Nevertheless, the gig contained all that and more, a finish line pull back into Deer Tick’s native New England after about nine weeks of touring across the country. That the concert sold out is not all that surprising given that the alt-country group hails from Providence, and last fall’s headlining bill with the Felice Brothers probably did the same at the Royale. What is surprising is something that shouldn’t be: Deer Tick seems to be pretty damn successful. It was only a couple of years ago when they were still playing O’Brien’s down on Harvard Ave., but now I get the impression that Deer Tick is the leading example of New England-bred music graduating beyond this corner of the country. By extension, in my mind, Deer Tick is the closest thing that Boston has right now to the national stage given that its most recent widespread cross-country exports seem to have been Irish rock ballpark anthems and electro-pop wailings [feel free to chalk that up to personal bias]. It may ring cheesy, but this is what I thought of upon seeing their tour promo theme of “Deer Tick: 2012” wrapped in faux-presidential font and colors. They’re our (relatively) local delegates to what’s west and south.
From the full-throated audience sing alongs to older songs like set opener “Ashamed” and a nearly a cappella “These Old Shoes” to tracks from last year’s most recent LP Divine Providence such as the grimy “The Bump,” Deer Tick’s crowd were in it for the long run. The whole concert almost hit the two hour mark, an impressive feat especially given the previous night was McCauley’s 26th birthday (he notified the audience early that he celebrated by taking LSD). Divine Providence showcases songs by others in the band, and they sound fantastic live: guitarist Ian O’Neil’s surprisingly Beatles-y “Walkin Out the Door” and drummer Dennis Ryan’s first full vocal track on “Clownin Around,” a beautifully plaintive and subdued folk ballad that seems out of place on the record after the raucous “Let’s All Go To the Bar”. The latter was the appropriate set-closer after McCauley got a faceful of birthday cake (thanks to openers Turbo Fruits) and took a few swigs from a front row flask. Channeling the punk enthusiasm of forefathers the Replacements, Deer Tick closed out the night throwing back beers, having beers thrown at them, and attempting to crowd surf (namely a failed attempt by bassist Christopher Dale Ryan), all while the crowd surged toward the stage and almost conjured a mosh pit. One guy even made it on stage for a brief, but glorious, five seconds to drunkenly scream the song’s namesake words into McCauley’s mic before being pounced upon by security; the Deer Tick leader wasn’t fazed.
And then, after that final four minutes of reckless energy, it ended. A relatively tame shitshow, but a memorable shitshow all the same.