Deer Tick // Lee’s Palace // 10.10.13
On Thursday, October 10, Lee’s Palace provided the perfect nondescript location for the nondescript band known as Deer Tick. John McCauley III’s raspy vocals, paired with a flying jump-kick from the bass drum, kind of set the tone for the evening. The band played numerous older songs, with several new ones from their recent album Negativity, including the hit, Dreams in the Ditch.
As my first sold out show, it was well worth wading through the green, though rather talented opener, Robert Ellis, to experience the rowdy crowd alone. John, the functioning alcoholic/lead singer, appeared almost godlike on stage. His presence drawing the eyes of not only the crowd, but his band members, whose gazes followed him across the stage. A flash of his missing tooth (teeth?) and every drunken brawl, every drug-fueled adventure and insane story teased at the corner of your mind. A lone fly zipped about on stage and one could only hope that they brought it with them.
John is the epitome of cool, arriving with an attitude relatable to a musician who has achieved star status, and knows it, essentially, he is everything James Dean ought to have been. Images of trashed hotel rooms and bar fights danced in the heads of the predominantly male crowd (or extremely masculine women). The small venue in comparison to others in Toronto, meant the music sounded just as good from the back as the front (a kinky joke I am sure the band would appreciate), amid screams of “Oh they’re just so good!” and John’s whistling.
I sat and scribbled notes on napkins (I remembered my camera but not my notebook), so I barely even watched the show, and ended up pushed to the back bar rubbing elbows with lesbians and eyeing the spill trough full of quarters. I spotted at least five other people wearing my exact army jacket (all of which I think were men) but at least I felt included.
In previous interviews, John has spoken of his profound love of beer, and that night he was most certainly made proud. After I was forced to the bard, I secretly wished he would spray the crowd with beer, as his lyrics and stage presence alone demand. It wouldn’t be Deer Tick without a baptism of beer. Sadly, this never actually happened.
In a sea of plaid lumberjacks, I felt remarkably at home, relatively ignored, despite my abnormal (napkin writing) behaviour. Do people take journalists seriously when they take notes on napkins? I think so. It’s not very rock and roll to use a notebook.
Back to the show, in his grandpa t-shirt (World’s Greatest Grandpa), John would hunch his shoulders over his guitar or piano and holler his croaky vocals into his mic, backed up by both guitarist Ian O’Neil and drummer Dennis Ryan. The band performs like family, existing as a single entity, drinking in the same light that radiates off John, and emitting a gravelly, surprisingly harmonious sound.
Does Deer Tick really sit down and discuss their tunes? Judging by their music they must, yet the facade of irresponsibility is upheld so strongly by the very verdict of their reputation that it is hard to believe they do anything but drink beer and break things.
It is a remarkable clash or illusion to experience a performance by Deer Tick, and I have a feeling this is just the way they want it.
Emily Fox |