"We're gonna play a bunch of songs," announced Ian O'Neil, fronting a band of Jeff Bailey, Chris Murray, and Julian Veronesi. Six is not exactly a bunch, but it was anyone's guess as to which songs they'd be playing because so many of Ian's songs are on Divine Providence and the Tim EP, which Deer Tick would be performing later. "The Dream is in the Ditch" started things off right, and the second time hearing it, I was already singing along. Ian revealed that they had stayed up until 5am when he heard Julian playing a new tune that he liked so much, he said, "We've gotta play that tomorrow." And they did, Ian handing over the reins to his former Titus Andronicus bandmate. "Hope is Big" made its third appearance of the residency, making it one of only three songs played every night. For the last tune, the band left O'Neil and Veronesi behind to do "a song we've been playing together for a long time," Chuck Berry's "Maybelline."
Alex Bleeker & the Freaks were next, and they sucked. Jangling between the same two chords on John McCauley's Mustang, Bleeker attempted jams that went nowhere, and sang in a boring, whiny voice. Drinking from a bottle of Jameson, he offered, "Thanks again for hanging out with us," but it's not like we had a choice. All the doors had "NO RE-ENTRY" signs on them.
Shirtless and gripping a pint, comedian Dave Hill had the honor of introducing the band. Although he was told he'd be prefacing Danzig, he chose the same intro: "They're gonna fuck you in the face with hot rock!" Deer Tick took the stage, and McCauley stated, "Ladies and gentlemen, Divine Providence." Within the first notes of "The Bump," the energy was palpable, with the crowd shouting back the lyrics. For "Funny Word," the boys were joined by a three-piece horn section that included Cochemea Gastelum (The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow), Jordan McLean (Antibalas), and Dave Smith (TV on the Radio). The fullness of the horns brought so much to the table that they would appear on eleven more numbers throughout the night. After the rowdy punk dash "Let's All Go to the Bar," McCauley remarked, "That's the stupidest song I've ever written, and that was the hardest song to write." "Clownin Around" lacked its circus outro, which was strange, given the horns. Viking Moses played keys on "Chevy Express," though the song was muddled by a disruptive hair-pulling scuffle in the crowd. A surprising twist to the end of the album, "Miss K." transitioned smoothly into "Summertime Blues" before the band departed.
Personally, I feel that Divine Providence contains some of the band's best-written songs, but the album's sequencing doesn't serve them well. It blows its load right at the beginning with three ragers and never gets that mometum rolling again. "Let's All Go to the Bar" should end the album, as it often does their shows, sending the listener out to get wasted as a reward. Using the rest of the album as the soundtrack for the journey to the saloon doesn't work quite as well, namely because if you were just trying to get drunk, you wouldn't spend 30 minutes getting there; you'd just go around the corner. Regardless, the horns livened things up enough that it didn't get boring, though their delicate shading on "Electric" was overpowered by McCauley's wails.
A minute later, Deer Tick and the horn section returned for "Mr. Cigarette." "I mean we made you wait on the album too," said McCauley, though thankfully it wasn't the thirty minutes of silence before the hidden track as it is on the CD. This time the horns were louder than McC, obscuring Paul Westerberg's clever lyrics. I'd never heard "Born at Zero" before, which was decent, but the medley of the Nirvana-esque "Walls" and the previously-unplayed "Virginia Gal" was thrilling. McCauley took the microphone out of its stand and walked around, pretending to solo on Rob Crowell's sax and patting Ian on the shoulder. You could tell they were having a blast. "That's the first time we've ever performed that song. We've been doing a lot of firsts with this residency. It's been really nice," McCauley admitted. "She's Not Spanish" made its third residency appearance, though the first for the band, making me realize that I like O'Neil's DT songs more when he actually plays them with Deer Tick. A cover of Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars" was just okay, but it segued into a version of "Ashamed" that knocked 12/5's off of the map. Taking it at a slower tempo to start, the song built into a vehicle for each horn and guitarist to solo. The horn blasts combined with the crowd chants made this quite possibly the best performance I'd seen in the three shows. "Cake & Eggs," a song in the key of D and "sort of about oral sex," cooled things down a bit after the epic "Ashamed." "We'd like to end this by celebrating a very bad man," said McCauley, and they launched into Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," playing it so well you'd have thought they wrote it.
The band ascended the backstage stairs, but John remained on the side of the stage. Gesturing us to keep up the applause, he returned to sing "Diamond Rings" with Dennis Ryan on harmony. "No So Dense" was the crowd-pleaser it always is, and as it wound down, the horns and others made their way into the lights. "This one goes out to the people of Brooklyn," and with a loud "Kick it!" they crunched into "Fight for Your Right." Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit now had the oft-traded Mustang, but his most memorable contribution to the song was throwing pitcher after pitcher of beer onto the crowd. This insane final display was the ultimate example of why we go to Deer Tick shows: Because anything can happen because it's a goddam party.
Deer Tick, like Band of Horses at Manhattan Center, missed one song from their repertoire: War Elephant's "Long Time," but no one cared. Fully rocked, slightly sore, and reeking of booze, I made my way out onto Wythe to get back to the train. John McCauley was standing outside the back door, and I had to congratulate him on the best show of the three.
Reviews of previous Deer Tick shows:
12.12.12 Brooklyn Bowl
12.05.12 Brooklyn Bowl
10.03.11 Death by Audio
08.11.11 Pier 54
IAN O'NEIL - 12.19.12 - BROOKLYN BOWL (21 minutes, 10 seconds)
The Dream is in the Ditch / Funky Song (I Will Forget)* / Grow Tired of You in Time* / Be Kind to Me / Hope is Big / Maybelline
DEER TICK - 12.19.12 - BROOKLYN BOWL (1 hour, 43 minutes)
The Bump / Funny Word / Let's All Go to the Bar / Clownin Around / Main Street / Chevy Express / Something to Brag About / Walkin Out the Door / Make Believe / Now It's Your Turn / Electric / Miss K. > Summertime Blues
ENCORE I -
Mr. Cigarette / Born at Zero / Walls > Virginia Gal / She's Not Spanish / Between the Bars > Ashamed / Cake & Eggs / Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
ENCORE II -
Diamond Rings / Not So Dense > Fight for Your Right