Show Review: Dr. Dog at Santa Fe Brewing Co.
by Adam Perry
After seeing the soulful Philadelphia indie-rock band Dr. Dog at the famed 600-capacity Great American Music Hall in San Francisco two weeks ago (they sold out two shows there), Thursday night's Dr. Dog and Deer Tick show at the tiny, character-filled Santa Fe Brewing Company was a fresh blast. And not only because the smaller show marked the first night out that my partner Irene and I have experienced together since the birth of our daughter Sidney last December.
Entering to the sound of Rhode Island's explosive country-tinged youngsters Deer Tick closing their set with Chuck Berry's “Maybelline” (they also covered ZZ Top's “Cheap Sunglasses” in San Francisco), I said a few kind words to Rick Danko-esque Dr. Dog singer/bassist Toby Leaman at the bar before Irene and I elbowed our way near the front for the main act. As if the scene of a tiny venue just off the highway hosting one of the hottest current American touring bands wasn't charming enough, we were also surprised and happy to see that Raven, our favorite cashier from La Montanita Co-Op, was already carefully placed near the stage, ready to boogie. Only in Santa Fe.
With the big set of colored spotlights they travel with lining the stage, the six-piece Dr. Dog emerged just after 10:30pm and tore into crowd-pleasing versions of just about everything from their new album Shame, Shame and their 2008 breakout Fate. Impressive harmonies and dueling lead guitars always highlight a Dr. Dog set – juxtaposing clear love of The Beatles and The Band with playful, grin-inducing lyrics and attitudes that harken back to the best of Pavement—but what really moved me at the Brewing Company were the sights and sounds of about a hundred young Santa Feans passionately singing along to song after song.
Dr. Dog formed in 1999 and subsequently spent almost a decade sleeping on floors while playing over 100 little club shows a year, so the happiness and inspiration brought by the growing success the quirky Philadelphia group has enjoyed over the past few years is immediately apparent in the Talking Heads-like aerobics of their on-stage enthusiasm. But, in truth, Dr. Dog has always been a high-flying live act—it's just that their audience finally matches their moves step-for-step.
One could feel the SFBC floor moving as sweet-voiced singer/guitarist Scott MckMicken whooped over a punked-up version of “The Old Days” that got virtually the entire Santa Fe audience pogoing at once. We were in heaven. Sure, witnessing a couple Dr. Dog shows in Boulder and San Francisco over the past few months was fun, but there's something invigorating about the unabashed roar of a crowded audience in a smaller town that rarely hosts such an exciting national act. Similarly jumping breakdowns in songs such as “Mirror, Mirror” and “Should We Pretend” even had a few people moshing and crowd-surfing, which I didn't even know still existed outside of hardcore punk shows.
Shame, Shame (ANTI-) is unfortunately Dr. Dog's least captivating release to date—We All Belong, Easy Beat and Fate feature far more entrancing and uplifting compositons—but the Santa Fe gig wasn't nearly a let down just because of the focus on newer material. And I doubt anyone will forget Leaman allowing a fan to come up and sing with him on “Hang On.”
Let's just hope SFBC can do something about the difficulty concert-goers experience getting out to their concerts via public transportation; not only was the venue still surrounded by countless cars around midnight, it was also brimming with drunk people who presumably drove home.