Live Show Review: Delta Spirit at the Fillmore

Delta Spirit :: 05.10.12 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

Originally published on May 18, 2012


Delta Spirit by Annelise Poda

A sold out crowd was drawn to The Fillmore on Thursday last week for a night of stomping and clapping along to the blues-rock sounds of Delta Spirit. This up and coming band is based in San Diego with connective roots running from the South, and you can hear a wide variety of regional influences in their soulful indie-Americana sound. Delta Spirit played a solid set of heartfelt songs of all varieties, including jubilant dancing numbers as well as expressive ruminations on sorrow and love, and the crowd was swept away in the emotive music that pulsed out from the stage.

The show started off slowly, like a train pulling out of a first station on a long journey, but the night quickly picked up steam as the quiet finger picking guitar melodies of “White Table” revved up into heavy chord strums. There were two drummers on stage with full kits plus auxiliary percussive instruments, and it was readily apparent that percussion plays a big part in the feel and progression of Delta Spirit’s music. Deep floor tom beats built up foundations, and snare rim shots paired with intricate hi hat taps to cradle the other instruments as energy fell back down.

Watching these guys play together one can’t help but notice how deeply immersed they are in their music, completely interconnected to create a thick wall of sound. Frontman Matthew Vasquez stands out from the rest of the band as liaison to the audience, and his familiar stage presence and carefree dancing makes you feel like you’ve known him for years. Vasquez kept up a lively dialogue with the crowd throughout the entire set and acted as spiritual guide for the evening of captivating music.


Delta Spirit by Annelise Poda

The set progressed with a variety of songs, which kept things interesting. The relatively calm opening songs were followed by a rousing performance of “Tear it Up,” which featured muted guitar riff accents and a thick beat that got the audience moving. Right before the next song, the entire room darkened except for a bright spotlight on Vasquez and his guitar. He snapped into action and started to rhythmically convulse and vigorously shake his head as he let out an elongated howl. Distorted, jerky guitar notes echoed through the room and he moved as if he were possessed by an evil spirit of a past rocker, perhaps a warped version of Jimi Hendrix playing the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock.

The action was kicked up a notch during “Bushwick Blues,” and dancing and stomping from fans shook the floor with the strength of a not so minor earthquake. Throughout the night, Vasquez made a variety of song dedications to local friends, the opening band, and even simply couples in love. His warm comments had a great effect on the diverse audience, and one couldn’t miss their expressions of pure happiness all around the room. It was truly a great crowd to be surrounded by.

The set concluded with their newest single, “California,” which had everyone singing along with the extended “oooooh” parts that gradually transitioned into a chorus of “Ole, Ole, Ole” as the band left the stage. This chant continued until Delta Spirit came back out to join in on the singing themselves and kick it up a further notch. The encore started with a very quiet, powerful “Devil Knows You’re Dead.” Vasquez sang the lyrics with his eyes tearing up, showing how really connected these musicians are to the music they create.


Delta Spirit by Annelise Poda

The band made use of a diverse array of instruments throughout the set, which gave new feeling to each song with an array including harmonicas, synthesizers and even a drum machine. But, the greatest of all of the featured sounds was a trashcan lid used as a drum for the aptly named “Trashcan.” This was a great choice for a climactic number as it left everyone in an uplifted, joyous mood. Vasquez switched places with keyboard player and fellow songwriter Kelly Winrichand proceeded to play the piano with his feet, jump off of it, and then acquire a big furry wolf tail and dance a happy wolf jig around the stage. If you are not familiar with such a dance, just know that you’ll recognize one when you see it.

The crowd could have undoubtedly kept going, but Delta Spirit let everyone know that the night was over when Vasquez dramatically crashed to the floor, legs kicking in the air and the rest of his body writhing about on the floor. He rose up to fall over again and took out guitarist Will McLaren with him on the way down. It was an amazing ending to a really solid all-around concert, and the cherry on the top of the night was that everyone went home with free commemorative posters from The Fillmore. Delta Spirit will be on tour for the next few months, check their schedule to see if they come to your city. Their live show is a guaranteed good night out on the town.


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