Deer Tick at Stickyz image

Having missed the first opener, New Orleans’ Dead People, I arrived in time to catch Deer Tick’s New York compatriots The Virgin Forest, whose set was comprised of rockabilly-influenced guitar work delivered with red-eyed, murder-ballad menace. Oh, except even that tone was shattered every now and then with little flourishes like front man Scott Stapleton’s penchant for using Atari-style sound effects on the keyboard stationed awkwardly in front of him. Stapelton’s voice was easily the best surprise of the night, with its high and clear treble-y vibrato — it was like Jimmie Dale Gilmore crooning over a Bad Seeds track. Deer Tick’s guitarist Ian O’Neill joined them onstage for their final song, which was a total sludge-rocker consisting entirely of Stapleton howling the refrain “rats in a cage” with increasing intensity until yipping lady sex-noises while prancing and bobbing like a rare bird making a mating display.

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Deer Tick took the stage all dressed in grey blazers and button-down shirts with ties, not unlike The Del McCoury Band, well, if The Del McCoury Band had been sleeping in a van. As far as Deer Tick audience participation is concerned, here is the Golden Rule: When charismatic frontman John McCauley ingests any alcoholic substance whatsoever, cheer him. When John McCauley opens a beer with his teeth, scream. When John McCauley spits the dislodged beer cap into the audience, scream and leap to intercept it like Mardi Gras beads or a fly ball. When John McCauley, during a song, kneels to the ground and picks up a beer handsfree and deep-throats it while still strumming, lose your damn mind. Yes, you too can help this man deepen his alcoholism. In fact, it seems that everyone’s depending on it.

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