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

Slugging Buds, Deer Tick rages Northampton

Brian Canova/Collegian

With a bus-tub of Budweiser in tow, Deer Tick took the stage at Pearl Street spitting, howling and drinking on a would-be quiet Monday night in Northampton.

The Providence, R.I., natives have a reputation for mayhem. Sometimes they even break down prospective barriers between themselves and the crowd. They almost always tout a passion for beer and booze, and with their signature mix of wailing vocals and pervading sense of bluesy hard-rocking rebellion, they enliven crowds.

Before they even took the stage, the crowd was chanting and pining over a “Deer Tick 2012” poster that one audience member rose into the air.

Deer Tick immediately commanded faithful attention with their opening song “Make Believe,” off its most recent album “Divine Providence,” propelling the crowd into an energy that would be sustained throughout its entire set.

Before playing “Main Street,” front-man, guitarist, singer, songwriter and the only member of the original band, John McCauley, introduced it as a song “not about Northampton,” assuring the crowd that Noho was just a little bit livelier than his hometown in Providence.

They also rocked “Now it’s Your Turn,” and “Clownin’ Around,” all off the band’s most recent release. Drummer Dennis Ryan led the vocals on the song that is loosely based on the infamous clown-clad killer John Wayne Gacey Jr.

Despite the chilling context, Ryan sang so soulfully it was reminiscent of the late Levon Helm, drummer and vocalist from the 1960s and 70s Canadian-American rock group The Band. In fact, as its music evolves, especially with their touring of “Divine Providence,” one can’t help but see Deer Tick as a contemporary version of The Band.

Similar versatility and talent was also demonstrated in Deer Tick’s rendition of its own song “Ashamed,” the first track off their 2007 debut album “War Elephant.” The original recording has the typical early Deer Tick sound, mixing folk, country and alternative rock tones.

A mere five years since its inception and this song has taken on an entirely new and soulful agenda. Monday night’s version took this heart-wrenching tune to a whole new level of rock and blues, allowing band member Rob Crowell to provide a fixated crowd with a fervent saxophone solo.

The crowd raised their drinks into the air after every song, and the band toasted and boasted many swigs of liquid confidence between each roaring and rowdy tune. McCauley, with his raggedy blonde mop of hair and rough range of vocals, even took it upon himself to chug a beer with his head tilted back, hands free to continue ripping chords.

By the end, as the smoke had wafted through the hall and the floor was wet with beer and sweat, one concert-goer in the back of the venue hurled a glass bottle on stage landing somewhere between guitarist Ian O’Neil and drummer Dennis Ryan.

Before that, O’Neil, a West Springfield native, had taken the microphone from McCauley for the show’s most heartfelt tune, “Walkin Out that Door” (off 2011’s “Divine Providence”) and dedicated it to his parents in the crowd.

When the glass bottle flew past him, O’Neil stopped the show.

“My mother is in the front row. If you do that again I will (expletive) kill you,” O’Neil said to the quieted crowd, but the adrenaline only fueled the rest of show as bottles weren’t the only thing hitting the floor. McCauley took two steps back during the encore and leapt into the crowd.

At 11:30 p.m., the band stepped back onstage for it’s two-song encore, the show’s climax. Mosh pits formed to a Nirvana cover, which then seamlessly trailed into a song that shifted away from the band’s former alternative country label to the bar-hall blasting rock and blues for which they are now more widely recognized.

At the track’s opening notes, the crowd cheered at the song they’d waited for all night. “Let’s All Go to the Bar,” a song somewhere in the vein of an Irish drinking ballad, moved the crowd into a frenzy of slurred sing-along at maximum volume.

It would be in any alternative rock fan’s interest to see Deer Tick as the band tours this fall. As the band continues to diversify and tighten their music, Deer Tick has a sound that doesn’t simply set it apart from its rocking counterparts, but even Deer Tick’s former version of themselves.

Brian Canova can be reached at [email protected]. Emily Felder can be reached at [email protected]


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