Wednesday night Deer Tick kicked off their monster tour supporting their fantastic new album Emotional Contracts in Portsmouth, NH, which was John McCauley's birthday (aka Flag Day). It ended up being a brilliant and exhilarating night of music even though it had one of the rockiest of starts.
The stage at Cisco Brewers is basically a parking lot with a stage at the end in the middle of an industrial park. But it's actually set up really nicely with a grassy hill over on the side for lounging and better views of the stage. I got there right as opener Rafay Rashid started, playing a laid back version of alt-rock meets roots music. They only played four or five songs when someone from the venue took to the stage to announce they had to pause the show due to thunderstorms passing through the area, for everyone to head indoors, and it would probably last about an hour.
It turned out to last about two and a half hours. There was little to no communication between the venue and the assembled crowd as to what was happening, and I know I assumed the show was being called off. The evening was advertised as lasting until 10:00, so as that hour came closer and closer, I became more discouraged and annoyed. I know no one can control a storm, and I certainly don't want anyone hurt, but communication would have been nice. I started wishing I had picked literally any other way to spend my evening, and debating joining the people who had already bailed on the night. Finally, I noticed a large number of people near the door head outside, so I wandered out to see if anything was happening. Turns out they were hurriedly setting up the stage for Deer Tick to finally start the show around 9:50.
Deer Tick had a monumental task to make the evening worth it, and they were more than up to the task. Before they started, there was an excitement in the crowd I haven't felt in years. It was a mixture of giddiness that all that waiting wasn't for nothing, and that Deer Tick have earned a die hard following in the past decade plus. They took the stage wearing party hats and with the crowd serenading John McCauley with a terrible rendition of "Happy Birthday." And then the rock started.
Surprisingly, the band didn't play anything off of Born on Flag Day. They started off with two songs off of the upcoming Emotional Contracts, and despite how new the songs were, the crowd knew them by heart. In fact, three of the first five songs were from the upcoming album before Deer Tick busted out a version of Jimmy Lloyd's (or NRBQ's) "I Got a Rocket in My Pocket," which is such a perfect cover for them. They also covered Santo & Johnny's "Tear Drop" later in the set, but it was played so closely to the end of another song that most people didn't notice, even after McCauley pointed it out.
I've been going to see Deer Tick for thirteen years now, from dive bars to festival stages and venues in between. This was the best I've ever seen them. The finally feel poised to just explode into the (semi) mainstream, and they deserve it. The show was finally called off at 11:15 due to noise ordinances, and McCauley kept profusely apologizing for not being able to play their entire set. John, if you're reading this, none of us minded. You played a brilliant show for nearly ninety minutes and played seventeen songs. You could have just ended the show and no one would have felt shorted. I'll definitely see you next time.