By Pat Gunther
From the bat, Dr. Dog’s March 31 performance at the Varsity Theatre was an exhilarating and enthralling show. Though their first song was subject to some visual difficulties, the 6-piece outfit continued to shred and captivate the audience throughout the evening. The vocals were clearly influenced by Ruston-based Neutral Milk Hotel, but would continue to escalate into an all-out falsetto that demonstrated its folky, yet funky nature, masterfully employing Phil Specter’s revolutionary wall-of-sound technique better than any live act I’ve ever seen. With such talented instrumentalists and songwriting ability, Dr. Dog had the Varsity Theatre moving and shaking until the final hours in the month of March.
Through ear-splitting guitar wails and chest-crushing drum fills, Dr. Dog provided fans with a fun and unique experience with sparse visuals and seamless transitions from track to track that provided the feeling of one long, continuous medley of head-bobbing, feet-tapping fun. At times, the vibes reminiscent of the Black Keys poked their heads out, while Dr. Dog continued to wow the crowd with keen improvisation and captivating stage presence.
Both Toby Leaman (bass) and Scott McMicken (lead guitar) use their Beach Boys influences to deliver strong falsettos that dexterously dance across sinewy and thin instrumentation that is tough to not get caught up in during the heat of a live show. The remaining four, then, provide the most necessary and engrossing part of the music; led by Frank McElroy on rhythm guitar, Zach Miller on keys, Erick Slick on the drums and Dimitri Manos roving around on different instruments, Dr. Dog’s live shows are arguably better than their studio recordings due to their complex harmonies.
As a testament to this their latest album, Live at a Flamingo Hotel, has provided much of the recent buzz surrounding Dr. Dog, and inspiration for their current nationwide tour. Despite the fact that it’s the group’s first live LP for wide-release, Dr. Dog is making an increasingly convincing push to become one of the most entertaining and cool concerts to see this spring. Though their energy may not be close to that of the rock ‘n roll of yesteryear, the laid back, chill atmosphere present at their concerts is certainly something Louisiana can get behind.
With their tour extending through July 11’s final performance in Massachusetts Dr. Dog is primed to expand their already popular brand to new heights. Even if you haven’t heard of the Pennsylvanian natives, Dr. Dog’s complex and masterful instrumentation coupled with great vibes, and an even better time, are a must for any music lover with some time to kill in the spring and summer months.