Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Live Shows: Deer Tick, Prescott Park Arts Festival, Portsmouth, NH 7/7/17

Photo by Ken Sears
Deer Tick have always had a bar band feel to them. Maybe it's the fact that a ton of their songs are about booze. Maybe it's the fact that the first time I saw them they bought everyone in the club a beer. Maybe it's the copious amount of beer I've seen them drink onstage. Because of all that, a family friendly arts festival in a public park with a 7:00 start time was an odd venue for them, but last Friday it seemed to work.

Playing on a stage still set up for a family production of Mary Poppins, Deer Tick opened the show with one of their already released songs from their upcoming two albums. Unfortunately, the sound was a bit off so I couldn't tell which one. (The show started about 30 minutes late while they ironed out some issues due to the heavy rains that had just ended two hours before the show started.) Luckily, the issues were fixed by the second song, and the rest of the show sounded great.
Photo by Ken Sears

One great thing about a band playing without a new release out is that they're free to play whatever they wanted without worrying about their new album. Deer Tick played a few new songs, but a huge amount of their set was taken from their first two albums, War Elephant and Born on Flag Day. War Elephant was represented by perhaps my three favorite songs from their set: "Ashamed," "Dirty Dishes," and "These Old Shoes." The version of "Little White Lies" and "Song About a Man" from Born on Flag Day were more highlights. The band played a loose and laid back set while still being a rock band. At one point while they made some adjustments to the drum kit, John McCauley played the theme from Super Mario Bros. 

Photo by Ken Sears
The crowd was definitely used to the typical public park folk show, and stayed seated on blankets and lawn chairs for the vast majority of the show. A very small handful of people stood standing and dancing to the left of the stage, but most people were fine sitting just about as far from the stage as they could be. A very small group of preschoolers and toddlers used the walkway typically reserved for dancing for actually dancing. McCauley rewarded the kids participating in the show by handing out guitar picks, and then hopping off the stage to let some kids take turns playing his guitar. He might be creating the next generation of rock stars, and bless him for that.

It seemed that his act reminded the crowd that shows are much more fun if you're actively participating, and they came more alive for "Ashamed." For the final song of the main set, "Let's All Go to the Bar," renamed "Let's All Go to the Park" for the night, finally brought the crowd alive. People came running down from out of nowhere and filled up the area in front of the stage. Who knows how much fun the show could have been if everyone had that much energy for more than a single song?

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