For a band that sounds like it's drawing from a diverse pool of influences that spans from the Beatles, Beach Boys and Mott the Hoople to Clouds Taste Metallic-era Flaming Lips and Pavement, Philadelphia's Dr. Dog manages to take all that and more and come up with something wholly compelling.
Although there was a slim turnout Saturday night, it didn't seem to affect Dr. Dog's performance in the least. Kicking off with "Stranger," the lead-off track from Dr. Dog's latest effort Shame, Shame, the band injected the tune with a tremendous amount of energy before delving into equally spirited takes on "Mirror, Mirror" and "Hang On," which included some of the many two-part guitar harmonies of the night.
With bassist Toby Leaman and guitarist Scott McMicken trading off lead vocal duties, as well as occasionally tossing in Beach Boys-esqe harmonies along the way on songs like "The Breeze," it kept things interesting. Leaman's slight rasp recalled Mott the Hoople's Ian Hunter, while McMicken's phrasing evoked Wayne Coyne's at times.
After a killer take on "My Friend," Leaman had some problems with his cable, so McMicken launched into a few verses from "County Line." After the cable situation was straightened out, the band started into "Take Me into Town," but stopped a few seconds later, with Leaman saying something like, "I don't think we've stopped in ten fucking years." McMicken continued with another verse of "County Line," while the cable situation was addressed again, before fully digging into "Take Me into Town."
"The Old Days" was pretty damn epic, especially when the band kicked into the fast section about halfway through. McMicken then continued on another version of "County Line," before the group started "Shame, Shame," which built up wonderfully and was one of the most powerful cuts of the night.
While the small crowd was receptive most of the show, people really started moving near the end of the show during "Shadow People" and set closer, "The Rabbit, the Bat and the Reindeer."
For the encore, the guys came back for "Fat Dog," which McMicken said was a super old song. About halfway through the song, McMicken invited people up on stage to dance. One couple gets on stage, then a few more, and within a few minutes, the whole stage was full of folks. Pretty much everyone who was in the pit was on stage. A few minutes later, McMicken climbed up on one of the bass cabinets and sang the rest of the song while overlooking the sea of people on stage.
That would have been an ideal way to end the show, but the outfit embarked on a great tour of Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart it Races" before finally ending the night with "Jackie Wants a Black Eye."
Boulder Acoustic Society opened the night with a first-rate set that drew from Punchline, a few cuts from the quartet's most recentl EP, Champion of Disaster, and wonderful cover of Woody Guthrie's "Ingrid Bergman" from Wilco and Billy Bragg's Mermaid Avenue, which is Guthrie's lyrics set to music.
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Paper Bird followed with a superb set as well, rocking a bit more these days with the addition of a drummer. While they did a few updated takes on older material, they also played a few brand new songs, as well as songs from "Carry On," Paper Bird's collaboration with Ballet Nouveau Colorado.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: While Dr. Dog's material holds up fine on record, the album cuts don't have nearly as much energy as when the band plays them live. Random Detail: Leaman told the crowd that earlier that day the guys checked out a marimba orchestra, the guy on Pearl Street Mall who stuffs himself inside of a box and got caricatures drawn of them. By the Way: Paper Bird performs "Carry On" with the Ballet Nouveau Colorado again on June 11 at the Arvada Center for Arts and Humanities.