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This Month Only: World Cafe free download mania!

Photo by Nicky Devine
Photo by Nicky Devine
This month, and this month only, WXPN is making 20 World Cafe performances available for free. Cafe host and producer David Dye dug into the past year’s archives and each week will release five new songs. The only catch is all 20 of them will disappear on February 28th at midnight. So get ‘em while you can and tell your friends. Enjoy the music.

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Rainbows, sunglasses, action! Dr. Dog’s second night of loose vibes at the Electric Factory

Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com
Photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.tumblr.com

Rainbows, sunglasses, action! PA natives Dr. Dog took the stage for the second of two nights before a sold-out Electric Factory crowd, touring in support of their 2013 release of B-Room. Dr. Dog is a band of dichotomies: they’re tight, but radiate loose vibes; they rock, but in a delicate kind of way; they’re passionate, but don’t take themselves too seriously. What’s more, bassist Toby Leaman and guitarist Scott McMicken share the role of lead vocalist; Leaman’s soulful, passionate timbre acting as somewhat of an antithesis to McMicken’s idiosyncratic sound.

After opening up their set with a relatively vanilla performance of their latest sweet-like-candy track, “The Truth”, Leaman showed off his classically rock-and-roll voice and rollicking bass line on “These Days”. For fans who came with the intention of dancing and clapping along, the latest and greatest “Broken Heart” featured some boiling hot energy and one of those signature Dr. Dog double guitar solos that we all so adore (for which we have but Steely Dan to thank). The next three tunes were a stylistic trifecta, jumping from Beatles-y rock goodness (“Ain’t It Strange”) to a first-rate soulful blues (“The Beach”) to pure jammed out psychedelia (“Say Ahh”).

(Read more: Our review and photos from night one of Dr. Dog at the Electric Factory.

Remember that bit about loose vibes? Unfortunately, in what I believe to be an effort to be that feel-good band Dr. Dog aspires to be, certain songs ended up being so loose as to unravel. “Twilight”, whose true identity is a subdued ‘60s psychedelic ballad, simply sounded out of place and poorly rehearsed. “Worst Trip”, which channels the likes of George Harrison on the recording, was, to put it in a word, noisy, and I couldn’t quite appreciate the true greatness of another one of those killer double guitar solos. All that said, Dr. Dog still puts on a hell of a show. “Lonesome” was an all-out party, fans greeting the band with well-syncopated “Hey’s” and Leaman letting out his inner rockstar, leaping into the hands of audience members to crowd surf. They even brought out the much-beloved Philly Phanatic (who was probably a better dancer than most of us) for “Oh No” during the encores.

Joining Dr. Dog was Saint Rich, the up-and-coming New Jersey residents whose rock solid riffs rival those of the great Keith Richards. What these guys lacked in rainbow light shows and colorful getups, they made up for with some the best stage presence in the game, frontman Christian Peslak climbing to the edge of the Electric Factory balcony and mingling with fans. All told, if you’re into rock, blues, prog, psychedelia (or just about anything else that emerged from the 20th century stylistically), and you don’t mind some high-voltage stage antics and rainbow beams of light flooding the air in all directions, I’d say a Dr. Dog show is the best place you could be.

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All In It Together: Dr. Dog kicks off night one in its nightclub-sized living room

Dr. Dog | Photo by Laura Jane Brubaker | laurajanebrubaker.tumblr.com
Dr. Dog | Photo by Laura Jane Brubaker | laurajanebrubaker.tumblr.com

Only Dr. Dog could play for a sold-out crowd of 3500 fans and make it feel as cozy as a living room show. Kicking off a two-night stand at the Electric Factory last night, the band blew through a 23-song set showcasing its fine new outing B-Room - the band’s eighth – while also skipping across what bassist Toby Leaman called “the proverbial vaults.”  Moreover, there was a comfort level in the air that usually dissipates for artists the larger the venues get and the longer they perform. But for these Philly rock and roll stalwarts, the hometown show still feels like home.

There were the Philly friends they brought onstage – Rob Berliner of Hoots and Hellmouth, who sat in on keys for “Love,” and an unidentified woman who strummed the acoustic guitar part on their cover of “Heart it Races” by Architecture in Helsinki (a cover that, impressively, has surpassed the original in recognizablility). Leaman sent “Nellie” out to his wife Sarah and their baby daughter, before joking that he’d also like to dedicate “Shadow People” to “my beautiful baby Scott McMicken. Look at him, he’s walking now! It’s amazing.” Scott responded by hobbling around his mic, toddler style, before kicking into the song’s instantly recognizable opening chords and opening up a sea of voices.

That’s the other thing – the singalong / clapalong rapport these guys Dr. Dog has developed over time. Fans might not necessarily think about it while listening to the albums, but they somewhere subconsciously know all the words to “Jackie Wants a Black Eye” or “Ain’t It Strange” or “The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer,” and quite likely sang themselves hoarse last night. At least I did anyway.

