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Dr. Dog loosens up the State Fair's wooden free stage

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music Updated: August 28, 2014 - 12:21 AM

It only took two songs before the stiff seating policy at the State Fair’s biggest free stage was thrown out the window Wednesday night at the Leinie Lodge bandshell.

Cult-loved Philly band Dr. Dog -- which returns to the same Space Needle-shadowed venue Thursday at 8:30 p.m. -- kept its swarm of 2,000-plus fans seated through the slow-grooving opening tune “Ain’t It Strange,” but bodies started to move and stand and sway during the peppier second tune, “These Days.” When co-leader Scott McMicken peeled off the opening lines of third song “Shadow People,” the crowd said a collective “screw it” and immediately poured into the aisles around the band shell’s wood benches.

Fans spent the rest of the 90-minute performance crowded around the stage and dancing in the rows, as if the venue was a star-lit, breeze-caressed First Avenue with Mini-Donut beer instead of the place where Blood, Sweat & Leftovers and Creed's Scott Stapp played earlier in the fair’s run.

Hardly a typical free show at the fair, Wednesday’s concert was actually pretty standard as Dr. Dog shows go. The playfully soulful, bouncy, occasionally jammy sextet plucked highlights from throughout the last five of its seven albums, going back to 2007’s “Ain’t It Strange” on up to “The Truth,” “Too Weak to Ramble” and “Broken Heart” from last year’s rather wild collection “B-Room.”

The band messed around with some of its best-known tunes. It kicked off “That Old Black Hole” as a reggae-baked slow jam before revving it up to a dizzying rocker. The pre-encore finale “Lonesome” was also given a psychedelic edge. Best of the night was “Heavy Light,” which the band broke down mid-song into a lush little jam before building it back up beautifully into an ecstatic climax.

Apparently, the members of the group had partaken in their fair share of fair fun, too. “You got a good thing going on here,” singer/bassist Toby Leaman raved at show’s end. McMicken had seemingly eaten so much before the show he was bursting at the seams. After finishing “Heavy Light,” he confessed to the crowd, “I realized about eight bars into that song that my pants were unbuttoned.”

It was that kind of a let-yourself-go night of entertainment. Thursday's show should be a hoot, too. Here’s Wednesday’s set list:

Ain’t It Strange / These Days / Shadow People / Nellie / The Truth / The Beach / Heavy Light / Broken Heart / County Line / Shame, Shame / That Old Black Hole / Stranger / Too Weak to Ramble / Jackie Wants a Black Eye / Heart It Races / The Rabbit, the Bat & the Reindeer / Lonesome  ENCORE: Oh No

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