Dr. Dog | Photo by Laura Jane Brubaker | laurajanebrubaker.tumblr.com

Only Dr. Dog could play for a sold-out crowd of 3500 fans and make it feel as cozy as a living room show. Kicking off a two-night stand at the Electric Factory last night, the band blew through a 23-song set showcasing its fine new outing B-Room – the band’s eighth – while also skipping across what bassist Toby Leaman called “the proverbial vaults.”  Moreover, there was a comfort level in the air that usually dissipates for artists the larger the venues get and the longer they perform. But for these Philly rock and roll stalwarts, the hometown show still feels like home.

There were the Philly friends they brought onstage – Rob Berliner of Hoots and Hellmouth, who sat in on keys for “Love,” and an unidentified woman who strummed the acoustic guitar part on their cover of “Heart it Races” by Architecture in Helsinki (a cover that, impressively, has surpassed the original in recognizablility). Leaman sent “Nellie” out to his wife Sarah and their baby daughter, before joking that he’d also like to dedicate “Shadow People” to “my beautiful baby Scott McMicken. Look at him, he’s walking now! It’s amazing.” Scott responded by hobbling around his mic, toddler style, before kicking into the song’s instantly recognizable opening chords and opening up a sea of voices.

That’s the other thing – the singalong / clapalong rapport these guys Dr. Dog has developed over time. Fans might not necessarily think about it while listening to the albums, but they somewhere subconsciously know all the words to “Jackie Wants a Black Eye” or “Ain’t It Strange” or “The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer,” and quite likely sang themselves hoarse last night. At least I did anyway.

While the set wasn’t without imperfections – a guitar lead that went awry in “Oh No,” scattered vocal pitchiness on “Love” – those imperfections just reinforced that Dr. Dog is a real and approachable band of everyday people, in addition to being a band with an outstanding live energy.

Other observations:

“Too Weak To Ramble,” Leaman’s solo acoustic sad-man ballad on B-Room, was fleshed out into a soulful full-band gospel jam.

There was an instrumental number mid-set that might be the deepest of deep jams for these guys, or it might be a cover; it sounded like Stan Getz. They also dusted off their debut Toothbrush EP for an outstanding “Jealous Man.” (UPDATE: per Eric Slick and commenters below and on Facebook, the instrumental was also from Toothbrush. It’s called “Say Ahhh.” And I still say sounded like Stan Getz. -JV)

A great McMicken quote after the rousing “don’t give it up” coda of “My Friend” – “Every band should build a part into a song where they rock super hard on an E chord. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Per Instagram’s geotag, some dude in the crowd got butt naked for reasons unclear.

Leaman dove into the crowd at the end of the main set, hugged fans and raced along the barricade hi-fiving those in the front row – again, making the Electric Factory feel like a house party. Dr. Dog returns to its stage tonight for a second sold out show.

Lancaster County wavemakers The Districts played a very well-received opening set, hitting on their just-released self-titled EP (out on Fat Possum on Tuesday) as well as a few other scattered cuts – some new, some old. “Funeral Beds” sounded remarkable, the closing “Young Blood” – the epic number that wrapped up their XPoNential Music Festival set – was raging, and the guys seemed very much at home on the Electric Factory stage. Hopefully it won’t be too long till we see them there again.

Distant Light
That Old Black Hole
The Beach
Ain’t It Strange
Broken Heart
Shadow People
Instrumental Say Ahhh
These Days
The Truth
Too Weak To Ramble
Heavy Light
Heart it Races
The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer
Oh No

Worst Trip
How Long Must I Wait
Jealous Man
My Friend
Jackie Wants A Black Eye