Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Deer Tick bites Northampton


It’s anybody’s guess what Rhode Island’s John McCauley, the chaotic vodka-swilling Deer Tick front-man, might do when he comes to Northampton tonight.

McCauley has a history of spontaneity.

Performing two years ago, the band handed out ketchup and mustard sandwiches, McCauley held a bottle between his teeth and chugged to the tune of his own guitar solo, and bandmates hopped through a window stage-rear to smoke cigarettes with fans watching from the lot.

Antics aside, the singer-songwriter, with signature strained wailing vocals and songs of wallow and despair and party and mayhem, has earned accolades as a rising songwriter, defying genre conventions in his mix of rock, punk, blues and country.

In the self-penned (McCauley signed the write-up with the name Cecil Thyme, though he later revealed to The Boston Globe that he had written it) biography formerly displayed on the band’s website, McCauley cites Hank Williams records and a bottle of brandy in his cold Rhode Island apartment, circa 2004, as the inspiration behind the hard-rocking sound his critics have struggled to define.

In the eight years since McCauley started Deer Tick as an 18-year-old alt-country singer-songwriter in Providence, R.I., the band has changed direction from once gentler folksy tunes like “Spend the Night” and “Baltimore Blues No. 1” to loud and racing barroom sing-alongs like “Let’s All Go to the Bar,” off the punkier “Divine Providence” (2011), a release last year that once-and-for all distanced the band from the alt-country label McCauley outwardly opposed.

Deer Tick followed up 2007’s “War Elephant,” their first album as a group, with “Born on Flag Day” (2009) and “The Black Dirt Sessions” (2010), both spawned from the same 20-day marathon recording session in 2008. Not until last year’s “Divine Providence,” did the loud, raw nature of the band’s performances takeover their recorded material.

Part Mick Jagger, part Hank Williams, Bob Dylan or John Prine, McCauley is the only remaining member of the original band. Since Deer Tick’s inception he’s worked side projects between touring, like Middle Brother, the folk trio formed with Dawe’s Taylor Goldsmith and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez, and more recently Diamond Rugs, a liquor-laden indie super-group, featuring Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin.

The band has been featured at the Newport and Philadelphia folk festivals, at Coachella and Austin City Limits, on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and with Brian Williams of “NBC Nightly News,”  who’s a fan of their music.

Tickets for tonight’s show can be purchased for $16 in advance, or $18 at the door. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Brian Canova can be reached at [email protected]


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