It’s no secret that the pandemic we’re experiencing has been hard-hitting for bands and touring musicians. Some have used the time to record new material, others used it as a time of rest and reflection, both of which are hard to do in the middle of a global crisis. That’s left many people thinking about what bands would come out of this with new material, and which bands we might never see again.
Dr. Dog is a band we may unfortunately never see in person again, although the good news is that we may hear from them again. “We don’t know what Dr. Dog will do after this,” they said In a press release before they announced their final tour this past June, “We just know it won’t include going on tour…except the tour we’re announcing now, which is going to rule.” Their tour dates include many two-night stands in select cities – including Minneapolis – to give fans one (or two) last chance(s) to see a band who have long been a staple of the creative indie-pop music our region has come to know and love within the last fifteen years. The Show Last Night was happy to have the opportunity to be at both shows at First Avenue this past week and say goodbye, at least in person, to Dr. Dog.
Dr. Dog has a prolific and storied relationship with First Avenue. They have a star with their name on it on the wall, a coveted piece for any band, and a long history of playing, selling out, and creating individual memories inside Minneapolis’s favorite club. One fan recalled one time they had played here and ordered pizza to hand out to the crowd during their set. Even Conrad, First Avenue’s longtime, no-bullshit stage manager joined in. Shockingly, that pizza party was only around 10 years ago. So it’s no doubt with these kinds of memories, concertgoers, staff, and perhaps even Dr. Dog themselves are all asking the obvious question these last two nights.
Where’d All the Time Go?
Both nights were cathartic, with high energy and chill vibes fans have eagerly been waiting for. Dr. Dog gave us all their climatic, singalong tunes that fans belted with all the air in their lungs, and all the mellow, quiet songs people held their dates and swayed along to. Night two especially felt more energetic, and only featured a handful of repeat songs from Night one. Jackie Wants a Black Eye, Where’d All the Time Go?, Nellie, and a cover of Heart it Races by Architecture in Helsinki. The encore had the band take requests from the audience from what songs they wanted to hear, Fans hoping to be noticed by handmade signs, large text on their phones, or just outright screaming the song names. Night two was a bit more humorous with these requests, Many the band couldn’t play. “This is like a bad dream,” said frontman Scott McMicken in the middle of turning down requests from the crowd. “You’ve got to understand, I wrote some of these songs 20 years ago. This shit has a shelf life!” And while many of Dr. Dog’s fans were there from the start, they were not disappointed with the lack of earlier material, even if the band couldn’t play many of the requested songs at the end of the night. Songs like Oh no and Say Something from 2005’s Easy Beat made their way into the setlists. County Line all the way back from 2002’s debut Toothbrush made its way as a request during Night one’s encore.
Although these shows were not the band’s last, they certainly played like it was. Although, bassist and lead vocalist Toby Leaman seemed aloof at times. Often wandering sidestage to talk to someone backstage during the first few bars of a song where a bass line was missing. Perhaps some sort of monitor issues? Evenstill, it was hard to find a missed beat or a missed note, even when the band would openly admit they would “Do our best” to play some of the older requested material. Drummer Eric Slick, who performed monitorless, nailed every song and request the band could play. Keyboardist Zach Miller also performed flawlessly, and even took up some slide guitar on each night of the band’s closing song Lonesome.
It was hard to feel any sadness when dancing around with the audience throughout the course of both nights. All of us are hopeful that the band itself won’t call it quits, but it’s quite a lot easier to do when the band isn’t on the road full time, and there aren’t expectations for a new tour. But it’s obvious that the band’s dedication to their fanbase means that there is little chance of that. The road won’t last forever, but the music will.