Dr. Dog – Mercury Lounge – September 3, 2013
Some of the coolest shows that happen in this town are the ones that seemed impossible just days, weeks or even months prior. And as of late last week, the idea of Dr. Dog playing a venue more than 100 times smaller than the capacity of where they normally play was just that—seemingly impossible. Then on Thursday, they simply announced on Twitter that they’d be playing Mercury Lounge and that tickets would be on sale fewer than two hours after the announcement, a sale that promptly ended in a matter of minutes.
Last night, when the sold-out crowd started to pack the front bar of the venue, the Philadelphia rockers were still sound-checking, and even through the closed doors and heavy drapes, “Distant Light” sounded beautiful enough to hint at what was to come. What followed was certainly no gimmick of a set, well over an hour in length, that stretched past midnight, and showed off everything that Dr. Dog have to offer these days, while giving newer fans a chance to glimpse what they may have missed of the band’s beginnings. There were bouncy, vocal-heavy songs like “Heavy Light” (which they opened with), vein-popping ragers (typically led by bassist-singer Toby Leaman) like “Fate” and “Vampire,” and everything in between, like the blissful “Shadow People.”
The full Dr. Dog experience was on display, featuring all the usual suspects—killer harmonized vocals, stunning guitar riffs, brilliant songwriting, some acoustic guitar, all sorts of shakers and a whole lot of passion oozing from the band. The set proved that while Dr. Dog have grown so large because they can play big, comfortable venues, that their music still rocks in any setting. The best part was that the time-traveling surrealism of the band playing this small venue never wore off, which they seemed to enjoy as well. And when Leaman’s bass-amp issues required a technical fix mid-set, he took the pause in action as a chance to look at his surroundings. “Nothing’s changed,” he said with a laugh. The room full of fans in front of him couldn’t have been happier to agree. —Sean O’Kane