Words & Images by: Jake Krolick
Dr. Dog :: 02.11.11 :: Electric Factory :: Philadelphia, PA
Dr. Dog was as much of a homecoming party as any Philadelphian has seen in the past year. The energy and warmth was right up next to the The Roots Picnic and Lotus on NYE. Our city’s minstrels of the good note followed in Ben Franklin’s footsteps by creating electricity on the stage. It had been since last summer that they graced their hometown with a show and we were ready to embrace them wholeheartedly.
|Dr. Dog :: 02.11.11 by Jake Krolick|
The first time Dr. Dog played the Electric Factory they pulled a nice little stunt of climbing up onto the roof to mount a talk bubble sign off of Ben Franklin. And while this trip through Franklin’s Electric Factory didn’t offer any elaborate outdoor stunts, Dr. Dog dropped plenty of surprises inside. From the start, the setlist was perfect, focusing mostly on the band’s more recent material, bouncing us back and forth through Shame, Shame and Fate and building steam as they went. This band was so comfortable in their skin that their retro influences and intricate swirling harmonies ripped from sixties psychedelic rock really riled up the crowd. Plus, Shame, Shame was such a tremendous record from last year with songs that translated so well live that it seemed the band had played them forever. It was easy to forget that many of the songs are still in their infancy.
Opening with “I Only Wear Blue,” the band had us glued to them from the start with the ring of Zach Miller’s organ mixed with Scott McMicken’s tender vocals. Their delivery and poignancy ignited the initial lovers’ stares between crowd and performer before the entire band broke the spell with a little extra pepper sprinkled into the song’s kick verse: “Let’s get on with it.” We were a crowd dripping with passion ready to follow Dr. Dog as they brought us through an evening to remember.
Their lyrics and darkly insightful moments changed frequently into cries and bright moments that bounced with guitar-fueled life, joined by the pompoms on their new winter hats. They showed us how good they felt exiting the exquisite combo of “The Ark” into “The Lazy Way We Do.” This section was flowing loose and about as ridiculously well as any music that was played by a band reminiscent of The Beatles and The Band. As McMicken backed off the mike with a shout, wild-eyed bassist Toby Leaman and Frank McElroy caught his cues. Each answered him in mid-spin with pumps of bass and punchy guitar rhythms emphasized with a kick of the foot or a low crouch. Eric Slick sat back dishing out changes in tempo on the drums while Miller added churning textures on keys, creating the unique poetic balance of music in-between a dance of timing and movement.
Like much of the crowd, I was losing the battle to keep control. People went from head bopping to fist pumping to a full-on screaming and bodysurfing. Behind the band, the stage was covered in a beautiful, thoughtfully artsy background hand-built with the same love that went into the lyrics of their songs. This homespun gusto helped carry a notion that wound the audience into balls of liveliness. As the background faded into a blur of colors we raged pure rock and roll with our favorite band. Yes, Dr. Dog was that fucking good, folks.
|Scott McMicken by Jake Krolick|
The vibe of the evening lent itself to many nostalgic moments, including a performance of “Alaska” off We All Belong with Toby Leaman’s dad joining the band onstage to sing in celebration of Mrs. Leaman’s quickly approaching birthday. Mr. Leaman’s singing wasn’t half bad, and the father-son moment ended in an impromptu sing-along of “Happy Birthday.” There is something remarkable about this band besides how tightly they play together or how they throw head spinning changes into the music. Their hearts are huge, and they knew how to warmly intertwine guests into their performance without it feeling forced.
We were thrilled to hear a highly sought after cover of “Heart It Races.” I had talked with McMicken before the show about the favorite performances that he’d seen in the past at the Electric Factory. One of those was David Byrne in 1999. Watching McElroy, McMicken and Leaman’s playful approach to the Architecture in Helsinki cover, you could form definite parallels to watching the Talking Heads. Their simple, aerobic dance moves made sense as they moved like Byrne had years earlier. As if that wasn’t enough, add in a female dancer that they had invited up who let the spirit of the music move her wildly. All that was missing was an oversized business suit.
They wrapped the show up early on Saturday morning with a four song encore that paved a path back to Easy Beat, including “Today” and a frolicking punk version of “Fools Life.” As the stage lights brightened, the band was accompanied onstage by a large group of friends and family. Surrounded by singing, clapping and waltzing supporters, McMicken sang the forlorn but familiar words to “Jackie Wants A Black Eye.” With Leaman and Slick helping the audience keep time during the group sing-along, they ended the night with that same great-to-be-home feeling that had started the homecoming.
Dr. Dog Setlist
I Only Wear Blue, Hang On, Mirror Mirror, The Ark, The Way the Lazy Do, Take Me Into Town, Shadow People, Someday, The Breeze, Unbearable Why, Alaska (joined by Toby’s dad), Happy Birthday (sung for Toby’s mom), The Old Days, Heart It Races, Nobody Knows Who You Are, Worst Trip, Oh No, The Beach, The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer
Encore: Shame Shame, Today, Fool’s Life, Jackie Wants A Black Eye
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