For more than a decade, the musical collective Poi Dog Pondering has been winning over legions of fans with their unique live shows -- musical and visual extravaganzas that combine pop, rock, funk, house and soul performed by the band's dozen or so members.

Poi Dog Pondering is the brainchild of Frank Orrall, who formed the band in his native Hawaii in the mid-'80s. In 1987, after a year touring the mainland, playing on street corners for change, Orrall and co. settled in Austin, Texas where they signed a recording contract with Texas Hotel Records. The band recorded a couple of EPs for the label before landing a deal with Columbia Records in 1988. Poi Dog released three albums on Columbia, 1988's Poi Dog Pondering, 1989's Wishing Like A Mountain, Thinking Like The Sea and 1991's Volo Volo. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm for the band as a live act didn't translate to record sales, and Columbia dropped them from their roster.

Undaunted, Orrall moved the ensemble to Chicago in 1992 and formed his own label, Plate-tec-tonic, ensuring total creative and financial control over the group, now totaling 13 members. Their first studio album on Plate-tec-tonic, Pomegranate (1995), and its accompanying sister EP, Electrique Plummagram (1996), received widespread acclaim, and the band was enthusiastically embraced by their adopted hometown of Chicago, where their concerts consistently sold out. The band also toured extensively in Europe, playing dates in Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Austria, England, Scotland, Italy and France, including a stop at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

In 1999, as Poi Dog was readying for the release of their sixth studio album, Natural Thing, Orrall announced a massive lineup change and a new, less rock-oriented musical direction for the band.

Soul Sonic Orchestra, the band's latest album, came out in 2000.

Christina Cramer

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