Deer Tick – [Live]

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

In the folk/country genre, there’s a big difference between some indie rockers from Rhode Island playing country and Travis Tritt playing country. Deer Tick consider themselves country, and are probably right by definition; but if you called them a folk band you’d probably be right too. Their new album, Divine Providence, was promised to be unlike any other Deer Tick record. The songwriting remains the same but there are more electric rave-ups and electric organ (played by Halifax’s own Rob Crowell), and it reveals Deer Tick can play the role of a full-fledged college bar band too, when they choose.

When they took to the stage for a more-than-packed house at Lee's Palace on a Wednesday in November, fans were jamming themselves against the stage, chanting the band's name and holding beers in each hand. With Divine Providence on the shelves less than a month, they brought the bulk of the record to the stage in Toronto opening with “The Bump” and playing “Main Street”  and “Chevy Express”  early in the set. Fans weren’t disappointed at the proliferation of new material, they sang every lyric almost louder than the band.

The crowd was a typical mix of college kids listening to quintessential American college rock. Boys in collared shirts passed joints to the girls they were trying to semi-confidently hit on between moments of singing along to every song. It’s no stretch; frontman John McCauley is an overly talented songwriter with an emphasis on lyrically poetic, charming and tailored singalongs. What twenty-two-year-old doesn’t want to sing along to gang vocal repeaters like “let's all go to the bar”?

The set was void of the ever-present acoustic sounds which dominated Deer Tick’s previous three records which seemed to be a good thing given that fans were responding well to the fat chords of a pure electric rock show. It would seem that, on albums, Deer Tick are a proud folk rock outfit, but are closer to R.E.M. or Springsteen on stage; McCauley strums out open chords while Ian O’Neil plays lead over top. Even when McCauley played three solos on his own (including a Talking Heads cover and the poetic “Diamond Rings”), he remained plugged in and didn't break character once. McCauley joked with fans between songs with minimal interaction between bandmates – their interaction rested in their music. The camaraderie and warmth between the members could be felt in the audience even though it wasn’t physical; other than a brief moment when McCauley rested his head on O’Neil's shoulder and they eventually touched tongues.

The ruckus and heartfelt performance held everyone’s attention even after over two hours of playing (not including encore), and ended with a Deer Tick-ified Nirvana medley. Their encore ended with new tune “Let's All Go To The Bar,” a slightly stupid song sung with openers Guards (who look eerily like the band Cults) and McCauley who (drunkenly?) dropped his pants. In that final gesture, Deer Tick proved that they are indeed the definition of a great bar rock band boasting energetic singalongs and an affinity for beer. Lee’s Palace could barely contain them and their fans and there's no doubt that those who came because they were already fans were satisfied, and those who came uninitiated were won over. With an endorsement like that, the only thing that needs to be said is that those who came to this show  would be well-advised to not be surprised if, next year, their favorite band  is everyone else’s too.


Deer Tick – Lee's Palace – 11/16/11

Further Reading:

Ground Control's review of Divine Providence.


Divine Providence
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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