A Weekend At The Fox Theater: STS9 and Dr. Dog
On any given night, if you’re walking down Telegraph towards 20th, you’ll be greeted by a line of people anxiously awaiting some musical performance. A slew of scalpers discreetly inching closer and closer, “need tickets?” The Fox Theater is a staple in the Oakland community, where they bring in some of the biggest musical acts around the bay area. There aren’t many times that I don’t see a name that I know very well on their billboard. I’m also lucky enough to have found myself living just a 15-minute walk away and lazy enough to never have attended a show there before this weekend.
Seeing both Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Dr. Dog consecutively – the 29th and 30th of January – on that billboard that I walk past every day on my trek home from work was reminiscent of an angel’s song. I haven’t seen STS9 since that fateful night at Bonnaroo 2011 where a cup of kool-aid vodka put me in a Sound-Tribe trance. My friend still recalls me telling her to, “leave me with the lights and sounds” as I lay on the grass, eyes closed in a euphoric daze that usually only comes from festival freedom. On the other hand, I have never seen Dr. Dog, but I do have fond memories of parking lots and late nights, blasting ‘the Breeze’ into a Long Island night.
Friday came with little warning, and I found myself scrambling to get back from work in time to eat dinner, drink half a bottle of wine, get ready and get to the Fox in time. I made it with minutes to spare, donning my media pass with a smile. Walking through the doors into the theater I became immediately overwhelmed by the lights that were passing through the crowd in a brilliance of rainbows. During the first set, I found myself wandering through the crowds of people grooving, arms up, just waves of limbs flowing. The lasers reflecting off the gold walls and the Buddha-esque statues standing watch over the crowd.
During the set break, I went outside to mingle where I could openly talk to people about their experience. I met a girl who jumped through hoops to get into the concert; her utility belt adorned with pins of all sorts.
“What made you come tonight?”
“Dude! My friend told me. We hopped over from San Francisco. I lost him outside, but I got in. This is the second night in a row I’m seeing them.”
Quite a few people had been following them since the beginning of their tour. The night before, STS9 was in Tahoe and those who partied too hard had such a good time they made that 3-hour journey to Oakland, just for another shot. After the set break, another magical hour and a half of dancing and zoning out to the ambient sounds and intricate light shows ensued.
I found a stable spot off to the left, right up close and that is where I spent the rest of the night, just being, which is the beauty of Sound Tribe. I can’t recall exactly what songs they played and in what order, but I can tell you that from the fields of Tennessee, surrounded by a hundred thousand other people in the more intimate Fox, the camaraderie exists. Even outside the venue post-show, the energy continued with a saxophone and a makeshift drum set providing more dancing, this time through waves of bacon wrapped hot-dog smoke.
Saturday night found itself in a similar rush. An old intern that I worked with for a day called to tell me she was heading to the theater as I was coming down from a morning mountain hike. My legs ached at the thought of more walking, more dancing and the social interaction that follows a few hours in the woods. Trudging on I grabbed my pass and went inside for night number two.
The crowd was insane as Hop Along, an indie-folk rock band from Philly, opened up for Dr. Dog. Navigating those same narrow passageways that I was in the night before, there was a new vibe, packed in a different way than for Sound Tribe. Where everyone found space to dance and zone out to the jamming that STS9 provided the first night, this time, the crowd squeezed into every crevice towards the stage eager to bop and sway along within an arm’s length of the band.
Dr. Dog nailed it. Their performance was A+, their mix of old and new songs was perfectly blended, and I found myself struggling to “be here now” and take photos and notes at the same time. The song ‘Nellie’ has great significance in my life, as there was a time at a house in Austin, TX, while my friends were off recording their own music in the backyard studio, I found myself lying on the cold, tiled floor listening to ‘B-Room.’ And, as unimportant a moment as it may seem, when you’re on the road, it’s the little time spent stagnant that really balances you out.
When I heard the first chord I almost lost my mind in nostalgia. Yet, there I was in a new city, with a familiar song being played in real time. Everyone in the audience was singing every song, swaying and jumping in the way that a good indie-rock band can make you do. Dr. Dog even graced us with a few songs from their upcoming album, ‘Psychedelic Swamp‘ which will be released February 5.
The Fox Theater provides a beautiful backdrop for artists of all genres to come through and entertain and connect with their audience. All in all, my weekend at the Fox was filled with a lot of good music, and a lot of self-reflection.