REVIEW: that dog. Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Their Debut with LA Shows

that dog. circa 1994 – photo provided by band

Anna Waronker wanted to take us back to the early years of that dog., back to a place where, she said on stage Saturday night, we would be “sweating together and smelling really bad together.” In the early 1990s, that might have been Jabberjaw, an all-ages venue synonymous with the decade’s indie scene in L.A.. In 2019, it’s The Smell, a downtown DIY venue that has been a 21st century cornerstone for underground music in the city. It was, in a lot of ways, a perfect place for that dog. to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the band’s self-titled debut album, and they did that with two shows on Saturday, July 13.

Graham Coxon, an old friend of the band from back when that dog. toured with Blur, opened. That dog. performed the debut album in full, following it with an encore that included fan favorites like “He’s Kissing Christian” and “Minneapolis.” The encore also included a song from their upcoming fourth album, which will be their first collection of new music since that dog. reformed in 2011.

At the second of Saturday night’s shows, the remnants of sweat from the first lingered in the air. It was the kind of night where hair frizzes upon entering the venue and noses curl when you catch a whiff of ripe rock show stench. It was also the sort of show where you apprehensively grab a spot near the front of the room, knowing full well that, very soon, the place will be so packed it will be impossible to do much more than bob your head from side to side. Once the band started playing, though, it was easy to temporarily forget about the heat, the odor, and being lodged into the crowd like a Tetris block.

“The concept was, let’s go back to our roots, let’s go back to the clubs where we started and play this music that belongs in that environment,” says Waronker by phone on the Monday following the event. “That’s exactly what we did.”

“It was very warm and a lot of work,” she adds, “but it was totally fun.”

that dog. joined by Allison Crutchfield at LA.s The Smell in July. photo by Liz Ohanesian.

The day before the shows, that dog. released a 25th anniversary edition of their debut album, featuring four extra songs that didn’t appear on the original. Waronker says that, for her and bassist Rachel Haden in particular, these were among the first songs they played live. (She notes that drummer Tony Maxwell had more band experience when they started.) Some were songs that they hadn’t played since the album’s release. In addition, they also had to teach parts to guitarist Clint Walsh, violinist Kaitlin Wolfberg and singer Allison Crutchfield, who joined them on stage.

They treated fans to an early version of “You Are Here,” comprised of lyrics and titles from Beatles songs. “When I first started writing songs, I didn’t want any love songs or any guitar solos because we had just left the ’80s,” Waronker explains in our interview. “Then, I decided that I’m going to write a love song – almost a parody of a love song. And who writes the best love songs but the Beatles?” The problem was that Waronker didn’t realize “that you can’t use other people’s lyrics, even if you’re doing an homage to them.” So, she changed the lyrics, estimating that it took about an afternoon to revise the song for the album. In retrospect, she says, it shows that even early in her career, she had a skill that comes in handy as a songwriter. “I do a lot of writing for theater, so I guess I was made to be able to change things quickly,” she says.

There is a diary-like component to Waronker’s songwriting. “Ninety percent of the time, it’s autobiographical, but it’s also meant to not be,” she explains. “It’s meant to be whatever you need it to be.” Lyrically, that dog.’s debut album existed in the moment, and 25 years later, that makes some of the songs a fun flashback to 1990s Los Angeles. “Westside Angst” is about the change of area code, from 213 to 310, on the Westside of L.A. Now, Waronker describes it as “charmingly dated.”

“I think that was the first song that I had ever properly written,” says Waronker. “Back then, it was like – wait, these are my creature comforts, how can you just change it?”

Revisiting that dog.’s debut is a reminder of the band’s creativity. They wrote songs that balanced cheeky humor with tender introspection, and unabashedly drew from a range of influences, mixing crunchy guitars with strings and vocal harmonies. Their single “Old Timer,” which was accompanied by a Spike Jonze-directed video featuring the band members playing Hot Dog on a Stick employees, is a perfect example of punk song structure embellished with their trademark flourishes.

Waronker can see how her songwriting has evolved since the early days of that dog. “It’s very interesting – the first album was very punk rock in a traditional sense in that it was not like anything else. It was very raw. Whether it was a punk rock song or a weird acoustic song, it was bizarre,” she says. Even during that dog.’s first run, she notes, the songwriting shifted to a pop-rock sound by the time of the 1997 breakout album, Retreat From the Sun. Post-that dog., Waronker released solo music, collaborated with other artists and written and composed music for television, as well as a rock opera and musical. And now, there is a new that dog. album on the way.

During the encore, that dog. played a song from their forthcoming release, “If You Just Didn’t Do it.”  Waronker says that the album has been completed and is expected to come out this year, although the release date and title have yet to be announced. “We started it a few years ago and we would do it in chunks,” Waronker says. “We thought we were at our last push of making the album, and that stretched out for a good year and a half or two years.”

With the new album, she says, the initial goal was to make music that reflected the band’s origins. About halfway through the process, though, they considered how they would make an album now. “It’s an interesting mixture,” Waronker says of the new album, adding, “it picks up where the band left off perfectly, in my opinion.”

Staff Picks – Nicole Ortiz: Anniversary and Reunion Shows of 2016

This past year (for me, anyway) was full of attending various anniversary shows of bands I obsessed over in high school. It was nostalgic and exciting to see the bands I used to listen to nonstop perform my old favorites, songs I still listen to somedays when I’m riding my bike or underground on the subway. I’m a sucker for music that I have memories attached to, so it only makes sense that I sought out so many of these shows.

