Delta Spirit | 02.04.09 | San Francisco

Words by: Jillian Horn | Images by: Josh Miller

Delta Spirit :: 02.04.09 :: Bottom of the Hill :: San Francisco, CA

Matt Vasquez :: 02.04 :: S.F.
Delta Spirit kicked off the opening night of their first headlining tour at a sold-out Bottom of the Hill, providing a night of exhilaration and elation to a crowd filled with local friends and fans. The San Diego boys packed the house full of good intentioned music lovers, all hanging on every lyric and beat, and erupting with excitement as the group powered through their 15-song set. Bringing along openers Dawes and Other Lives, the night was an electrified, non-stop circus of characters and contrasting sounds, including everything from bongos and bass to trashcans and an abundance of hand claps.

The recently-formed Dawes took the stage first, playing smooth pop with a twist of alt-country, all while paying homage to the West Coast through sugary tales of happy-go-lucky love and simpler times. It was hard to believe that this was the group's first live performance since their inception, and also served as the official release of their debut album.

After their short performance and with Other Lives waiting on-deck, some minor (yet frustrating) technical difficulties threatened the already-present flow that had been so precisely created; even as the five members of the Oklahoma-based group waited patiently to begin their set, a static moment of chaos was evident. Stepping up to the freshly presented challenge of winning back an anxious crowd, the serious rockers (with perfectly placed cellist Jenny Hsu in the mix) firmly grasped a hold of their time, diving head first into a complicated odyssey of Devendra Banhart-like folk mixed with the melodic exploration of The Decemberists. It was cellist Hsu and lead singer Jesse Tabish that stuck out most as entrancing, emotional performers, continuously reeling the crowd in and out of their lengthy tunes.

Delta Spirit :: 02.04 :: S.F.
Upon their conclusion, the concertgoers found themselves once again faced with more prolonged waiting and slow set-ups from the stage crew. Now with the show running significantly behind schedule, a notable feel of anxiety and restlessness seemed to mix strongly with the drinks and the crowded space. Facing the same challenges as both opening bands, however, all tension was transformed into vitalization as soon as Delta Spirit took the stage. Hitting hard with the first notes of "Strange Vine," patient fans were overcome with the kind of buzz that reminds you just why you continually put forth the effort to still seek the purest kind of live music.

Wearing a flannel shirt, trucker hat and the scent of intoxication, ringleader and frontman Matt Vasquez transformed the venue into one of the best college parties that never happened, where screaming, yelling and acting-a-fool was everywhere you turned. The beautiful thing about this performance, right from the start, was that it was so painfully clear that the group had every element under control, despite their seemingly uninhibited behavior. Slamming through tracks off their widely-popular 2008 release Ode to Sunshine, tunes like "People C'mon," "Streetwalker" and "Children" kept the crowd on their feet and singing loudly. Even during mellower, more emotionally charged selections ("House Built for Two," "People, Turn Around"), fists remained high and solidarity overwhelmingly spread.

Delta Spirit :: 02.04 :: S.F.
The group frenetically took the opportunity to preview five new songs from their next album, which Vasquez said would hopefully drop by the end of the year. The fresh songs were eclectic and sounded promising, representing a blend of their conventional, Americana-rock style with a new tenacious thrust. The first previewed track had Strokes flavorings, with a strong, rolling bassline and repeating, shouted vocals, while another featured a seriously ravenous percussion breakdown, raw lyrics and catchy maracas. Then, returning the set to welcome familiarity, the group wisely concluded with "Trashcan," where the thrill was pure and refreshing; the scene was reminiscent of a garage space with a kidlike band filled with big dreams of the open stage.

Regardless of the comforts provided while performing on their home turf of California, the members of Delta Spirit seem genuinely unfazed and certainly worthy of their headlining slot. If night one of their tour is any indication of the road ahead, rest assured that an eclectic array of commanding, contagious music will surely go unstopped.

Delta Spirit is on tour now; catch them here.

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