October 29, 2010
Triple Rock Social Club
A haggard jack-o-lantern with the words "Deer Tick" scraped into its skin sat idly on the drum monitor. The crowd shifted around the empty stage after witnessing an entertaining yet somewhat exhausting set by Mark Sultan. John McCauley emerged from backstage with a couple of complimentary beers. He set them next to his pedal board and slinked back to the green room.
[jump] Within a span of five minutes McCauley repeated this process until he had a makeshift six-pack resting beside his effects rig. I assumed that these were intended for the entire band's consumption, but that quaint little thought was immediately shot to pieces when guitarist Ian O'Neil and bassist Christopher Dale Ryan casually strolled on stage with refreshments of their own.
Trouble was a brewin'. Five boys from Providence just rolled into town, and they were going to play all the filthy rock 'n roll you were warned about in Sunday School.
The New Englanders had the crowd hypnotized from the get go. Arms flailed in the pit as the band stormed through a barn-burning two-hour set equipped with all the antics of a legendary punk show. Between McCauley singing in the audience, playfully spitting his drink into a bandmate's face, and trying to catch his own saliva, I truly believed that he didn't give a fuck and that's what made him so memorable.
Somewhere between the cryptic cadence of Bob Dylan and the gruff musings of Tom Waits resides McCauley's alcohol soaked stage banter: it's hilarious, incoherent, and oddly magnetic. "Do we know how to party, or just know how to get drunk?" McCauley muttered in between songs. Shorty after that enigmatic comment, requests for "Dirty Dishes" and "Art Isn't Real" poured from the audience. "It's still early. We'll get to all that shit later." He stepped away from the mic, and a fan reached for a high five. Seeing this, McCauley promptly grabbed the outstretched hand and shoved it in his mouth.
An electricity seemed to hover in the air that night. An electricity that refused to fade even during the quiet numbers. "Dirty Dishes" proved to be worth the wait. The vocal harmonies were pristine as the fan favorite gradually built to its heartbreaking sonic conclusion. An epic version of "Mange" closed out the night. Guitars roared for nearly ten minutes as McCauley traded heroic solos with O'Neil until the final chord rang out. As the feedback dissolved McCauley went straight for the jack-o-lantern. It was going on his head, and it wasn't coming off until they finished the encore.
Personal Bias: The Last Waltz is one of my favorite films. This concert almost felt like I was watching The Band in their prime, and no, that's not because Ian O'Neil is a dead ringer for a young Robbie Robertson.
The Crowd: A group of enthusiastic midnight ramblers that had healthy supply of beards.
Overheard in the crowd: "Dude, I just saw some guy pay $35 for one drink order at the bar, and he didn't even seem disappointed!"
And this line was too marvelously absurd to leave out: "Matthew Broderick?! I barely knew her!"
Reporter's Notebook: The three-piece version of Communist Daughter had a delightfully disarming performance. Hearing the choice cuts from Soundtrack to the End in a comfortably stripped down fashion was refreshing. Johnny Solomon seemed like he was performing in his living room for friends.