Dr. Dog in Philly
The Head and Heart
The Electric Factory
When- Friday February 11th, 2011
It couldn’t have been more than a week after moving to Philadelphia from California that I started to hear rumblings about Dr. Dog. It was 2008, and I had just began working for the Paul Green School of Rock music with Tri State Independent founder Stephanie Seiple. The school was abuzz about some kid named Eric Slick, a Rock School graduate and All-Star, who landed a gig playing with the great Adrien Belew Trio (see King Crimson, Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads…) as well as Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog.
Since that time, Dr. Dog has basically become the big ticket in the Philly indie music scene. If you don’t know who they are, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last few years. Much like the city they come from, Dr. Dog has a blue collar approach to their music and promotion. The band has spent the last few years relentlessly recording and touring their way through country with super-groups such as Wilco and the Raconteurs, while making numerous late night TV appearances including The late show with Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon.
The band began to take shape when guitarist/vocalist Scott McMicken and bassist Toby Leaman met in the 8th grade. Dr. Dog was officially established in 1999 as an offshoot of Leaman’s and McMicken’s earlier music project called Racoon, with additions of then drummer Ted Mark, and guitarist Doug O’Donnell.
After long hours practicing in basements, performing in barns, and tweaking knobs on cassette four track machines, Dr. Dog released the Psychedelic Swamp record. Despite their loyal hometown following, Dr. Dog could have very well remained a Philadelphia phenomenon had McMicken’s then-girlfriend not slipped a copy of Toothbrush, a collection of home recordings, to Jim James of My Morning Jacket, who would take them on their first tour and prepare the way for the waves of positive press that would greet 2005’s Easy Beat (taken from Dr. Dog’s website).
Through the late summer of 2007, Dr. Dog streamed ten unreleased tracks on their website, with a new song available to download on a weekly basis. Two albums later, Dr. Dog signed to a new label, and released Shame Shame in 2010 followed by a nation-wide tour.
Not having ever seen Dr. Dog live, I was a little anxious to get out to the sold out Electric Factory, arriving 2 hours early. Besides the normal email frenzy that happens when trying to get photo passes for these sorts of sold out concerts, I was taken back by the number of scalpers and folks looking for an edge in. There were literally people at the box office soliciting anyone with a purse or wallet for a ticket.
Opening for Dr. Dog was Philly’s Buried Beds, featuring the melodic vocals, banjo and guitar work of Eliza Jones and Brandon Beaver. Buried beds did a short but memorable seven song set complete with a horn and percussion section as well as guest appearances from Mr. Eric Slick of Dr. Dog. Buried Beds is just coming off of tour with Dr. Dog, and will be hitting the road again next month with Murder By Death and Fake Problems. You can find more info on Buried Beds upcoming shows here.
Buried Beds was followed by a band called (inconveniently misspelled on the marquee) The Head and the Heart , whom I have a feeling will be eventually making some waves on the national scene. The Head and the Heart are experimentally adventurous and sonically interesting to listen to. They opened with “Cats and Dogs“ and the piano and vocal/harmony rich”Ghosts”. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Charity Rose Thielen was as beautiful to listen to as she was to watch. Chris Zasche (bass) Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion) Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion) Kenny Hensley (piano) and Tyler Williams on drums round out the group. Catch them in the tristate area before they head back to the lush lands of Seattle Washington.
Dr. Dog’s presence was immediately felt as the backdrop and guitar rigs lit up the stage. They opened with “Only Wear Blue”, “Hang On”, and “Mirror, Mirror”. The audience seemed to know just about ever word to every song, and showed lots and lots of love to the home town band. Selling out the Electric Factory is no easy feat. Check out the pictures below for an idea of what I’m talking about…
Halfway through Dr. Dog’s set, singer and bassist Toby Leaman brought up his father to sing a birthday duet for (I think) his mother. I am a sap, and can appreciate that for the touching moment it was. His father could sing by the way.
Dr. Dog played “Stranger“, “Unbearable Sky“, and closed the house out by bringing their friends, family and opening bands on to the stage for “The Rabbit The Bat, and The Reindeer”.
Although I’m pretty familiar with Dr. Dog’s music, seeing them lay it down in front of such an enthusiastic and loving home crowd was awesome. I know I might say this a lot, but Dr. Dog is a “must-see-to- appreciate” type of band. Looking at the Dr. Dog website, there will only be a couple of shows within a reasonable driving distance from Philly in the next few months. Click here to check out their website and blog to learn more.
By the way, I want to thank music journalist, photographer and blogger extraordinaire Brandee Nichols for all of her attention to detail and hard work in getting the set lists for the show. You can read her blog here.