Good Morning, Campers,
They say you don't know how good something is until it's gone. Well, that was never a problem we had with Dr. Dog. Sure, we went through the very brief 15 minute phase of 'hey, this sounds like the Beatles, the Band, and the Beach Boys had a baby,' but it immediately melted away when we realized how hard it is to sound like those bands, and also to do it so damned well while somehow staying unique.
From songcraft to harmonies to instrumentation, to arrangement, song-writing, melodies, imagery, merch... shit, even the name - in every aspect of being a band: Dr. Dog is a tour de force. The prolific way they output new songs always blew us away. Every album was amazing, they all sounded new and fresh but also like Dr. Dog, a hit factory in our own backyard. Every time we thought they had peaked, they came back swinging with another offering that was full of finely crafted songs.
They are currently in the middle of a 5-show run in Philadelphia that will cap off their retirement tour....no more touring for the Dog. I didn't expect to have so many emotions about this but well....here we are. The end of an era that a generation of Philadelphians will never, ever forget.
I remember so vividly the first time we saw them, it was a random weekday at FYE Records on Broad and Chestnut and there were only around 5 people there besides us. One of those people was Eric Slick, who would go on to become their drummer. Another was Brett Banfe, who would go on to become our very good friend. Meeting Brett and discovering he was as enamored as we were with this band was a life changing event for Fat City Reprise. That's how we met Junebug, Liz, Sarge, Old Nat Hamhock, Ekoostik Hookah, Kevin Hambrick and the Orange Opera, Nina, Trapper, and so many other people who helped make Fat City feel at home in the Midwest. Dr. Dog is a big part of why people look at me cross-eyed when I tell them I love Ohio or Fort Wayne or when I say nothing was ever as rewarding in life than living in a van with my friends and pursuing a new rock-fueled adventure every night. They're also the reason we discovered Daytrotter and The Teeth, two more gifts from Dr. Dog to us.
Dr. Dog is why The Love Song exists. We had just listened to We All Belong about 20,000 times and those vocal harmonies are a direct tribute. That keyboard part it opens with is very Zach as well, especially because he had just inspired Frankie to go out and get a Nord. It's the reason You Are The Art has that riff, I was trying so hard to pull some Scott-esque shit out of my ass. If you really want to hear me doing a Dr. Dog tribute, you can listen to every Southwork song as I do my best Toby impression on the bass, a mish mash of Rick Danko and Paul McCartney fused with simplicity and a deep connection to the kick drum. I could never completely settle into Toby's wonderful lack of being busy with my guitar fingers but I tried every song, every time. He is 100% my bassist spirit animal.
Quick! Dr. Dog exists, let's work on some harmonies and get some semi-hollow guitars. While this guitar was unfortunately stolen at a Bitter End gig in 2007 some time, I definitely wanted it because of Scott and Frank were playing semi-hollows. You can see their sticker on my shitty old monitor too (so much to unpack in this one picture, but that'll be another blog post.)
I feel sadness. Sadness I may never see them rock the house again, sadness that they aren't as famous as Uncle Kracker or Smash Mouth when they're clearly one of the best bands to come out since Nirvana. I remember watching them on Letterman thinking, if people don't blow them up after this, there is no hope for popular music. There's also so much pride and happiness, these guys DID make it, they did basically all of the awesome things you can do as a band and they're retiring now. Started off playing at The Fire and got to late-night TV, a deal with ANTI, Bonaroo, KEXP, TinyDesk, and so much more. They did Philadelphia proud, that's for sure. I'm sad to see them scale back, grateful I've seen them 9-10 times, and hopeful they'll continue to make albums in the future and throw a Philly show in every once and a while. Maybe it's because this is the first band I have liked from the hole in the wall to the big stage to retire, maybe it's because they were SO exceptional, maybe it's just because it makes me feel old, I don't know. All I know is this one hits different.
Sad, happy, grateful, hopeful, pissed off, proud, whimsical, nostalgic - I'm a mess right now about this.
Lucky for Dr. Dog, legacy doesn't lie and neither do your ears. My 20-year-old cousin came running up to me a few months back saying she was excited she finally heard a song that I would like. She pulls out her phone and puts on 'Where'd All The Time Go' by Dr. Dog, she watches a show called OBX and it's in the soundtrack. I couldn't help but laugh, she was in kindergarten when I first heard this band but it doesn't matter, cream always rises to the top. I loaded her up with all the albums and it grows. Pat Finnerty is fighting the good fight too, I see so many comments on YouTube about how Pat introduced his viewers to Dr. Dog. You just can't make music that good, for that long, and not have a legacy that continues to draw in new listeners.
SIDE NOTE: Vivas is playing with Pat Finnerty to open the 12/31/21 Dr. Dog show. There's tickets available here and there due to covid cancellations so mask up and cross your fingers.
As I sat in the Fillmore on 12/27/21 with Vivas, watching the first of the final 5 touring shows, I felt all of these emotions and so many more. Thanks, Dr. Dog. Thanks for the tunes, the concerts, the inspiration, and everything in between. I hope you have the best retirement ever until you get bored and play some Philly shows, then I hope I can get tickets.
- With Love, Nick
Currently Listening to : Living a Dream by Dr. Dog