Dr. Dog | The Catalyst | 1/30/16 | Review

Article Contributed by Joshua Huver | Published on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dr. Dog has emerged from The Psychedelic Swamp in the San Francisco Bay Area, and hit the road hard.

Appearing at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, CA on Sunday January 31 for the third stop on a North American tour that runs through late March, Dr. Dog is giving their freshman recording effort new life.

Originally recorded in 2001 on eight track and distributed by the band, the experimental sounds found in the album were not widely available outside of Philadelphia, PA where the band originated.  But late in 2015, bassist Toby Leaman revealed the album had been revisited and set for a February 5 release set in 2016.

“It’s actually weird working on that stuff,” Leaman said. “Usually when you’re in a studio you’re working on new tunes and with this one, we’re working on the oldest Dr. Dog tunes around. It’s songs we don’t even really play live, so we didn’t have any concept of what the arrangement would end up being like.”

Traveling with Dr. Dog through most of February and into March are Philadelphia natives Hop Along, who provided an energetic 45 minute set to open.

From early conceptualization as a freak-folk solo act, Frances Quinlan convinced friends to aide in her theatrical vignettes that bounce around emotions like a pinball.

Difficult to digest at first, Quinlan’s voice is a pleasant mixture of The Distillers’ Brody Armstrong and Zooey Deschanel, unique in the truest sense of the word, and captivating. The audience warmed up to the punk rock styling early, and at times the band bordered on the raw beauty of instrumental chaos. They will definitely be interesting to follow.

Dr. Dog took the stage just before 10:00 PM opening the show with a familiar single, “How Long Must I Wait?” off of 2012’s Be The Void, and two tracks from 2013’s B-Room, Dr. Dog had the crowd enamored from the beginning.

Released on YouTube two weeks before the tour began, Leaman introduced “Bring My Baby Back”, the first track of five more tracks from The Psychedelic Swamp to be played.

A rare performance of “Waste My Time”, part of the Shaking Through series’ episode “Springs”, cofounded and produced in 2010 by Dr. Dog guitarist Scott McMicken, followed “The Truth”, another B-Room track. The entire series is incredibly moving, and has been growing exponentially over the last five years.

“Swampadelic Pop” began with an ethereal and psychedelic organ sound that devolved into an 8-bit dungeon sound, with eerie robotic vocals over the top. It was gripping and the audience was unable to escape the melodic segue into “Nellie”.

Reaching into the heart of their catalogue, Dr. Dog appropriately dug out “Uncovering The Old” form 2008’s Fate. The track was melodic and driving in a very Interpol manner, with a catchy chorus and just enough tension in the mix to set up the engaging and energetic psychedelia to come.

“Engineer Says”, from The Psychedelic Swamp, picked up on Fate’s minor key as it trudged through a bluesy guitar lead and sonic drums. A slow moving song, the show began taking on a very weird theme that continued into two more new tracks. The light designer took an opportunity to get wild with the display, and the band was very clearly loose on stage, even losing hats in the middle jam.

The segue from “Engineer” into “Holes In My Back > Fire On My Back” section of the new record was very theatrical, almost Radiohead like in the introduction before taking on Dr. Dog’s signature lo-fi synth style and bringing it back to 2008’s Fate once more for a “Army of Ancients” that was swimming in synth sounds, courtesy Dimitri Manos’ percussive intuition and Zach Miller’s on the keyboard.

For the final leg of the show, Dr. Dog led the crowd out of the psychedelic murkyness and into a collection of songs off of 2012’s success, Be The Void.

Beginning with the track “Lonesome” Dr. Dog continued mixing things up. McMicken took over on bass and drummer Eric Slick picking up an acoustic guitar. “Be The Void”, featured an extended synth vs keys dual that mimicked classical string instruments and xylophones. 

Be The Void’s titular track segued well into the next song, another B-Room feature, “Broken Heart” which included a sing along that even a first time listening could have joined in on. Dr. Dog concluded the 75 minute set with the Be The Void single “That Old Black Hole”, featuring a warm 1970s blues guitar tone and classic rock vibe throughout.

As if they didn’t span enough of their catalogue, 2010’s Shame Shame saw light in the encore with a heartfelt acoustic performance of “Jackie Wants A Black Eye”. The crowd was so loud at one point after a solo and before the final verse that the band allowed the music to die and stood smiling, soaking in the crowd’s appreciation before counting off and closing the song.

Dr. Dog will continue touring the Pacific Northwest and on to Los Angeles via Colorado with Hop Along, with some scheduled appearances with The Bright Light Social Hour as well. In March they hit the East Coast with The Districts.

Dr. Dog, January 30, 2016, The Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA

One Set: How Long?, Distant Light (B-Room 2013), Long Way Down (B-Room 2013), Bring My Baby Back (The Psychedelic Swamp 2016), The Truth (B-Room 2013), Waste My Time (Springs 2010), Swampadelic Pop (The Psychedelic Swamp 2015), Nellie (B-Room 2014), Uncovering The Old (Fate 2008), Engineer Says (The Psychedelic Swamp 2016), Holes In My Back > Fire On My Back (The Psychedelic Swamp, 2016), Army Of Ancients (Fate 2008), Lonesome (Be The Void, 2012), Be The Void (Be The Void, 2012), Broken Heart (B-Room, 2014), That Old Black Hole (Be The Void, 2012)

Encore: Jackie Wants A Black Eye (Shame Shame, 2010)