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Dr. Dog

Paradise Rock Club

February 19, 2011

Suspicious smells, beanies, floral dresses, flannel shirts, and quite a lot of plaid surrounded me as I walked into Paradise Rock Club. The light-hearted venue was small, which meant that wherever I stood, I would actually see Dr. Dog as a group of musicians, rather than tiny 125-decibel-generating figments in the distance. It felt personal. The ticket was cheap. Such are the benefits of liking an obscure band.

But they are not just obscure. Dr. Dog is amazing live, as my friends used to tell me, and as I am now telling you.

The concert opened with The Head and the Heart, an indie folk band from Seattle. The vocals were beautiful. The pianist was talented, and the violinist pulled at my heartstrings — and they were both easy on the eyes. Most of the songs started off sounding like Iron and Wine, but they usually transitioned interestingly into a more upbeat realm thanks to the drums and piano. The band pulled off an impressive live show with their passion and choreography. The dancing and cheering of hundreds of dresses and plaid shirts came from genuine satisfaction. After an hour, the band modestly passed the stage over to Dr. Dog.

Dr. Dog is an indie rock band from Philadelphia that was officially established in 2002 but only became better-known after We All Belong (2007), Fate (2008), and Shame, Shame (2010). Dr. Dog used to open for The Raconteurs and My Morning Jacket. People say that they sound like the Beatles or the Beach Boys. Regardless, Dr. Dog music has something of its own; it makes me delightfully jiggly regardless of my problem set situation, my friends like it regardless of their personalities, and the live shows naturally move people into dancing. Their music does not make you dance — it lets you dance.

People burst into singing and dancing as soon as the psychedelic noise the band made after setting up morphed into “I Only Wear Blue.” Dr. Dog started their almost-two-hour-long, sixteen-song show with a long set including “The Ark,” “Shadow People,” “Hang On,” “The Breeze,” “Worst Trip,” “The Old Days,” and “The Way the Lazy Do.” They played only two lesser-known songs, and our bodies were still moved by the melodies. One of these songs was the new release “Take Me Into Town,” which was a nice piece, but nothing spectacular compared to their other songs.

The backdrop of the stage was art resembling stained glass, colorfully transparent with bold, black outlines. Stage lights colored the stained glass from behind, creating different patterns and different feelings.

Toby, the bassist and one of lead vocals, happened to be sick: “If I sound like shit it’s not because I sound like shit but because I feel like shit.” His face was pale and his eyes were red and watery. As he sang his sick lungs and throat out, none of us wanted him to stop. We told him he sounded awesome.

The song “The Beach” was a unique part of the concert. The grim tone of the song was translated into a dramatic dimming of the stage lights. The darkness reflected everyone’s mood as the bitter bass intro was joined by the sad rhythm of the drums and guitars. Suddenly, the stained-glass background turned an angry red as the first words were sung. Toby’s sickly rough voice made the piece even more sad and expressive.

The band finished their set with Architecture in Helsinki’s cover “Heart It Races.” It was everyone’s favorite and one of the best covers on Earth. After all, Dr. Dog can still beat its own record of awesomeness with the live performance.

The music was friendly. The band was friendly. The venue was small enough that no one could ever feel too far away from the stage. The personality of Dr. Dog and their music brought us all even closer. They asked us what we wanted to hear. We talked about Boston. We talked about the days Scott (lead guitar and vocal) attended a college down the street. Towards the end of the show, a couple girls in the front were given the mic to sing during “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” the last of the four songs they played for the encore. Young or old, college student or grey-haired guy with a hip outfit, everyone was constantly dancing, singing, and smiling. Never could a band make me so dancingly happy.