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Dr. Dog in Central Park

By Alexis Willey Special to the Chronicle

As the sun began to set behind the Manhattan skyline last Thursday, Dr. Dog took the Rumsey Playfield stage in front of an anxious crowd of mostly twenty-something’s already sporting beanies and beer buzzes. Instantly the indie-rock group, founded in the basements and dive bars of Philadelphia filled Central Park with their swirling harmonies and aching guitar riffs reminiscent of the 1960’s, but still very much their own. And that’s exactly what their fans love. Dr. Dog is its own entity; genre bending, inspired and continuously pushing their sound in new directions while remaining true to their distinguishable sound. Not to mention their impressive live talent and high energy shows keep the crowds asking for more, eight years after their first tour.

In front of a kitchy, neon American flag backdrop and behind mirrored sunglasses, band members Scott McMicken, Toby Leaman, Frank McElroy, Zach Miller and Eric Slick led off the show with “Shadow People” from “Shame, Shame,” their sixth of seven albums to date. Their number of albums encompass the distance the band has come and where they’re sure to go as they quickly become a staple of independent rock.

Even as they’ve grown up and shaped into the band they are today, Dr. Dog’s albums are as reliable today as their original eight-track albums were, and it’s that security and certainty that brings their fans back time after time. The reality in their lyrics, which would otherwise make for a concert almost as depressing as Dashboard Confessional, is backed by the power-packed sound of McMicken’s crazy vocal range, Leaman’s growls and screeching harmonies, piano, rhythm guitar, a little synth and a lot of groove. They led the crowd through creeping intros and build-ups that never seemed to end, leaving people in the crowd wondering what they didn’t play and what could possibly be left for an encore. They even fit in their extremely popular cover of Architecture in Helsenki’s “Heart It Races” (personally, I think Dr. Dog does it better but that’s besides the point) and ended the show with their latest single “Lonesome,” from “Be the Void,” their most recent album.

But the jeers of a rowdy and expectant crowd, unwilling to put an end to the magic, brought the band back on stage for a memorable ending with opening band, Delta Spirit’s front man Matt Vasquez, atop the shoulders of Leaman as the crowd sang along to “Worst Trip” from 2006’s “We All Belong.”

As stagehands unplugged amps and other unnamable, probably musical, devices, the overwhelming feeling of community satisfaction and various illegal substances hung in the air, unshakable by even the grumpiest of cleaning crew members, as happy concert-goers wandered into Central Park’s lush, autumn arms.

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