Never has the eternal dichotomous struggle of what you wish your favorite band to be struck me as deeply as it did walking in to see Dr. Dog the other night. I love this band. I've loved this band for a while. They've slept on my floors. I've always deeply wished massive success for them. And yet‚ I couldn't help but feel a touch of bittersweet remorse last Monday when I had to wait 45 minutes in a massive will-call line and couldn't penetrate my way closer than 50 feet from the stage. I never expected to see anywhere close to the 1500 folks crammed into the Crystal Ballroom‚ a venue 3000 miles away from the band's homestead of Philadelphia -- it kind of felt like seeing your ex-girlfriend with her new man for the first time. But honestly‚ no band has been more overdue for some massive‚ justified embrace than Dr. Dog‚ and it was a blessing seeing them be the same band they've always been. Well the same band that is‚ except for Eric Slick on drums‚ who has actually brought the primordial concept of this band into realized and expanded fruition since he joined the group in 2010. His presence has increased the collective bounce-factor of both the band and the crowd a good twenty fold‚ let alone what was happening with the spring-loaded floors of the historic Crystal this night.
I missed a few of the new tunes that opened up the set for the reasons I stated above‚ but walked in as "Stranger" was raging. It was disappointedly un-crisp‚ but the closer you got to the stage the more the vocals crept through and the sound reached ideal cohesion. But again‚ the place was so packed as well as contending with the Northwest 21+ border trench‚ that proximity battles were a frustrating mess. Other than that‚ the band sounded incredible. Their ability to take the distinctions of their expansive catalogue‚ and mesh it into one full passage of movement on the live stage is presently astounding. Songs from the full timeline of their band are played in one concurrent yet non-redundant motion. Early on‚ "Heavy Light‚" a relatively tame tune off the new Be the Void‚ morphed into a giant on the stage. Thumping and expanding through the outro‚ this was the first time of the night when the floors really started to jump -- exciting for me‚ as this was my first show in the Ballroom.
The rest of the set continued only further into re-harnessing the powers of the ancients. The crowd's blissful explosion was constant‚ and I was once more taken back when I realized that hundreds of people knew the words to these songs. And they were singing them‚ and losing themselves in them‚ and finding just as much wonder in this band as I was -- and it was brilliant. Song selection worked its way through the full decade of albums to some extent‚ but I was overjoyed to see that Scotty is still favoring some of the recent classics off of 2010's Shame‚ Shame. "Shadow People" was huge. Epically huge. And other than the massive reception for "My Friend‚" the opening encore cut of "Jackie Wants a Black Eye" seemed like the most desired song of the evening. The dark refrain echoed through the crowd with a passion that felt like seeing The Band in 1976. The entire room would have been content if they walked off the stage then‚ but they followed with "Oh No" from Easy Beat. Then they completely crushed the building by dropping into their amazing cover of "Heart it Races" by Architecture in Helsinki. The hip Portland crowd amazed me one last time by again knowing all the lyrics to this obscure cover that I myself was experiencing for the first time. But being schooled had never felt so amazing.