John McCauley called asking for Peyton Manning.

He wanted to play the role of sportscaster John Madden.

Whether he's doing a phone interview from the backseat of a van on the way to St. Louis, or rocking out with his band Deer Tick, McCauley likes to keep things interesting.

He doesn't really fancy football, all he needs is Budweiser, a stage to play and "a vehicle that doesn't break down every 100 miles."

"It's kind of fun to lead some rambunctious, free-and-easy lifestyle . . . where you don't have to clean up your own mess," he said about being on tour.

After Deer Tick's February 2009 gig at York's The First Capitol Dispensing Co., the band crashed at a local friend's pad. McCauley was convinced that the old farmhouse was haunted.

But that didn't stop him from coming back. The rockers headlined a CapLive concert in August 2010 at the Capitol Theatre.

In between they released two albums - "Born on Flag Day" and "The Black Dirt Sessions."

McCauley said that "Sessions" wasn't intended to be groundbreaking; it was an effort to record every Deer Tick song not already tracked. The result, he said, is a collection of dark, meandering tunes.

"It might have confused some people," he admitted. "But I'm really happy . . . we put them out there."

McCauley of Providence, R.I. (or America in miniature as he calls it), prefers the city, but connects to the rural sounds of country and folk. "It's not impossible to be lonely in the city," he said. "It can feel pretty desolate at times."

Most label Deer Tick's music as rock, but McCauley said the group's next CD will reflect their diverse influences.

Tonight, the group will be fresh from playing Ohio's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The Wednesday show was McCauley's first time at the Hall and he said he fully intended to seek out Bruce Springsteen memorabilia.

Deer Tick also had a weekend stint at Lollapalooza - a windfall that McCauley heard about last year in his label's office.

At first, he tried not to get too excited, in case the slot fell through. But by Aug. 5, he said he was looking forward to The Walkmen's set, the Soundgarden reunion and seeing his friends in Dawes.

Last week CapLive organizer Sean Kenny also attended the Chicago festival to scout out new talent for the Capitol stage.

After launching in September 2008, the concert series, designed to connect music fans with up-and-coming acts, struggled to fill seats. But this year, it hit its stride, Kenny said.

After their January concert in York, The Felice Brothers asked to return. Kenny booked them again Oct. 21. Black Joe Lewis and Dawes each drew about 350 people to recent concerts.

"It proves you can sell tickets on Thursday nights and in the summer," Kenny said. He added that he was happy Deer Tick outgrew the First Cap so he could book them tonight.

And in McCauley fashion, things should get interesting.

His advice for people seeing the band for the first time: "They need to maintain a certain level of tolerance. It can get pretty wacky."

His advice for people sitting in the front row: "(They) should bring a raincoat."

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