I was quite excited for my second live Dr. Dog experience after seeing them sell out Bowery Ballroom last year. The original date for this performance was supposed to be in July‚ but unfortunately the show was postponed due to Toby Leaman (bass/vocals) losing his (/vocals). Being that Dr. Dog's allure is strongly driven by swirling three-part harmonies layered over a palette of fun‚ eclectic‚ short rock songs‚ it was seemingly imperative to let the vocal chords heal and try again next month. And so we fast forward to August‚ and enter the newly renovated Music Hall of Williamsburg. We climb up to the balcony with a great view of the stage and see cult-hero R. Stevie Moore finishing the opening set. I only caught the last song‚ but I must be allowed to give a completely superficial impression of what I saw: it appeared as if Jimmy Buffet's bearded older brother put on a bathrobe and got a band together‚ singing about animosity and social studies. I wish I had gotten there earlier.
The stage was cleared‚ and rebuilt with a forest. I've never seen roadies placing potted ferns and hanging spider plants on a stage with such precision and purpose. Just when we think we were about to receive a lecture in botany‚ Dr. Dog emerges and thanks everyone for waiting so long for this show to happen. Quick piano arpeggios break into to "The Old Days" "Down down down‚ thump thump thump‚ chop chop chop…" The crowd is immediately engaged and singing with enthusiasm to a great refrain.
Dr. Dog's live show thrives on the song that feels so familiar although you may never have heard it before. Most of the selection was from their new album‚ Fate‚ and a good handful from its predecessor‚ We All Belong‚ but the song that easily got the best crowd response was "Oh No" from the earlier Easy Beat. It's the perfect four-minute rock song‚ complete with a huge da-da-da singalong ending. More songs need da-da-da's and la-la's in my opinion. Soon afterwards‚ "Worst Trip" also had some amazing live moments with its dual-guitar harmony ending between Scott McMicken and Frank McElroy (who may be the tallest musician in the world) and its curious yet cautionary chorus‚ "Is this the worst trip you have ever been on?" with perfect three-part harmony‚ of course.

The area where this band hits the nail on the head every time‚ both live and in studio‚ are the soaring‚ harmony-laden "ahhs" and "oohs" that supplement either Toby's or Scott's lead vocals. They find a way to utilize that tool in almost every song‚ and yet after 90 minutes of it‚ it hadn't gotten old. These layered harmonies typically work best with Scott's perfectly delicate voice‚ where as Toby's strong growl stands well on its own. Dr. Dog also show an impressive command over their audience with the quirkiest of slow dirges like "Die‚ Die‚ Die" with Juston Stens (drums) and Zach Miller (keys) showing their discipline‚ anchoring down even the slowest and weirdest of their repertoire.
They work flawlessly together as singers‚ songwriters‚ and especially as performers as they bounce around the stage (and literally off of each other) like excited protons in a science experiment. The crowd completely buys in to this unchoreographed display‚ as there is nothing more exciting to watch than a band completely enjoying themselves. A big chunk of the set is played much faster than the tempos on their albums‚ which mostly works due to the aforementioned visual kinetic energy. The one time it didn't work‚ however‚ was in "My Old Ways‚" the band's most perfectly constructed track‚ but it was unfortunately played a bit too fast‚ losing some of the heart of the song. That being said‚ watching this band makes me think about when people say how bummed they get that they were never able to see their favorite bands from the '60s and '70s live. Dr. Dog brings that spirit of songwriting to our time with a distinctive and refreshing difference. As I got into my car after the show‚ I couldn't help but think to when I was younger and my dad and I would drive around adding multiple harmonies to songs on the radio. I wondered if those guys did the same thing.