Deer Tick Live Review-Local 506-October 19, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Local 506/Carrboro, NC
After a beautifully rendered a cappella version of “Dirty Dishes” featuring harmonies from all five band members started the show, the well-inebriated Deer Tick frontman John Joseph McCauley pulled off his guitar and told the near-capacity crowd at the Local 506 that he had to do something before the show got going. He then awkwardly removed his Adam Sandler-endorsed red-hooded sweatshirt and proceeded to play the remainder of the two-hour show shirtless. Such was the dichotomy of the much buzzed Providence band’s show: gorgeously crafted country-tinged songs of heartache and regret coupled together with finely tuned rock guitar outbursts, all carefully hanging in the balance behind McCauley’s woozy stage presence. Earlier this year, McCauley bragged to Rolling Stone about the joys of touring behind a successful record, this year’s stellar Born on Flag Day: “Now I get paid to lay around, do drugs and get drunk.” Well, he certainly seemed to take his words to heart, as he boozed it up between songs and aimlessly rapped away with patrons over such topics ranging from his Kid Rock imitation to his ability (and enjoyment) of performing while his orange Tennessee Vols stocking cap is pulled completely over his face. “It’s like I’m in Slipknot!” he cheerfully pointed out. At times, the show reminded me of seeing Whiskeytown back in their ‘90’s heyday; the rest of the band tuning their instruments with workmanlike precision while an off-kilter Ryan Adams indulged the audience with long nuggets of esoteric wisdom. Like Adams, though, McCauley can separate all his between song quirks from the music when he focuses. Deer Tick’s versatility was on display as they brought the rock hard and heavy with the feedback-drenched chords of Flag Day’s leadoff track, “Easy” and War Elephant track “Standing At The Threshold”. McCauley’s alt-country leanings were on display as he showcased songwriting gems like “Little White Lies”, “Ashamed”, and “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin)”. It is here where Deer Tick enters dangerous territory with some critics who have panned them as derivative and lacking authenticity. And from my earlier description of McCauley’s antics, the barbs can be easily invited. After all, who needs another twenty-something, tatted-up songwriter swilling Jack Daniels and worshipping at the feet of Gram Parsons and Hank Williams? However, McCauley and Deer Tick get it right, when many others get it so terribly wrong. This became apparent at the midway point of the show, as the band left stage and McCauley offered forth a sincere and goose bump inducing mini-set of some of his most heartfelt material bookended by material from two masters: John Prine’s “Sam Stone” and the aforementioned Parsons’ “Hot Burrito #1”. McCauley’s voice and guitar strumming nailed the vulnerability that lies at the core of these songs, silencing the squawky crowd and winning me completely over to his band’s intentions. If you could accept the tunes being sung by a beer soaked shirtless man with an orange hat and gas station sunglasses obscuring his countenance, then you and I have something in common.