Dr. Dog: Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT 1/28/10

It’s a pleasure to watch a band develop as songwriters, recording artists and performers, especially if their audience grows along with them. January 28th is the first time Dr. Dog’s commanded the stage in Higher Ground’s Ballroom rather than it’s smaller Showcase Lounge and the audience filled the larger room comfortably. And happily too.

A crazy quilt backdrop for a stage festooned with shrubs and flowers decorating the drum-kit elevated the festive air and Dr Dog intensified the lighthearted atmosphere almost as soon as they took the stage to play. Their music is infectious almost in spite of itself as the group doesn’t use obvious hooks for their tunes. They remain more than happy to thrash their way through what constitutes a bridge more often than the guitars chime or harmonize in tandem.
Yet that latter approach did appear prominently on a handful of new songs that peppered the set during the course of the evening.  This apparent move to simplicity, as evinced on  "I Only War Blue," belied the oblique humor of previously-recorded material that surrounded it (such as the title song to their last record "Fate"). While it’s hard to conceive  of Dr. Dog deliberately dumbing down their music, only time will tell if ther forthcoming album Shame, Shame,  due this spring, supplies the same kind of effective contrast within the band’s discography as did the fresh material mixed in with the tried and true this mid-winter night.

An exceptional musical performance can alter any music lover’s sense of time and Dr Dog’s ninety minute set seemed far less than half that long by the time they had finished their first encore. The frigid air didn’t seem so foreboding walking out of the venue either, a measure of the warmth this band conjures up with its fans during the course of their shows.

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