Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

I had anticipated the Deer Tick show for several weeks prior to this night, having heard “Diamond Rings 2007” on KEXP one morning on the way to work. I was immediately drawn to the raw vocals and grungy country style. I did quite a bit of researching before the show, hoping to get a feel for what I was in for at the High Dive on Thursday night.

However I wasn’t prepared for the marathon that ensued, leaving me both ecstatic and exhausted. The band played approximately 25 songs in total, a scorcher considering that on a good night, most bands give us 14 or 15 tracks at best. Country songs are different though, I get that. Still, I tried to get a playlist at the end and was told that they “don’t use one.” I can’t even keep track of my family’s birthdays, how on earth did Deer Tick power through a 20+ song set without a guide?

Anyway, it was a great time. They opened with a few bars of the good ol’ boogie-stomp “Who Do You Love?” and then segued into the little honky-tonk dance number “Spend The Night” featuring some nice work on the standup bass and great blues guitar. After these promising beginnings, the night went on with a series of solid original country-rock stylings on songs such as “Smith Hill,” “These Old Shoes,” and crowd favorite “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin)” and some pretty spectacular covers as well. These included a very swingy “Maybellene” (Chuck Berry) in which half the crowd seemed to be dancing, and a funny, unexpected “Break Down” by Tom Petty. Other favorites were “Song About A Man” containing great vocals in John McCauley’s singular and raw singing style, good use of harmonica on the bridge and depression-era lyrics.

Just as I was wondering why Deer Tick wasn’t at the No Depression festival this year (as they would have fit in perfectly), the band cracked open a wonderful cover of The Replacement’s “Can’t Hardly Wait” which was also covered by Townes Van Sant at No Depression! Coincidence? Hmmm…

One of the highlights of the night were the amazing talents of drummer Dennis Michael Ryan. He pulled out a few epic, jaw-dropping solos that left the crowd speechless. References to John Bonham did indeed abound and I was totally impressed.

All in all, Deer Tick put on a really great show. The crowd was easygoing and everyone was in a good mood, clapping along and singing, dancing, cheering. Around song 17 or 18, I realized I shouldn’t have closed my bar tab so early. The set continued with more howling blues guitar, thumping bass, zydeco tinkerings and swamp swing. During the break, I met a local musician from Ballard who informed me that Deer Tick’s show at the Tractor in June was nothing compared to this night, referring to the High Dive show as “magic”. I’d have to say he was right.

The encore began with guitarist Andrew Grant Tobiassen shouting “Who wants to hear another motherfucking Deer Tick song?” which was received with wild cheers from the audience. The first song began with another big rolling drum solo, followed by huge bass drum and screaming psychedelic guitar on perhaps the best known Deer Tick song, “Easy”. This was followed by perfect rendition of the old school slide guitar song, you know the one? It’s in all the 50’s film soundtracks… Try as I might, I just cannot put my finger on the name. And then finally, the crazy and perfect “La Bamba”. The remaining audience went wild at this point, everyone dancing, lots of big overhand claps (ha), guitar madness and a huge finish. They played for almost 2 whole hours, y’all. I’ll definitely see Deer Tick again next time they play, but I’ll be sure to get in a nap and some Gatorade beforehand.