by Bao Le-Huu
In both sound and following, Deer Tick (May 13, The Social) is getting bigger and bigger. Although committed to a roots aesthetic, their modern music has always been wide in scope. And in its ever-expanding reach, they continue to show their restless vitality and build a deeper case for John McCauley’s perfectly cracked voice as one of this generation’s greats.
But this packed audience was well-primed. And that all started with Have Gun, Will Travel. In case you're a newer reader and haven't seen the profuse written ovation I've heaped on them, then this is the essence of it: They're good, they've been good for years and, as this show affirmed, they're still good. And, you know, bless these guys for not just being good but being in it for the long haul. Along with Will Quinlan & the Diviners, they've long been one of my all-time favorite Tampa Bay area twang-rock bands. In fact, HGWT has come to be one of the most reliable standard-bearers of Florida State Americana, having made their way onto more high-profile spots than most people realize (NPR, PBS, CBS’s The Good Wife, a Chevy commercial and a release on notable folk-punk label Suburban Home). They said this particular show was their biggest Orlando audience yet although, on a weighty national bill like this, it wasn't even their crowd. But by their finale, they had them moving and singing along. This is why you need to see them next time they roll through town.
Turning it up even more with a total folk storm, Langhorne Slim and the Law came out full-blast like Dylan on fire. And most of that is owed to Slim’s powerful singing and presence. He commands his band’s rafter-shaking folk charge like some dead-raising combination of rock & roll showman, revival preacher and straight-up soul man. Across several times in recent years, I don’t recall ever seeing Slim this cutting and virile. With a voice that now seems exhilaratingly free of any bounds, his willingness to go all in makes for a live experience of raw and unbridled feeling. And hopefully, the way he electrified souls this time will make his next show here on his own more rightfully crowded.
(Langhorne Slim and the Law at the Social / photo by James Dechert) More photos here.
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