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Published: 2012/07/31

Deer Tick Perform War Elephant

Deer Tick closed Newport, RI’s weekend celebration late Sunday night with their third sold out after show at Newport Blues. Since Deer Tick hail from nearby Providence, RI and offer a modern twist on traditional roots music, the hard partying band has turned into one of the Newport Folk Festival’s unofficial house bands in recent years. The group’s late night shows at Newport Blues functioned as the festival’s insider gatherings, featuring a mix of big name openers, special guests and celebrity attendees each night.

Sunday’s late night performance was unquestionably one of Deer Tick’s true shining moments. At one point Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello even struggled to get into the show. After Robert Ellis kicked off the night’s festivities, Newport Folk Fest headliner Jackson Browne played a short set backed by rising Americana stars Dawes and LA guitarist Jonathan Wilson. After playing for almost 10,000 fans at the nearby Fort Adams State Park, Browne hustled through “Redneck Friend,” Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita” and “The Pretender” for an intimate crowd of 300. Then, Wilson brought the members of his band onstage for quick run through their original songs. Deer Tick frontman John McCauley formally welcomed Wilson onstage by sitting in on guitar for a song.

But Deer Tick remained the evening’s main draw. As a treat, the band blasted through their 2007 debut album War Elephant in its entirety. Since McCauley recorded the album before Deer Tick was a formal band, it also offered the group an opportunity to re-envision the recording as an ensemble.

Once they finished the album, the guests arrived. Bassist Julian Veronesi, who played with Deer Tick guitarist Ian O’ Neil in the New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus, sat in on a song intended for a future project he has in the works with O’ Neil. (The Deer Tick guitarist described Veronesi as his best friend.) Dawes leader Taylor Goldsmith then returned for “Daydreaming,” a number he recorded with McCauley for the Americana supergroup Middle Brother. Finally, the members of Deer Tick invited many of the evening’s guests—including Goldsmith and Ellis—back for a sing-along version of Ritchie Valens’ arrangement of “La Bamba.”

Though part of a drunken celebration, the cover had some deeper significance, too: The first show McCauley ever attended as was a Newport Folk Fest featuring Los Lobos, who were at the time known for their cover of the very same song.

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