Dr. Dog, Stubb’s BBQ, Austin, TX- 2/21
The last time Philly rock band Dr. Dog played the outdoor amphitheater at Stubb’s in Austin they were beset by cold temperatures, lightning, howling wind and a torrential downpour. This time around the sold out crowd at Stubb’s on Friday night were treated to perfect “winter” weather that undoubtedly had the band feeling excited when they took the stage to massive applause.
On their current tour the members of Dr. Dog play before a gaudy backdrop reminiscent of a seventies dating game show. Somehow this creates the perfect imagery to go along with the band’s upbeat group harmonies, as if Dr. Dog was the house band for a cheesy happy-go-lucky show. For much of their set the band stuck to tunes off their recently released album B-Room and 2012’s Be The Void, opening the set with two high-energy tunes off the latter, “That Old Black Hole” and “These Days.” “Broken Heart” kicked off with a Technicolor wash of uplifting keyboards and acoustic strumming that brought to mind the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The band took it back to 2010’s Shame, Shame with fan favorite “Shadow People” that had the audience singing along to the music in cheerful bliss. “The Beach” saw singer Toby Leaman shedding his guitar and taking on the persona of a sinister lounge singer as he slinked around the stage to the ominous sounds of an organ.
Dr. Dog have been hitting the road hard for over ten years at this point, and while they play many of their songs fairly straightforward without deviating from the studio recording, the band is able to stretch out certain parts if they feel like it. With a bouncy, scattered chorus akin to something you might hear from Animal Collective, “Heavy Light” saw the band really shining through their focusing in on the piano portion of the song and losing themselves in psychedelia with a Trey Anastasio-like guitar jam. This came in contrast to the slow and somber “Too Weak To Ramble” that followed. After closing out with the anthemic chanter “Lonesome,” Dr. Dog returned to the stage for an encore that was nearly long enough to count as a second set, playing a series of songs each off a different album spanning their career.
Friday’s show at Stubb’s was a triumphant return to Austin for Dr. Dog emphasized by perfect weather and a crowd of die-hard fans intent on dancing and singing along with one of their favorite bands. With years of experience and hard work under their belt, Dr. Dog is in many ways that local band that has finally achieved well-earned success. Though the band’s sound and harmonies are often compared to older acts like The Beatles, to this writer Dr. Dog embodies that same honest, optimistic rock and roll spirit of great underrated Nineties acts like Polaris, Velvet Crush and Matthew Sweet. They are a rock band at heart, but there is a catchy simplicity to their songs that gives them a pop sensibility. Dr. Dog’s performance on Friday night was proof that this is a band who deserves to be heard by many, and one can only hope they continue growing and selling out bigger venues for years to come.