Wednesday, Oct. 7

When great acts play undersized venues, magic can happen. It's the kind of thing people talk about in the streets after the show, and the kind of experience you wish your friends could've witnessed. Aside from the bummer all-ages setup (corralling anyone with a beer into a fairly small area nowhere near the stage), this sold-out show brought together a peaceful and progressive group of people to see two exceedingly talented bands.

I knew nothing about opening act Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard before the show; it turns out they are pleasantly impossible to define. That might make them difficult to market, but it made for an outstanding Congress debut. They are punk-oriented, witty, garage-y, folksy, angst-y, sarcastic and alt-country-ish. Jeffrey played guitar and sang; his brother Jack enthusiastically manhandled a bass and added vocal harmonies; David Beauchamp rounded out the trio behind the drum kit. There was a bit of the Kimya Dawson-esque talk-singing thing happening; the storytelling was insightful and, at times, sidesplitting. Parts of their performance were quiet, requiring the packed audience to collectively lean in to hear the good news—and the very next song would require earplugs, a helmet and a mouth guard. Despite the polarity in styles, it wasn't the clusterfuck it could've been. The normally stoic Congress crowd offered a hearty, congratulatory round of applause at the close of the set. JL&J haven't yet planned their next tour, but I have every intention of being first in line when tickets go on sale.

Donning an array of knitted hats and oversized sunglasses, Philadelphia's Dr. Dog seemed to be paying their respects to Tucson coming off of a seemingly endless summer and heading into the start of chillier evenings. They've played annually in the Old Pueblo for at least three years. Toby Leaman (bass) and Scott McMicken (lead guitar) took turns on lead vocals, with everyone in the band contributing to their terrific signature harmonies. As an added bonus, Dimitri Manos of Tucson's Golden Boots (who are Dr. Dog's Park the Van labelmates) played drums. Their catchy, clever psychedelic stomp-alongs were received as kindly as ever. Next time, a bigger venue will be in order.

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