Tonight, catch the final staging of Blitzen Trapper’s electrifying theater collaboration with Portland Center Stage. Our Brandy Crowe reviews the production and talks to the show’s creators.
Dr Dog’s last album B-Room has been playing consistently on my turntable for a couple of years now, so I decided it was time to finally see them in person. The Philly based band did not disappoint. They opened with the guitar driven ‘That Old Black Hole’ and the crowd broke into a well controlled frenzy. Scott McMicken belted out each verse with an child-like enthusiasm, in his unique high pitched voice. Next was ‘Distant Light’ sung by Toby Leaman who balances out their sound with more raspy, bluesy vocals.
My first impression of these guys is that they truly love to perform live. Then they played ‘Long Way Down’ into ‘Cuckoo’ off B-Room with a raw energy only experienced in a live setting. They followed with ‘The Truth’ (my personal favorite). The execution of this song was nearly flawless, with any tonal imperfections made up for with the pure positivity that McMicken, in particular, exudes with both his voice and lead guitar.
About halfway through the show they played a song from ‘The Psychedelic Swamp’ – their brand new re-release of their first album. The song was fun enough, but I’m not sure exactly why they chose to release this album again, other than to give them a reason to tour this year. The songs off that original effort were murky and sludgy, attempting to recreate an actual swamp in a tie-dyed kind of psychedelia which is better left in the past. It didn’t seem to phase the crowd too much, if anything it gave me a chance to wait on the long line for the bar. I was brought back by ‘The Breeze’ off of the album Fate. This was also Sixties influenced, but more in a Brian Wilson kind of way. The feel good harmonizing was a bit off, but still had the crowd singing along. When they broke into ‘Broken Heart’, the famous spring loaded floor started to bounce to the beat, and then the entire audience clapped along to the chorus ‘Freedom from love, freedom from heart-ache’.
Dr Dog has developed quite a big following by now, and it was plain to see how much their fans love hearing them play live. When they said goodnight, the room demanded/expected an encore, and the band indulged them with not one, but four more songs to close out the show. The best being the fun ‘Shadow People’ and ‘The Beach’, a heart wrenching song where Toby Leaman really showed off his vocal chops, all grisled and timeworn as if has been waiting to spill out his guts for an eternity. There’s this visceral quality in his delivery that gives the band a real nice dynamic.
For a band that tours as much as they do, Dr Dog does not show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. I don’t think I’ve seen a band have so much fun on stage.Their albums are good because they are not overproduced, and that’s what drives people to buy tickets – the live experience. It’s better than most of the indie acts out there today. While they have enough material to keep touring for years to come, I hope they continue to produce new albums to keep the performance fresh. Either way, they’ll continue to sell out major venues with their exceptional sound and loyal fanbase.