Dogs In A Pile are unquestionably a jam band, but trying to fit the shape-shifting quintet into a one-size-fits-all box still remains a fool’s errand. With jazz in their veins and hippie roots, the classically trained and Berklee-educated DiAP are to genres what a prism is to light, bending, shifting, and shaping their varied influences along a musical rainbow.
That being said, these Dogs are jazz kids at heart and with the complement of a full horn section thanks to local friends the Ocean Avenue Stompers, they were in all their glory for Saturday’s opening night of a weekend set at the storied Stone Pony. As a noteworthy aside to Saturday night’s review, let the record show that the aforementioned horns, who had never played with DiAP before, were guided by 20 pages of original music written by keyboardist Jeremy Kaplan. The musicians were rehearsed, the music was polished, and the result was a jazz-laden dance party, an all-timer for a rapidly growing young band that’s constantly improving and raising its own bar.
Sic A Dog On ‘Em
Sunday’s show would follow suit in terms of quality although with an entirely different feel. Dogs In A Pile, for all their shape-shifting wonder, have never been mentioned in the same breath as bluegrass. That changed in an instant, however, when Dogs welcomed Nashville bluegrass outfit Sicard Hollow to Asbury Park for a three-set marathon, providing five hours’ worth of evidence for the never-miss-a-Sunday-show theorists.
With Sicard Hollow taking first set honors, psychedelic punkgrass rockers Matt Rennick (violin), Will Herrin (mandolin/vocals), Alex King (guitar/vocals), and Parrish Gabriel (bass) made their way to the stage for the late matinee start time. Animated, excited, and with the irresistible energy of youth, they’re much closer on the bluegrass spectrum to Billy Strings than Del McCoury and with Parrish slapping an electric bass like Flea, you can throw in a touch of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for good measure. Judging by how the room reacted to their hour-long opening set, they can forevermore look forward to a warm reception in Jersey with the loyal and energetic Dog Pound counted amongst their newest fans.
Sicard Hollow’s Alex King responded the next day on Facebook, “Sicard Hollow loves Dogs In A Pile and the wholeeee Dog Pound. I literally cannot express how full my heart is. Nights like last night are hard to put into words. To say we are blessed is an understatement. Until next time, family. Thank you for such a warm welcome in New Jersey. It truly meant the world to us.”
As Dogs In A Pile readied for their own set, Jimmy Law took the mic to weigh in on their relationship with Sicard Hollow: “These guys are the closest things to brothers we found on the road. They showed us around Nashville when we were down there and we’re so happy to be able to welcome them here.” The spirit of kindness, love, and giving between these two young bands was a tangible reminder of the holiday spirit that already pervaded the room.
Perhaps influenced by his fingerpicking friends from down south, Brian Murray made his way to the stage with an acoustic guitar and dug in hard for the set-opening “Can’t Wait For Tonight” followed by “Frosty” and “Little Things” which had a not so little white-hot peak. Kaplan led the way on keys as “Green Earrings” patiently explored some blissful territory before segueing into “Creep”, a modern-day classic rock song with powerful major chords and a resounding chorus.
The Stone Pony is known for guitar rock and “G Song” stayed true to the institutional vibes before a run of “Back To The Start” and “Writing On The Wall”. The genre-bending continued with “Way To Be”, feeling in the moment like a jam band tour through the halls of the Berklee jazz department behind Joe Babick’s drumming before “Jack & Coke” explored the band’s edgier side with the dual attack of Murray and Law’s hard-hitting guitars. Never shy to honor their musical heroes, the monster two-hour set ended on a high note with “Helter Dust Skelter Torture”, a masterful mashup of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” and Phish’s “Chalkdust Torture”. Here’s hoping video of that one surfaces sooner rather than later.
The third set was a Sic A Dog On ‘Em super jam, a glorious reprise of the bands’ first meeting in Nashville this past August. The well-intended setlist gave the musicians an opportunity to leave their comfort zones and explore new territory. One such example would see bassist Sam Lucid taking a brief turn sharing Kaplan’s keyboards as he made space for Parrish Gabriel to join the fray on bass. The Dogs would put their bluegrass chops on display, too, behind Murray’s fingerpicking and Kaplan’s washboard as the supergroup toured through covers like J.J. Cale’s “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma” and Jerry Reed’s “Jerry’s Breakdown”.
The Grateful Dead catalog was in play, too, with the two bands offering collaborative takes on “Brokedown Palace” and “Dancing In The Streets”, the latter with a Cornell ‘77 coda and disco vibe that would’ve made Saturday Night Fever blush. Both bands would also combine forces on each other’s originals, playing DiAP’s “Look Johnny II” and “Bugle On The Shelf” as well as Sicard’s “Little Miss Tipsy”, the latter replete with a “Tweezer” tease as the super jam came to a close. Well-deserved applause for a night not soon to be forgotten, the bands would return to Sic A Dog on an honest and unscripted encore of Dogs In A Pile’s fan-favorite “Inchworm”.
With new friends by their side and the Dog Pound at their backs, the Jersey Shore’s soaring pride and joy raised the bar yet again, completing a weekend tapestry of quality shows during Dogs’ holiday homecoming at The Stone Pony. DiAP heads to The Cutting Room for a Phish after show on December 30th before ringing in the new year in Portland, ME on the 31st. For tickets and information about the rest of their upcoming shows, click here. Sicard Hollow will wrap up 2022 with a New Year’s Eve show in Fayetteville, AR. See the band’s full tour schedule here.
Scroll down to check out some image galleries courtesy of photographer Nick Codina.
Dogs In A Pile – The Stone Pony – Asbury Park, NJ – 12/18/22
[Audio: Van Lefford]
Setlist: Dogs In A Pile | The Stone Pony | Asbury Park, NJ | 12/18/22
Set One: Can’t Wait for Tonight, Frosty, Little Things, Green Earrings > Creep > G Song, Back to the Start, Writing on the Wall, Way To Be, Jack & Coke, Helter Dust Skelter Torture
Set Two: If You’re Ever In Oklahoma, Jerry’s Breakdown, Look Johnny II, At Ease, Dancing’ in the Streets > Bugle on the Shelf, Brokedown Palace, Little Miss Tipsy
The second set was a super jam with Sicard Hollow.
Bugle On The Shelf contained an Under Pressure tease and an Angels We Have Heard On High jam.
Brian played an acoustic guitar on Can’t Wait For Tonight, IYEIO, and Brokedown Palace.
Jeremy played washboard on Jerry’s Breakdown.
Tittle Miss Tipsy contained a Tweezer tease.