Thursday, August 31, 2017

Live Music Review: A Giant Dog brought their new 'Toy' to Hotel Vegas

By now, most Austin music fans have heard of A Giant Dog (AGD) or sister act Sweet Spirit. What many folks may not know is how underrated A Giant Dog is due to the local popularity of their larger, more irreverent, glam rock act. After all, Mayor Adler proclaimed them his favorite band earlier this year.  If A Giant Dog's standout pervious Merge Records release, “Pile” didn’t convince you the five-piece garage punks aren’t headed for stardom (or at least a cult following), the more commercially accessible, “Toy” (released September 25) will.

 As good as those two recordings are, their live show has the kind of raw, visceral energy that would stop even the most prolific of the guitar "rock is dead" naysayers to rescind their claims and admit rock n roll never died. In fact, we would argue hard-charging guitar rock is on the upswing. Just look at the list of acts similar to AGD on Spotify. They’re all guitar-dominated bands at their core.

Friday evening’s album release at Hotel Vegas was moved up a day to mitigate possible weather issues from Hurricane Harvey’s approach early Saturday morning. With the wind whipping up and storm clouds approaching, A Giant Dog turned in a superlative 20-song set in front of an enthusiastic, sold-out back patio crowd following a rare opening garage-rock set from the previously on-hiatus Austin trio, HARLEM.

Lead vocalist Sabrina Ellis appeared on stage in a trademark leotard with fishnets pulled up over the bottom half, a hood and red, lace-up Doc Martens. The band led off the performance with new track, “Photograph”. It is fitting this song is the first track on the new album as it exemplifies the group’s transition from garage-punks to allowing their glam rock side out amid Andrew Cashen and Andy Bauer’s typically loud guitars and in-your-face lyrics delivered by Ellis.  As much credit Ellis gives Cashen for creating an endless supply of riffs the band turns into songs, the lyrics she puts to the music packs a punch. Photograph’s refrain is unforgettable:

      I wanna stare at you like a photograph 
      I wanna make you come if you can make me laugh 
     Wanna spin you upside down like a rodeo between the sheets 
      I wanna stare at you with my eyes all wide 
      I wanna make you cry I wanna make you cry 
      Like an eagle to the sky, bolt of lightning every time we meet 

AGD reached back to 2013’s “Bone” with the next two songs before dipping back into “Toy” with “Lucky Ponderosa” and “Toy Gun.” The latter has a hook that catches the listener’s attention right away along with Sabrina doing a count-off vocally like the Violent Femmes’ classic, “Add It Up.” The song has the kind of hit potential as Pile's "Sex & Drugs" which the band saved for later in the performance.

The surprise of the evening came when A Giant Dog rolled out a cover of INXS’ “Don’t Change.” The group gave the song an AGD “treatment” turning the dance hit into a guitar-heavy rocker softened by Ellis' vocals. Check a clip from the song recorded live at Hotel Vegas above. A Giant Dog wrapped up the crowd-surfing party with a five-song encore that began with “Sex & Drugs” followed by “& Rock & Roll.” See what they did there? “Creep” (not a Radiohead cover), “Angst in my Pants” (Sparks cover) and “Too Much Makeup” rounded out the set list as exuberant fans heaved a sigh of contentment. Cashen told us the new cover will be in the tour set list "until we get tired of playing it."

View the complete set list here.

A Giant Dog are currently on tour nationally in support of “Toy.” Catch them at a venue near you by clicking through to this list of tour dates. The band lands back in Austin early November for Sound on Sound Festival.