Live: Dr. Dog/Deer Tick
WAREHOUSE LIVE — 5/2/2010: Every so often, a group of musicians walk on the stage and really owns every aspect of the performance. They have a magnetic energy that attracts people from both poles and anywhere in between, causing them to migrate from wherever they are mentally and gather in one place that is part of something truly special and forever timeless. This is the effect that genuine creativity can have on the human psyche. That’s the feeling I had throughout Dr. Dog’s entire set at Warehouse Live back in May.
While Dr. Dog’s music may contain many Beatlesque elements, what good thing has ever been borne without some influence of good things past? Although lyrically their darkest and most emotional album to date, they use their building psychedelic pop-rock song structures to chug you along on their nostalgic train ride back to the Old West. (As some may know, by the by, Dr. Dog recently released their fourth studio album, Shame, Shame.)
Dr. Dog came on after Deer Tick, an indie-folk band from Rhode Island with a similar sound and stage presence. Their set was also very captivating, but when Dr. Dog entered the scene, you instantly knew you were stepping into another world, imagined by professional visionaries. The musicians resemble a happily wise band of rustic, cartoon-like characters that have been through harder times and are now here to share their woes as well as give their thoughtful advice no matter how crazy people think they are. It wouldnt be crazy to say they would have fit well playing the soundtrack to the movie Feivel Goes West.
With so many back-to-back hit songs played by these energetic musical storytellers, coupled with a ridiculously trippy, multi-colored polka-dot backdrop that changed color combinations when illuminated by a chain gang of schizophrenic lights, you couldn’t help but smile and dance. Please see pictures for more insight.
As the show played on, you could tell Dr. Dog weren’t just out supporting their new album. They played songs from every album and amplified the studio sound of these recordings in a truly refreshing way. There was a great synergy between the co-lead singers, the nasally Neil-Youngish voice of Scott McMicken perfectly complementing Toby Leaman‘s McCartney-like gruff howling. Creepy-cool Wayfarer glasses were a requirement for most members of the band, including the maraca shaker and auxiliary percussionist, the rhythm guitarist, keyboardist, and drummer. With smirks on their faces and enthusiasm embedded within every audible pluck, shake, tap, hit, and kick, you and the band both knew that a great time was at hand and that all worries had been squashed away.
I really don’t remember which songs they played, because they were all fantastic, and my brain was constantly overwhelmed with how happy I was that they were playing whatever song they had chosen. One of the encore songs was “Heart It Races,” a cover of a song by Architecture in Helsinki. The Dr. Dog version is somewhat hard to find (only available on Architecture in Helsinki’s Heart It Races EP and Dr. Dog’s Girl/Heart It Races 7″), but it’s really my favorite song in their inventory, and it was an unexpected treat to hear it live. The track shows off their three-part harmonies, puts each band member’s skills out front and center at one point or another, and calls for plenty of beat-enhancing handclaps from the crowd.
Dr. Dog played the smaller 400-capacity studio at Warehouse Live this time out, when I had expected them to play the 1500-capacity ballroom. Most people I talk to about current happenings in the music scene know enough about Dr. Dog to want to go see them live. The band is also featured in a decent amount of music news and on copious music blogs, and they have played various national late-night TV shows. I understand that calculated judgment must be used in booking either room to ensure that both the venue and band are profitable and unembarrassed, but I really think they could have filled the larger room.
This was a sold-out show long before the actual date, with probably an accumulated 150 walkups that got turned away. While part of me wonders what the experience in the ballroom might have been like, the smaller, packed atmosphere of the studio provided the instant gratification of knowing that so much passion is shared for the art created by this amazing group of quirky innovators who play timeless tunes of a new era. Psychedelia is back in the game and will continue to play a big part in recorded music and live shows throughout this decade (and hopefully longer) across the spectrum of musical genres. As we’ve seen, Dr. Dog plans to stick to their brand of rocking psych-pop, and for that, we are lucky.
Photos by P. Payne.