Dr. Dog at First Avenue, 10/23/10

Dr. Dog
October 23, 2010
First Avenue

My second visit to First Avenue in the week, I walk into the club for Dr. Dog's Saturday night appearance expecting a much tamer crowd than during my first (Hank III/Assjack, Wednesday night), and yet, as security staff checks IDs and applies Xs to hands for this 18+ show, I notice a sign, and it confuses me.

"No flash photography."

OK, boss. No prob. But then, below it:

"No crowd surfing."

First thought: the crowd assembling for the Dr. Dog show seems the last to engage in crowd surfing.

Second thought: the crowd assembling for the Dr. Dog show, a very young crowd, is, as people often do, adopting the trends popular in the era of their infancy. Flannels, how '90s. Cutoff pants over thermals? How '90s. Crowd surfing? As '90s as Courtney Love's gash of red lipstick and torn babydoll dress barely covering her private parts. I'll bet these kids crowd surf everywhere! Dr. Dog show, line at the co-op, no matter! If they only knew Starbucks was coffeeshop of choice during the decade and not some evil corporate entity to be avoided at all costs, they'd probably crowd surf there, too.

Well, Dr. Dog is selling stocking caps at their merch table, and many present are wearing them. But until they start selling personalized thermal pants and until attendees begin crowd surfing, against all polite requests made by First Ave's signage, I'll remain unconvinced that they've fully grasped the decade.

Dr. Dog at First Avenue, 10/23/10
Dr. Dog at First Avenue, 10/23/10

While I remember the musical offerings of the '90s ever-so fondly, I'll admit I'm no aficionado of new music. I can't chalk it up to anything but laziness, really, though I usually try to write it off as a taste for things classically wonderful (with exception made for those things ironically appealing, which is, you know, often the case with the tastes of the "young" and the "hip.") And so, Dr. Dog. Heard of 'em? Yah sure. Know 'em intimately? Nah.

This concerns me. Without knowing a band, I lack context in which to write about them leaving three alternatives. 1. If the band is very mediocre, I have to write about their music. Bleh. Who likes to write about the music itself, who enjoys an endeavor so banal? Options 2 and 3. If they are very good, or very bad, you can instead gush over how very good they are, how very surprised you were to enjoy them so much or, option 3, make so much fun of their awesomely awful shittiness.

I prefer writing about contexts. Alternative No. 1 is the worst. "Dr. Dog sounds like Beatles Magical Mystery Tour meets Flaming Lips Soft Bulletin minus a blue and yellow bus and animal masks minus plastic hamster ball plus hip sunglasses and stocking caps." Zzzzzzzz. 3, on the other hand, will get you nothing but angry comments from superfans who will report that "you are the worst writer - ever."

No. 2, on the rare occasions it occurs, is the best. Holy shit - I am pleasantly surprised by this band. They are actually very good. I am enjoying myself. The performers before me appear to be quite talented, and the music is typical enough to be instantly relatable, yet unusual enough not to be a bore. Stage presence and watchability? Check. Sound quality? Check. Instruments and voices? In time, on key - check. Interesting songs? Check.

Dear Dr. Dog, thanks for making this an easy review for me to write, for you are option No. 2.

Also of note - opener for this show was New York's Here We Go Magic, who are supporting Dr. Dog on tour through mid-November, a month later picking up as opener for Broken Social Scene. I'll give them the No. 1 treatment by saying that they remind one of the Talking Heads, but with songwriting slightly less genius than David Byrne's. Slightly. I mean, yeah, a little bit. And lacking in Byrne's totally wild stage moves. And his crazy eyes. The man has crazy eyes.

Dr. Dog at First Avenue, 10/23/10

Critic's Bias: Sometimes I need a reminder why anyone listens to anything released prior to (insert some significant year, at least 5 years previous, here).

The Crowd: From the Twitter feed displayed on monitors throughout the bar: sbvp - Why are there so many hipsters at all the @Firstavenue shows I go to??? Oh God...

Overheard in the Crowd: "The bass player looks like (redacted) Jon Davis."

Random Notebook Dump: Executing good harmonies is key. Dr. Dog does it. But is it possible, at times, to execute the harmonies too well? On this song, they sound like the harmonies when Dave directs Alvin, Simon and Theodore to sing in unison: "Chriiiiiiiiis mus chriiiiiiiiis mus tiiiiiiime is heeeeeeeeere." Tiiiiiiiight, li'l buddies!

For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Steve Cohen.

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