Driving down Delmar Boulevard after the show, I couldn't get Dr. Dog's "Shadow People" out of my head. In that same moment, I thought of Jimmy Fallon's "Tight Pants" skit with Will Ferrell and reflected on how many men I had seen in skin-tight pants.
These simultaneous thoughts were a good sign for two reasons: first, these men are as impressive live as they are on their discography, with their tunes getting so easily stuck on repeat in my mind, and, second, the tightness of their pants did not stop them from dancing for two hours straight with their instruments around their necks. It was one of the most high-energy shows I've ever seen.
They've got stamina, these dogs; their band name suits them.
But, let's rewind. Saint Rich opened the show with a strong 45-minute set. The band joined Dr. Dog for their last few months of touring, and planned to head to SXSW immediately after performing their set.
Their lead singer was wearing a green mask for the last half of the set, and it was an interesting addition to his tight pants and suspenders. But, more importantly, their tunes were impressive. I noted that one in particular was in mixed meter, fancy language for musical rhythm changes within a song. Their indie rock sound was similar to Dr. Dog, but with their unique arrangements, they made for a good warm-up.
Before leaving the stage, they expressed their gratitude to the Dogs, and then to the audience for "actually dancing, unlike the crowd last night in Omaha." The crowd nodded their approval at having been singled out over Omaha.
After a break, we finally got just what the doctor ordered: Dr. Dog.
Toby Leaman (bass guitar), Eric Slick (drums), Zach Miller (keyboard), and Dimitri Manos (multi-instrument) strutted onstage, followed by Scott McMicken (lead guitar) and Frank McElroy (rhythm guitar) wearing beanies, shades, cardigans and tight pants, none of which would be removed for the entire performance.
McElroy approached the microphone: "Good evening everyone and thanks for coming! Budweiser!" The crowed cheered. How could they not? They support our beer, too!? The stage remained dark for a few seconds while the first bars of "Black Hole" rang out into the rafters.
Then, out of nowhere, LIGHTS. An incredibly detailed light show began that was timed to every note they played. Normally, I wouldn't use the word "breathtaking" to describe an indie rock band's performance, but with these lights, it absolutely was. Every song had a unique design. An arch behind the drummer had bulbs across it that lit up in red in between songs, while the Dogs often changed instruments. They also had a sign that read "Dr. Dogtown" and pointed center stage at the band. It was groovy.
As Leaman and McElroy took turns singing lead on the songs, it was apparent why this psychedelic, 60's inspired indie rock band has found such quick success. With two very different voices, the pair brings a different dynamic to each tune, with McMicken joining them for three-part harmonies. These guys honestly sound even better live than they do on the album.
Diving right into their new album, they spoke very little in between songs and followed "Black Hole" with "Love" and "Distant Light." Leaman's vocal tone really brings out the psychedelic vibe of the songs, something more apparent live than on the record, in my opinion.
The fans were excited by this point, entranced by the lights and the stunning harmonics. At times, it truly felt like being on set at a Beatles show back in the '60s, hearing tunes like "Fate," from their 2005 release, and "Broken Heart," from "B-Room."
They also performed popular favorites like "Shadow People," sung by McElroy. Again, his tone sounded even more polished than it does on the album, which was refreshing.
One of the highlights of the show was when Leaman sang "Too Weak to Ramble," his voice ambient with the band. It was the first emotional ballad of the evening, and the lights turned blue and moved across the audience. It was then I noticed two microphones set up on each side of the stage. It looked like the performance was being recorded, perhaps for a live album.
Leaman took the opportunity to briefly mention that the band had stopped at Vintage Vinyl earlier in the day. Smart men.
After performing "Jackie Wants a Black Eye," the crowd practically bursting with indie rock joy by then, they bowed and left stage. McElroy left last because he had to approach the mic and yell "Budweiser!" one last time.
Thirsting for more, the cheers from their loyal fans continued until the Dogs returned for their encore, which was just as energetic and high-powered as the first 90 minutes of their set. Truly, these men danced and sang the night away for their crowd, completely lost in their music. It was contagious to say the least. The encore included "Heart it Races," followed by "The Rabbit. Finally, they performed "Lonesome" from their 2012 release "Be the Void."
Then, the lights spun their last, the red bulbs flashed, the glow went dark, and the Dogs took a bow.
Waste My Time
Too Weak to Ramble
Jackie Wants a Black Eye
Heart it Races