Deer Tick serves up two stellar, colourful sets in Vancouver

Deer Tick at Rickshaw Theatre, 11/03/17

Photo by Peter Ruttan

Just as this year’s new album Deer Tick Vol. 1 is acoustic and secondary album Deer Tick Vol. 2 is electric, so was Deer Tick’s set on Friday (Nov. 3) at Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre. The hip and intimate venue was perfect for the Rhode Island group, who entertain both audibly and visually to the beat of their own drum.

Deer Tick—who are not in Vancouver often, and certainly brought out the fans in droves on East Hastings Street Friday night—started with three new tracks that accented lead singer John McCauley’s gorgeous song writing style. “Sea of Clouds” was the first song on the roster, and “Card House” had guitarist Ian O’Neil pulling out the mandolin. This is what made the first set the best of the evening—while many concertgoers love a loud, high-energy electric performance, Deer Tick’s musical breadth is really better put on display with their acoustic work.

The group pulled out the bouzouki and ukulele for “Doomed from the Start” and “Me and My Man,” really proving to concertgoers that they put a lot of thought into the individual components of their songs. On the visual side of things, Deer Tick went through a costume change for the second set, but their initial introduction to the Rickshaw had McCauley in a blue suit jacket with red-rimmed sunglasses; O’Neil, Chris Ryan and the keyboardist in red blazers; and Dennis Ryan in a free-flowing hippie top, rocking an Allen Ginsberg vibe.

Photo by Peter Ruttan

McCauley and O’Neil spent most of the first set on stools, very much seeming wonderfully weird and totally on their own musical plain, compared to other groups that have visited Vancouver this year. It is especially interesting comparing McCauley’s 70s-Boogie-Nights-beer-in-hand style with that of his wife Vanessa Carlton. Carlton’s performance at the Imperial last year had her looking elegant and romantic, with a glass of red wine perched on the piano. The two could not be more different, and it’s kind of wonderful.

Halfway through the show McCauley broke a string, which brought on one of the most spontaneous musical moments of the evening. McCauley and O’Neil threw a little physicality into their outro of the first set, leaving the rest of the band to perform energetic solos before they too left the stage for the break.  

New material tended to weave in well and naturally with the group’s back-catalogue and garage-rock, folk, country and blues styles showed up throughout the evening. Four-part harmonies really drove the songs home, and the crowded Rickshaw seemed euphoric and enraptured by Deer Tick’s fun stage presence. 2007’s “These Old Shoes” was a high point of the evening for most concertgoers, the track being undoubtedly the group’s most popular song.

Photo by Peter Ruttan

The beginning of the encore featured “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin)” and “Ashamed,” and finally Deer Tick closed up with a cover of “You Are So Beautiful.” As they are known for including a fair amount of covers in past sets—from Nirvana to Tom Petty—having just the one was pretty surprising.

Honestly, Deer Tick’s type of stage style would be great to see more of Vancouver. From the costumes to the multi-instrumental content to the general cool attitudes of everyone (not least of which is stellar drummer Dennis Ryan). While some fans at the show were overheard saying that past more drunken performances were more interesting, Deer Tick by no means disappointed.