By Jim Stanford on April 2, 2013
On a day when pro triathlete Adam Wirth of Boise captured the PPP crown, a huge crowd gathered at Teton Village to celebrate spring’s arrival during the Jackson Hole Mountain Festival.
Perhaps as many as 4,000 people turned out Saturday for the PPP awards party, music by Lazy Eyes beneath the tram and the featured concert by Black Mother Jones and O.A.R. Parked cars lined the village entrance road all the way to Highway 390, in what may have been the largest turnout yet for the festival.
While the selection of the headliner generated strong opinions, one thing everyone could agree on was fine weather and free music make for a great party. Tailgates with generous spreads of food and beverages could be found from the PPP finish line at Astoria to the village parking lots. Most of the buzz around O.A.R. was whether rock star Dave Matthews — staying at Teton Village on vacation, skiing and snowmobiling — would join them onstage. (He did not.)
The diehard music fans pushed the festival into the wee hours of Sunday night, when the Providence, R.I., rock group Deer Tick played the Pink Garter.
In a curious twist, the group showed up without its drummer. No explanation was given by the band or venue, but early in the show lead singer John McCauley motioned toward the rear of the stage, where a horse’s head wearing bunny ears was placed. “This is where our drummer usually is,” he said, before starting into a song. (Sources attributed the absence to a death in the family.)
There are few bands that would soldier on during a tour without a drummer, but for Deer Tick — whose songs are steeped in loneliness and alienation, heartache and addiction — the loss was a just another bump in the long, beer-drenched road. While many fans grumbled, particularly the bro’s up front craving a mosh pit, the show took on the feel of MTV’s “Unplugged.” The songs stood up well, driven by McCauley’s high-pitched voice that sears like a branding iron.
“We’re full-grown men, but we act like kids,” he ranted during “The Bump,” a line that resonated in the playground of Jackson Hole.
Alternately rolling his eyes skyward to summon intensity and popping tops off beer bottles with his teeth, McCauley proved himself a showman, evocative at times of Kurt Cobain. There were rowdy covers of The Pogues and The Who.
But the most incandescent moments came toward the end of the show, with a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline,” sang by guitarist Ian O’Neil, followed by a tender “Houston, TX” that captured the spirit of the night.
“I know it’s best that in this broken heart of mine,” McCauley sang, “is where I’ll begin to moving on. Oh, move on.”
Even shorthanded, Deer Tick brought the heft that O.A.R. lacked. After a winter of much heartache, the weekend was a welcome nod to moving on.