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Live Review: Dr. Dog, February 13, 2012, Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR

On a rather indiscriminate night in Portland, lines formed around the corner for tickets to see Philly rockers Dr. Dog, touring in support of their new album Be the Void. And, as the over 1,800-person capacity venue neared its tipping point, Dr. Dog appeared to be hitting the milestone I’ve always hoped they’d hit. The modern folk rockers are at the point in their career, with six albums under their belt, that they can sell out the biggest venues in most cities, not counting arenas. It’s a feat accomplished by indie rock’s very finest, and as a fan of band I couldn’t be happier for them.

So, as the historic ballroom began to dim just moments before the band stepped on stage, anticipation was at an all time high. The huge stage was the perfect size for the band’s setup, which included two faux desks, complete with stained glass lamps tucked between the six touring members. The entire stage was backed with a huge banner displaying some art that resembled a house, complete with lyrics from the new album. In typical fashion (this was my third time seeing them) the band made a foreign stage their home. Starting the set with “That Old Black Hole,” the first single from Be the Void, was immediately attention grabbing, as most of the crowd seemed well-versed in the number. This seemed to be the case for most of the night with the band’s newer material, a detail which caught me off guard. When the band tore into new tracks like “Lonesome” and most of the crowd sung right alongside lead singer Toby Leaman, it was a delight to watch it all come together. The band’s incremental rise to popularity, sparked by their signing to ANTI- years ago, appears to finally be paying off on this tour. Of course, as Dr. Dog trotted out classics like “Shadow People” and “We All Belong,” fans chanted and bounced along, enjoying the communal atmosphere in the ballroom on Monday night. The band played mostly post-We All Belong material, their more electric guitar-driven tunes which translated well to the stage.

Dr. Dog’s ascension to relative fame has been a tenuous process at best, but just as the band has refined their sound on each and every album since Toothbrush, the band’s live show is currently at its best. With bassist and singer Scott McMicken jumping around stage alongside Leaman in his signature blanket cover, the band appeared to be enjoying themselves more than ever. Single after single was played as proudly as ever, and as Dr. Dog jumped back on stage for an encore, which included the rambunctious “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” both the audience and the band were at a perfect understanding. As a fan of the band I couldn’t have been more pleased, as the short bill allowed for them to play virtually everything worth hearing from their catalogue. The nearly sold out show was a benchmark for the band’s now blossoming career, and as concert goers flooded to the streets after the set, only smiles were had. Dr. Dog are not the greatest or the best at anything, but they are damn good rock and roll artists, and if this tour is any indication they have a long future of doing just that.

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