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Show Review Crush: Dr. Dog and The Cave Singers at The Paradise 4/3/09

April 7, 2009

While walking to The Paradise Friday night for the sold out Dr. Dog concert, my friend Lindsay and I made a five-dollar bet about who sang the country song, “This Kiss.” I’d mentioned it was a song I used to mockingly sing karaoke to when I was in high school and couldn’t remember who sang it. I thought it was Shania Twain. She corrected me, saying no, no, resolutely Faith Hill, and we shook on it. She clicked a few keys on her internet-receiving cell phone and, low and behold, she was right. I lost the bet, Lindsay telling me to never bet against her when it came to country music, she being a girl who embraced her Kentucky roots. I was going to be buying the first round of PBRs.

So, that being said, I’m not exactly an expert on pop country music or, to take that a step further, country music in general, including bluegrass, or Americana, or even indie bands that incorporate folk elements into their music. I grew up as a wannabe punk rocker trying to suppress any semblance of the Kentucky town I came from. Country was out. Three chord riffs and unintelligible lyrics were in.

But little did I know that the concert Lindsay and I were about to step into was rife with bluegrassy influences. As we moved through the venue, taking a pit stop at the restroom, I mentioned to Lindsay that I had liked the Dr. Dog album she’d burned for me, called We All Belong, thought it reminded me of Ben Folds with its piano parts or old and basic Bishop Allen (who I actually learned was playing the same night at The Middle East) with the intentional lo-fi recording technique. Some of it seemed influenced by 60s rock, and I loved singers’ high and desperate voices. And it didn’t remind me of country music. At all. Which was great.

True to my word, I bought the first round of tallboy PBRs while The Cave Singers (who I believe played second) rang out on stage. To my absolute and complete discredit as a person writing a show review, we missed the opening band, Golden Boots, which may have been intentional on my part after I’d checked out some of their music. Though Golden Boots seems to croon with conviction with poetic lyrics like, “Sing this song / as the day burns into ash / shadows get long / caught in a firey flash,” their music seemed too art rock for my tastes. The songs I’d found by them seemed well thought out, with many songs completely distinct from one another, but – warning: I’m about to sound like a prude – they seemed too weird. Something about the voice seemed flat or out of tune. And I could hear country influences in there.

So, if you like weird, sure, check out Golden Boots. If you don’t like weird, refrain.

But Seattle-based The Cave Singers looked like boys you’d go camping with, three of the members with gnarly beards. And, friends? They were playing some obvious bluegrass and country-influenced indie folk rock.

And y’know what? I didn’t hate it!

The Cave Singers are a great bop-your-head, move-your-feet live band, believing in the music they play by pounding along and dancing to their own songs. The crowd seemed to genuinely enjoy them, everyone bopping and yelping to the mellow rhythms. Classic folk-like repeating guitar was employed in many pieces with singer Pete Quirk’s melodic voice calling out over the instrumentals. Drummer Marty Lund’s pounding rhythms highly complimented these songs, even sometimes employing the jimbay and (gasp!) a washboard. And yes, there was a harmonica. And they even incorporated the mouth piano. And a maraca. My eyes have been opened up to the wonders of folk and bluegrass with this indie band.

Another round of PBR tallboys after a short cigarette break brought us Dr. Dog. Lindsay and I, in classic show-going fashion, bobbed and weaved our way through the packed crowd to the front. Dreamy, toy-like music played over the stage before the band came on, the scent of incense perfuming the dance floor. Upon entering, I saw these boys, too, seemed like guys you’d go camping with. Apparently the unkempt hipster beard is alive and thriving.

The crowd expected a lot from Dr. Dog with the majority of show-goers singing along to every song and very nearly knocking me over with their dancing.

I have to say that I found myself a little disappointed with them, though. While they had excellent stage presence, spinning and bouncing to their songs, playing their folky and doo-wop style of indie rock, all the songs seemed to run together. This wasn’t like the album I’d heard – I recognized a few songs, but not many – and many songs sounded the same. What they rocked in stage performance they lacked in amusement for a girl like me, only semi-familiar with their music. However, Lindsay, generally a Dr. Dog fan, was disappointed too, feeling as if they had more oomph in towns she’d previously seen them. We were so disappointed, in fact, that we left the show early.

Though die-hard Dr. Dog fans will probably disagree, The Cave Singers outshone Dr. Dog and, beyond that? I may still revolt against the likes of Shania and Faith, but the Kentucky girl in me finally embraced some bluegrass and folk.

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