never experienced anything like it. I would guess it was somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 people. A few of my friends and family asked me if were nervous playing in front of such a big crowd; Honestly, aside from being a touch nervous about Eli’s synth working properly, I couldn’t have been less nervous. How could I be stressed playing in front of a crowd that was so warm and enthusiastic? I didn’t feel I had anything to prove. I was only focused on having a great time and enjoying such a beautiful moment while it lasted. On top of that, Eli dealt with his technical difficulties beautifully. I was proud of him for being so zen about it and adjusting without a hitch.

 

 

After having a day off to enjoy Bonnaroo, we hopped on a plane and headed back up north to play at Disc Jam Music Festival. I have to give a shout out to our unbelievable road crew for this one.  As soon as our set had finished, they packed up the all the gear and drove all the way from Tennessee to New York so that we could stay at Bonnaroo for an extra day and then fly into the next gig. That just blows my mind. They work way harder than we do to begin with, yet we’re the ones who get special treatment. I won’t lie, I was more than happy to be able to hang out for awhile and then fly in a nice comfy airplane, but I felt kind of guilty about it. The next time a fan comes over to me to shake my hand or ask for an autograph I should just tell them to go get our road crew to sign their stuff instead, because in actuality my job is pretty easy and theirs is unbelievably difficult.

 

 

We arrived at Disc Jam in high spirits, not only from the afterglow of Bonnaroo, but from excitement about playing a festival that’s been so good to us throughout the years. It’s changed locations multiple times at this point, but has managed to retain the same vibe no matter where it’s been held each year. My theory is that it’s truly a festival that thrives off of the people who attend it. I’ve seen so many of the same faces every year I’ve ever played at it that it really doesn’t matter what the location is. The people there dictate the mood and spirit of the event.

 

As I set up my equipment in preparation for our set, I enjoyed the sounds of Electron emanating from the adjacent stage. Those guys have all been doing what we’re doing for years and years, and they’ve been super cool and supportive to us. They’re definitely always a fun hang. The only guy I haven’t talked to too much is Tom Hamilton, but I can safely say I was really impressed with his guitar playing. To be honest, up until recently I didn’t really know he was so good. It’s not that I didn’t think he was good – I just hadn’t checked out much of his playing – that was until a few months ago, when I caught him playing with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead in Denver. Man, that guy can play guitar.

 

As Electron wound down and we started getting into our set, I felt a nice, rare wave of contentment. If I’m being honest with myself, I feel like I always want something else; more songs, more gigs, less gigs, more notoriety, more guitars, whatever. But every once in awhile, I can reach a place where I’m totally happy with where I’m at right then and there. I got to go to that place while I was on stage at Disc Jam, and I really appreciated being there. I was on stage with my friends, playing music that I was happy with, for a crowd of people who were feeding us great energy. I couldn’t have asked for more.

 

 

The set started off pretty standard, with us breezing through a few more abridged versions of songs. Definitely tight, but the real fun was yet to begin. Then, about halfway through the set, we brought up our friend Justin Hancock from Haley Jane and the Primates to play some guitar. Justin goes way back with all of us. I met him in college in a guitar lab, where we bonded over Phish. On top of that, he used to be in a band with Chuck and Eli called Actual Proof, so there’s a lot of history between all of us. We all had a great time playing together, and Justin sounded great. From that point on, I don’t think there a single break between songs. I also don’t think a single thing went according to plan, which is how we want it to be. That’s when the really good stuff happens!

 

Anyhow, that’s all for now, I’m in the van, as usual. It’s a little past midnight, and I’m listening to some Cannonball Adderley. Check him out if you never have. He is definitely my favorite bebop horn player. I may even start my next blog as soon I’m done with this one. It’s not like I have anything else to do! ’Til then, you all be safe out there.

 

Dopa-Blog: The Road Journal of Dopapod – #7 Martha2, “Echoes,” and Slayer

mt jamHey everybody! I’m back at it after a long hiatus from blogging. I guess I just got the bug again and needed some sort of activity to keep me from going nuts on the road. But before I give you the details of last week’s run of shows, I figured I’d tell you about a couple of the more exciting things that have happened so far this year.

