Dr. Dog Brings Devoted Following to White Oak Music Hall

click to enlarge Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog - PHOTO BY MATTHEW KEEVER
Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog
Photo by Matthew Keever
Dr. Dog
White Oak Music Hall
May 13, 2018

Some bands are just better live.

If you’ve heard any of Dr. Dog’s music, which spans ten studio albums recorded over the past decade and a half, there’s a good chance you enjoyed yourself. But attending one of their concerts is a different animal entirely.

The band is something to be experienced in person, if only for the crowd, which boasts the kind of fanaticism usually reserved for the likes of the Grateful Dead. And since shows are as much about fans' energy as the music itself, an otherwise ordinary night was transformed into something special on Sunday.

White Oak Music Hall was nowhere near capacity when the Philadelphia quintet came through town with its folksy pop tunes in tow, but those in attendance were undeterred in their adoration. For nearly two hours, the entire standing-room area was turned into a dance floor where everyone seemed to know every word to every song.

Dr. Dog showcased their new material early in the evening, beginning their set with “Listening In,” the opening track from their latest album, Critical Equation. As vocalist Scott McMicken sang of animals, street lights, the dead of night and fear, the crowd swayed along as the smell of marijuana wafted through the venue.

Fans were further enthralled during "Shadow People," a single from 2010's Shame, Shame that celebrates late nights, rowdy crowds and unique people. Later, during "Buzzing in the Light," the crowd finally stopped dancing and instead stood in reverent silence.

Personally, I've always liked Dr. Dog, but their music has never truly captivated me. It has made for a pleasant background on numerous occasions, but until last night I never allowed the group's Beatles- and Beach Boys-inspired grooves to seduce me. After Sunday night, I have a better appreciation for the band.

If there’s any downside to Dr. Dog’s music, it’s that their songs tend to run together. Their sound is so homogenous that differentiating between tracks can be difficult. But if their latest album is any indication, the band has taken a turn.

As exhibited on “Coming Out of the Darkness,” Dr. Dog has the ability to write ethereal, harmony-driven tunes that point to progress, both musically and personally. And even as they’re trying to distance themselves from their older sound, songs like “Go Out Fighting” showed the band has retained its jam-band sensibilities as they evolve into something else.

Whatever they end up becoming, their fans will surely follow.