Deer Tick goes “Acoustick” at Belly Up Aspen
If You Go …
What: Deer Tick
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Tuesday, April 12, 9 p.m.
How much: $25-$99
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
After pushing the boundaries of rock ’n’ roll excess and earning a reputation for anarchic concerts over the past decade or so, the Rhode Island quintet Deer Tick has reined itself in and returned to its alt-folk roots. The band’s “Acoustick” tour, which stops at Belly Up Aspen tonight, showcases a refocused Deer Tick that hopes to leave crowds remembering the music instead of the onstage antics.
Their local shows have become the stuff of legend, beginning with their 2011 debut, during which frontman John McCauley set his pubic hair on fire. While playing the raucous boozy anthem “Let’s All Go to the Bar,” the band dumped cases of silly string into the audience — the crowd soon sprayed most of it (and plenty of beer) and trashed the club gloriously. Every time they’ve played here, they’ve gone onstage to the “where the beer flows like wine” speech from “Dumb and Dumber” — one of the band’s favorite films, chronicling another group of Rhode Islanders making their way to Aspen.
After establishing themselves with folk-tinged songs and insane live shows that brought a punk swagger to the music, their latest album, 2013’s “Negativity,” saw the band take it down a notch. It’s considerably more polished than the band’s previous effort, 2011’s “Divine Providence,” which aimed to capture the spirit of Deer Tick’s unhinged live shows. It was a fun record but was purposefully sloppy. With “Negativity,” the band aimed to get serious about the music once again.
The quieter, stripped down “Acoustick” tour is in keeping with that shift.
“We wanted to make sure we didn’t fall down the path that was easiest, which is the path we went down with ‘Divine Providence,’” lead guitarist Ian O’Neill said from Providence last year before a canceled Belly Up show. “We wanted to make sure we were still doing something to keep us interested in playing together — that’s what keeps us interested.”
O’Neill, formerly of the ambitious New Jersey punk outfit Titus Andronicus, joined Deer Tick in 2009 and has since shared songwriting duties with McCauley.
The “Negativity” writing sessions, during which the band wrote 30-some songs, coincided with McCauley cleaning up considerably. After a hard-live, crack-smoking yearslong run of Shane MacGowan-styled self-destruction as performance art, he refocused himself and his band on their creative mission. The tight songs and evocative lyrics on “Negativity” showcase that renewed purpose, with standout outlaw country tunes like “The Dream’s in the Ditch,” “Big House” and “The Rock.” Without the drunken hooligan theatrics (or perhaps less of them) the “Acoustick” tour reminds fans of what made Deer Tick interesting in the first place. The band is even rehearsing regularly, O’Neill said with a laugh.
“What we basically aimed to do after this last album is to work harder so that all of our shows are as good as they can be,” O’Neill said. “We still have spontaneous, silly moments onstage because our personalities are that way. But what we’re talking about is we want to be the tightest band possible.”
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