First off, I started off the new year by purchasing a shiny new guitar. That’s exciting stuff for me. For any guitar geeks out there who care about specifics, its a Gibson custom shop CS-336 with a non-reverse firebird headstock. For anyone who doesn’t care about what its called, just look at the pretty picture of it below:

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I was out to dinner with my girlfriend and we stopped into a terrific guitar shop called Lark Street Music. I had no intention of buying a new guitar, but it felt and sounded too perfect for me not to fall in love with it. I spent the following couple days trying to get it out of my head so as not to make a frivolous decision, but ultimately my wonderful, lovely girlfriend told me to stop being a dumb ass and buy it. There’s nothing like the love of a good woman, huh? Anyhow, it’s been my primary guitar for the last six months, which is saying a lot since I’ve sold every guitar I’ve owned in the last 8 years. I named her Martha 2 (Martha 1 is my dog). Also, for anyone who cares, I still have Amelia, my trusty Paul Reed Smith hollowbody II that has been my primary guitar for the last ten years. That guitar will have to be pried from my cold, dead hands. She is however, in need of some TLC and overall maintenance, so I haven’t been playing her too much as of late.

Another highlight of this year for me was our three night run at the Sinclair in Boston. Playing shows and just being in Boston in general is always a big deal for us since we started the band there many years ago, and being there always brings something out of us creatively. I usually try not to voice my opinion of any of our shows. Who am I to let my negative opinion of a show ruin what was a great experience for someone in the audience? And, conversely, I’m wary to think too highly of a show and then get people’s expectations up too high only to have the music not meet it. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that these three shows are some of my favorite shows we’ve ever played. I love the feeling of abandoning a setlist for the sake of creativity and exploration, and I don’t think any of the three shows abided by what was written down. I also felt that every chance we took paid off in spades. I couldn’t have had a better time.

Here’s some of personal highlights of the run:

1- the entire first show

2- Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski of Soul Monde and Trey Anastasio Band sitting in with us on “Roid Rage”

3- Playing Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” for nearly an entire hour. It was the only song of the entire second set on the third night.

 

Fast forward to Summer and here we are, in the midst of festival season. This is an exciting yet stressful time of year for any band. Being at a festival with all our friends from other bands feels like a giant family reunion. The hang is just unbelievable. I honestly feel that all the other bands that are sort of in the same teir as us (is that what the kids are calling it these days? “Teir?”) are my best friends. Unfortunately, with all of us always on our own crazy tours we don’t get to hang as much as we’d like to, so we look forward to the hang that occurs backstage at any given festival.

Last weekend was an amazing, albeit insane one for us. We started off by flying to Arkansas to perform at Wakarusa. The set was all right despite fighting through some technical difficulties in the first quarter of the set. We were also using all rental (or “backline,” as the pros say) equipment, which was a bit stressful. But we made it through unscathed to fight another day. I think my personal highlight of the day was that all the water at the festival came in cans, which blew our minds. It felt like we were drinking beer, but we were actually being healthy. Good stuff.

We woke up bright and early the next day for one of the most hectic days of travel I’ve experienced in recent memory. We started off with an hour and a half drive to the airport, and then got on an airplane and landed in Chicago to catch a connecting flight. The layover culminated with our plane arriving an hour late, only to be kept at the gate for an extra hour because the flight crew couldn’t get the door of the airplane to close. That’s reassuring! A door being broken on an airplane is definitely pretty high up on the list of things you don’t want to be broken on an airplane. Dead men tell no tales, however, and obviously I’m alive to tell this one, so I think it’s obvious that the door held up okay. Then once that plane landed at LaGuardia, we hopped in a car and drove another three hours to Mountain Jam in Hunter, New York. All in all, thirteen hours of traveling in one day.

Thankfully, we arrived in time to catch the last half of Robert Plant’s set. He rocked the shit out of that mountain. He still sounds great and his music has aged gracefully over the years. Also, in between songs he told weird stories about young girls walking through the heather with buckets of milk singing “English refrains of old.” I don’t know what the hell he was talking about, but Robert Plant was saying it so it was pretty much the coolest thing I had ever heard.

