Review: Deer Tick gets rowdy at Slowdown (with photo gallery)

John McCauley - dressed as a chicken - led Deer Tick through almost two hours of music on Friday at Slowdown. (Photo by Kevin Coffey/The World-Herald)

John McCauley – dressed as a chicken – led Deer Tick through almost two hours of music on Friday at Slowdown. (Photo by Kevin Coffey/The World-Herald)

People wanted a stereotypical Deer Tick show: sweaty, crazy, beer-soaked and drunk.

The men of Deer Tick were ready to deliver, but it seemed like they wanted to get rowdy on their own terms. It took until the final minutes of the show for the place to really go crazy.

Early in the set, some kid ready to get crazy stepped in front of me and started headbanging and pumping his fist. Only the band was playing one of its slowest songs, “Just Friends.” Another couple of kids tried to start a mosh pit, and it just made everyone around them mad.

I realized they were waiting for the band to hit “Let’s All Go to the Bar,” but the band has toned things down recently.

They did get there. It just took awhile.

The night started off with country singer-songwriter Robert Ellis, who was joined by members of Deer Tick halfway through his set. Unfortunately for Ellis, he sounded better when it was just he and pedal steel player Will Van Horn. (For the record, I enjoyed Ellis’ “Comin’ Home” and “Westbound Train.”)

When it was Deer Tick’s turn, they opted to play dress-up. Halloween was the day before, but Deer Tick still wanted to celebrate. So McCauley wore a chicken suit. For the entire two-hour set. (He made several references to his costume including subbing “beak” for “mouth” in the line I can’t eat, I can’t use my mouth” in “Main Street.”)

Most of the rest of the band was dressed up, too. Guitarist Ian O’Neil looked like Free-Wheelin’ Bob Dylan from the album cover (his bushy, curly hair helps the look) while bassist Christopher Dale Ryan had on aviators and a general ’70s kind of costume.

As I said before, the band started slow and weaved songs from its dark album, “Negativity,” with old favorites such as “The Rock.” Instead of shambling about onstage, the band was on the ball and played perfectly.

I felt that songs from “Negativity” noticeably brought down the mood a little bit even when they were really good. O’Neil took the mic to sing “The Dream’s in the Ditch,” the best song from the record (which he wrote), and though I loved it, it was just kind of a slow moment. Same with “Just Friends,” another great song that’s kind of a downer.

As is their style, Deer Tick threw in a few covers including Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” Lou Reed’s “Hangin’ Around” and NRBQ’s “12 Bar Blues.”

The final few minutes are when things got fun. Singing “we’re full grown men but we act like kids” during “The Bump,”  the band was throwing themselves into the songs while the audience threw themselves around the floor of Slowdown.

As they finished the encore with “Ashamed” and “Let’s All Go to the Bar,” it got completely out of hand. The band’s roadie capped popping the tops off bottles of Budweiser and spraying the audience while a giant mosh pit formed and kids slammed into each other. Ellis, the show’s opener, came onstage in a costume that looked like Russell from “Almost Famous” and joined the fracas. It was insane.

After a long blues jam between McCauley and O’Neil, McCauley jumped into an impromptu version of “La Bamba” and ended up singing the whole thing before dropping his guitar and pointing to the bar.

“We’ll be over there in a few minutes,” he said. “Thank you so much.”

Can’t see the slideshow? View the photos on my Flickr page.

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