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Cinco De Mayo With Deer Tick At The El Rey Theater

Michael Juliani |
May 6, 2012 | 2:05 p.m. PDT


Via Wikimedia
Via Wikimedia
Early birds at the El Rey Theatre stand in two lines as the evening turns blue and a bearded, small-nosed scalper scurries around asking everyone about tickets. They get to listen to Deer Tick’s front man John McCauley yowl through sound check. Cinco de Mayo 2012, the day after Adam Yauch (MCA) of the Beastie Boys died of cancer, yielded a night for the best cigarette-and-shitty-beer music of our time.     

The opening band, Turbo Fruits, have a bass player who says his name is “Dave Tits.” Jonas Stein and Kingsley Brock, two thin, deep-haired, toned-arm singer/guitar players, wore tank tops—Stein’s was from Hooters—and played strong like James Williamson of The Stooges.

Stein jumped, doing the rock & roll splits in the air several times. Deer Tick, drinks in hand and loose-moving, came out to howl along to the Fruits’ “Mama’s Mad Cos I Fried My Brain.” Here’s a blurb for the Fruits’ next promotional needs: “A party band with a savage edge. Nothing tidy about ‘em.” In the Los Angeles era of whimsy, of Yogurt Over Ice Cream and the Tight Mini-Dress, the Turbo Fruits of Nashville, TN, are welcome back any time. 

The Tick wore suits during their set, adding to their already ambient level of party goofiness. Appropriately, they started with “The Bump,” a song with the chorus: “We’re full-grown men, but we act like kids.”  

They have a light bulb fixture behind the drums that says “Deer Tick,” and winds down, at one point, to spell “DICK.” The keyboard player, Rob Crowell, picks up a hidden saxophone out of nowhere and rips. McCauley says, “This next song’s about eating pussy and sucking dick, while also being a pretty sincere love song.” He kisses guitar player Ian O’Neil on the lips, then spouts beer into the air, transferred from one mouth to the other.  

McCauley said that he’d paused his drinking for one hour during the day to have some water. “Fuck water,” a chick behind me shouted. Deer Tick’s alcoholic mania has caused stage meltdowns in the past—getting naked and rousing the crowd to shout “Fuck T-Mobile” at a T-Mobile-sponsored show in San Francisco, for example. But on this Cinco de Mayo, “the perfect night to be in Los Angeles,” they had the music-horny energy of a perfect state. They sang and played with the conviction of sweaty devils, like a group of wasted buddies playing soul-drenched air guitar at a house party. And like Dylan and Cobain, they don’t worry much about “ruining” their voices.    

Tick played almost all of their best songs.  “Baltimore Blues, No. 1,” “These Old Shoes,” “Twenty Miles.” The best sung lyric of the night was off “Easy”: “The angel on my shoulder, well she better be right.” “Smith Hill” and “Virginia Gal,” a song off their new EP Tim, which they named after a friend of theirs, were the only standouts left off the set list. Deer Tick is the best amalgamation of several worlds of music, a blend of blues and punk that has its roots in the unclassifiable Rolling Stones record "Exile on Main Street." They’re not meant to have a description, much like L.A.’s swampy band The Gun Club (RIP Jeffrey Lee Pierce). They’re a feeling that’s like the sweat beneath your jeans. 

For an encore, they had Turbo Fruits back onto the stage to play a huge tribute of “Fight for Your Right” by the Beastie Boys. McCauley poured out some plastic-cup beer—“Here’s for MCA,” he said.  

Before the song started, he invited “Ke$ha” up to sing with them, and I think they were actually expecting her to be there and join them. They waited for a minute or so before McCauley said, “Well, Ke$ha darling, if you want to join us during the song, you go ahead, but we’re not going to wait for you much longer.” No Ke$ha, but a less messy blonde chick jumped onstage in the middle of the song, and was escorted off before pulling another friend up with her.  

The last songs of the night, in spirit with Cinco de Mayo, were "La Bamba" and “Let’s All Go to the Bar.” A mosh pit started, and someone’s shoes were thrown up at the El Rey’s chandeliers, breaking off one of the delicate drops of glass. Beers were shaken and sprayed up onto the crowd, the Fruits poured some all over McCauley’s face, and the Fruits’ epic drummer, Matt Hearn, sat down in place of Dennis Ryan, and finished with the last poundings and cymbal smashes of the night.  

Reach Michael Juliani here.  Follow him on Twitter here.  




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