The goofy sunglasses‚ floppy fedora and manic stage presence of Dr. Dog only accentuated the crazy quilt of rock and roll music they played in the showcase Lounge late Saturday night. It was a fitting conclusion to what both attendees and personnel at the venue described as a stellar evening.
The cosmetic appearance of Dr. Dog belies the precision with which they play and sing. Their influences may be all too obvious‚ but no more so than the gleeful relish they display on stage‚ not to mention the sincere gratitude they expressed over the course of the hour-plus set (and the surprised acknowledgment of the familiar faces up front; "Dog tour?" one wag commented near the bar).
Dr. Dog didn't so much build momentum through their show but move in a wide circle‚ touching bases on their apparent roots. The stop-time signatures and idiosyncratic structure of much of their material hearkens to Abbey Road; together‚ with the similar influence invoked by Wilco on their new album‚ you have to wonder if there is another Beatles renaissance in the offing.
Dog never seemed slavishly imitative in regards to that British band‚ any more so than the increasingly intense kinetic energy that manifested mid-set‚ seemed derivative of the Who. Yet the abandon in the quintet's playing became all the more palpable at the half-hour point‚ even as they continued to proffer compact renditions of their songs.
The group improvises little‚ their concentration on tightly-knit arrangements making room only for the mellifluous tandem guitar interludes‚ courtesy of Scott McMicken and Frank McElroy‚ that came as fast as they went‚ three or four times. A mid-set selection that sounded like nothing so much as an outtake from The Band's Northern Lights Southern Cross album only furthered the impression that Dr. Dog has a vast musical territory to explore‚ should they choose to‚ not to mention sufficient chops.
Bassist Toby Leaman's primal screaming may be concessions to the alternative crowd‚ as much as the concise playing‚ but it doesn't limit Dr. Dog in any real way. The group ended their show much as it began‚ emphasizing sleek harmonizing in their sound and the eccentric humor in their collective personality. Anyone seeing this band for the first time would be curious to see them again just to find out how they've evolved. Whether or not they had‚ Dr. Dog would no doubt be mightily entertaining‚ as they were this spring night in Vermont.