Deer Tick | 06.09.12

live deer-tickNo one write lyrics like these without having something of substance under the clown paint.


w/Turbo Fruits, Scott Lucas & the Married Men
Metro, Chicago

This past weekend I went up to Chicago to visit a dear friend and former college roommate Rebecca. When she said she had tickets for us to go see a few bands at Metro that I was completely unfamiliar with, I didn’t even hesitate at saying “yes.” Whether jumping around on our dorm room beds lip syncing Rick Springfield songs over a hairbrush, trying to get everyone we knew to love School of Fish as much as we did, or sending each other mixes and names of new bands throughout these many years, she and I are musically simpatico. So I was pretty sure, even before listening to any of Deer Tick’s music, that I was going to have a good time. Being friends with some of the members of the opening band, Scott Lucas & the Married Men, Rebecca was especially excited to share their latest LP with me. Sitting out on her deck, the night before the concert, it only took a couple of songs by each band and I knew for certain: A good time was waiting to be had.

Scott Lucas is also the front man for Local H, a band with whom I have a divided love/eh relationship. There is nothing “eh” about how I now feel about Scott Lucas & the Married Men, however; this is a full-on love affair. In bringing together the Married Men, Lucas has created the lushest of backdrops which showcases his vocals in a way that Local H rarely has. I was surprised to learn that the group has only been playing together for a couple of years, because there is an obviously solid bond between them all. Bringing together a variety of influences—including Americana, alt-country, and a true rock sensibility—has created a layered and dynamic sound, and their performance was absolutely magnetic. “Steady Gaze” is what I will be blasting out of my open car windows for the rest of this summer. Most striking was the final song of the set, “There Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down),” from 2012’s Blood Half Moon. If ever a song sonically embodied a painting, this angst-ridden gem is Edvard Munch’s The Scream come to musical life. I am predicting great things for these lucky seven.

On their heels was the band of the night that was completely unknown to me, Nashville’s Turbo Fruits. They get an adorable factor score of 10 for both their name and looks, but I don’t feel like their sound has fully developed. Based on the adoration of the crowd, that statement might get me beaten to a fruity pulp. However, I defend myself by saying that I literally could not understand one word of their lyrics. The vocals were muddy and the keyboard needed to be brought up, but the guitarist was on fire and I couldn’t quit talking about how drummer Matt Hearn’s bouncy style reminded me of Dave Grohl. There is a great deal of potential simmering under the surface; I just think this fruit needs to ripen.

By now, Chicago’s Metro was bursting at the seams with one of the most jovial crowds I have ever witnessed. It was smiles and happy hearts all around when Deer Tick took the stage and made it their own from note number one. This is a band that knows how to create a mood and how to build a performance. The first finger-picking strains of “Ashamed” had heads bobbing, and by the end of that song, the crowd was just pounding it right back at the band and everyone was caught in a whirlwind. I was sitting in the balcony, and sometimes it is just such a beautiful thing to watch a captivated audience.

The captivation continued with the bluesy riffs of “The Bump,” and the entire set was imbued with energy as vibrant as the colors of John McCauley’s turquoise guitar against his coral suit jacket. My favorite moment was when drummer Dennis Ryan took the reigns as lead vocalist on “Clownin Around” from their 2011 release Divine Providence. Ryan’s keening vocals are such the perfect match for this tender, thoughtful tune that I believe speaks volumes about the band itself.

Deer Tick is a beer-soaked good time. They are fun, and include tons of fantastic covers in their set such as Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” Though they may seem like a simple party band on the surface, no one write lyrics like these without having something of substance under the clown paint. Almost as if to prove that thought, the band left McCauley on his own to deliver “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin),” and then rejoined him for the sweetest of harmonies in “Dirty Dishes.”

Due to the lateness of the hour and the need to go pick up my little boy from the babysitter, I missed it when they switched gears near the end and paid tribute to Beastie Boys by covering “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).” It certainly had to be a madhouse in there at that point. Deer Tick, I hope you felt the love because, I do believe that crowd would’ve opened a vein for you. | Janet Rhoads

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