Wed Sep 2 2009
Photograph: Kendall Pavan
The concert boat cruise in New York has long been the province of Pink Floyd cover bands, buzz-bin leftovers and aging blues acts. But every so often the powers that be enlist a troupe of indie rockers for some floating tunes; Passion Pit set sail in May, and Dead Meadow plays Wednesday 9. Perhaps NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams—who featured Deer Tick as the first interview for his Internet music series, BriTunes—made the call to get John McCauley and his crew onboard.
More likely, though, McCauley’s worn, gravelly howl earned the ticket: The Providence band fell into the ranks of -hunter and -hoof when it chose Deer as part of its name, but Frog would have been more apt. McCauley’s Tom Waits--level voice, coupled with Southern-tinged roots and country rollicking, makes for potent, lived-in Americana. So it’s a revelation that McCauley self-recorded Deer Tick’s debut, War Elephant, at the wise old age of 19. The band’s latest, Born on Flag Day, adds three new members to the now-24-year-old McCauley’s roster, and finds Deer Tick fully embracing twang on somber songs like “Little White Lies” and “Song About a Man.” Expect a more upbeat selection of numbers, like the rockabilly-informed “Straight Into a Storm,” at this show on the water. Close your eyes and you might think you’re cruising down the Mississippi on a steamer.—Colin St. John