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On ‘Be The Void’: Lucky Number Seven

Reflecting on the 10th anniversary of Dr. Dog’s seventh album

On February 11, 2022
Photo by Chris Crisman of Dr. Dog in 2011

For an album that doesn’t actually have “Be The Void” (the song) on it, I think that Be The Void — celebrating its 10th anniversary this week — is one of Dr. Dog’s best records to date, especially since it’s the record that got the band back to its original roots. For me, it’s also hard to believe that it’s 10 years old, only because it’s a record that sounds absolutely pristine on each listen. It’s one of those rare gems in the wild where the studio album gives the feel of their raucous and fun live sets in the comfort of your own home.

Be The Void is an energetic album that solidified my love for a psychedelic indie-folk rock band out of Philly — a rare find in my music collection. Perhaps it’s because it has weird, fantastical songs on it like “Warrior Man,” which somehow makes me think it would be a great companion song to Flight of the Conchords’ “Robots.” Just not in the distant future, the year 2000. 

It feels like such a Millennial (or even Gen Z?) thing to say “this record has vibes,” but there’s no other way to put it. The vibes put out on Be The Void scream carefree summer days (daze?). It doesn’t matter when you listen. It could be a perfect summer day, or it could be a bleary, gray, icy winter night and as soon as you hit play, the feeling dissolves.  

Every time I listen to Be The Void, I’m teleported to a world where I don’t have a care in the world, spinning around happily on a sweet summer day in a grassy field with a gentle breeze surrounding me. In 2012, upon the album’s release, it was something I needed desperately. At the time, I was a college student who didn’t drink or do any sort of recreational drugs. I found solace in music, especially when times got tough. The news cycle, especially as a Penn State student learning to find her footing in State College, was a particularly brutal one that left me wanting to scream into the void.

“What does it take to be lonesome? Nothing at all!” was a lyric that wove in and out of my head, since I was states away from my closest friends and family, feeling the effects of a deep depression start to take hold. It was the first half of the record that I really found a lot of solace in as well, because Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman’s lyrics verbalized a lot of what I felt, but was unable to put in words myself. Ten years later and “That Old Black Hole” is forever immortalized in my mind, not just as a literal black hole of depression, but a song that somehow made being a stressed, depressed, anxious college gal feel better when things were chaotic around her — because who can be sad when you’re listening to a sad song that’s disguised as an upbeat jam? 

“Oh soul of mine, look out and see… my time is to be.”

Summer of 2021 was when I finally got to see Dr. Dog live; not once, but twice! It’s been a decade since I was first introduced to Be The Void, and upon each listen I always discover something new to focus on. It didn’t hit me just how magnificent the album translated to a live set until I got to see the band perform selections from their entire discography at two small music festivals. The first time I saw Dr. Dog live was at LOCKN’ Farm, in Arrington, Virginia. It was a scorcher of an August day with no reprieve from the heat anywhere on the Farm. It was just me on a picnic blanket, exhausted from soaking up the sun, caught up in a heat-induced daze waiting for the band to start their set. As soon as they took to the stage, I watched as the crowd began to move as one, surrounded by the haze of a strongly scented smoke, creating a chaotic sort of energy that could only be brought on by the band on their last tour ever. If I'd had the energy, I would’ve been twirling along somewhere in the crowd, becoming one with the music.

The second time I saw them was in Bristol, nestled somewhere on a stage between the Virginia and Tennessee state lines. It was the first post-lockdown show I attended where I hung out at the barricade, excited for the band to start their performance on a cool September evening. This time, the energy was different, but not in a bad way. The reality that Dr. Dog was on their last tour ever had started to sink into everyone’s minds, and everyone huddled together to dance and jam their cares away, letting the magic of the music turn the evening into a special one. 

Even in the midst of a pandemic, music finds a way to bring people together, take their cares away, and teleport them into a void much different from the reality they live in. Ten years later, this album still has a special place in my heart, even if I’m a different person now than I was back then, which makes the following bit from “Big Girl” that much more sweeter: “She had such wild expectations when she was very young, but you couldn’t stand to see her happy or having fun.”

She’s out there happy and having fun, stepping out of the void that once held her hostage.

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Meghin Moore

Meghin Moore is currently the Associate Editor of Dogwood, part of the Courier Newsroom network. She lives in Charlottesville, and has also written for The Daily Progress, WXPN's The Key and Modern Vinyl

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