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Heavy drug use, followed by a period of self-reflection, fueled the most recent album from Providence band Deer Tick: After his relationship fell apart and his father went to prison, frontman John McCauley—already a hard partier—went on a lengthy bender and found himself close to the bottom. Negativity, the band’s fifth studio record, found him mending his wounds—and drying himself out.

Before Deer Tick’s second of two shows at Black Cat last month, McCauley, bandmate Ian O’Neil, and pop singer Vanessa Carlton (McCauley’s spouse and creative partner) stopped by WAMU to play acoustic versions of two highlights from Negativity: the duet “In Our Time” and O’Neil’s “The Dream’s In the Ditch.”

For a band with a rowdy reputation, the band’s WAMU session seemed cozy and familial: Carlton brought her furry companion, Lord Victor—who dozed on the floor while the trio played—and the only thing McCauley had to drink while he was here was caffeine-free tea. Hats off.

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