Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Go Dog Go


Greg W. Locke

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 20, 2003

Heads Up! This article is 19 years old.

It’s a cold Thursday night, about 9:00 p.m., when I pull up to Go

Dog Go drummer Mark Winters’ house for an impromptu jam session.

After a few minutes of standing at the unanswered door, up comes

singer Chris Dodds, ready with a batting glove-clad handshake.

Following a few minutes of setting up and chatting, Chris and

guitarist Matt Kelley begin discussing Ryan Adams’ latest

metamorphosis, a discussion that leads into their first song of the

night, a very tight rendition of the Adams’ penned “Nuclear.”

Used to their jam packed shows at Columbia Street West, tonight is a

different experience for me. I’m getting a behind-the-scenes look at

Fort Wayne’s hottest cover band. Mark, Chris, Matt and bass player

Eric Federspiel seem relaxed and spirited. After some more music

banter, Chris opens up the request line. Upon first hearing the band

I instantly linked their sound and good-hearted demeanor to that of

The Old 97’s, a band for whom, as it turns out, Go Dog Go share my

affections. At my request, Mark Winters slams out the drum intro to

the 97’s “Murder (Or a Heart Attack).” The night is on and spirits

are rising.

The late 90s found Eric and Matt playing acoustic guitars together

with the thought of building on their enthusiasm. Soon, Mark entered

the picture on drums and, before they knew it, they were meeting up

to play. Longtime friends, Federspiel and Dodds were working

together when Chris overheard his friend chatting about music

practice. The determined Dodds walked into practice with a bass

guitar and walked out as the band’s lead singer.

After a year of practice, the band put together a show at The Voodoo

Lounge. The bar closed before the show went down which led them to

Katy’s Kapers, a bar that usually packed in all of 25 people on a

weekend night. In February of 2000, Go Dog Go drew a crowd of 300 to

Katy’s Kapers. No first-show horror stories, Go Dog Go started their

career with a dreamlike debut that would help spread word of mouth

around the Fort Wayne music scene.

After a period of playing shows around Fort Wayne’s various clubs,

the band finally landed a spot at Columbia Street, thanks to the

reaction spawned when a friend played their demo over the club’s PA

system. Playing a mixture of songs by their favorite bands, bar

standards, and originals, Go Dog Go soon earned a fan base which led

to a monthly weekend spot at Columbia Street and eventually a Whammy

in 2002 for best local cover band.

Spanning five sessions at the end of 2002 and early 2003, the band

recorded their debut album, Long Story Short. In June of 2003, they

promoted the release of their new album by playing a rooftop gig

downtown.

When asked about the band’s direction, Chris responded by saying,

“We’ve really painted ourselves in a corner by being a successful

cover band.”

Usually pegged as just a cover band, Winters explains their onstage

dynamic: “I think you have to realize you are entertainers first.

People are paying you to give them a show, and they expect to have a

good time. It’s great to get up there and play music you really enjoy

and want to expose people to, but you still need to mix in songs that

you know the crowd will just eat up. Some people are going to say

that’s ‘selling out,’ but if you don’t balance that with the songs

you really want to perform you’ll be playing for 20 of your closest

friends instead of a packed house.”

Commenting on the band’s fight to change their image of just being a

cover band, Kelley describes the struggles of becoming known for

their own songs.

“One thing we’ve struggled with is actually selling CDs to the

Saturday night crowd. People are there to have fun, to flirt, to

dance and to drink, and not to keep $12 on the side to buy a CD of

original music before they leave, especially if they had to choose

between the CD and three more drinks.” For now, the guys seem very

excited about where they are at. Their ambition is contagious and,

along with their spirited performances, it’s hard to imagine them not

achieving their goals one way or another.

Becoming known as an originals band is only a matter of time for Go

Dog Go. Their song, “All that Lonely,” which placed in the top 10 at

the Demo Review Panel at the Midwest Music Summit, was recently

selected for X102.3’s Essentials 6 collection.

Kelley seems ambitious about their original material. “Before the

album came out, playing the originals live had a ‘clear the dance

floor’ effect. But, now that a lot of people have the album, or have

heard us play the songs live often enough, people tend to really

enjoy the songs. It’s a pretty humbling experience to see people

singing along to our original songs, almost enough to make a grown

man cry.”

Back in Mark’s basement, bass player Federspiel stands holding his

bass, fighting to get a word in as the band tells stories of their

history and thoughts on their future. Federspiel could very likely be

the quiet backbone of the band, smiling while the charismatic Dodds

laughs at the “Meow Mix” of Guster’s “Amsterdam” on the stereo.

Drummer Winters is the charmer of the group, coming across as the

funny, slightly older brother-type, while guitarist Kelley is a pure

rock n’ roll spirit, asking opinions on bands and articulating his

feelings towards the art he so openly adores.

After their homage to The Old 97’s, Dodds seems a bit winded. “We

usually warm up to those songs,” he says jokingly. After a couple

more covers, the guys seem ready to dig into their own catalog.

Starting off with a song they all warmly refer to as “Drone,” better

known as “Bad Side of Town,” you can feel the love in the air. Go Dog

Go is a great cover band, no doubt about that, but seeing their faces

brighten and feet tap harder when they play an original makes one

thing apparent: they’ll play the covers, but its the originals that

they aim to hit you hardest with.

Following a great alteration of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up,” the

guys finish with their charmingly twangy “I’m Not Gonna Let You Break

My Heart.” After a brief good-bye, I am on my way, back out into the

cold with a new favorite Fort Wayne band.

Whether you’re sick of just hearing their songs one night a month at

Columbia Street, are looking for some great rock and roll, or just

want to hear an inspired band, head over to Wooden Nickel, B&B

Loan, The Bookmark, Borders, or their website and pick up Long

Story Short. Better yet, head out to their post-Thanksgiving

extravaganza at Columbia Street on November 28th, see the show and

pick up the CD. Check out Go Dog Go at

www.godoggoband.com.

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