Last night at a farm house in Hope Valley, I was brought back to the moment I first fell in love with music. I grew up on classic rock; when Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous came out in 2000, my music journalism dreams began. Sitting in drummer Lou Perrotti’s living room, surrounded by fossils, fish tanks and indigenous art and chatting with Farm Dog, I was that young journalist pulling out an old tape recorder (err, rather my iPhone) and asking that rock star what it is he loves about music.
I could tell Farm Dog had it, even before they geared up and took me back in time four decades or so. Singer and guitarist Brett Haskins, bass player Phil Wells and Perrotti have such an affinity for what they do as a band, the dynamic gets down to the unplugged roots of rock in its sincerity. “This is a garage band,” affirms Haskins, in his slight Midwest twang.
Farm Dog formed in 2005, when Perrotti, Director of Conservation Programs at Roger Williams Park Zoo, heard Haskins, the new elephant handler, take to the karaoke microphone and sing Stevie Wonder’s Boogie on Reggae Woman. One week later, the pair were practicing with Wells, who Perrotti had been playing with in various local rock outfits since their days at North Kingstown Senior High School. Haskins describes the drum and bass rhythm section driving Farm Dog “like a freight train,” while Perrotti credits Haskins as the band’s real powerhouse.
Sometimes you need to recalibrate your musical palette with some straight up, heartfelt rock and roll, and that’s exactly what you get with Farm Dog. Covering a catalog of more than 200 tunes, from Bowie to Bob Dylan, Petty and Pink Floyd, and Zeppelin to Zappa, Farm Dog plays the music you made memories to with a feeling that makes it all their own. “We play it our way,” says Perrotti. The Dog’s way? Raw heart and soul filled rock and roll, sometimes played loud, sometimes played quiet, but always played with a leave-it-all-out on-the-stage mentality.
As a cover band, they prefer the deep cuts to the classics, often catching an audience of music lovers off-guard with B-sides such as Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” (as a three-piece, no less). But there’s a give and take and the Dog plays to their crowd, mixing in the fan favorites including this roving writer’s personal get up and dance favorite, Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”
Together for eight years now, banker by day, bassist for life, and all-around audiophile Wells says Farm Dog just keeps getting better. They’ve built a following of loyals, and lead singer Haskins credits Farm Dog’s live crowds as a real driving force behind the band. “That’s one of the real adages of live shows, reciprocation. You feel them, they feel you.”
Listening to them practice in Perrotti’s basement, they offered me the north of the border story-telling of Neil Young, and the rip-roar of the Rolling Stones on a platter, and instantly I was surrounded by some of my oldest friends. Is this bringing back the musical memories? Head out to catch the Dog at one of their gigs this month, and they just might open it up to requests at the end of the night.