Photo by MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ
When Dr. Dog appeared on the Skyline Stage of the Mann Center last night, the band was clearly dreaming of greener, and presumably drier, pastures — unlike the rain-soaked mud pit we were standing in. With jungle-esque sound effects, fog machines and green backlighting, the band members took their places onstage among various potted houseplants. It looked like the wilderness that could be found within a Home Depot gardening section (Welcome to the Home Depot, baby! You’re gonna diiiiiiiiiieeee!), or a medical marijuana dispensary grow room. All of the band members came dressed in their standard get-ups: T-shirts, jeans, sunglasses-at-night and beanies, except for lead singer-guitarist Scott McMicken. He boldly sported the second outfit anyone in the band has ever donned onstage: a red, colorfully embellished, woven man-dress with ‘Guayaquil, Ecuador’ hand-stitched across the top. Did any of the stage set-up make sense on such a cold, rainy night in September? Not really, but no one seemed to mind.
Nevertheless, Dr. Dog kicked off the show harmoniously, and with great physicality. Under the influence of rock n’ roll and possibly other stuff, lead singer Toby Leaman drop-kicked one of the many misbegotten potted plants out of his goddamn way, and launched it towards the front end of the stage where I stood. A mixture of grade-A potting soil and confusion suddenly brushed across my face. Meanwhile, a mixture of testosterone and jingle bells amplified the happenings onstage. Having just been spit on by Die Antwoord a week ago, being in the ‘splash zone’ again wasn’t all that shocking, but the master-class display of plant parkour was beyond expectation.
Of course, this serious rocker ‘tude was only encouraged by the receptive sea of fans, some of whom were dressed and dancing around in ‘Dr. Dog’ beanies. Seeming more like $25 impulse buys, the hats were like gold star stickers that marked the true Dr. Dog super-fans in attendance. I predict the beanies will soon prove too flamboyantly lame to wear anywhere but a Dr. Dog concert. The crowd ranged in age from college-aged guys and gals who drunkenly group-hugged it out during “Lonesome,” to ponytailed dads shaking their tail feathers. There were also plenty of touchy-feely, sweet-talking couples, like smitten kittens in the unglamorously hatted, flannel-covered embraces of their boos. Honorable mention goes to the solitary preteen girl who screamed affirmative when Leaman asked if anyone in the crowd kept a diary, after he read a personal passage from his in between songs.
Fortunately, there was more in store for the less innocent among us — those who have chosen the red pill once or twice and know just how far the rabbit hole goes. At one point, heavily in jam-mode, Leaman hopped down from the red-lit stage and began running around the photo pit, growling words into the microphone and vocalizing things incoherently and probably backwards. Yeah, it got weird.
Otherwise, Dr. Dog played a pleasantly jingly-jangly 17-song set, along with a seven-song encore. The show was not nearly as Philly-riffic as expected, beyond a few shout-outs to “PHIL-LAY!” It’s possible that fans were just too spoiled by Dr. Dog’s last visit to the 215, which featured a cameo from a twerking Phillie Phanatic. Frankly, I was expecting Dr. Dog’s encore to feature an impromptu onstage Eagles game, beer-bellied union laborers constructing a new SEPTA subway station in the middle of the Mann lawn, and Mayor Nutter playing The Liberty Bell like a cowbell, all from within the weedy confines of their mock-marijuana-dispensary stage set, celebrating the decriminalization of pot in Philly like the weird-beard, suburban campfire-singing bros they always were. — MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