Winter 2020 Tour
Winter 2020 Tour
This event is 21 and over.
$35.00 – General Admission
$125.00 – 4-Day General Admission
*plus applicable service fees
Tickets available at The Independent box office (628 Divisadero, SF) with no service charge.
All doors & show times subject to change.
Add this event to your calendar:
“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?
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Michael Nau crafts reflective indie rock tinged with folk and psychedelic influences. He was known for leading the like-minded projects Page France and Cotton Jones in the mid-2000s to early 2010s before beginning to record under his own name in 2016. Though his prior solo releases also featured some version of a backing band, 2018’s Michael Nau & the Mighty Thread rendered his weekender tunes with a more full-band sound.
A native of Maryland, Nau formed his first band in Baltimore in 2004. Calling themselves Page France, Nau (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Whitney McGraw (keyboards, glockenspiel, vocals), Jasen Reeder (bass), and Clinton Jones (drums) released three albums of thoughtful, melodic indie rock in the vein of acts such as Death Cab for Cutie and the Decemberists, beginning with 2005’s Come, I’m a Lion. The band signed with Suicide Squeeze for 2006’s Hello, Dear Wind and 2007’s Page France and the Family Telephone before Nau and McGraw formed Cotton Jones Basket Ride. Establishing a style-blending psych-folk that would become more closely associated with Nau, that project released a self-titled EP before shortened its name to Cotton Jones. Cotton Jones’ full-length debut, The River Strumming, arrived via St. Ives in 2008, and the duo reunited with Suicide Squeeze for 2009’s Paranoid Cocoon and 2010’s Tall Hours in the Glowstream as well as the EP Sit Beside Your Vegetables, released in 2011.
Nau went solo for next recording effort, though his solo debut also featured McGraw — by then Nau’s wife — among its many guests. Built from a selection of several years’ worth of written material that was never fully realized, Mowing was issued by Suicide Squeeze in early 2016. Full Time Hobby gave it a European release later in the year, and his second solo effort, Some Twist, followed in June 2017, also on Full Time Hobby and Suicide Squeeze. The Load EP, a collection of songs that Nau didn’t think belonged on Some Twist, was issued three months later. In 2018, he returned with Michael Nau & the Mighty Thread. Offering more of his dreamy, reverb-sweetened indie pop/rock but with a more robust presence, it was recorded in a Burlington, Vermont apartment with more than a half-dozen contributors, including guitarist Benny Yurco, keyboardist Will Brown, and drummer Graeme Gibson