Dopapod photos by Charlie and Kari Denison
Dopapod at Top Hat in Missoula, Montana.
“Oh my God, what a trip,” said a guy next to me while grooving with his girlfriend early into Dopapod’s first set at the Top Hat in Missoula, Montana on Wednesday, March 8. Eli Winderman (keys, vocals) and Rob Compa (guitar, vocals) were masterfully elevating us during “French Bowling,” taking us on a journey for which there is no return. At least that’s how I felt. It’d been years since I’d gone to see a jam band at an intimate venue. I hadn’t felt this energy in so long. It was good to be back, and it was a wonderful first time at the Top Hat.
This was not Dopapod’s first time at the Top Hat, and Compa was excited to return.
“We haven’t been here since 2017, which is all of a sudden kind of a long time ago,” he told the crowd. “Isn’t that weird?”
Like the guy next to me, my mind was thoroughly blown from the start, skull-melting solo after skull-melting solo. I was spellbound early, before Dopapod even graced the stage. Opening act Dave Dernovsek and his band Yak Attack mesmerized us all, transporting us into the captivating world of experimental rock, funk, breakbeat and beyond.
All of us at the Top Hat that night were a lucky bunch. We knew it as soon as Dopapod kicked off with the Rage-like riff on “Eight Years Ended.” They transported us into their world, transfixing and hypnotizing us, loosening us up, allowing us to forget about anything that might be ailing us. Winderman, Compa, bassist Chuck Jones and drummer Neal “Fro” Evans set us free.
This was my first Dopapod show. Just a few months back my bass player in Boulder, Montana asked if I’d heard of them. I hadn’t, so I checked them out, starting with their 2022 self-titled album, and was instantly hooked (check out “Grow” and “Nuff” and it’ll happen to you, too). When I found out they were coming to town I didn’t want to miss it, and I’m glad my wife, stepson and I took the opportunity. It’s been a special tour for Dopapod, one full of taking risks. You never know what to expect – including ambitious, off-the-wall covers. On March 5 at Schmiggity’s in Steamboat Springs, Colorado the band played Radiohead’s “I Might Be Wrong,” and, on Wednesday they shell-shocked us with the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” their first time playing it out. And they crushed it. It was so good they had to follow it with a set break.
When they returned to the stage they kicked off with “Numbers Need Humans” from 2019’s Emit Time. Lyrically Dopapod toys with concepts of time a lot. Throughout their seven studio albums they circle back to some wild time-travel psychedelic ideas. It adds to the trip. When you step out of a Dopapod show, you could be anywhere. You’re certainly not the same when you leave.
So what does “wild time-travel psychedelics” sound like? In the case of “Numbers Need Humans,” it’s a sci-fi Red Hot Chili Peppers. That’s in large part a testament to Chuck Jones’s approach to the bass, reminiscent here of Flea on “Funky Monks.” But by no means does this even come close to describing their sound; it’s a smorgasbord of influences (the Fungus Amongus era of Incubus, Weather Report, Pink Floyd, pioneers of jam lore Led Zeppelin to name a few) and genres (funk, rock, blues, reggae and electronica) adding up to something almost otherworldly.
Dopapod’s performance just kept getting better. Song after song Winderman and Compa showed just how special they are as orchestral counterparts, and they couldn’t have found a better rhythm section (Check out “Vol.3 #86 and you’ll see what I mean). The chemistry is especially clear when the band executes jaw-dropping transitions, which are raised to another level by Mike Jaws’s light design.
You don’t have to be a part of the jam scene to appreciate Dopapod. Seeing them is seeing incredible musicians surprising themselves in mind-altering ways. Together they transcend, and where they go, we follow. The trip is always worth taking.
See if they are coming your way here.