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.
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.
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]
The 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.
The 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]
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 really 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!