Here’s a look back at some of the anniversary shows that really touched my soul in the past year, as well as some 2017 shows that I’ve got on my radar.

The Spill Canvas at Webster Hall, August 2015

the spill canvas 3

Okay, I’m cheating here because this a 2015 show, but it was just so fun and full of happy good vibes. There’s a certain magic to reliving your emo days while watching one of your old favorites croon sweet, heartbreaking lyrics onstage. Also, you may notice a trend in this list involving Webster Hall and anniversary/reunion shows.

As Tall As Lions at Webster Hall, December 2015

as tall as lions 2

Easily the best show I went to in the last year. This was a reunion show as well as an anniversary show for their self-titled album. And although this show wasn’t in 2016, it practically was. Plus, it was amazing enough to resonate for years to come. I unfortunately missed out on seeing As Tall As Lions when they were still together, but this show made up for that.

The Hush Sound at Webster Hall, August 2016

the hush sound

Another show that went down in my personal history book was The Hush Sound’s Like Vines anniversary show, mostly because The Hush Sound was my favorite band in high school. I probably saw them play seven or so times, and I pretty much idolized (slash kind of still idolize) Greta Salpeter. Bob and Greta had so much fun chemistry that night, and overall, it was just a fun experience to relive that band’s live show again.

Simple Plan & Hit the Lights at Irving Plaza, October 2016

simple plan

One of my biggest show regrets in 2016 is that I missed this show. Since I wasn’t there, I can only speculate about its glory, but I imagine it was incredibly fun. Hit the Lights was another band I used to groove out to like crazy, and what’s not to love about Simple Plan’s goofy music?

Taking Back Sunday & The Starting Line at Starland Ballroom, December 2016

taking back sunday

Taking Back Sunday has been touring for their latest album Tidal Wave this year (I saw them at Irving Plaza, and it was…okay), and I also saw The Starting Line at Irving for their 10-year anniversary show of Say It Like You Mean It (which was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to). I was supposed to go to this show, and at the last minute had to cancel my plan, which is heartbreaking. This is going to be a show for many to write home about.

Jimmy Eat World at Webster Hall, December 2016

jimmy eat world

So this isn’t so much an anniversary or reunion show, since they’re touring for their latest album Integrity Blues, but I was still a bit surprised to see a show from Jimmy Eat World. I guess this sort of counts as a reunion show since they’re coming together again to make music to tour since 2013’s Damage, right?

New Found Glory at Irving Plaza, April 2017

New Found Glory

A peak of anniversary shows to come, perhaps? New Found Glory will be touring in 2017, and can’t you just perfectly envision singing “My Friends Over You” alongside their live performance in the coming year?

Dashboard Confessional at Irving Plaza, January 2017


So I have a [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][dashboard] confession: While I definitely liked DC in high school, I can’t say that I was totally the biggest fan. I was definitely an emo girl, but sometimes Chris Carrabba took it a bit too far and sad for me. So while this show is definitely one to look forward to in many ways, I’m not totally sure if I’ll be in attendance, swooning alongside others.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: As Tall As Lions @ Webster Hall

As Tall As Lions

As Tall As Lions

The energy in Webster Hall for As Tall As Lions’ final reunion show on Wednesday, December 30, was palpable. Fans buzzed with excitement, squished together in the venue waiting to get a first glimpse of the boys they haven’t seen play together in five years. In the last couple of years, bands like The Starting Line, The Used, Motion City Soundtrack, and many others from my high school heydays are making their reunion rounds across New York. Nothing had me as excited as this one, though.

I had a few opportunities to see As Tall As Lions in the past, but they all fell through for various reasons. Then they split up, and I was left listening to their enticing falsetto and lulling rifts through my headphones during my morning commute, hoping for a chance to see them live. As soon as I saw their Facebook post announcing reunion shows in California and New York, I bought tickets immediately. It was probably the best way I could have ended 2015.

The second they took the stage, people erupted into smiles and cheers, and the positive vibes didn’t end until well after they took a bow and walked off. Performing for almost two hours straight, the show was a blur of reminiscence from a band that didn’t appear to change much after five years of not playing together. Frontman Dan Nigro and bassist Julio Tavarez complimented one another’s musical styles as well as their senses of humor—watching them perform alongside one another was akin to watching good friends just doing what they loved.

As Tall As Lions

As Tall As Lions played through their entire self-titled album, touching on favorites like “Stab City,” “Milk and Honey,”and, “Maybe I’m Just Tired.” When Dan took out his acoustic guitar to play “I’m Kicking Myself,” the only sound other than his entrancing vocals and his fingers dancing over the chords was the echo of everyone in Webster Hall singing along. And when they played their wildly popular single “Love, Love, Love,” a sea of smiling faces met you in every direction you looked.

As Tall As Lions

After playing through their 2006 full-length, they made sure to touch on a few of their other popular singles, including “Break Blossoms,” which is the point where I officially lost my voice. They also played “Acrobat” from album Lafcadio as well as the opening track from their last album, You Can’t Take it With You, “Circles.”

The night was a whirlwind of nostalgia, Dan’s sweet falsetto vocals, a spunky brass section, and more than a few goofy faces from Julio as he jammed out on bass. The Long Island boys posted earlier this week on their Facebook page about the shows and brought up the questions on everyone’s minds: What exactly does the future hold for ATAL? Right now it seems like it is relatively uncertain, but I’ve got my fingers (and toes) crossed for new releases and more performances.

As Tall As Lions

As Tall As Lions

As Tall As Lions

As Tall As Lions

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All photos by Nicole Ortiz for AudioFemme.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]