It was Mother’s Day in this past Sunday. The whole world seemed to be going to brunch with, planting gardens for, skyping and otherwise celebrating motherhood and having a mom. I was not the only one that had to come to terms with their irresponsibility and brunchless-ness this past Sunday, right? We can’t all be perfect. And maybe some of us don’t care. I’m not sure if it’s better that I do care and it bothered me so much to have to call my mom hungover, or if it’s better not to care. Ok so I’m horrible and deserve to be tossed in a trash can and rolled down a steep hill. When societal norms leave you a wallflower at the big dance, what do you do? I’ll tell you what you do: you give the people what they want. And how I interpreted that was to put on my t-shirt with a certain f-word printed on it, meet my friends for a margarita and go see the punk rock show. Yeah, that’s right, world: I check my credit score AND I can still hang with the punk kids. I guess I don’t really fit your definitions, your roles, your stereotypes - and isn’t that what Mother’s Day is all about. Mom, I’m not perfect but I’m your daughter. Or wait, maybe I was trying to describe punk music. Ahh, the two are more similar than may have been expected.
Deer Tick performed on Mother’s Day to a nearly sold-out crowd at the Bluebird Theater. Before they took the stage, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside played a rocking set to warm up the crowd. Before Sallie Ford stepped up to her broadcast-style microphone, I sat down with John McCauley from Deer Tick for an interview in the very small, and war-bunker sized backstage area. Before this all came to pass, I was at Larimer Lounge in 2011 watching Deer Tick perform right after releasing Divine Providence, right after Terry Gross from NPR did a story on these guys. I’m backtracking here for a reason, just bear with me for a moment and think of the cinematic quality of my story if you could pretend there is a tape-rewinding sound and people walking backwards. At this Larimer Lounge show, this sold out Larimer Lounge show, did I witness the brute strength that would come to an ordinary man who wanted something and was senseless enough to try something crazy. An ordinary man who wanted to see Deer Tick so badly he would scale an 11-foot wooden fence trimmed with barbed wire. Not only would that young man, in his cut off jeans and hooded sweatshirt, successfully climb over that obstacle, but he would mistake a large, muscular fellow in dark clothing for security personnel (obviously a naive man, for the wiser among us know that our dear Larimer Lounge would never pay for security personnel) and he would retreat back through the barbed wire and fall off the other side of that tall fence. But the persistent youth, with his boundless energy and determination, climbed back over and he went through the barbed wire, jumped into the courtyard of Larimer Lounge’s back porch and immediately shared a deep embrace and passionate kiss with a pretty miss that I assume was at least a friend of his, but I don’t know. And this is a punk rock show, folks. There is dedication, there is feeling, there is a human story; there is no perfection and there is only acceptance.
Sitting down with John McCauley, the singer of Deer Tick, is unpretentious and feels normal, disregarding that one of us in in a baby pink blazer and purple bowtie. And one of us has a recognizable gold tooth; I’ll leave you to figure out which of us had what.
Deer Tick is comprised of five bandmembers that all live in different cities (Canada included), and consistently tour with each new album they release, and are touring even when there is no new album. “We usually write independently, and then sometimes we can write songs together in the studio. If the mood is right.” But, please let me present the facts. Fact: Deer Tick released Divine Providence in October 2011. Fact: Deer Tick went on tour, stopping at the Larimer Lounge (prompting one particular brave soul to climb a barbed wire fence) in November 2011. Fact: Deer Tick was still playing shows in March 2012 when they came back to Colorado for the Vail Snowball Music Festival. And finally, Fact: Deer Tick has already started recording a new album. “We started working on it already. I don’t think we’ll actually get to finish it until October, and then who knows when it will be ready to come out. We started recording it in Portland, Oregon with Steve Berlin, the Los Lobos producer. We’re looking at finishing it up in Halifax.” As previously mentioned, one of the Ticks lives in Canada and the band has quite a few shows lined up with our neighbors to the North throughout June. Deer Tick is playing in Edmonton, Alberta and Regina, Saskatchewan and then returning stateside to Fargo, North Dakota. Hmm, maybe someone in the band pissed off their tour manager? No, that was intentional. "We're bringing music to the people. Like, we decided to book a show in Reno instead of San Francisco because we never get to play for those folks."
