An Ass-Kicking Musical Revue

March 7th, 2011

Middle Brother/Dawes/Deer Tick – The Bowery Ballroom – March 6, 2011


Is March still part of the winter or is it spring? Should we be happy that it’s getting warmer or depressed because it was raining all day? Is Sunday night the end of the weekend or the beginning of the next week? Is Middle Brother a side project, a supergroup or just another band? These were some of the questions hanging in the air at The Bowery Ballroom on a rainy Sunday night in March. The answer to all of them is, of course, “somewhere in between,” which gives the band’s moniker some extra meaning.

Middle Brother, being bits of Dawes, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit, was only part of the story, though. Usually projects like these are meant to get the musicians away from their normal bands for some extracurricular activity. But the gig on Sunday was more of an extra kind of thing with the entirety of Dawes and Deer Tick playing their own full-strength sets as well. These weren’t opening slots, but part of an overall-show arc, with both bands playing in as-good-as-I’ve-seen-’em form. Despite having their bags stolen the night before, Dawes was as alive as ever with their superb polished-for-radio sound. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith extolled the beauty of support and collaboration with fellow musicians, setting the tone for the evening. He then brought out Johnny Corndawg for a mini-set of country-flavored fun. The closing number, “When My Time Comes,” had Corndawg and the Middle Brother cohorts singing along in unified awesomeness.

With their double blasts of guitar and a bottle of Maker’s Mark to pass around onstage, Deer Tick was a raging contrast of raw bar-band rock and roll. Their set included more guest turns and a massive jam with three guitars and eight total musicians as well as a fantastic five-part harmony on “Dirty Dishes.” By the time the quote-unquote headliner took the stage, the crowd had already gotten their money’s worth, but there was plenty more to come. In rock and roll mathematics, the sum of Goldsmith, Deer Tick’s John McCauley and Delta Sprit’s Matt Vasquez is roughly the average of proto-supergroups Crosby, Stills and Nash and Blind Faith: lush harmonies, touching, self-aware songwriting and plenty of build-to-climax raging rock. Rotating in guests from the rest of the night, they hit most of their self-titled debut in fine fashion. There was plenty of joking and back-slapping and free-for-all fun onstage and hooting, hollering and heckling in the crowd. As the clock approached midnight, the band handed out masks with ugly pictures of themselves for those in the audience to hold up—for no reason at all. Was it the weekend or the start of the week? Somewhere in between. —A. Stein