By Rachel Chaparro
As Deer Tick crashed through a long, tight set at the Gothic Theatre on Thursday, it may have taken some audience members a few songs to notice that drummer Dennis Ryan and keyboardist Rob Crowell were missing. The sound was full, if not a bit more country than expected, and the tempo was right despite the lack of a rhythm section.
Lead singer John McCauley acknowledged their absence by saying they were “tragically missing.” Rumors had spread throughout the audience that this may have been because of a death in the family. But despite some possible bad news, and the empty instruments haunting the stage, Deer Tick gave it their all as a three piece.
Channeling his drunkenness, McCauley led Deer Tick through what turned out to be an unexpectedly intimate set. The stage was simple – a plastic bronco head with a bowtie propped up next to a microphone and a flashing Deer Tick sign that looked like it belonged to a cheap motel. From grungy trucker tunes to ballads and even a funky Sam Cooke cover, the band delivered a jam packed, high energy show. Kicking things off with the crowd-pleasing “Ashamed” immediately set the tone for night with its alt-country twang. While the night stayed rooted in southern rock, Deer Tick displayed a long, diverse list of influences with an assortment of covers, and daftly weaving a bit of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” into their own tune, “These Old Shoes.”
While the show ebbed and flowed from alt-country to blues, the highlight of the night was when they brought out keyboardist Steve Berlin from Los Lobos, a “friend” to play the drums and singer Vanessa Carlson. The infusion of new blood gave them a hefty boost in sound, while adding a bit of funk and Chicano rock. The night ended with a slow, brawny rendition of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.”
Rachel Chaparro is a Denver-based writer and a new contributor to Reverb.
Evan Semón is a Denver freelance writer and photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work.