Hampton Beach is one of the biggest tourist destinations in New England. It promises everything you could want in a busy beach, complete with boardwalks, water slides, mini golf, fried dough, and skee ball. It's a favorite destination for families, teenagers, and has enough of a night life scene to attract adults, too. It's also the town where, last October, a 71 year old man murdered his roommate with a sledgehammer. In other words, it's the perfect place in the Northeast to see the Drive-By Truckers.
The Casino Ballroom is an odd venue. It boasts of it's rich history, having had Louie Armstrong, Led Zeppelin, and Janis Joplin all play on it's stage. It even has huge banners around the stage proclaiming these past glories. For all it's past glories, the Ballroom has been more a part of the nostalgia circuit recently, hosting pretty much annual visits from Huey Lewis & the News, Brett Michaels, and Jeff Dunham. This year has seen an uptick in more current bands, including the recent Drive-By Truckers/Deer Tick double bill.
Deer Tick could have played it safe with their set, opting for more of their hard rocking, drinking songs, and seemed to be, playing songs like "Let's All Go to the Bar" at the beginning of their set. Instead, they truly made it their own show, slowing down the tempo and playing pretty much they wanted. There were definitely some hardcore Deer Tick fans in the audience, singing along loudly to old classics like "Ashamed." John McCauley even had his relatively new wife, Vanessa Carlton, come out to sing on "In Our Time." I never thought I'd see Vanessa Carlton come out to sing back up at any show I ever went to, but this is what happens now. Deer Tick even had an extra 15 minutes for their set on this night, a gift from the Truckers since it was kind of a homecoming show for them. (This is how New England is: You can be 2 states away from your hometown, and it can still be a hometown show).
Drive-By Truckers took the stage with a set almost perfectly crafted for the venue. Since the Ballroom exists as a tribute to it's own past, it was fitting that the Truckers played so many of their own tribute songs ("Carl Perkins' Cadillac," "The Night G.G. Allin Came to Town," "Ronnie and Neil," "Steve McQueen") to those who came before them. The entire set took place with the two songwriters/frontmen, Patterson Hood and Mike Colley, swapping singing duties back and forth from song to song. It was one of the best of all the times I saw them, playing loosely and just having fun. This is truly shown with new-ish bass player Matt Patton. You will never see anyone enjoying themselves on stage as much as he does. DBT is such an amazing live band that even though I've seen and heard the intro to "18 Wheels of Love" dozens of times, it still becomes one of the best tales I've ever heard live. They are one of the few bands I'll do anything I can to see anytime they come around.
To keep track of upcoming tour dates for Drive-By Truckers, check out their website. You can do the same for Deer Tick, including their main stage debut at the Newport Folk Festival.