After that, I walked over to the indoor stage to play our late night set. I’ll admit it was a bit surreal to watch a member of Led Zeppelin and then walk 100 yards and play my own set. That was a pretty cool “pinch me moment.” I enjoyed our set a lot, although I can’t think of any specific highlights. I just know it was nice to play a good long set that allowed us to stretch out. We’ve had a lot of power hour festival sets where we’re off stage before we even know we have started playing, so it was nice to have time on our side once again.

We got finished at 3 am and headed to our hotel to get some rest, but not for long. We were back at the venue at 11 am to get set up for an early afternoon set on the main stage. This was by far the biggest stage we had ever played on, but frankly I didn’t care what the stage looked like; I just hoped that people would get up early and come see us. No one wants to play for an empty ski slope. Fortunately, we had a wonderful crowd as well as a beautiful, sunny day amidst a lush, green mountainous setting. What a beautiful time. Despite our exhaustion from all the travel, we felt really locked in and creative. All four of us were in high spirits and were truly enjoying such a beautiful place to make music. 

I hung out for the afternoon and enjoyed some free beer and food, and then decided to hit the road so I could have some “R and R” before getting back on the road, which brings me to now. We’re in the van, headed to Bonnaroo. My back is killing me and my hair is starting to go gray. Do you guys think Billy Joel would be down to sit in with us? I doubt it. Maybe we’ll ask Slayer…they’re a jam band, right? We’ll see… 

 

Dopa-Blog: The Road Journal of Dopapod – #6, Jake or Brendan?, cargo-shorts, and “White Room”

As Dopapod hits the road in anticipation of their upcoming album, Never Odd or Even, (due out November 11), they have agreed to be our eyes and ears on the front-line of Rock-n-Roll and report to Honest Tune about what life on the road is really like for a touring band.  The band will periodically be checking in and delivering their thoughts and musings from the road.   This week Rob Compa comes to us after a string of shows opening for Umphrey’s McGee.

 

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Hey everybody! I’m sitting in the van headed home for a night before we meet up for rehearsal, and I thought I’d check in. We just finished up a two night run at one of our favorite venues to play, the Spot Underground in Providence RI, and I realized that the route back to where we were going to rehearse goes right by the exit for my apartment. I’m super excited to get a night home with my lady, my cat, and my dog before we meet up to get some tricks and treats together for our Halloween show next week. Should be a good time. But LOTS of stuff happened this week, so let me start from the beginning.

 

We arrived at the House of Blues in Cleveland filled with excitement to be opening for Umphrey’s McGee. I’ve been listening to that band for the last ten years of my life, so getting to play some shows with them is a real “pinch me” kind of moment. We arrived just in time to catch Umphrey’s rehearsing some tunes during their sound check. Even watching them sound check is a seriously inspiring experience. It’s cool to see a band that’s been doing it for so long who still works so hard and gives everything they have every night.

 

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The band walked offstage and I immediately threw myself into awkward Rob mode by shaking Brendan Bayliss’ hand and accidentally calling him Jake. Shit. What are you gonna do, huh? Oh well, onward and upward. Regardless of that, all the UM band and crew members made us feel right at home, which was a good feeling.

 

 

Our set was pretty standard procedure, but what can you expect when you’re playing a 45 minute opening set? It was definitely an adjustment for us to give people an idea what we’re all about in such a short time frame. As an improvising band, I think time is a really important factor into making a nice tasty improv casserole, so to speak. It needs time to bake, and then cool off and coagulate. And although 45 minutes is enough time to make some good moments happen, we definitely had to keep a careful eye on the clock and it was a little distracting at times. Even still, I think we got the point across. Mission accomplished, IMO.

 

[Check out the full show from the House of Blues]

 

 

jumanjiThe next day we pulled into Niagara Falls (the U.S. side) to open for Umphrey’s again at the Rapids Theatre. The town itself was pretty desolate. You know in the movie Jumanji (RIP Robin Williams) when he finally gets out of the game and walks around his town and everything’s boarded up and covered in graffiti and the movie theater has been turned into a porno theater? It was kind of like that. Except that this theater wasn’t a porno theater, it was absolutely beautiful and giant inside. It gave us a nice warm and fuzzy feeling to play in such a nice joint. Also, my Mom made the trip from Rochester to see the show, so it was nice to have her see us perform in a nice big place in front of a big fat crowd.

