Trekking to Reggie’s, which is located on the far end of Chicago’s South Loop, is usually a task I only do for those can’t miss shows, Guards and Deer Tick was just that. Reggie’s has the appeal of a warehouse that someones’ mom came in and spruced up a bit. Exposed brick walls and cage fenced in balconies, scream of a venue meant for a rock show.
Mid-set, Richie Follin of Guards put it plainly that, "since we were all at a Deer Tick show we must be drunk, on drugs, or full of youthful exuberance". He hit the nail on the head. Standing amongst the crowd, I was lucky to witness all of the above. A couple next to me, hippie dreads and patchouli smelling, were obviously grooving on a different level then the rest of us. Directly in front of me I watched as two underage kids drank beer they produced from their own backpack, an act frowned upon at most bars/venues, only to be kicked out before Guards even took the stage. Lastly, the ever popular group of people were chugging beers while professing their love for Deer Tick before the first opener took the stage, only to be seen slumped in the corner not able to stand during the band’s performance.
Guards took the stage and, in addition to thanking Deer Tick for bringing them on tour, acknowledged that their main purpose was to warm up the crowd and to keep from hurting themselves during Deer Tick’s set. They did just that. I was pleasantly surprised by Follin’s presence on stage as a front man. He showed a level of comfort and experience that put the crowd at ease. For the first half of the set, I tried to label Guards into a specific genre, but couldn't for the life of me settle on just one. It wasn’t until I accepted this, that I was able to enjoy this set. Their sound ran the gamut throughout the set, but without being confusing. One second there was a darkness and psychedelic heaviness reminiscent of a Black Mountain show, while the next song had the crowd lively dancing and clapping. After the set, I couldn't help but be in awe. Not only could this band rock hard and heavy but they just as easily were able to keep the audience captivated. Deer Tick could not have picked a better band to bring on tour with them.
To say I was excited to see Deer Tick would be an understatement. I was one of the lucky few to see them perform as Deervana (their Nirvana cover project) and some as members, along with those of Dawes, as Middle Brother, but never performing their own songs. John McCauley’s vocals were on point and could not have been more perfect for a Chicago November night. To start the set right, John walked on stage carrying a full case of Bud tall boys that not surprisingly were almost completely gone by the end of the set. Granted a good number were spent spitting onto the crowd, but most were impressively guzzled by the singer.
This band keeps you on your toes every second. If someone looked away for even a second, they would have missed a mid song John and Ian O’Neil make out which, music aside, was the highlight. My ears might still be ringing from the loudness and intensity that these boys put forth last night. However, my personal favorite was on a quieter note when John stayed on stage alone to soulfully sing a few choice songs. His moving live version of “Christ Jesus” is something you have to be hear.
In a true Deer Tick fashion, the night ended with all friends and members from other bands being called on stage to play an instrument if they could, dance, sing, or better yet chug beer while stage diving. This is a band to see if you want a good alt-country, part folk, kick butt rock show from a we don’t give a F band. Out of any group, this is the one I’d want to see right before I died, it’s the equivalent of going out kicking and screaming to the best soundtrack possible. Do not go if you don’t want to come out smelling of beer, slightly worse for the wear either from dancing or being pushed. Do go if you want to have a great time seeing true musicians.
They have a couple more tour dates left this tour with Guards Out East that should be great shows to check out.
See our review of Deer Tick's new album, Divine Providence, here.
All photos (c) Daniela Montelongo