While the set wasn’t without imperfections – a guitar lead that went awry in “Oh No,” scattered vocal pitchiness on “Love” – those imperfections just reinforced that Dr. Dog is a real and approachable band of everyday people, in addition to being a band with an outstanding live energy.

Other observations:

“Too Weak To Ramble,” Leaman’s solo acoustic sad-man ballad on B-Room, was fleshed out into a soulful full-band gospel jam.

There was an instrumental number mid-set that might be the deepest of deep jams for these guys, or it might be a cover; it sounded like Stan Getz. They also dusted off their debut Toothbrush EP for an outstanding “Jealous Man.” (UPDATE: per Eric Slick and commenters below and on Facebook, the instrumental was also from Toothbrush. It’s called “Say Ahhh.” And I still say sounded like Stan Getz. -JV)

A great McMicken quote after the rousing “don’t give it up” coda of “My Friend” – “Every band should build a part into a song where they rock super hard on an E chord. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Per Instagram’s geotag, some dude in the crowd got butt naked for reasons unclear.

Leaman dove into the crowd at the end of the main set, hugged fans and raced along the barricade hi-fiving those in the front row – again, making the Electric Factory feel like a house party. Dr. Dog returns to its stage tonight for a second sold out show.

Lancaster County wavemakers The Districts played a very well-received opening set, hitting on their just-released self-titled EP (out on Fat Possum on Tuesday) as well as a few other scattered cuts – some new, some old. “Funeral Beds” sounded remarkable, the closing “Young Blood” – the epic number that wrapped up their XPoNential Music Festival set – was raging, and the guys seemed very much at home on the Electric Factory stage. Hopefully it won’t be too long till we see them there again.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Brazilian Girls at Underground Arts, Eleni Mandell at Union Transfer, Arctic Splash at Kung Fu Necktie and more

Photo by Michael Weintrob, Courtesy of facebook.com/braziliangirls
Photo by Michael Weintrob, Courtesy of facebook.com/braziliangirls
New York-based electric dance band Brazilian Girls play tonight at Underground Arts. The band’s fans are anxiously awaiting the release of its newest album – it’s acclaimed New York City came out six years ago. After taking a brief hiatus, Brazilian Girls are currently touring the East Coast and making a stop in Montreal. The 21+ show will start at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets here and check out the band’s video for “Don’t Stop” below.

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Watch Dr. Dog’s new music video for “Distant Light”

Photo by Nicky Devine
Photo by Nicky Devine

For the second time in recent months, the members of Dr. Dog get cozy with cereal in a music video in today’s just-released clip for “Distant Light.” (See also: Eric Slick’s surreal vision quest in the “Release” video). The band plays The Electric Factory twice this weekend: Saturday’s show with Saint Rich is sold out, but tickets still remain for Friday night’s show with The Districts. More info at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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Watch Dr. Dog perform “The Truth” for Out of Town Films

Photo by Nicky Devine
Photo by Nicky Devine

In the new video from Out of Town Films featuring Dr. Dog, the local videographers sat down with Scott McMicken and his bandmates to talk about clip’s featured song.  ”The Truth,” taken from the band’s new B Room LP, is one of the more contemplative and slow-paced songs on the record, as well as one of the oldest songs (McMicken says he wrote it about three or four years ago).  Watch the latest collaboration Dr. Dog and OOTF below.  Dr. Dog plays two nights at the Electric Factory this weekend; tickets and information can be found here.

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The Districts gain more recognition before embarking on tour

Photo by Eric Ashleigh
Photo by Eric Ashleigh

Philadelphia’s own The Districts are only four days away from releasing their self-titled EP after signing on with Fat Possum Records this past November. The label is famous for supporting other indie-rockers like The Black Keys, Youth Lagoon, Tennis and many more.

Yesterday, Rolling Stone gave The Districts a little recognition and allowed audiences a peak into the the full EP.

Songs “Lyla,” “Funeral Beds” and “Long Distance” are nothing new to the band’s fans since the tunes are remastered off of an earlier self-released album. However, the two newest songs, “Rocking Chair” and “Stay Open” offer two different, but welcome feels to the EP.

“Rocking Chair” is the kind of song a sea of indie-rockers could jump up and down to, with its in-your-face build ups and catchy lyrics. “Stay Open” is slower-paced for the band, but still true to The Districts’ sound.

The Districts are about to embark on its first national tour with White Denim in February, but before that, they’re playing a free release show in-store on Jan. 28 at A.K.A Music. Just a few days later, The Districts will be joining other Philly natives Dr. Dog as the band’s opening act at The Electric Factory on Jan. 31.

Listen to The Districts’ self-titled EP here, and stream “Funeral Beds” below.