Recap: Deer Tick at Putnam Place, Saratoga Springs 12/10/22 -By: Steven Stock

Written by on December 16, 2022

NRBQ was known as “the world’s greatest bar band” in the seventies, and the Replacements staked a claim to that mantle in the eighties, although some nights perhaps favoring the bar over the band. Based on their compelling show at a jam-packed Putnam Place last Saturday, Deer Tick are worthy contenders in the current decade. During this penultimate performance on a five-date Northeast tour Deer Tick burned brighter than the gas torches on Putnam’s outdoor deck.

Bandleader John McCauley happens to be a pretty great songwriter in a classic mode that’s slightly out-of-step with current trends: he’s rarely ironic, never detached and writes plainspoken sentimental love and friendship songs that verge on the precipice of hokum. But his four-piece band (again classic: two guitars, bass and drums) deliver them with a zest and fire that recalls the Stones back when they were great. McCauley sometimes turns over lead vocal duties to guitarist Ian O’Neil or drummer Dennis Ryan, and tracks such as “Me And My Man” are graced with strong harmonies from the entire ensemble. 

All of this helps the quartet pull off a 23-song set where they never seemed in danger of repeating themselves. Three of their cover versions (Jimmy Lloyd’s “I Got A Rocket In My Pocket,” Muddy Waters’ “You Shook Me” and the Santo & Johnny 1959 chestnut “Sleep Walk”) made clear what musical wellsprings Deer Tick once drew from and is now helping replenish. The fourth, from songwriter Steve Poltz, was unknown to me and despite my cryptic notes is likely not called “My Shit.” “First time we ever played it live – we’re still figuring out how to do it,” confided McCauley.

Opener “The Bump” sounded like a statement of intent, with its apt chorus “We’re full-grown men but we act like kids/We’ll face the music next time we roll in.” Other highlights included the lovelorn crowd favorite “Twenty Miles,” “If She Could Only See Me Now” and the sinuous guitar rave-up “Wasting Time.” Best of all was the closer “Ashamed,” a naked confessional whisper of a song that the band’s alchemy transformed into a sprawling epic worthy of Crazy Horse. It was great to see these guys in a club setting like Putnam Place offers,   but if their next record is even half as good as this show Deer Tick is unlikely to remain a bar band for much longer.


Set list

The Bump

The Dream’s In The Ditch

Me And My Man

Houston, TX

Cake And Eggs

Bury Deep

Twenty Miles

If I Try To Leave

(Unknown Steve Poltz song)

I Got A Rocket In My Pocket

Hope Is Big

You Shook Me

Baltimore Blues No. 1

If She Could Only See Me Now

I Like Drinking In The Morning


Miss K.

Wasting Time




Sleep Walk


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