Although Deer Tick rarely plays the songs I hope they play, they use the material they opt for instead to win me over just the same.
Relying on 2011's "Divine Providence" to provide the bulk of its set, the Rhode Island-based quintet played a packed Urban Lounge on Thursday and used its own brand of exuberance and a full-on party vibe, aided by frontman John McCauley's beer-guzzling and beer-spilling antics to make a weeknight show feel like the highlight of a great weekend.
Deer Tick also proved that it's more important how well a band plays than what they play to put on a good concert.
Also, when they do play the songs I most want to hear - anything and everything off their 2007 debut "War Elephant," - it's inevitably been rearranged and re-imagined. Deer Tick refuses to play old material in a way that's initially recognizable and ultimately impossible not to like. This amount of creativity is from a band that's routinely dismissed - in typically non-creative fashion - as "just another indie-rock/alt-country" band.
The fact that they're routinely described with both of those descriptions should tell you how hard they are to categorize. Whether it was the dramatic re-imagining of "Baltimore Blues No. 1" or a nearly unaccompanied take on "Ashamed" - both from "War Elephant," Deer Tick just doesn't do songs by rote or try to make it sound remotely like it did on the record. Thank the Lord.
Instead, these guys seem determined to chase their musical muse wherever it leads. Whether it's a raveup like "Funny Word" or "Let's All Go to the Bar," both late-show highlights or the continued determination of McCauley, pictured above, ensures Deer Tick is a "band" in the truest sense of the word.
They also tipped their collective hat to their influences by opening with Nirvana's "Serve The Servants" and later by honoring fallen Beastie Boy MCA with "(Your Gotta) For Your Right (To Party)."
And by letting sideman Ian O'Neil sing "Walkin' Out That Door" and "Now It's Your Turn," in addition to drummer Dennis Ryan singing the melancholy "Clownin' Around," Deer Tick feels more like a band than just McCauley and a bunch of hired guns. All three songs are from "Providence," as was arguably the show's highlight, which was McCauley's moody take on "Chevy Express." Also, inspired run-throughs of "Miss K" and "Easy" showcased the band's strengths, McCauley impassioned vocals and Ryan's ferocious drumming.
Deer Tick - which would be an inspired choice for one of the vacant slots on Pioneer Park's Twilight Concert Series - prove they're worth seeing every time through town.