Technical difficulties kept me from getting this up on the blog yesterday, but here it is now, for posterity: Providence, R.I.’s Deer Tick performing “Song About A Man” Wednesday night at McMenamins Old St. Francis School. I have a couple of louder songs I could post, but they don’t sound great. If you want to see them, let me know in the comments. Also, see my thoughts on the show below the video.
Five observations about the show:
1) I’m so used to using silly little descriptors — psych, electro, global, soulful, whatever — that when presented with the opportunity to write about just a good, solid rock ‘n’ roll band, I’m stumped. That’s not good!
2) Deer Tick is a good, solid rock ‘n’ roll band. I watched frontman John McCauley before the show, and something was wrong; he was clearly annoyed about this or that. But once the lights went down and the amps buzzed, he delivered. He wasn’t particularly charismatic (“This is cool,” he said after the first song. “Half dinner crowd, half maniacs.”), but he led his band through lots of his own songs, plus covers of The Replacements, Chuck Berry, Hank Williams Sr., and Tom Petty, plus others, I’m sure, that I didn’t recognize.
3) Take Tom Petty out of that group and add in Kurt Cobain (I heard they did a Nirvana cover after I left), and you have a pretty distinct focus on musicians with a strong tendency toward self-destruction. When McCauley screams, he looks a sounds a lot like Cobain, right down to the crooked mouth.
4) Not all of Deer Tick’s songs grab me, but those that do are great. “Easy” rocks with an apocalyptic sense of urgency. “Smith Hill” is an elegy with an unforgettable chorus. And my favorite tune of the night was “These Old Shoes,” a playful song about plane crashes and explosions and hobos. (I wish I could’ve heard “City of Sin,” but after the band’s short foray into “Free Bird” and an interminable blues jam, I had to bail during the second intermission.)
5) For the second time in a month, I saw a Central Oregon venue as crowded as I’ve ever seen it. Father Luke’s Room was absolutely packed with people jammed against one another and, by the time I left, practically on top of one another. It was so thick with people, only the bravest tried to weave through it. It was crazy. Crazy. Could the show have been moved into the much larger movie theater next door? I have no idea, but I hope it was at least considered, and I hope the next time a band with this kind of buzz shows up to play, the McMenamins team is able to give them — and the people there to see them — a little more space.