 

The set was pretty much the same vibe as the night before. Pretty standard and short. Knowing that two guitarists who I’ve grown up listening to could potentially be watching somewhere in the room was a little scary, and I think it made me play a little differently. Not to say in a better or worse way, but I think I played a little more showy than usual, and felt a little less focused on melodies or motif-y types of approaches. Whatever the case, though, I think I played some stuff I might not have played under normal circumstances, and in this line of work anything different is good.

 

20141024-_DSC0816The next day we arrived at Stage AE in Pittsburgh to open for Umphrey’s yet again. The AE in the aforementioned venue’s name stands for “American Eagle.” I figured we would all get short haircuts with spiked up bangs and frosted tips like a 90’s middle-schooler, and maybe wear some brand new but somehow pre-tattered and worn in Cargo shorts, but alas it was not to be. Anyhow, the venue was HUGE. I couldn’t even believe it. It may have been the biggest indoor venue we’ve played to date. I felt much more comfortable during our set than I had the previous two nights. I guess I had finally adjusted to playing a shorter set. I think it’s important to be a patient improviser, but it’s super important to know how to say what you need to say without unnecessary bullshit if needs be, too; definitely something to keep in mind.

 

[Check out the full show from Stage AE]

 

Check out Honest Tune’s photo gallery of Umphrey’s McGee’s show at Stage AE

 

 

I was truly excited to play the next two nights at the Spot Underground. We’ve been playing there for years, and its run by some Jack Brucereally great people who always make us feel right at home. And the crowd is always super energetic, without fail. Besides that, I was excited to get back to our normal two set format for a couple nights.

 

For the first night, we decided to pay tribute to Cream’s bassist Jack Bruce who had passed away that morning by covering “White Room.” We all listened to it at sound check and gave it a quick run through. It went over really well, and the rest of the set contained some fun Cream teases in a few jams. We really took our time and had some good moments. And the crowd was just nuts man. People always get rowdy at the Spot. I had a couple drinks in me for the second set, which made me feel a little loopy, but hey man, that’s rock and roll.

 

[Check out night 1 from the Spot]

 

Thanks to the two night run, we got to enjoy the rare and wonderful experience of not having to pack up any of our gear after the set, and not have to set any of it up the next morning. It was bliss man. We pretty much just hung at the hotel all day and then went to the venue and made sure everything still worked. The first set was a little mellow to me, but I dug it because of that. It had a little bit more of a grown up vibe, and it seemed appropriate for a Sunday. The second set, on the other hand, was much more aggressive and adventurous. Really good times. My only issue was that my amplifier was messed up and kind of sounded like crap. Oh well. Sometimes ya gotta roll with what you’ve got.

 

[Check out night 2 from the Spot]

 

Anyhow, that’s it for now. Halloween looms ahead of us like a giant jack o lantern with an evil grin beckoning us, so I should have some good stories the next time I get in touch with whoever is reading this. Til next time!

Dopa-Blog: The Road Journal of Dopapod – #5, “Flying,” Dirty Hotels, and Michigan

As Dopapod hits the road in anticipation of their upcoming album, Never Odd or Even, (due out November 11), they have agreed to be our eyes and ears on the front-line of Rock-n-Roll and report to Honest Tune about what life on the road is really like for a touring band.  The band will periodically be checking in and delivering their thoughts and musings from the road.  This time around Rob Compa comes to us after finishing a run of shows through the Midwest.

 

 

15423570792_6219bf1c92_oAhoy!!! Ahoy… Did you guys know that the term “Ahoy” was the word that Alexander Graham Bell (ya know that old dead dude that invented the telephone) originally wanted use as the universal greeting when someone picked up the phone? Apparently Thomas Edison (that other dead guy) changed it to the hello that we know and love today. I just learned that today. I always thought that was just some shit pirates or sailors said to each other. Whadya know?

 

Alright, on to business.

