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Monday, May 14

Review: Delta Spirit - 5/11/12 - Henry Fonda Theater -Hollywood, CA

I am new to Delta Spirit.  An old friend threw “California” on a mix for me at the end of March, right before I moved out west.  I listened to the song but then let it go. Not so much because I wasn't gripped by the music—the sweeping dynamics, tender, somewhat heartbreaking lyrics, swelling vocals—but simply that I was caught up in relocating and just forgot to follow up. Sometime in late April, a friend gifted me the entire discography. Leaving for a road trip, I threw Ode to Sunshine (2008) on my iPod and decided to give it some time. Little did I know it would be the only album I listened to for four consecutive days.  I was completely powerless against the addictive melodies, unique musicality, raw vocals, and the overt human elements in each of the stories.
So the boys played at the Henry Fonda Theater (formerly the Music Box) in Hollywood on Friday night and of course, I was in attendance.  After bracing myself during a somewhat painful opening act (WATERS, fronted by Van Pierszalowski), I was thrilled when Delta Spirit finally took the stage at 11 and opened the show the same way they opened their newest eponymous release (2012), the title of the song striking me as slightly ironic "Empty House", as a I was flattened against someone’s sweaty back on the front side, cooled by someone’s beer (as it dripped down my back) from behind, and enduring a skinny-jean-sheathed semi pressed into my left hip. No matter, because the band was already tearing it up and I was deep in the trance of Matt Vasquez’ perfectly coiffed hair as it bounced with the body snatching beats. 
Self Titled 2012 Album

The Dick Dale-esque “Strange Vine” was their third song, and I couldn’t help feeling like I was in a slow motion montage in a Quentin Tarantino film as my body swayed with the masses.  Matt incited the crowd with “Tellin’ the Mind” at about the halfway point in the set, teaching everyone how to make his primal, flutter-tongue screeches and join the band in creating this thumping, guttural song. If your mind wasn’t a blank slate by a minute into this song, you weren’t paying attention to what was happening in that theater—the relentless percussion and verve slamming at us from the stage was the ultimate mind eraser.  

It was the perfect prep for “Time Bomb,” which followed.  The cocoon of sound that the band managed to create was overwhelming as it enveloped the audience, building up to a beautiful chorus of “oooh”s that was so stunning that I almost felt cheated when the song ended.  They kept the emotion where it was, pouring it onto the piano and a touch of surf-rock guitar in “House Built For Two”. “Children,” which is one of my favorite tunes off of Ode to Sunshine came at the end of the set, and I was pleased to see some double percussion action, including what looked—from my (5’3”, 8 heads back) vantage point—like the use of maracas as mallets on an orchestral bass drum. 
I shouldn’t forget to mention that we got “9/11” and “Bushwick Blues” from off of History from Below (2010), which were welcome additions to the night. Overall the set list was fairly masterful as the band managed to create a mood in the theater that—by the looks of those around me—very few people were able to escape. They ended with (I suppose) the much anticipated, expertly played (despite some mic problems) “California” and left the theater howling for more. They acknowledged the love by returning to the stage for a three-song encore, including a “Money Saves” opener, which they rocked hard from every angle.
Delta Spirit ended their manic evening of music with an absolutely insane rendition of “Trashcan,” mayhem unfolding before any of us knew what was happening. Matt started out behind the piano with Kelly Winrich front and center on the trashcan lid. Suddenly, Matt jumped off the piano and headed backstage, returning with a duffle bag from which he produced a Gallagher-esque wig (bald on top with a semi-circle of curly hair around back), which he then donned, a sledgehammer and some watermelons. Suddenly, the watermelons are hoisted onto stools and getting smashed to smithereens, spraying everyone with sugar and pink fruit flesh…No one seemed to mind. Chunks of watermelon were being flung into the crowd in time with the music, or randomly, who knows. Matt was sucking on giant hunks of dripping melon, sticky juice running down his chin, grinning all the while and belting out the chorus like a maniac. “My love is coming I can barely hardly wait. My heart is thumping, I can feel it more with every beat.” No one present could possibly argue.
Words: Elyssa Karanian
 © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication