Delta Spirit: The Best Rock Band You’ve Never Heard Of
An indie-rock-folk-country-soul band takes us in a new direction
Fans of rock music know that we are living in dark times. Look at the pop charts, at the top downloads on iTunes, and you can plainly see that mainstream “rock” fails to live up to its rich, honest, and revolutionary roots. How can shallow kiddie-pleasing acts like Disturbed, Linkin Park, and the Jonas Brothers share a genre with titans like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin? With a few notable exceptions (the White Stripes and Spoon, for starters), today’s mainstream rock is terminally infected with formulaic and painfully unoriginal sludge.
Take heart, my brothers and sisters, and taste of an antedote: a little Southern California band by the name of Delta Spirit. I stumbled upon this indie-folk-rock ensemble about a year and a half ago when they opened for another local act, the Cold War Kids (also very good in their own right, and quickly outgrowing “local” status with a spot in the Coachella ’08 and Ouside Lands Festival lineups). A band called Delta Spirit, five regular-looking guys in jeans and flannels, jumped right into their set and immediately radiated a powerful, inclusive energy that was undeniably honest. Their sound was easily calssifiable as indie rock, but posessed a certain country-tinged folksiness that gave it a freshness that made my ears perk up. A hollow-body electric guitar led the standard four-piece ensemble, but the guys in the band also spent much of their time jumping around the stage to various other instruments, including what looked like the bass drum from a marching band, a saloon-style piano, and several pairs of maracas. As they moved into their third song, “Streetwalker,” a catchy tune about the tradgedy of child abandonment and prostitution (seriously), the crowd did a collective double take: how is this music coming form an opening band? Toe-tapping and head-bobbing gave way to jumping and clapping, and by the final repetition of the chorus no small number of first-time listeners (including myself) were singing along.
And isn’t that what rock music is supposed to be about? Togetherness—banding with like-minded people to cut through the bullshit and make truth and hope a priority. As the Cold War Kids and several other friends of the band joined them on stage for the final song of the set, a beautiful harmonica-driven anthem straight out of Bob Dylan’s lost songbook called “People Turn Around!” the couple hundred or so people packed into the El Rey Theater in Hollywod swayed and smiled together, joining in the realization that “the blood we’ve been spilling will bleed us dry.” Simple as that line may be, it carries a deeper meaning that exhorts us as human beings to be better to each other, and it’s that same message that has been a part of rock music for generations, and should continue to be for generations to come.
The band members play hard, play well, and have a good time doing it. Singer Matthew Vasquez delves into evey word he utters, and when the time is right, screams into the microphone with unfiiltered emotion that makes his neck veins bulge. Perhaps what makes Delta Spirit (and their live performances) remarkable is that there is no trace of the self-awareness that defines many “hipster” rock bands. These guys throw themselves into every song with reckless abandon, and are not afraid to ask their audience, ernestly and directly, to join them in making the world a better place. It’s a beautiful thing, and a soothing breath of fresh air amid the toxic vapors of mainstream rock. Delta Spirit’s music symbolizes the end of guarded, ironic rock and the beginning of some kind of rebirth of folk…a rebirth that instead of declaring that the times are a-changin,’ encourages us (“People C’mon”) to change the times our own damn selves. Do yourself a solid and check this band out.
Delta Spirit is currently on tour in Australia, and will return to the American road in Mid-August.
From: San Diego, CA
Members: Jon Jameson, Brandon Young, Matthew Vasquez, Sean Walker, Kelly Winrich
Record Label: Rounder Records, Dew Process (Australia)
Rounder Records (order Cds here):