Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Dr Dog at Cabaret du Mile-End | Review


Dr Dog  |  Cabaret du Mile-End

                PHOTOS  |  VALERIA VEGA

I stepped off the bus and landed my first foot ankle-deep into icy slush. A sudden burst of “what-is-that-pain-am-I-dying” was followed by a pirouette to land safely on the salt stained Heisenberg-meth coated sidewalk. Good evening Montréal!

In the heart of all the action, le Cabaret du Mile End was situated in between a carpet store and a ceramics distributor. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I made my way inside. I was met with a staircase bursting with people that led up at a near-perfect right-angle and ended at a tickets booth where a lady was there to greet you. We were all here to see Dr. Dog and as the lady behind the glass slipped us our tickets, the burly musclemen opened the doors, stamped our wrists and directed us inside. Where am I? It literally felt like I just walked through a portal and into another dimension: one without cold, one without pain. The place was so much bigger than I expected.

They had a central island functioning as a soundstage mecca. This was surrounded by floor space that expanded into seating space and was embraced by merch-booths and bars. The ledge up to the performance stage was about waist high and dropped right into the audience. I saw amp-heads marked with “Dr. Dog”, a drumkit baring a colourful herringbone tapestry-type aesthetic, an additional percussive setup, pedals and switchboards, patch cables that roamed freely amongst it all, they even had a changeable-letter sign that had a light-up arrow pointing to them that read: “See you on the slopes”. Was that a metaphor for life? Are we all simply finding our way down the slopes of existence until we either slow down carefully or crash? Or maybe they were simply referencing an after party at Mont Tremblant. The lights dimmed, an unnerving set of organ keys chimed in, and the thickest poutine-loving gravy coated bass line shook the crowd as the rest of the band walked on stage. A slow kick-drum & snare along with a playfully eerie guitar lulled me into devilish territory. The raspy tone of Toby Leaman coursed through the room as they started the night with one of my favourites: The Beach.

The band is often labeled as psychedelic rock although their sound knows no genre-limiting boundaries. You can find hints of soul stemming from lo-fi pop hits to campfire indie-folk sing-alongs. All six members are multi-instrumental where Scott McMicken and Leaman are the frontmen vocalists. In addition to singing, Toby gives us some tasty bass lines and guitar progressions where McMicken plays lead guitar, bass, the banjo and various forms of keys. Zach Miller is the piano man but will occasionally bust some guitar licks or accordion pumps. Frank McElroy compliments mostly with rhythm guitar where Eric Slick controls time behind the drums. Some extra spice from Dimitri Manos is garnished atop through his use of electronics, effects and alternative percussive setups. Together they form the musically rooted Philadelphian act known as Dr. Dog.

These guys have been active for more than a decade now and are no strangers to being on TV:  Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Conan and even Yo Gabba Gabba. From carpenters to musicians, they finalized their most recent album “B-Room” only after having laboured together in renovating an old mill as a new studio space. Currently touring North America with Saint Rich, the two bands put together a switcheroo record called the Casual Freefall Tour EP where they cover each other’s songs. An interview that never happened was in the plan for Hot Soupe, but our dumbos journalist botched it at the last minute (sorry guys) although, I am glad that I did get to take my floppy ears to the concert.

Their solid hour and a half set at the Cabaret didn’t end before asking the audience for suggestions during the encore. Many had come from far and wide to see them that night. “We drove down for 7 hours today to see you guys!” exclaimed a group of fans as Scott and Toby smiled and thanked them. Everyone on the floor seemed to know every word to every song. Their last performance of the night actually ended with Scott sitting at the top of a ladder that he pulled out from behind onto the stage and with his guitar in the hands of a fan from the audience. “Who here plays guitar?” he had asked midway through the song as he picked one of the fans to come up and “play us a solo!!” I was cringing at how this was going to play out but the guy was just so happy to be on stage and seemed so relaxed (or high) while the rest of the band jammed out to what he was playing that they made it work! Hugs, high-fives and goodbyes were due as the band sent us away in the most feel-good of spirits. Till’ next time! Leaving the venue I nearly slipped down the icy road. See you on the slopes?
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