Friday, February 19, 2010

Delta Spirit Soars at the Middle East

Typically, Mondays aren't too kind to me. I usually spend my weekends gallivanting around Boston instead of catching up on sleep and I always feel that I need more time to settle back into the work week. I knew I had a decent workload ahead of me and I was running on fumes but somehow my Monday turned out quite well on February 1, 2010.

The day started with my boss giving me premium seats to see the Boston Celtics on Wednesday, February 3, 2010. [Editor's note: The game, against the Miami Heat, turned out to be an excellent one and they won 107-102 in a battle that was gripping right until the last second.] As if that wasn't enough, I received a phone call from my good friend Dan over at Exploding in Sound explaining that if I rushed to the venue, I could grab his +1 to see the sold out show with The Willowz and Delta Spirit. Being a huge fan of Delta Spirit, I immediately hopped in my car and raced down to Cambridge, MA.

The Middle East Upstairs is an excellent venue to catch a show due to its small capacity and intimate atmosphere. I was excited to see both bands and got there just as The Willowz took the stage. They had a nice swagger going as they delivered their take on crunchy blues-infused rock. The distinctive vocals of Richie James Follin lent well to the garage rock sound of the rest of the band which wasn't too far removed from The White Stripes. The production was especially noisy and Fallin made reference to a strange unending feedback but the crowd seemed to dig it all the same.

The Willowz have a decent sized catalog but they mostly played material from last year's Everyone including highlights "Destruction" and "Repetition". The band certainly employs the KISS approach [not the band] to songwriting and performing with many songs ending right as they are building. I tend to like their slightly longer songs like the title track from Everyone which was another standout from the set. They were also some of the more gracious musicians I have ever seen, thanking the audience and genuinely looking like they were having fun.

There was no doubt that many people in attendance had wanted to see Delta Spirit for some time and you could almost smell the anticipation in the air. Before starting, they dedicated the set to the Boston Celtics who should have won the night before after a disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. This was a noble offering for a band from San Diego, California. The group got right into it hammering away with their hard rock take on Americana. The respectful audience was excellent and really got into the music from the start.

The group opened up with a new song that showed their first album was no fluke. Singer/guitarist Matthew Vasquez had ZINN written on his guitar in tribute of one of the greatest literary minds in American History, Howard Zinn, who recently passed away. Any production issues present for The Willowz were cleared up and the band sounded excellent while ending many songs with a pleasing wall-of-sound jam. The band mixed old songs with new songs in a set that surely pleased everyone in attendance.

They switched things up through the night between ballads like the new track, "Salt in the Wound" and fast rockers such as the fan favorite "People C'mon". The new songs demonstrated that the band was not content with simply rewriting old tunes. One of them had an intriguing droning buzz that sounded really cool and it ended with a lot of energy. Another had a spacey guitar vamp and some shoegazey parts played with what looked like an infrared light. After every new song the audience was eager to learn its name and the group stated that they wished we knew the lyrics. When asked about the release date for the new record, they playfully responded, "In May. Tomorrow, if you guys want it. I have a computer with all the songs on it." Then they came to the realization that employees of their Boston-based label Rounder Records were in attendance.

Still, it was old classics like "Children" that really had everyone grooving. My personal favorite from their debut Ode to Sunshine, "Strange Vine", was executed to perfection and "Trashcan" from the same record absolutely brought the house down. The band clearly liked crowd participation. They encouraged the audience to clap and sing along and those in attendance were all too happy to oblige. The set ended with an apology that they weren't going to play an encore but they were playing another sold out show in a week at the same spot where they would have a more robust set. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the next show but this one was more than enough to leave me satisfied. Here are some excellent videos that I stumbled upon from that night including new tracks from their forthcoming release History From Below:

Delta Spirit – "Ransom Man"

Delta Spirit – "Salt in the Wound"

Delta Spirit – "Golden State"

Delta Spirit – "White Table"

Delta Spirit – "Vivian"

Delta Spirit – "911"

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