Photos by Josh Giroux
Delta Spirit Shows Off New Tunes at SXSW
March 14, 2012 – Mike Duffy
From the opening bars of the new song “Empty House,” Delta Spirit frontman Matthew Vasquez had Tuesday night’s/Wednesday morning’s crowd at Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel in Austin, Texas in the palm of his hand.
Time to clap along with the beat? Vasquez barely had to gesture.
Sing along with the chorus?
This was not a problem – even though the San Diego rockers only released their self-titled third full-length album just a month ago.
Admittedly, it was 1 a.m. and the Taco Bell-sponsored event had many stuffing their faces with Doritos-flavored meat-and-bean fourth meals, but it was clear that this party stuck around for the grassroots rockers.
It was interesting to see the enthusiastic reaction of the fans to the new material.
In a few interviews, the band has said that they were still growing out of the “roots rock” or “folk rock” labels stamped on them at the beginning of their career.
With Delta Spirit, there is certainly an arena-ready sound emanating from the album, and even though the Hype Hotel was somewhat of a boxy situation, Vasquez and Co. sounded like they were filling a much-bigger venue with their latest tunes.
Trying to grow out of the folk bubble is tough, but Delta Spirit seems to have accomplished that even while keeping the soul for which they’ve been known.
That said, the most-electric reactions came when the raw power of “People C’mon” and “Trashcan” off 2008’s Ode To Sunshine were unleashed as the hour hand on the clock neared 2.
Ode was a revelation, instantly throwing Delta Spirit into a group that included Dawes and Deer Tick. The lead singers of each band even formed a supergroup called Middle Brother.
With those swampy stompers off Ode, Vasquez ignited the audience with raw emotion pouring out of his guitar and microphone.
So much so that one couple amid the packed crowd in front of this reporter began to do a drunken version of the swing dance.
Across the smallish room, a female fan perched atop her male companion’s shoulders, hands held high to the rafters (shirts remained on, for the record).
Delta Spirit closed up shop with “California,” a fresh track that asks a mystery person to move to the Sunshine State and find whatever her heart needs… but “not for me.”
It’s perhaps the best link between Delta Spirit’s past and present. Heartfelt lyrics, twangy guitars and a driving beat.
It seems that Delta Spirit is bridging the gap between their folk past and future aspirations.
In fact, during “California,” one girl climbed atop a speaker in front of the stage, only to be disappointed when the song ended right as she got comfortable.
It was a rock and roll moment, but who says you can’t fill an arena with soul too?