Dr. Dog, Purling Hiss @ Urban 02.04

Posted February 7, 2012 in

Dr. Dog. Photo: facebook.com/drdog
For a few hours, the Urban Lounge left Salt Lake City and took up residence in Philadelphia, as Dr. Dog stopped by in support of their new album, Be the Void. After a blizzard postponed their gig in Boulder, CO. the night before, the six-piece Philly band seemed well rested, playing relentlessly for nearly two hours to a sold-out crowd.

Opening for Dr. Dog was fellow Philadelphia band, Purling Hiss. The three-piece rock group played an upbeat, 45-minute set, warming the crowd up for the main act. Lead singer/guitarist Mike Polizze sounded like he was trying to imitate his other Philly friend Kurt Vile at times, using reverb and lots of guitar effects, but overall, there was a sense of emptiness to the bands’ sound, with only bass and drums backing up Polizze’s guitar and vocals.

As Purling Hiss lingered through their set, people continued to file in through the door, escaping the brisk, February night, seeking refuge in alcohol and the “fireplace” blaring on the flat-screen TV hanging on the wall. The loudest applause the openers received was after their set was drawing to a close, with Polizze announcing that Dr. Dog would soon take the stage.

Half-an-hour later, with the colored lights suddenly turning off, Dr. Dog stepped onto the stage, followed by the usual weed smell coming from the crowd. Guitarists Scott McMicken and the bearded Frank McElroy fit right in with the hipster audience, wearing retro beanies and dark shades. The crowd, who didn’t seem too impressed with the opening act, gave the band a generous welcome. The six-piece group launched into the song “That Old Black Hole” from their new album, giving the crowd a blast of new energy.

Bassist Toby Leaman, also sporting a beard and beanie, anchored the band all night, playing in the middle of McMicken and McElroy. All three of them sang tight harmonies with each other, as McMicken’s high, playful voice contrasted nicely with Leaman’s deeper register. It was impressive to watch and listen, considering the fact that a good number of their songs contain lengthy, fast lyrics.

Dr. Dog’s set debuted several new songs from Be the Void, but also contained a lot of material from 2010’s Shame, Shame, as well as few older songs such as “The Beach,” from 2008’s Fate. McMicken only paused to introduce the new songs, as the band spent little time messing around between the tunes, only taking a few seconds to get a quick drink or change instruments. Even when McMicken or Leaman tried to talk to the crowd, you could only make out every third or fourth word, and were left trying to figure out what they were saying. Near the end of the show, McMicken talked for about a minute, giving thanks to local shops around Salt Lake. The crowd suddenly became quieter, trying to hear what he was saying, but then McMicken decided to end the chat, and get back into the music, referring to it as an “awkward silence.” One of the highlights of the night came when keyboardist Zach Miller strapped on McMicken’s guitar for the bluesy-number “Shame, Shame.” With McMicken singing and playing tambourine, Miller’s slide playing on the guitar showed off the mellow side, and great musicianship of Dr. Dog.

It was surprising to see a good majority of the crowd singing along to songs all night, as I didn’t realize Dr. Dog had such a strong following in Salt Lake. The band’s been around for over decade, but they are not a household name by any means, even with their large tour bus parked in front of the club. Singing enthusiastically, the crowd kept the dancing to a minimum, mostly bobbing their heads up and down.

After playing for over an hour, with the air inside the club growing thick, and cups and bottles piling up on the floor, Dr. Dog left the stage for a few minutes, only to reemerge to the delight of the crowd. The band’s encore lasted nearly 30 minutes, and wrapped up with a blistering performance of “Jackie Wants A Black Eye.” By the end of the night, Leaman’s blue-denim shirt was drenched in sweat, with McMicken and McElroy still sporting their beanies and shades. As the crowd left the swampy club, and returned to the empty, cold streets of Salt Lake City, the sudden change of temperature added a final note of emphasis to a solid show, and fun night with Dr. Dog.
Dr. Dog. Photo: facebook.com/drdog Purling Hiss. Photo: facebook.com/purlinghiss