Deer Tick does a pretty good job of subverting your expectations. Judging from the album cover of their first full-length album, “War Elephant,” which includes nothing less than the band members sitting on a sand dune in front of two women in bikinis holding a shotgun and an AK-47, you might not expect the mellow fingerpicked guitars that follow. Moreover, after hearing Deer Tick’s infectious blend of tender folk and rollicking roots rock, you might not expect it to be something you could mosh to. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what we did at Deer Tick’s March 3 show at The Haunt.
The night began with comedian Solomon Georgio taking us through his life as an African immigrant and “professional homosexual,” interweaving narratives of childhood bullies with social commentary on racism and homophobia. He made his presence known to a crowd that otherwise was expecting music and had a rousing set while still being cognizant of his role of introducing Deer Tick.
The band played two sets — one acoustic, and one electric, which both accentuated and juxtaposed their sparser sound from their high-energy propensities. And when the five guys from Providence, Rhode Island did take the stage, clad in a flamboyant assortment of red puffy shirts, red robes and red kerchiefs, they began with an impassioned performance of “Sea of Clouds,” a guitar-led narrative about far away memories that sparks into a captivating crescendo of crash symbols and scintillating harmonies.
As the set continued, what stood out most was the band’s versatility. Lead vocals were swapped between all band members save bassist Chris Ryan, and each member contributed backing vocals. More specifically, drummer Dennis Ryan’s first song contributing lead vocals was “Me and My Man,” a track Ryan told the audience he wrote from the perspective of his dog. Each member played multiple instruments, with a cycle of guitars, mandolins, wind instruments and keyboards in rotation between songs.
After the acoustic set, Georgio came back on for a small interlude, this time sporting a yellow windbreaker. “If you haven’t realized by now, there’s a color scheme!” he divulged to the audience.
At some point during the interlude, a man standing next to me let me know about his plans for the electric set, asserting that “when a song called ‘The Bump’ comes on, he’ll start screaming, and we’ll start a pit”. If you listen to a recorded version of the track, you might think it impossible. However, I assure you, during the electric set, not only did the audience happily oblige to get moving, we felt compelled to.
Deer Tick came out wearing all yellow this time around, and by the time they played their second song of the set, aptly named “Jumpstarting,” the crowd was already bumping shoulders. Save an engrossing solo piano performance of “Goodbye, Dear Friend” in which McCauley grieves the loss of a loved one, it was a boisterous set, made all the more impressive when McCauley disclosed that he was so sick the previous night that he had to cancel their show.
The intimacy of The Haunt made the perfect venue for Deer Tick’s personal and lively performance, and although there’s a bar only a short distance away from the main stage, every time I tried to slip away for a song to get a drink of water the tempo would kick back up and keep me dancing for a song like “Mr. Nothing Gets Worse”.
By the end of the set, Deer Tick had played two full sets and three encore songs over the span of more than two hours. So if you get the chance to see Deer Tick, do so not only to get a sampling of the many genres their music covers, but do so also to experience for yourself the anthemic energy they brought to The Haunt this past Friday.
Jesse Martens is a Sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]