Last time Deer Tick was in St. Louis, frontman John McCauley dressed up in drag and played an impromptu show at Off Broadway, filling in for a missing King Khan & BBQ Show after they were arrested in Kentucky for possession of magic mushrooms.
This time around the circumstances weren't quite so insane but it was still a definite WTF kind of situation. McCauley and co. headlined a last-minute show at The Wedge in South City last night, along with New Jersey rockers Titus Andronicus and locals Pokey LaFarge and Theodore.
Deer Tick at a February 2009 show in Albany, New York
Here's how the improbably badass lineup came to be: Pokey LaFarge was performing Friday night in Newport, Kentucky, and Deer Tick was across the river in Cincinnati. Deer Tick stopped by Pokey's show and mentioned they'd be driving through St. Louis on the way to their gig tomorrow night in Columbia. They called up the owner of the Wedge*, and pitched the idea of a "secret" show featuring the two groups and local folk rockers Theodore.
Titus Andronicus wasn't added to the bill until late Sunday afternoon. They just released a new record, The Monitor, last week and had an in-store performance at Vintage Vinyl. Ian O'Neil, the keyboard player for Deer Tick, was formerly a member of Titus Andronicus and is, obviously, still on good terms with his former bandmates.
By the time Theodore took the stage around 8 p.m. more than 100 people were crammed into the attic-like upstairs of the Wedge. It was super-smoky in the crowded confines and the place had the feel of a kickass house party (that's damn hard to find in St. Louis on a Sunday night). LaFarge and his band, the South City Three, played during intermissions downstairs in the bar.
Titus Andronicus played a lengthy set of mostly new material from The Monitor. Several of the songs are sprawling but they never slacken pace, combining driving garage punk guitar chords with electric fiddle, organ keyboards and frontman Patrick Sickles' anthemic, cathartic verses that obliquely compare teenage angst in suburban New Jersey to the Civil War. As pretentious as that sounds, Sickles is nothing but sincere. He wails on his guitar and when he hits the chorus at the eight-minute mark of a sprawling song, he gets the devil in his eyes and there's no arguing that it's not heartfelt rock and roll.
Deer Tick closed things down with a raucous, booze-soaked 45-minute set. They played several covers -- including Chuck Berry's "Maybelline," ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses" and playfully half-hearted renditions of Semisonic's "Closing Time" and The Beatles' "Birthday." There was some older Deer Tick material in the mix as well but even these songs were ramped up to punk-rock speed including a foot-stomping, throat-ravaging version of "Art Isn't Real."
It was all very laid back -- Deer Tick looked like they were having a great time, jamming, dripping sweat, taking requests from the audience and playing up to (and beyond) the venue's pleas to wrap things up by midnight. They closed it down by bringing Sickles (from Titus Andronicus) to the stage for an everybody-sing-along cover of John Mellencamp's "Authority Song," which they finished off by dousing the crowd in Silly String and beer.
Congratulations St. Louis, we rocked in an almost too-cool-to-be-true kind of way last night.
Video of "Authority Song," "Maybelline," "Cheap Sunglasses," "Joset of Nazareth Blues," Pokey LaFarge and Theodore below.
Watch video of Pokey LaFarge and Theodore last night on the next page...