A lot of Philadelphia music fans were happy when Deer Tick and J. Roddy Walston & The Business combined their separate shows into one Dual Headliner Supershow at Union Transfer on Wednesday night (J. Roddy originally scheduled to headline The TLA). It made for one hell of a night of music with Union Transfer’s floor and balconies jam packed.
The night started out with the quiet twang and thoughtful songwriting of Robert Ellis from Houston, TX who came out on stage wearing a pristine white tuxedo with tails and white platform shoes. Not to be mistaken for his usual stage clothes, Ellis explained the getup was in celebration of his birthday, and joked that he would most likely be making a drunken fool of himself after the show. Ellis was joined on stage for the last few songs of his set by Deer Tick’s Ian O’Neil.
J. Roddy Walston and The Business played a non-stop set of energetic rock and roll that had the audience singing along the entire time. Front man J. Roddy Walston is a hair-whipping, piano-banging force to be reckoned with. His intensity is infectious and I couldn’t help but think that anyone seeing this band for the first time would walk away as a fan for life. The crowd went crazy during “Don’t Break the Needle,” “Heavy Bells,” and the catchy hit “Marigold” from their new album Essential Tremors. In my opinion, J. Roddy Walston and The Business stole the show.
But, for many in the crowd, Deer Tick was the band they came to see. With John McCauley’s distinct gravelly voice at the helm, Deer Tick commanded Union Transfer’s stage for well over an hour. They played many songs from their new album, Negativity, including “The Rock” and “The Dream’s In the Ditch” and other fan favorites including “Main Street,” and “Baltimore Blues No. 1.” Their set blended country, rock, blues, and at times I detected elements of a jam band. An unexpected favorite of mine was the cover of “12 Bar Blues” featuring opener Robert Ellis.
Taking a break from the music, members of Deer Tick answered questions submitted by fans at the show. While most of the questions were cheeky and fun, the final question read aloud by John McCauley asked, “Why don’t I like your new record?” McCauley, seeming offended responded by saying, “Well, here’s an old song for you then…” and launched into “Spend the Night” cleverly changing the words to “Suck My Balls.” So, there you have it.