Friday, August 17, 2007

Dr. Dog | Space Gallery | Aug 9

When I was a kid, I loved going to different stadiums simply to check out new stadiums. Now, as an adult, I like going to shows in different clubs just to check out other venues. My father is a retired architect and perhaps my interest in buildings comes from him. Who knows? Regardless, after a few days of being on vacation last week, I got the itch to see a show. So, I decided to hit Space Gallery in Portland to see Dr. Dog even though I’ve never been a big Dr. Dog fan.

I think part of the reason I’ve never taken to Dr. Dog is due to an idiotic review of them I once heard on NPR. The reviewer said Dr. Dog doesn’t sound like any other band and then proceeded to play “The World May Never Know” which sounds exactly like The Beatles. Hell, it sounds so much like The Beatles, I thought it was a Beatles cover when I first heard it. Check for yourself. The link on the song title will play the song. However, as moronic as that review was, I shouldn’t have held a grudge against the band; just the reviewer.

After spending a classic New England evening boiling and eating lobsters while listening to playoff baseball on the radio (Mountaineers game), my friend Dave, who we were staying with in Maine, and I made the short drive into the city. Quick sidenote…while I love Portland, parking in Portland sucks. At 10:00pm, we still had to drive around town for a while to find parking and, even then, we were lucky to find one a few blocks from the club. I’m guessing it’s due to the crush of visitors during the summer but it’s a constant hassle in that town.

Space Gallery is a mixed media art gallery in the heart of downtown; very laid back place. I liked the artsy vibe of the club. After visiting Firehouse Gallery for The Mittens/Lullatone show and Kriya Studio for the Kamikaze Hearts/Farm show, I’d say Space Gallery is sort of a cross between the two places. More professional than Kriya but not as neat and tidy as Firehouse. The benefit of Space is that they serve beer there; including Peak Organic Nut Brown ale. Nice.

The downside to Space Gallery is that nothing in the room absorbs any sound. The walls are cinderblock. The floor is concrete. The stage is framed by steel I-beams (looks cool though). Hell, the ceiling is even made of bricks. Who’s ever heard of a brick ceiling? Once again, it looked cool, as you can see in the photo, but it isn’t an ideal space mix loud sounds into a subtle arrangement.

We missed the opener, Brenda, but arrived before Dr. Dog started. In fact, it seemed like Dr. Dog had just arrived themselves as they started loading their equipment up onto the stage. They set everything up quickly, marched through a quick soundcheck and then just started playing. The suddenness of their activity continued all night as they raced through a 45-minute set, said goodnight and immediately started breaking down their equipment while still on stage. I’m 100% cool with bands not doing encores since they feel completely fabricated the majority of the time but Dr. Dog was acting all night like they were double-parked. Perhaps they had a long drive ahead of them and wanted to get an early start to the trip but don’t leave us feeling that we’re inconveniencing them.

As for the set itself, it sounded OK. Lots of poppy stuff. Unfortunately, the muddy sound entirely wiped out the keyboards which is the most distinctive part of their sound. The keyboardist was playing all night long but I only heard him briefly during one of the songs. Most of the sound was guitar and drums. However, like I said, it was poppy stuff and the crowd was having a good time, so it was a fun way to spend an hour.

One other odd thing about Dr. Dog is how much one of the guitarists looks like fellow False 45th contributor, jds. When he walked onto stage, I did a double-take. Then I noticed he was wearing an apron and knew jds would never wear an apron on stage in August. jds has much better summer fashion sense. Everyone knows you only wear an apron on stage after Labor Day.

Seriously, an apron? Is “Applebee’s busboy” the new cool look or something?


casey said...

It's interesting to me that most of the cool shows (even if they kinda suck) are taking place in art spaces/non-traditional venues rather than clubs.

Is it evidence of rock dying or experiencing an underground resurgence?

Either way, musicians will likely never make much money.

Flatlander said...

Or is an example of art dying?

Why are all these galleries turning to music shows to fill their rooms?

Over the weekend, I mentioned the fact that I had seen three straight shows in art galleries and, as an architect, he had a broader view of it.

He said it sounded like another example of the developing concept of using unusual spaces for ordinary activities. Bank lobbies are being converted into restaurants. Old schools are being converted into housing.

He said the idea is that ordinary activities can feel more exciting when they occur in an atypical setting.

The other thought is that in today's world, bands make money touring rather than selling CDs. So, the growth in shows has outstripped the growth in venues which leads to the use of art galleries as clubs.