Few bands can take the 9:30 Club stage and go about their business to deliver a mind-blowing set of music with the determined spirit and fervid stance of Deer Tick.
The four-human squad out of Providence has been distilling its own flavor of blues and folk since the group solidified its lineup in the late 2000s, and since that time it’s become a household name among choosy indie rock listeners far and wide, as well as a staple at the Newport Folk Festival held each summer near their hometown.
This past summer, Deer Tick put out its first studio album of new material in almost six years with the release of Emotional Contracts, a convincing reminder of the group’s dogged energy, its reliable audacity and the lovable charm of its members.
Stream the newest album from Deer Tick, Emotional Contracts, via Spotify:
Deer Tick’s been out on tour to support the new record, and it wraps up later this month back in Providence with a two-night stand at the Columbus Theater. But last week, it brought this seasoned, fun-loving crew to the nation’s capital for a gratifying set at 9:30 Club on Nov. 14.
Led by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter John McCauley, who has overcome a lot in his day, and featuring fellow guitarist/vocalist Ian O’Neil and talented sibling duo of Christopher Dale Ryan on bass and Dennis Michael Ryan on drums, Deer Tick shared songs from the latest release along with celebrated tunes from as far back as the 2007 premiere, War Elephant.
At 9:30 Club, McCauley was admittedly light on banter, but nonetheless wildly entertaining — consistently pulling beer cans from the beige cooler sitting in front of the drum kit. He and O’Neil shined in a showcase of their terrific synergy and reciprocal blend of bluesy, progressive guitar action.
Watch the official music video for Deer Tick’s “Forgiving Ties” via the band’s YouTube channel:
Still, it might be their cojoined gnarly voices — along with the stylish pipes of Dennis Michael, who takes the lead here and there — that gives the band so much of its one-of-a-kind character and certainly made the night of November 14 an absolute hoot for those on hand.
Favorites like “Mange,” “Hope Is Big,” and “Twenty Miles” put the band’s personality on display right alongside its penchant for the blasting endeavor or a crowd-assisted singalong. Drawing an audience a tad more experienced than the average throng to populate the club, Deer Tick’s fans moved right along with them, as McCauley at one pointed was upside down with his head hanging off the stage as he played, a big grin for those in the front row.
The persevering jam “Forgiving Ties” and the sleeper hit “Disgrace” were two explosive takes from the new record, but the epic and illusory edition of “The Real Thing” might have been the showpiece of the night, as Deer Tick elongated the album closer to dazzling effect before a simple wave and farewell to a howling room full of fans.
Listen to Deer Tick’s 2019 compilation, Mayonnaise, via Spotify:
It’s a Whale
I Got a Rocket In My Pocket (Jimmy Lloyd)
Running From Love
Hope is Big/Tripping Up the Stairs
If I Try to Leave
Me and My Man
Once In A Lifetime
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen)
The Real Thing
Here are home-developed, home-scanned 35mm drugstore film images of Deer Tick along with the night’s opening act, Abby Hamilton, performing at 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. the night of November 14, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Ryan Vock.