The Mann Center for the Performing Arts hosted a one-of-a-kind event Sept. 13, “Lawn of Mann.” Presented by the renowned local rock band Dr. Dog, the musical extravaganza featured not only Dr. Dog, but Hop Along, The Front Bottoms, and Mac DeMarco playing on the Mann’s Skyline Stage.
The first set I saw was New Jersey pop-punk band The Front Bottoms. Standing in front of inflatable letters spelling out the band’s initials, “TFB,” the young four-piece group was clearly a crowd favorite. Opening with “Skeleton,” the couple hundred people who showed up for the start of the 7 p.m. set were whipped into a fist-pumping frenzy. As the band progressed through their set there was some moshing, crowd surfing, and people energetically singing along to every lyric lead singer Brian Sella wailed into the microphone.
I’ve never been really into pop-punk music but there’s definitely a certain energy about seeing and hearing it being performed live. The up-tempo music can get anyone to bob their head in time with the beat, and the lyrics are simple and relatable enough to be yelled by angsty teens and 20-somethings. However, I often felt that the lyrics came off as silly — see “Au Revoir (Adios).” But hey, although pop-punk may not be for everyone, The Front Bottoms still created a unique experience with their high-energy set.
The next act up was Pitchfork darling Mac DeMarco. He is billed as a goofy guy who can be counted on to do or say just about anything on stage. DeMarco definitely lived up to his reputation. Touring behind his sophomore album “Salad Days,” DeMarco received a huge ovation when he came to the stage. After introducing the band, placing his cigarette on his capo and taking a quick swig of beer, DeMarco and his three bandmates launched into the title track off their latest album.
Besides playing quality tunes such as “Let Her Go,” “Ode to Viceroy” and “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name,” DeMarco cultivated a really interesting atmosphere with plenty of non sequiturs and wacky banter with the crowd. Between talking about his irritable bowel syndrome and who was having a house party after the show, he and his band kept the crowd on their toes.
Recently added Andy White was sharp on guitar, shredding through mostly every solo. The set culminated with Mac crooning “Still Together” and attempting to crowd surf. I say attempting because after Mac made his intention to jump into the crowd clear, people were too busy documenting the event with their phones to actually catch him. While the rest of his band drifted through the end of the song, it took quite a while for Mac to make his way back on stage. He still finished strong before offering the stage up to Dr. Dog.
After DeMarco exited, a big backdrop was unfurled, displaying a prehistoric mountain scene as nature sounds played over the venue’s public address system. Ferns and other assorted plants were brought on stage to really help sell the “Lawn of Mann” vibe.
Shortly after 9 p.m. the band took the stage to a thunderous round of applause as they launched right into the song, “My Old Ways” from their 2007 album, “We All Belong.” Coupled with the next song, “These Days,” it was a great one-two punch that really got the crowd going. The six-piece band kept the hits coming with “That Old Black Hole,” “Distant Light” and “The Beach.” The latter was a real standout. Bassist-vocalist Toby Leaman stole the spotlight with his strong vocals.
Sprinkled throughout the set were tracks off Dr. Dog’s latest release, “B-Room,” including “The Truth,” “Broken Heart,” “Nellie” and “Too Weak to Ramble.” The band also played “Be the Void,” the title track of their 2012 album, for the first time live in concert. Drummer Eric Slick’s father Gary came out to play acoustic guitar on “Heart It Races,” the group’s excellent cover of Architecture in Helsinki. Another family matter was the vocalist-guitarist Scott McMicken’s mom, who made the trip down from Connecticut to see her son play at the Skyline Stage.
While the crowd begged the band for an encore, a peculiar thing happened: white beach balls began to fly over the fence next to the right side of the stage. Concertgoers eagerly began to bat them around the crowd and also at the band after they retook the stage. Band members playfully kicked the balls back into the crowd and soon fans started to hold onto the balls as souvenirs.
“How Long Must I Wait?” and “Shadow People” were tremendous during the band’s seven song encore. Leaman thanked the thousands in attendance for making the evening so special for the Philadelphia-based group before playing what would prove to be the last song of the night, “Wake Up.”
As the crowd dispersed down the hill of the Mann Center, with the beautiful city skyline off in the distance, you couldn’t help but be thankful that Dr. Dog was able to put together such an outstanding musical event together at such a great venue. In the end, Dr. Dog was the Mann’s best friend.