Dr. Dog puts on unique and outstanding performance on their “Be the Void” tour

Laura Drinan

A few months ago, Pennsylvania psychedelic-rock band  Dr. Dog announced that one of the shows on their tour for their newest album, “Be the Void,” would take place at the Boston House of Blues on March 22 . Being a long-time fan, I quickly bought tickets, and awaited what I knew would be a great show. I didn’t know, then, how much I’d love the experience.

At around 7, a friend, junior Erin Batchelder, and I arrived at the beat-up concert hall. A small line had begun to form outside the venue’s door; luckily, we were able to score a spot at the front before big crowds arrived. Our tickets were checked by intimidating bald-headed bouncers, and we were soon on our way into the venue. Inside, we were fascinated to see the House of Blues devoid of both people and empties. The place was spotless, the lights were dim, and there was only idle chatter, but the excitement boiling in all of us was phenomenal. Erin and I were able to stand slightly off center against the guardrail, as people lazily filed in. We were hopeful to have a packed house, but the thirty or so people by half past seven concerned us. It wasn’t long, however, before we saw Walpole High juniors Daria Grady and Molly Breen wandering the venue aimlessly, and we quickly made a fearsome foursome. We later saw juniors, Josh Colón and Andrew Myers, and their dates, Steph Bogle and Melissa Tufo. With plenty of time before the opening bands played, we took a look at the merchandise (which included Dr. Dog vinyls and their rarest album, “Toothbrush”!) and various shirts, hats, and pins. Erin, Molly, Daria, and I noticed a steady stream of people entering and decided to make the best of our general admission tickets by getting a spot about twenty-or-so feet from center stage.

As the opening band came out on stage, our previous fears of an empty venue had completely disappeared. The standing room was completely packed and people were filing into lines against the railings upstairs. We didn’t know much about the two opening bands, and their performances were complete shocks. The first was The Nickel and Dime Band, performing with the decrepit-yet-Rick Berlin. Despite his age, Berlin, the experienced musician from Jamaica Plain performed very well. Berlin received plenty of laughs from the audience due to his silliness and ridiculousness. Berlin humorously danced to his song “Beer Belly” and enthused the audience with his sociable and humorous manner. After a big thank you to the crowd and to Dr. Dog for allowing them to play, The Nickel and Dime Band performed several more songs and made their exit off stage.

Next to perform was Purling Hiss, a three-man group with a hard grunge style. Their overpowering drums and bass droned out some of the lyrics, but overall it was well played. The band introduced a smoke machine and used different colored lights during their performance, which interested the audience. Purling Hiss played several songs, all mostly sounding the same (or maybe I was just too excited for Dr. Dog at this point, that I only thought their performance was monotonous). Purling Hiss sold t-shirts, albums, and pins at the merch table to promote their band’s publicity, and announced more dates of their tour, along with ways to follow them, like twitter and myspace. The band briefly thanked everyone for their support and a loud cheer came from the audience as they announced Dr. Dog would be performing shortly.

As the stage crew assisted with the set up, Erin and I made our way closer to the stage, as Daria and Molly had done earlier. We maneuvered through the crowd and found a snug spot in the second row near stage right. We met a young girl named Ester, a long-time fan of Dr. Dog. The three of us made small talk as we waited for Dr. Dog, and she told us about the history of the intricate stage setup. The stage was cluttered with numerous lamps, rugs, chairs, posters, and even a fireplace. According to Ester, the band visits yard sales during their tour and collects furniture and interesting pieces to display on stage. I found the stage to be completely warm and welcoming, much like the band when they finally came on. Immediately, they started playing “That Old Black Hole”, a song from their new album. I instantly grinned at the end of the song, as I realized their sound was probably a million times more enjoyable live. Rather than a slow, poetic performance, Dr. Dog took an alternative way in their performance with a heavier beat and a wilder sound. I was ecstatic to hear them play some of their older songs, rather than tracks from only the new album. “Shadow People” (which probably 99% of the audience, including me, sang along to), “I Only Wear Blue”, and “Shame Shame” were my particular favorites from their previous albums. “Do The Trick” sounded awesome, as did “Lonesome”. “These Days” crushed live, as the intro is heavily drum and guitar based.

Dr. Dog played a perfect setlist; a valuable mix of their old and new material.  After closing with “Heart It Races”, the audience was devastated and didn’t hesitate to chant for an encore. After several minutes, the band came back on a heard a roar of cheering. The encore included “From”, “The Lazy Way We Do”, “Die, Die, Die”, and “Jackie Wants a Black Eye”. I was thrilled that the show lasted an extra four songs, and it was made obvious that everyone agreed with me. By the end of the night, I couldn’t erase the smile off my face lead guitarist and co-lead singer, Scott Mcmicken and I made eye contact on more than one account. Basically my life was made over the course of several hours. Dr. Dog performed an absolutely incredible show, and I will definitely be attending their next local show, without a doubt.