The great Philly band Dr. Dog marks their return to Mr. Smalls as a headlining act at a sold out show, and during a rare Pittsburgh February Indian Summer. This is weather that hasn't happened in decades, so what better band to celebrate it to than one from the region where the phrase was coined?
Dr. Dog gets props for representing that part of Philadelphia that is classy. This would be the young gutsy art rock crowd that has nothing in coming with that which is going on in the 'Burgh. Here it's all darkness, but back east they get more sunshine or something, thereby allowing music by the likes of Dr. Dog to easily displace you from your current state of mind and more fully into the moment. They don't do this by doing anything "jam," they are merely a solid unit tracing it's evolutions to somebodies basement or porch.
Dr. Dog's appeal lies in the worn out cliches they continue to somehow be able to reinvigorate. Whereas locally we can claim a mash-up superstar in Girl Talk, back east Dr. Dog are operating more like accomplished collage artists. Beatles comparisons are, indeed, tired, since Dr. Dog continues to move farther from Enuf 'Znuf and closer to Badfinger or Big Star. If you are an audiophile, you will understand that Dr. Dog are audiophiles.
At some point in the future Dr. Dog will release a definitive live album, and it will achieve it's own Frampton-like status. It may be culled from multiple shows, but you won't care.
Here are some observations from tonight's show itself:
-Dr. Dog has to deal with the hippy element, whether they like it or not. Also, today's hippies dress and cut their hair like I did ten years ago, when I didn't know what I wanted to do with my image, except that I didn't want to be associated with anything "hippy." Dr. Dog are famous for a strong bearded presence.
-Their crowd is legit, in other words, unique and unto itself. Lot's of different types of folk are catching onto this band, obviously predominantly hipsters, but also including famous old weirdos and scenesters. Lot's of "Dad's Money" being spent. That said, the frat infusion is well under way, so watch out for beer muscles at future shows. On my way out I overheard many friendly exchanges from out of towners.
-Starting halfway through the set and then over the course of the evening the band played it's landmark album "easy beat" out of order, but in it's entirety."easy beat" is an instant classic, the likes of which buys it's creators years of creative stagnancy. That is not the case with this band, and they continue to explores the corners of one of the strongest recorded efforts of the decade. Live "easy beat" has a life of it's own.
-Bad posture is the best method for feeling up all the young breasts in your general vicinity, while not appearing as a total lech.
-Dr. Dog is a drinking man's rock band. When a person listens to Dr. Dog in the comfort of their own home, drinking is usually somehow involved. At the bar ordering drinks while this band is playing, it becomes difficult to resist ordering a round of shots just for the sake of it. Also, light weights get scared when you start to drink around them, even at a Dr. Dog show.
-The band rides around in a bus these days, and there were enough roadies to lay down that Philly b.o. stink deep into the heart of Millvale. Millvale can handle it. All that shit is necessary because the star is on the rise. Six years ago I got 80 people out to see these guys in Pittsburgh on a weekday, now they're selling out. In Pittsburgh, ya'all. They are the new "Black Keys"
-They added a new, sixth member who plays percussion and circuit bending (?) and who looks like one of the Geico Caveman, god bless him.
- Selling swag is the key to staying on tour. I finally picked up a copy of "Toothbrush" as well as a Dr. Dog beer kuzie for my Hartwood excursions (where I will probably listen to "easy beat".) My friend picked up "easy beat" on vinyl. They were selling a tempting Philly themed tossel cap for twenty bucks. It was probably worth it. I didn't get the details, but it appears that somebody is crocheting hats and mittens for the band. God only knows how much that would cost, but it's damn cool. I remember looking at these guy's merch table when it was all recycled Good Will findings. Ugh! Hipsters can suck so much ass! Yet, Dr. Dog had their signature style intact even way back then, and the product has always reflected it.
At the end of the night, this was a noteworthy production. The band is doing great, the venue is as chill as ever, and the warm February air in the region has a delightful strangeness to it. Despite seemingly every obstacle set up in the way to get to the place, it was worth the trip.
Dr. Dog can still be claimed as your own discovery, but not for much longer.