I am a planner. For example, I am that person you know who plans out nearly every moment of a vacation in advance. This is both because I have a lot of fun anticipating events and I have a mild obsession with curating experiences in way that ensures maximum enjoyment for my crew and myself. However, when the moments come, I typically do not feel obligated to stick to the script and happily break with the blueprint if unexpected possibilities emerge. I try to craft the flow, then I go with it.
This Thursday, I had a rare spontaneous musical experience. While I usually plan my music calendar months in advance (for the personal reasons stated above and for practical reasons: all good shows sell out quickly here in the Bay), I decided to walk down the hill to the Fox to see Dr. Dog on a whim and recommendation from a friend (Thanks Saltes!). I was familiar with their first three records but hadn’t kept up with them in recent years and never seen them in concert. It is also rare for me to see a band with whom I’m not intimately familiar: so many bands I love & so many shows here in the Bay, so little time & not enough money to see them all, so I’m relatively selective.
Plus, this day & age of free access to recorded music enables folks to be more picky about what shows they go to see. Unfortunately, I don’t know many people who go to a concert to discover a band or hear new music (outside of local acts playing cheap or free shows). Instead, they do that from the comfort of their home or apartment via Pandora, Spotify, etc. This technology makes it more common for listeners to turn themselves on to music/bands, rather than having friends or in-person experiences turning them on, as was more common in past generations. All hail the mix tape from a friend!
Anyways, I had a blast at the Dr. Dog show. When I have little or no expectations going into a concert, set flow tends to dictate my experience to a tremendous degree. They hit it out of the park in that department, fusing garage rock riffing with soaring, cut-it-loose anthemic sounds backed by soulful vocals and tight & punchy rhythm section, with off-the-cuff acoustic tunes sprinkled throughout. They evoked Wilco, the Black Crowes, and Oasis at different moments, all bands whom I adore. All three guitar players played off of each other with style & edge and brimmed with the “we’re having fun and like each other” stage energy a good crowd plays off of. Add in a a few masterful “big lyric” moments and you have a well-rounded, flat out fun show.
(“Big lyric”=a simple, mysterious, & often profound line, repeated and built upon through the song. Jeff Tweedy is the king of the “big lyric” in my book)
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of my experience was my lack of expectations and openness to whatever unfolded. I often feel trapped by my own expectations, in musical moments and otherwise. It is human nature – we live in a relative existence, our brains gravitate to comparisons, and it takes careful self-management to control this. I want to make it a habit to go to more concerts “in the blind”, relying on a recommendation and a cursory knowledge of the band’s music, no more. TV on the Radio (3/31, Fox Theater) is a solid candidate for the next time around.
I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite Dr. Dog songs, none of which I had heard before Thursday.