February 23, 2009

All You Soul Searching People C'mon!

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Buzzing neon brewsky logos and a bouquet of pool cue chalk immediately propel the stuffy Castaways of Ithaca to the über-echelon of hipster credibility for folksy, soulful rockers Delta Spirit. Drawn to Ithaca by local promoter Dan Smalls, rising stars Delta Spirit treated the two hundred in attendance to a personal and intimate set of tight, relevant, lyrically rich indie rock. For those unable to brave the perilous weather, the concert was broadcast live on WICB 91.7 FM: “The Station For Innovation.”
As the Wednesday evening audience filed sheepishly into the bar, the hypnotic Oklahoma based Other Lives got things started with psychedelic, progressive folk. Alongside swampy bass and deep, throbbing stand up cello, front man Jesse Tabish’s scraggly, knotted beard flowed intoxicatingly to the rhythm of his music. “Get a load of that homeless dude tripping out on stage!” gasped a disoriented blonde through fumes of Jack Daniels. Passing the time between acts, the cardigan-clad crowd sipped ironically on cheap, workingman’s beer while searching hopelessly for the venue’s nonexistent coatroom.
At eleven sharp, San Diego based Delta Spirit, donning matching red, white, and blue flannel, chugged the last of their St. Pauli Girl brews and trotted humbly onto the stage. Vocalist Matthew Vasquez, backed by the lineup of Jon Jameson (bass), Brandon Young (percussion), Sean Walker (guitar), and Kelly Winrich (multi-instrument), gazed lustfully into the audience, mouth agape. The lonely, heartbreaking waltz “House Built For Two” catalogued the limitations of love amidst delicately gliding piano and reverberating, soulful poetry. Expelling the pain, passion, and regret of a home wrecked beyond salvation, Delta Sprit expresses a struggle for closure within a framework of inadequacy. Protruding from a softly weeping tambourine, the vocalist mourns, “Oh it’s true, I built this for you / A house fit for two, is too small for you.” Vasquez, teeth grinding, poured his innermost emotional turmoil into the mic, ripping to shreds the unfulfilled promises of everyday life, as raspy, angst-ridden howls echoed through the bar.
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After breaking onto the scene with their critically acclaimed debut EP, I Think I’ve Found It (2006), Delta Spirit toured with superstars Cold War Kids, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Dr. Dog. Building momentum, the band teamed up with Rounder Records to release their first full length LP, Ode to Sunshine (2008). Rounder Records — home to Rush, They Might Be Giants, Alison Krauss, and George Thorogood — has emerged as one of the biggest independent record labels in America, claiming seven Grammy’s in 2009 alone.
Whipping out the gleaming lid of a genuine garbage can for aptly titled “Trash Can Song,” bellowing, up-tempo percussion framed a naughty anxiousness reminiscent of Elvis’s “Mystery Train.” Saturated with esoteric instrumentation, tinny piano soared as Vasquez wailed mercilessly, red-faced, yearning for a lover’s imminent return, “My love is coming I can barely hardly wait / My heart is thumping I can feel it more with every beat.”
Hurling the crowd into a hip swaying frenzy, raging march “People, C’mon” flipped the implicitly hopeful Paul McCartney ditty, “C’mon People,” on its head. United not by hope or progress, but instead by communal dissatisfaction and nagging questions, the vocalist’s impassioned musical approach bursts from the explosive, populist chorus, “If you’re feeling what I’m feeling c’mon / All you soul searching people c’mon.”
On the verge of exhaustion, Delta Spirit capped off the evening with the harmonica soaked, folk-protest number “People, Turn Around.” Mirroring the simple, earthen social conscience of the early 1960’s Greenwich Village scene, the track begs truth, authenticity and justice from a world on the edge. With a tinge of religious spirituality, Delta Spirit reveals the skeletons of democratic capitalism we have tried so hard not to exhume, “Well its time all you people, to turn around … The blood we’ve been spilling, will bleed us dry / The life we’ve been killing, is the life like mine.”
Influential blog Daytrotter dubbed Delta Spirit “required listening,” with Spin granting the band a well deserved four stars. Having endured a grueling stretch of 15 shows and 6,000 road miles in 14 days, Delta Spirit mourned, howled, and preached the awestruck Castaways crowd into a folksy, cathartic explosion of rock and blue-eyed soul. Midwinter blues? Midweek doldrums? Not this scorching Wednesday!