Almost exactly five years ago, I downloaded every Dr. Dog release that’d come out up to that point.
Five studio albums, an EP, and a compilation of old demo tapes found their way into my iTunes before I’d even listened to a song. I didn’t know anything about Dr. Dog in 2011 other than that the artistic hipster girl I’d just started dating really liked them, so I was sure they were cooler than any of the punk rock and hip-hop that was already in my collection.
When Dr. Dog came through the Observatory on Friday night, I knew what the music would sound like, but I wasn’t sure exactly what the performance or crowd would entail.
It turns out, not that much has changed.
A combination of beanies, flannel, slicked undercuts, and button-up shirts greeted the six-piece band as they graced the stage around 9:30 p.m. on Friday. “How Long Must I Wait,” “Distant Light” and “Badvertise” kicked off the set, with Toby Leaman, Scott McMicken, and crew mentioning that they would be performing several new songs along with some of their classics on the first night of their 2016 tour.
As Pennsylvania’s most beloved hipster rockers began to shake the rust off through tracks like “Bring My Baby Back” and “The Truth,” the entire crowd watched in awe, as excited for the next song as this week’s release of The Psychedelic Swamp. For some reason, more than a handful of people decided that “These Days” and some of the new material seemed like good tunes for moshing (is it the same dozen-ish guys who go to every show to mosh, regardless of music?), but even that couldn’t ruin the vibe for everyone else in attendance.
“Shame, Shame” and a few more new tracks carried Dr. Dog past the midway point of their set and toward 11:00 p.m., with many seeming like slightly more of an extended jam than the last. Although a few fans began to file out through the second half of the set most stayed to croon along to the songs they knew (“Nellie,” “Lonesome,” “Be the Void,” etc.) and learn the ones they’d come to know in the coming weeks.
While many bands stick to a short and basic set for the first show of a tour, Dr. Dog had a far more elaborate plan. As bright multicolored lights flashed behind them, the group closed out their 75-minute initial set with “Broken Heart” and “That Old Black Hole” before briefly breaking and coming back for an encore full of requests.
The half-hour encore started with “The Beach” before random fans yelling (including one asking the band to sign something for him) when asked for requests delayed the next tracks. Eventually, “Heavy Light” and the predictable choice of “Heart It Races” brought the set to what many presumed would be the end, only to be followed by “Easy Beat” and “The Rabbit, the Bat, and the Reindeer” to end the night with a coolness that likely won’t be seen in the Observatory again for quite some time.