"I had a great night last night," said Deer Tick frontman John McCauley, playing to a rowdy young crowd raging on a boat circling Boston Harbor last Thursday, July 7. "I ate mushrooms with Los Lobos."
If that was indeed the case, McCauley may have thought he was still hallucinating when he looked out onto the crowd gathered on the Mass Bay Lines' MV Freedom and saw a strange mix of spirited hipsters and drunken college bros. "This sort of feels like a frat party," I whispered to a friend halfway through their set. Maybe the bros were holdovers from when Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and U2 cover band the Joshua Tree performed on the boat earlier in the summer, or perhaps it was the incessant playing of "I'm on a Boat" between bands that got everyone so worked up.
At dusk, after the boat had cruised past the downtown Boston skyline and the World Trade Center, the Americana-inspired Providence quartet (which now includes ex–Titus Andronicus guitarist Ian O'Neil) blasted through their twangy alt-country numbers, with McCauley's weathered vocals center stage. It was a higher-energy set than the last time I saw him perform, sitting on a stool outside of Ms. Bea's in Austin at SXSW 2009, and this time both Deer Tick guitarists jumped up on their amps for long-burning solos.
Deer Tick's energy was met with unbridled enthusiasm by the drunk bro-dudes grabbing each other's shoulders and screaming the chorus to "Easy," while girls decked in Urban Outfitters' latest went wild during "Little White Lies." Both cuts off 2009's excellent Born on Flag Day were the highlights of the warm summer night.
A young guitar-and-violin four-piece called Aunt Martha had the kids on the boat drunkenly vibing just as hard during the opening set. The band was introduced as "fresh off playing Bonnaroo," a gig they landed via their Sonicbids online press kit. The bros approved.
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