In so many ways, the Doobie Brothers tell a Joan Didion history of California's pop culture of the 1970s—and beyond. As the 1960s crashed to a close with doomed shows like Altamont—where self-appointed Hells Angels bodyguards stabbed to death a concert goer—the Doobie Brothers began to pull together their own band, with funky and catchy tunes organized around traditional R&B riffs, but also freeform in the way of the Allman Brothers and jazz fusion. During their first few years of the 70s, they largely played at Hells Angels hangouts around the northern California.
By the mid-1970s, built on that DNA of bikes, bongs, and boogie music, the band was a nationwide hit, with plucky songs like "Long Train Runnin'," wistful lyrics and piano playing in "Rockin' Down the Highway," and the driving drumbeats of "China Grove." Over the past few decades, the Doobie Brothers have sold nearly 50 million albums and gathered up four Grammy Awards.
Yet, by the 1980s, the Doobie Brothers had fallen out of favor and style. They had essentially dissolved as the founding members drifted away from the band. In the early 1990s, I came across a giant black velvet painting of the band members hanging behind a tasting bar at an esteemed vineyard in Napa Valley; the vintner claimed to have discovered and signed and managed them years ago. At that time, the band seemed almost like a caricature of the 1970s.
But, remarkably, the Doobie Brothers are back—and perhaps as relevant now as they were during their heyday.
In many ways, the Doobie Brothers helped pioneer and popularize Americana music, bringing fiddle and flutes to rock-and-roll, blending jazz influences with harder rock sensibilities. Hardly a nostalgia band, many of the original players have gathered back around for another studio album and an extensive tour this summer, with two Oregon stops.
All of which is to say: Go see a great, still-relevant band.
6:30 pm, Tuesday, June 16
Les Schwab Amphitheater