LIVE REVIEW: Deer Tick @ the Grand Regency 10/20/2010
In the interest of full disclosure I feel like I should start this review by letting it be known that I drank more than a small amount of whiskey before and during the Deer Tick show at the Regency Ballroom on Tuesday, October 20th. There are sizable gaps in my recollection of the set list; it was near impossible for me to discern any coherence from front man extraordinaire John McCauley’s ramblings between songs. By no means was I in the minority. The large crowd at the Regency was rowdy, rambunctious, and thoroughly primed to get down to Deer Tick’s rip roaring down home folk rock. McCauley points out on the band’s website that their live shows “tend to go a bit haywire,” and right before they were about to take the stage, I could feel the crowd’s anticipation and excitement start to bubble over.
Deer Tick is currently on tour promoting their latest record, The Black Dirt Sessions. Though they played many crowd favorites from their previous two albums that had everyone singing as loudly as possible, a lot of their set was pulled from their latest album. Absolutely everything they played was followed by a boisterous round of communal yelling, whistling, and fist raising from the audience. Despite the number of more subdued songs in Deer Tick’s catalogue, every chord they played was charged with so much intensity and passion that the energy never dissipated. Eventually McCauley announced that the band needed to take a break, and after a short intermission they returned to the stage and played what was more of a shorter second set than an encore. This was followed by the band returning to the stage once again in response to a “one more song” chant, to which they wrapped up the night with a pleasing little thirty second outro.
It was a well-rounded, well-managed set that was orchestrated perfectly by McCauley, who has been touring and recording prolifically over the past few years. On stage, the Deer Tick front man appears frail and meek. He carries himself around with loose posture and when he speaks, as he does frequently between songs, he does so with a mumbling lackadaisical drawl that doesn’t exactly bespeak the typical front man bravado. When the music starts, though, McCauley turns into an animal and out of nowhere comes his powerful gravelly wail, sounding as if he is trying with all his might to sing his way out of his sorrows. But what makes McCauley’s songwriting great is the sense that he believes he can sing his way out of whatever is fueling his oftentimes forlorn lyrics, resulting in a hope-filled form of folk rock melancholia that is as inspiring as it is unique.
A few nights before I had the chance to see Deer Tick play, my friends back home in Birmingham, AL told me to expect a hell of a show. They had seen Deer Tick play a venue back there the night before and witnessed McCauley play an entire two hour set on the verge of being black-out drunk. Though McCauley was in better condition at the Regency, I wasn’t…and neither were most of the fans. My favorite part of the show came during the start of the second half when a guy standing next to me got punched in the face and then announced to his attacker that he was going to jump on stage, grab a piece of the drum set, and smash it over the other guys head. At that point, I knew it was safe to assume the show was about to go haywire.