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Middle Brother rocks Lupo's with dance moves, inspiring song lyrics

By Kelly Shea
On March 16, 2011

The collaboration of Deer Tick, Dawes and Delta Spirit is not only alliteratively sublime. Middle Brother, the super-group of Deer Tick's John McCauley, Dawes' Taylor Goldsmith and Delta Spirit's Matt Vasquez, brought a solid four hours of bluesy folk rock – fast and slow, melodic and gritty – to Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence on March 4.

Expecting the usual d-bag bands who take their sweet time getting on stage, I arrived at 9:30 p.m. to find Dawes in full swing with some character on stage with them, wearing a horse cardigan, cowboy hat and Mariah Carey-fade sunglasses. What?

The Western-looking character, I later learned, was Jonny Corndawg who brought a Nashville twang and some knee-knocking dance moves to the stage. Post-performance, he threw out some of his ghetto airbrushed t-shirts denoting "nasty memories."

The crowd went crazy when Deer Tick's McCauley came out to join San Francisco's Dawes for their break-out hit, "When my Time Comes."

After Dawes, Deer Tick came out for a solid set.

If you haven't heard, Pauly D is not the only famed music man from Rhody. Deer Tick is the biggest folk-rock musical force to put Rhode Island on the map in a while.

Pauly D is to scantily clad, over-tanned Jersey girls as John J. McCauley III is to pastey, red-lipped hipster chicks. Women collectively swooned and made Beatles-esque squeals when McCauley lifted his raggedy tee to open his beer, revealing a kiss-mark tattoo.

Vasquez, Goldsmith and McCauley as Middle Brother brought an unbelievable vocal trifecta to the stage; running the gamut from gravelly to melodic. When they played "Daydreaming," it marked the first time I have ever heard anyone be angrily shushed at Lupo's. The crowd clearly revered the sentiment of the song.

McCauley has the best worst voice I have ever heard, admittedly blown out at a young age.

The band had that "yes, we are clearly hammered yet still totally talented and immensely entertaining" thing going on. McCauley exhibited the impressive skill of drinking a beer while playing the guitar and traversing bass drums, followed by a little jump kick.

Both Delta Spirit and Dawes have tracks that gracefully translate to studio cuts, but Deer Tick's LPs did not sell me. This show sold me. Something about the recording process seems to take the characteristic grating buzz out of McCauley's voice, which is inherent to the renegade vibe of the band.

Fueled by Budweiser and irrepressible energy from the crowd, Middle Brother and members of all three bands, joined by Johnny Corndawg and Liz Eisenberg, entertained untill after 1 a.m. They played Middle Brother hits "Me me me" and "Blue Eyes." There were dueling drummers, saxophone solos and incredible variations from their recordings.

The songs tell bitter, longing tales of boozing and broken hearts.

"I just wanna get my fist through some glass. I just wanna get your arm in a cast. I just want you to know that I care. And I wanna sing with blood and guts so someone will know I'm here."

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