 

After leaving the beautiful state of Colorado, we headed to Omaha Nebraska for a Tuesday show at The Waiting Room. The show started off fine, but a couple minutes into the second tune Eli and I completely lost power on stage. After years of playing shows, I’ve learned that the worst thing you can do in situation like that is stop having fun. You just have to roll with it and take whatever the rock gods throw your way. That being said, I had a hard time shaking my frustration for the next couple tunes. I finally was brought out of my funk when we brought Matt from Tauk up to play some guitar on one of our newer songs, “Dracula’s Monk.” I had a great time playing music with him, and it was definitely the highlight of my night.


The next day we headed to The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS. Early in the day, I settled down to restring my guitar and watch the Orioles and Royals ALCS game. I was an Orioles fan when I was a kid, so it would’ve been cool to see them win, but I also enjoy rooting for the underdog, so I was happy to see the Royals win. Very cool. {editor’s note: The Honest Tune editor of this piece is from Baltimore and does not find this very cool.} As for the rest of my day, I can’t really say that anything else too noteworthy happened. The show was a good time, for sure, but after so many shows I can’t necessarily remember details from every single one.

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We arrived in St. Louis on Thursday to discover that 13 bands had had their trailers broken into just that month in that same neighborhood. Yikes! That’s not exactly news we’re happy to get. Anyway, we appreciated the heads up and took some extra precautions. Before show time, I got some chicken and vegetable Tikka Masala that totally blew my mind. Best meal I’ve had this tour. The show went well and I personally felt really good about my playing that night. I felt like I had a lot to say and my hands were letting me say it.

 

15420739531_b171874a07_oBecause of all the theft problems in St. Louis, we drove for a couple hours to get out of town. By the time we got to the hotel, it was somewhere around 5 AM. As Luke (our lighting designer) and I walked into our hotel room to finally get some Z’s, we discovered that our bed had been slept in, and our toilet was filled with old shit and it wouldn’t flush. I personally would’ve preferred a mint on my pillow or something. Well anyways, we quickly got a new room and got what sleep we could manage.

 

We all woke up the next morning needing way, way more sleep than we had actually gotten, which isn’t at all abnormal. We arrived in Chicago the next morning fatigued, but stoked to play one of our favorite cities. The set contained some really great improvising. We even found ourselves playing an impromptu covers of “Flying” by the Beatles and “Brain Stew” by Green Day. Ya gotta love finding yourself in some cover that you’ve never played or talked about before, just via improvisation. We had a great time.

The next day was a little bittersweet for us because our long time manager, Jason Gibbs, flew out that morning to finally get off the road with us and become our, well, just plain manager -that means not touring with us anymore. I’m gonna miss my Pep Pep. He’s a good Pep Pep and I’ll miss sitting on his lap and hearing whimsical bed time stories about settlement, back end deals, and radius clauses. But luckily, our buddy Aaron Hagele took over the duties of road management, and has since then been doing a great job for us. Thanks Aaron!

 

I arrived to the Mousetrap in Indianapolis filled with excitement, not because of the show so much as the anticipation of eating the delicious beef stew that the venue regularly serves. I look forward to it every time we tour in the Midwest. The Mousetrap is a tiny little place, but the crowd there always goes nuts, which we just love. This time was no different. It felt great to play our songs and see people singing the words along with us, and it made our day to start a song and see people in the crowd cheer with glee because they got to hear the one song they were hoping we would play. We even had one dude crowd surfing! Good times.

 

Grand-Rapids-MIAnd finally, we ended our run in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the Stache. After our sound check, we all headed to the Founders Brewery down the street to grab a bite and try some good beer. Gotta love Michigan’s abundance of beer. The show was a good time, but that old feeling of playing the sixth show in row was definitely apparent to all four of us, so the next two days were spent at our good friends Rick and Pam VandeKerkhoff in Rockford. We make sure to spend a few days with Rick and Pam every time we’re in town. They’re the parents of one of our good friends from Berklee, Kyle, and they’re two of the coolest people on the planet. We’ve spent the last two days filling our bellies with beer, whiskey, chorizo strata, seven layer dip, and meatloaf sandwiches. It just doesn’t get any better.

 

Anyhow, that concludes our journey for now! Tomorrow we’ll embark on three shows with one of our favorite bands, Umphrey’s Mcgee, so I’m sure I’ll have some good road stories for all of you lovely folks. Later!