Editor’s note: Photos provided by Eli Gross of the Whitney Peak Hotel
Maybe it was the way the audience stayed bundled up after fighting through the dry, biting cold of a Reno winter, or the way singers Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken switched vocal duties like a pair of college buddies playing the pub down the street. Hell, it even could have just been the beer. Regardless of the exact factors, Cargo was especially comfortable and intimate throughout Dr. Dog’s set on Tuesday, Feb. 3.
The Pennsylvania-based group radiated a sort of analog warmth and the crowd reacted accordingly, not with obnoxious, over-the-top whooping or fist pumping, but with its undivided attention and energetic appreciation of one of America’s foremost indie-rock bands.
Musically, Dr. Dog occupies the sonic real estate between Vampire Weekend and early Kings Of Leon with an almost Americana amalgam of ear-worm guitar melodies, introspective lyrical content and subtly anthemic hooks.
“Reno?” was all Leaman, who also played bass for most of the show, half asked the crowd before launching into “How Long Must I Wait” from 2012’s “Be The Void.” The band’s energy was apparent from the first note as the members bounced around the stage with the same voracity that its music did.
The laughably homogenous crowd of hip-looking 26 year olds flocked to the foot of the stage forming essentially one giant pair of horn rimmed glasses. They danced and drank and sang along as Dr. Dog kept things moving with mostly older material such as “These Days” and “Distant Light.”
The dual guitar harmonies of McMicken and rhythm guitarist Frank McElroy propelled the songs forward, while the vocal harmonies filled out the sound and brilliantly created the illusion some ramshackle indie choir behind the traditional rock instrumentation.
While the set was mostly geared toward older material, Dr. Dog performed a handful of songs off of their its album, “The Psychedelic Swamp,” which more than stood up next to its already established catalogue.
The evening’s high point came after all the stage lights had been cut and drummer Eric Slick began riffing on the intro to “Broken Heart.” Slowly, the lighting began to return before the band punctuated the beginning of the chorus and the crowd erupted in response. It continued with “That Old Black Hole” before taking a break. The group returned minutes later and took requests from the audience for its encore. “Heart It Races” was requested immediately and the audience bristled with excitement. After a couple more songs, the members of Dr. Dog exited as quickly and casually as they’d sauntered onstage two hours beforehand.
As the house lights were turned on, the mass of beards, beanies, and thrift-store jackets spilled onto W Commercial Row elated with the songs, the booze and Dr. Dog’s uncanny ability to make a larger venue feel like a house show.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Hop Along was a welcome addition to the lineup. Like a more palatable Speedy Ortiz, the four-piece is based around lead singer Frances Quinlan’s songwriting and unique vocal ability. At once striking and grating, Quinlan’s voice was the power behind an otherwise unremarkable band. Highlights included “Texas Funeral” and “Powerful Man.”
Related story: Dr. Dog’s newly released “Psychedelic Swamp” a new look at lost songs: LINK