With three albums under their belt, Deer Tick brought their blues-drenched rock sensibilities to Emo’s last night. The five-piece casually commanded the stage with earnest charisma (picture a modernized, scruffy, blue collar take on the rat pack) as they milled around between songs to the jazzy brush of a snare drum, cigarettes hanging from their lips, partaking in a little friendly banter with the crowd.
After opening for Dr. Dog in May, it was refreshing to see Deer Tick playing a proper set as a headlining act. Their set was laden with variations of studio songs. Loveable front-man John McCauley led the boys into a sauntering rendition of “Ashamed,” and continued with variations of their songs played as stylistic tributes to Chuck Berry and T-Rex. A slow, sentimental version of “Smith Hill” was dedicated to Bruce Springsteen, emphasizing their well-noted admiration for traditional rock music. Their live shows have a reputation for getting a little cover-heavy, and a rockin’ rendition of The Replacements “I Can’t Hardly Wait” was warmly received by the crowd as everyone happily sang along.
In addition to their musical catalog and some new Deer Tick songs, McCauley introduced songs from his new side project MG&V (a collaboration with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Matt Vasquez from Delta Spirit). Though surprisingly young, McCauley’s scratchy vocals showed the range of a seasoned vet as he turned the somber redemption ballad “Christ Jesus” into a rockin’ anthem. The boys mixed and mingled through “20 Miles,” “Cake & Eggs” (which he co-wrote with fiance, Nikki Darlin) and met the audiences request for “Dirty Dishes,” before finishing their set with the high-energy “Mange” from this year’s Black Dirt Sessions.
The song stirred as McCauley and Ian O’Neil played dueling guitars until McCauley ditched his axe to jump into the crowd and continued to climb the rafters and dangle over excited fans. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the audience or the band. The mutual admiration resulted in a three song encore after which McCauley asked fans to stick around and drink with the band 'til closing time.
[all photos by Mary Rehak]