I asked McCauley where he finds the time to write music or practice, with the long distance factoring in along with the constant touring. “I don’t force myself to write music. . . I find that the studio has become one of the more easier environments to get writing done.” That comes through the music itself, when you hear songs that are personal and they all sound different, and not contrived for a concept album. The Deer Tick anthology offers you piano ballads with heart-and-soul like “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and “Now It’s Your Turn”; there are sweet acoustic slow-jams, and there are honky-tonk / alt-country songs; there are songs to sing along with, and there are songs that make you want to turn to the person next to you and douse them with beer. Not fitting any particular formula, yet offering a range of sonic breeds it must take a lot of practice to stay on top their live performances. Not for this band, says McCauley. “You load in, you sound check, you get dinner and wait around a couple of hours and play . . . We have such little time off, we can’t really dedicate it to rehearsing with each other. . . [and] it’s not the point of what we’re doing. I mean if we were perfect every time we played it would just kind of be boring.” Indeed, and the Bluebird Theater -- myself included -- didn’t come to see boring.
Particularly not boring was Sallie Ford and the three men who make up the Sound Outside. Very 1940s swing-era sounding, Ford’s pincurls and browline glasses fit well with the vintage feel of the music. Bassist Tyler Tornfelt added some upright bass and drummer Ford Tennis had a Fonzi-style leather jacket; the kitsch-factor was high, but in a good way. Ford’s deep and bluesy voice projects from the stage and her words provide a punk-rock attitude, with lines like, “I can drink, I can yell / and I can raise some hell” and “What is this robot sounding bullshit?”. I can not express enough how glad I am that this band manages to do something that is in no shape or form like a "Zoot Suit Riot" - no, Sallie Ford offers something a lot more enjoyable and interesting.
Sallie Ford herself is not at all shy or afraid. She retired her guitar and removed her hairclip to let loose during the end of the set. Energetic and fun in nature, the music of Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside is consistently upbeat and plucky - there is nothing really heavy-handed or morose about what this band is trying to present. They are new, they are young and want to have fun. With Deer Tick's mixture of some self-reflection, songs that are stories about hard times, as well as the drinking tunes and party songs, Sallie Ford is a force that tips the scales in favor of good times. And keeping with my whole insistence that punk shows should be a place for you to celebrate your imperfections and momentary lapse in judgement, it was necessary to have that lighter attitude stay strong. For instance, when Sallie Ford and the group returned to the stage to join Deer Tick in a commemorative cover of the Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)," Deer Tick's McCauley didn't think twice about pouring out his beer on the Bluebird stage in memory of the recently passed Adam Yauch, aka MCA. Sallie Ford's Tennis didn't have to question bringing a full bottle of tequila to the mike as he sang next to bandmate Jeff Munger, nor did he have trouble disposing of at least half that bottle's contents with his friends through the duration of the song.
In it's truest form punk music is about living in the moment, and getting that guy to put on his pink gorilla suit and jump into the crowd. Yes - a pink gorilla made two special appearances during the Deer Tick set, the final one being at the close of the night when the band played "Let's All Go to the Bar." The crowd let loose, and like champagne bottles popping or beer steins colliding, every drink that was within reaching distance was shaken and tossed up in the air or up at the stage dousing McCauley. As a cultural pastime, shaking, popping, spilling or clanking alcohol is reserved for special moments with dear friends. And music is about friends. Earlier that night McCauley mentioned that every night he is lucky to be spending with his best friends. "We're a band, we're a group, we're a gang, we're brothers. We may have our differences here and there, or don't see eye to eye, but we always have each other's backs."
Make sure to check out our pictures from the show, just click here to for our album online.