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
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
When asked about the band's direction, Chris responded by saying,
"We've really painted ourselves in a corner by being a successful
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
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
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