Deer Tick Returns to the Fine Line

Review by Marki Anderson
Photos by John Oakes

The Warehouse district was alive in Minneapolis on Wednesday with Deer Tick and Abby Hamilton coming to Fine Line. Deer Tick is currently on tour for their latest album, Emotional Contracts. Hailing from Rhode Island, Deer Tick have been together over 13 years, and that definitely showed as the band members played off each other, showing their chemistry and friendship.

Abby Hamilton and her band opened, with a sound of rock/country and soulful lyrics. They are from central Kentucky, and in Abby’s own words, that area is known for “UK, Keeneland and bourbon.” Her first full-length album, #1 Zookeeper (at the San Diego Zoo), came out about a month ago. The song that caught my attention the most was “Whatever Helps You Sleep at Night.” It has a catchy chorus, and I noticed a guy in the crowd recording it on his phone and singing vigorously. Abby said it is about “the crazy shit we do in the county,” and coming from a small country town myself, reading over the lyrics, it really resonates. She points out these different scenarios that from the outside we might judge, but we ultimately don’t know someone’s full story, and you have to throw it into the wind.

I visited the merch table between sets, and as soon as the setup for Deer Tick began there was a steady movement of people to the front. I then battled my way to my spot and settled in with the crowd.

As the video screen over the stage lifted and the lights went out, a pre-recorded track of a bouncy bass line and drumbeat played while the band took the stage to a warm welcome from the crowd. 

They opened with Forgiving Ties, which immediately got everyone moving. This is off their new album, but the crowd knew the words and happily and loudly sang along. The crowd didn’t stop singing along and only grew louder once the band played “Ashamed” which erupted the entire room in a collective “Oh-Oh-Oh” sing-a-long. The band was of few words for most of the evening. John McCauley, the lead man, mentioned they have only ever been on the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities. “We’ll go to St. Paul, we just are never booked there.” 

The drummer was the only member who didn’t switch out instruments during the night, although he did break a stick. Different guitars in different colors traded hands seamlessly between songs. My favorite addition was the bass guitar exchanged for an upright bass. Deer Tick played many of their own hits but also included covers from Jimmy Lloyd (“Rocket in my Pocket”) and Replacements (“Little Mascara”). They played “Clownin’ Around” which I have to assume is about John Wayne Gacy. I am so curious to know how this song came to be. Is there a true crime fan among them? The band informed us they don’t do encores anymore to be more efficient with their time, so after only a brief pause they went into their ending songs of the night. The band started fiddling around and started playing the riffs to The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman” while the drummer sang lyrics about being good to your dog. That got a chuckle out of the crowd before they continued into the song ‘Me & My Man”.  The final song was The Real Thing, which is an almost 10-minute recorded song, but seemed longer as the night came to an end. 

This was my first time experiencing Deer Tick, and I loved the variety of sounds throughout the night. Taking them in post-show, their lyrics are really a treat to comb through. They are deeply poetic and reflective. Several songs are making it to playlists of mine for continued listening.