Delta Spirit fill Middle East Upstairs

A review of Delta Spirit at the Middle East Upstairs on June 25

, Staff Writer

It’s always promising to see a packed house at the Middle East Upstairs, and that was exactly the case Wednesday night for San Diego’s Delta Spirit. The band, who were supporting their debut album Ode to Sunshine, are billed on all their press material as having opened for "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Cold War Kids, and Dr. Dog." Pretty soon people will be opening for them.

The first thing that hits you about Delta Spirit is Matt Vasquez’s voice, and it hits you hard, like a mix between Jack White and Jack Daniels. Vasquez can scream with the best of them, but opening song "People C’mon" instead rode on great energy and a big rock ending to begin the night. Vasquez greeted the crowd, saying, "Thank you for coming out. Holy shit, man." Next up was "Strange Vine" with it’s easy shuffle and sharp accents from drummer Brandon Young, and it became clear that the crowd was well riled up for the show.

Delta Spirit took the opportunity to introduce a new song, a bold move so early in the set but one that ultimately paid off. Vasquez sang in Dylan-esque rhythms over a very insistent rush of music, resulting in an interesting contrast. The band continued to gain momentum with the locomotive chug of "Children", getting the crowd bopping along in approval. At the end of the song Vazquez let loose his howl for the first time, throwing an absolute screaming tantrum as the band piled it on behind him.

"Bleeding Bells" was the first subdued song of the night, but it was dressed up from its album version by a constant drum beat lurking beneath the meandering guitars, always threatening to explode. The song swelled and subsided, giving way to the rush of "Trashcan", which lived up to it’s name when the song began with a band member banging on a trash can lid. Vasquez had switched over to keys at this point and began banging out a piano line that carried Sunshine’s best song.

Another new song, which Vasquez dedicated to "grandma and grandpa", was a sweet 3/4 country tune about heaven being "too cold without you" that was able to inspire one fan to hold up a lighter for the ballad. "House Built for Two" threatened to steal some momentum, but a huge ending saved it from that fate. The band then took a turn at "St. James Infirmary Blues" that sounded like a blues dirge, with rolling waves of tension and release that culminated in a group solo and some more impassioned screaming from Vasquez.

After the song Vasquez asked the crowd, "We have two more songs for you, is that ok?" and was greeted with a chorus of "No’s!". He joked that the band would instead play one more, but still delivered the punk-Johnny Cash "Tom Gerald", with its frenetic pace and huge chorus trigger, and a dramatic rendering of "People, Turn Around" with Young moving to maracas. As the song became one massive sing along Young banged on a spare set of a bass and snare drum while Kelly Winrich filled in on drums. The unstoppable chorus sounded like a hymn, and the night ended with two affirming a capella choruses.

With a debut album that is equal parts polish and promise and an excellent live show, it’s only a matter of time before bands are putting "opened for Delta Spirit" on their press releases.

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