Photos by: Charlie Homo

It remains unclear whether the twangy, young-hearted Deer Tick has always had such a strong blend of comical and confident stage presence. My last experience with the band in San Francisco seemed much more innocent and charming than say, rambunctious. Perhaps the pressures of corporate sponsorship and a highly anticipated “sold out” show Wednesday at The Independent put the pressure on Deer Tick to perform, because boy, did they put on some kind of show. Staged in between two T-Mobile spotlights, the Rhode Island quartet took to the stage in feathered masks, and an onslaught of crowd-thrillers instantly began.

Sometimes you think you’ve seen it all, and then you get a new first. While McCauley blabbered on about his best friend in the whole world, a fellow named Paul, the bass player is on his cellphone (onstage) and gets Paul on the line. Soon enough, an all-inclusive happy birthday singalong commenced ringing loud throughout The Independent. For the curious, yes, McCauley sings all songs in that signature Deer Tick raspy, bullfrog tone.

The signs of pre-show intoxication were obvious. Aside from the generous collection of beer bottles next to each microphone stand, there were frontman John McCauley’s intermittent soloing, confessions of which Deer Tick numbers he does and doesn’t like, and playing his instrument about the stage while crawling on his knees. One of War Elephant’s strongest, “These Old Shoes,” marked the tipping point for his outlandish behavior, as McCauley decided to crowdsurf halfway to the bar, guitar, cable and all.

Via eavesdropping upstairs, I learned that while many of us stood outside in a mess of guest list and ticket acquisition, John had done a pre-performance acoustic set of various covers. It makes me wonder how much time he actually had to get so hammered. In any event, due to unforeseen circumstances requiring me to leave early, I apparently missed additional booze-fueled mayhem: