“Yo, Tonight Rules!”October 25th, 2009
Deer Tick – The Bowery Ballroom – October 22, 2009
Not to be confused with Deerhoof, Deerhunter or the Dear Hunter, Deer Tick, led by the ferociously talented, no-longer-mustachioed John McCauley, is a band rooted in Providence, R.I., with a sound rooted somewhere safely below the Mason Dixon Line. They’ve put out two excellent albums—War Elephant is more subdued than its livelier follow-up, Born on Flag Day. But when heard live, the recorded material, like a fine wine, opens up into something bigger. McCauley has an engaging—if not drunken—stage presence, and with his vivid songwriting and lived-in vocals, even when things go off the rails, it’s still raw and real and never manufactured. It’s a refreshing change. And more than that, it’s a lot of fun.
Headlining a CMJ Music Marathon show on Thursday at The Bowery Ballroom, Deer Tick, wearing Jason Vorhees-style goalie masks, finally took the stage at 12:15 and opened with a soulful, a cappella “Dirty Dishes.” “How you doin’ tonight?” asked McCauley, greeting the sold-out crowd. “Yo, tonight rules!” From then on, the band played nearly two hours of original material dotted with plenty of stage banter, a hard-driving version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?,” a sped-up, guitar-driven take on Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and possibly the first ever appearance of “Air Force Porn,” when a fleet of paper airplanes made from porno-magazine pages descended upon the audience.
Onstage, they guys in Deer Tick smoke, drink and carry on—they even threw glitter and shot Silly String into the crowd. That party atmosphere was infectious—the good kind—which carried over to the concertgoers, who stomped, sang, danced and clapped along. Late in the set, when McCauley invited “everyone who wants to come onstage to come onstage,” the band was joined by at least 30 people who were drunk enough or needy enough to do so. As Deer Tick played “City of Sin” and the rollicking love song “These Old Shoes,” several girls draped themselves across the frontman, who didn’t seem to mind.
After clearing the stage (“I need some alone time”), McCauley performed several songs accompanied by just his guitar and harmonica. When the full band eventually joined him, many in what was left of the crowd pogoed up and down with sparklers held aloft to the strains of Deer Tick’s traditional closer, a cover of “La Bamba.” And then the house lights came on, revealing a floor littered with cups, glitter and porn. —R. Zizmor
(Deer Tick plays the songs of the Sex Pistols on Halloween at Brooklyn Bowl.)