The Scene: It was a last minute decision for me to get off my lazy ass on Sunday night and give the weekend one final hurrah by making the voyage down to east Colfax to see Deer Tick at The Bluebird Theatre. I moseyed up to the venue a little after 8 to see a few smokers out front and hear the country twang emanating from within the venue. The balcony was packed, the floor was packed, the entire theater was pretty much packed. Yet, I somehow managed to muscle my way through the sea of flannel shirts, skinny jeans, and one man in a giant pink gorilla suit to find a spot in the back right against a rail with a perfect view.
Deer Tick: Mounted behind the band were light bulbs that flashed the words “Deer” and “Tick.” Lead singer, and founder of the band, John McCauley was decked out in a fancy pink blazer and tie. I walked in a few songs late but caught onto the energy in record time. Their sound is a one-of-a-kind combination of blues, folk, country and in your face punk rock. McCauley’s gritty voice not only translated from record to stage almost seamlessly, but the emotional lyrics were brought to life in the live setting.
At first the crowd movement was limited to a few head bobs and foot taps, but as the night progressed so did the energy of the audience. The lights behind the band flashed odd words here and there which were clearly some inside joke the light man was playing. As they went into what you could say is one of their more popular songs, “These Old Shoes,” the entire place erupted. Folks screaming along to every word as you would see at a punk show, but the bands volume was just loud enough to drown this out. John explained after that song how he found it funny that their most popular song is a song they didn’t even write.
I’ve been meaning to see these guys for a while now; ever since I heard McCauley’s cover of John Prine’s “In Spite of Ourselves.” As the opening notes of “Cake and Eggs” played, I was filled with a joy I found the first time I heard that song. Immediately I was satisfied and personally couldn’t have been more pleased with the night. That’s a good feeling to have with a band when they aren’t even halfway through their set. The fact that they absolutely nailed it, even after claiming that it was a song they hadn’t even practiced, made even more so bitter sweet. It’s a song I find myself singing all too often in both memoriam and future prospect.
Their nearly two hour set spanned from hardcore rock and roll to the folky-blues that they have become known for. Around the halfway point, the rest of the band left the stage leaving only McCauley, his pink suit, and guitar in the spotlight. This was a pleasant change from the sometimes hectic sound the entire band brings. His voice filled a room in a strange and almost abrasive way, but it was eerily pleasant. Scratchy and soulful, you can hear the years of love, pain, and hard work this man has put into living.
I first see most of my favorite bands hoping to hear a handful of songs that got me turned onto them. Not often is the case I actually get to hear those songs. While “Cake and Eggs” was a special treat, “Art Isn’t Real” was the real money maker for me on Sunday night. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been belly-up and feeling blue only to sing the lyrics to this song and feel a little better.
The set came to an end in perfect punk rock fashion. A few words were said in memory of MCA, The Beastie Boy who recently left us, and then a rendition of “Fight for your Right” that The Beasties themselves would be proud of boomed over the PA. By this time hundreds of fists were in the air as everyone in the place was singing along and beer was violently flying everywhere. They ended the set with “Let’s all go to the Bar.” A pink gorilla was crowd surfing, beer was being flung by everyone including the band, and McCauley took off his Pink suit to play the final notes with his genitalia. To call it pure ruckus would be an understatement. It was rock and fucking roll in the purest sense of the word. The song ended and the band left the stage. Just like that the lights came on and the booze soaked patrons shuffled out of the theater mumbling amongst them about how freaking amazing the performance they just witnessed was.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light show: B