Dr. Dog’s tour bus has been crisscrossing North America since the February release of the band’s seventh album, “Be the Void.”
The members also played its meticulously-crafted, deliriously-melodic material during a taping of the iconic PBS program “Austin City Limits.” You can stream the appearance at http://video.pbs.org/video/2280492902 or check http://acltv.com for local broadcast dates.
The Philadelphia act headlined most concerts with a couple opening spots for Wilco and the Avett Brothers and 13 music festivals appearances including Lollapalooza, Forecastle, Outside Lands, Pickathon and UTOPiAfest.
I checked in with vocalist, bassist and songwriter Toby Leaman to find out about the lessons learned and good times that were had during Dr. Dog’s festival experiences as well as its recently-released EP, “Wild Race.”
Are your preparations different for playing at a festival versus a headlining date for a crowd that’s there to specifically see you?
Toby Leaman: There’s not much. Sometimes, it’s a festival where we’ll be one of the few rock bands and we’ll try to tailor our set to be a little mellower. Usually, that doesn’t even work (slight laugh). At a festival you have to judge that fact but as far as the setlist, it’s pretty standard. But you don’t have the time. It’s all condensed.
Has there been any time where you’re playing a festival and you get the feeling that the audience isn’t getting it?
TL: (laughs) No, that hasn’t happened in awhile. We’ve toured so much as an opening band that I feel like we’re pretty good at figuring at what the crowd is responding to. Even if they’ve never heard of us, I feel like we’ve got that down pat.
Having done so many festivals last summer do you have any survivals tips – Do’s and Don’ts?
TL: Yeah. Hardly any festivals give you a soundcheck. So, it’s always good to know the name of the monitor guy. That’s probably the most important thing because you’re gonna have to need him fast.
Also, festivals run behind and people have to cut their sets short. Sometimes, it’s hard to get a length out of somebody to tell you how long you’re actually playing.
This is one that always bothered me about festivals. They’re always on a time frame, but a lot of festivals don’t have clocks, which bothers me when onstage. “Oh, you’ve got ‘til 9:48.” I’m not wearing a watch. Maybe the trick might be wearing a watch ‘cause a lot of festivals they come up, “You’ve only got five minutes.”
Do you like playing festivals?
TL: Yeah. I like the chaotic elements of them. Sometimes it’s for the worst. You get onstage and the stage sounds horrible or if we’re flying we won’t get our gear and then you have 15 minutes to figure it out. But, for the most part I like it.
We’ve been having a lot of rain recently at festivals, so that’s kind of a pain. Our tour bus got stuck in the mud in Texas at the UTOPiAfest. It was in the middle of nowhere but it was a big farm. So, a couple guys came down with tractors and pulled it out.
Are you able to have fun at these festivals or are you too busy getting ready?
TL: We have a good time. I always like to see what other bands are up to. It’s easy to see bands at a festival. At home I don’t feel like going out. We might have heard of these bands and, just curious, go check it out for a couple songs and not feel obligated [to see the whole set].
Was there one festival that stood out this year?
TL: I was really psyched at the Lollapalooza performance. We did that two years back and I remember feeling kinda tepid about it. But this one I was really psyched about it. The crowd was great.
Have you played any festivals outside of the United States?
TL: We’ve done a couple in Spain. One of my favorite ones was in northern Spain where they speak Basque (2009’s Azkena Rock Festival). It was great. It was a strange bill – us, the Zombies, Molly Hatchet, the Black Crowes, Dan Auerbach, Alice Cooper… Never occurred to me to see Alice Cooper or Molly Hatchet but they were both great. Very cool festival. That one was small. The other one in Spain was bigger in Barcelona, Primavera. That felt more like Lollapalooza.
Generally, it’s the same vibe. Most of the bands are American anyway, outside of the fact that you’re in it in another country.
Last thing. Tell me about the “Wild Race” EP. Are the five tracks ones that didn’t make “Be the Void?”
TL: They’re all from the same sessions. All of them were close to making the record, too. They were completely mixed and mastered. They were there for the taking. For whatever reason they didn’t make the record, not because we didn’t think they were good enough but because we wanted a certain fluidity.
I’m psyched about it. They sound great. Actually, just listened to it for the first time put together like that, and I was really into it.