DR. DOG With Special Guest Son Little

Downstairs Room at White Oak Music Hall

Houston, TX


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Event Details

This show is ALL AGES

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Doors open at 7:00pm


  • DR. DOG

  • Son Little

All General Admission Tickets are Standing Room only

"I feel like I'm in a totally new band right now," says Dr. Dog guitarist/singer Scott
McMicken. It's a bold declaration considering he's been co-fronting the beloved indie
outfit for a decade-and-a-half, but it cuts straight to the heart of the intense and
transformative experience behind the group's brilliant new album, ‘Critical Equation.'
The most infectious and adventurous collection Dr. Dog has laid to tape yet, the record
was born from a journey of doubt and discovery, a heavy, sometimes painful reckoning
that ultimately brought the band closer together with more strength and clarity than
ever before. Call it an existential awakening, call it a dark night of the soul, whatever
it was, it fueled one of the most fertile creative periods in the group's history and
forced them to confront that timeless question: what do we really want?
"We'd been touring and making records for our entire adult lives, and I think we just
needed to take a step back," reflects bassist/singer Toby Leaman, who splits fronting
and songwriting duties with McMicken. "It was important for all of us to figure out if
we were actually doing what we wanted to be doing, or if we were just letting
momentum carry us down this path we'd always been on."

The path to ‘Critical Equation' was an unusual one for the Philadelphia five-piece
(McMicken, Leaman, guitarist Frank McElroy, keyboardist Zach Miller, and drummer
Eric Slick), and it stretches all the way back to 2014, when the band completed work
on an album titled ‘Abandoned Mansion.' Instead of releasing the record the following
year as planned, they temporarily shelved it in favor of an opportunity to partner with
the celebrated Pig Iron Theatre Company on a reimagining of ‘The Psychedelic
Swamp,' a long lost McMicken-Leaman collaboration that actually predated Dr. Dog's
debut album. The resulting theatrical/concert performance premiered at the Philly
Fringe Festival, and the accompanying LP earned rave reviews, with NPR hailing it as
"a concept album that wanders and sprawls to absorbing effect" and Under The Radar
swooning for its "unmistakably sublime harmonies." Despite representing something of
a Rosetta Stone for Dr. Dog, the album also marked a major departure, with elaborate
production and experimental arrangements that broke from the simpler, more
emotionally direct studio sound they'd been gravitating towards over the years. Rather
than the start of a new chapter, ‘The Psychedelic Swamp' seemed to symbolize the
closing of a circle, which made it an ideal catalyst for some serious soul searching.
"We were all really satisfied to close 14 years of history by finally revisiting ‘The
Psychedelic Swamp' and giving it our full attention," says McMicken, "but I think
stepping out of our natural evolution definitely taxed us. We decided we should put
‘Abandoned Mansion' out and just go our separate ways for six or seven months."
They released the album with little fanfare, posting it to Bandcamp as a benefit for
the Southern Poverty Law Center and walking away without any touring or press for a
much-needed break. That time apart proved to be invaluable, as it offered each
bandmember the opportunity to reflect and reevaluate, to challenge and confront
their conceptions of the group and its possibilities, to ask the hard questions of
themselves and each other. They'd achieved remarkable success-multiple Top 50
albums; television performances on Letterman, Fallon, Conan, and more; critical
acclaim everywhere from the NY Times to Rolling Stone; massive festival appearances
around the world; major tours with the likes of My Morning Jacket, M Ward, and The
Lumineers; countless sold-out headline shows-but none of it mattered if they couldn't
answer that nagging question: what do we really want?

Some bandmembers used the break to grow their families, others to explore different
artistic avenues. McMicken and Leaman each penned a mountain of songs on their
own, inspired by the liberty of writing without expectation or responsibility. When the
band finally reunited to begin work on ‘Critical Equation,' they did so with fresh
perspective. The distance had ironically brought them closer together, helping them
learn to communicate in more honest and open ways. As they worked through the
challenges and growing pains inherent in rewiring the foundation of any relationship,
they found themselves more excited and inspired than ever before.

"We had to tear it apart in order to rebuild it," explains McMicken. "At first, we'd just
tiptoe into things and gently peel back a layer, but once we'd peeled back that layer,
we'd find that we'd accessed an even deeper layer, and again and again. Eventually
we got to the deepest, most honest part of ourselves."

Typically, Dr. Dog would record themselves in their own studio, but one of the
revelations from their break was that that brand of insularity had begun to feel more
limiting than empowering. With that in mind, they packed their bags and headed to LA
to record ‘Critical Equation' with producer/engineer Gus Seyffert (Beck, Michael
Kiwanuka), who served as something of a group therapist, whether he knew it or not.
"One of the big conclusions we came to was that we've got to blow this whole scene
open," explains Leaman. "We needed somebody to be the boss, somebody to be in
charge of us in the studio. It's not the way we've ever worked before, but we really
trusted Gus."

One listen to ‘Critical Equation' and it's clear that the decision paid off in spades.
Recorded to 16-track analog tape, the album opens with the equally lilting and
ominous "Listening In," a track which pairs Dr. Dog's signature blend of quirky 60's pop
and fuzzy 70's rock with Seyffert's willingness to tear their songs wide open. On "Go
Out Fighting," a vintage Hammond organ gives way to blistering electric guitar as
McMicken sings a mantra of perseverance, while the dreamy "Buzzing In The Light"
finds Leaman contemplating the mysteries of universe with gorgeously layered
harmonies, and the slow-burning title track strips away everything but the vitality of
the band's live show in its rawest form.

"The take on the record was our first take in the studio," says McMicken. "When we
finished playing the song, everybody could feel that something special just happened."
Despite the weighty self-reflection that led to its creation, ‘Critical Equation' is
perhaps the most playful entry in the Dr. Dog catalog. Even tracks that grapple with
heartbreak-like the utterly contagious "True Love" and insanely catchy "Heart
Killer"-are full of joy and humor, while the shuffling "Under The Wheels" finds a
freedom and a lightness in surrendering to forces outside of your control. The record
closes on a note of pure optimism with "Coming Out Of The Darkness," a song
McMicken wrote at the end of the band's break, just as they were first beginning to
discuss the future.

"It's singular among all the songs I've ever written because it's completely
functional," he explains. "It exists to take you from wherever you are and leave you
somewhere better, and that felt poetically perfect for this phase of the band."
In the end, it turns out that what the group really wanted was fairly simple: to make
music that they loved with their friends, and to have fun doing it. Sometimes the
simplest things can become more complicated than we ever imagined, but the band's
journey here proves that they're always worth fighting for. It's a rare thing to be able
to say in this life, but with ‘Critical Equation,' Dr. Dog got exactly what they wanted
and a whole lot more.

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Event Location


White Oak Music Hall

2915 N Main St, Houston, TX, 77009

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DR. DOG / Son Little