The floor was shaking, hands were raised to the sky and the man on the microphone was pontificating emphatically as sweat rolled down his furrowed brow. Was I in the Abyssinian Baptist Church celebrating a revival? I might as well have been, but instead, I was at the Delta Spirit show at the Fillmore in San Francisco.
The show was sold-out and opening act Tijuana Panthers were a great band to open. They sounded like a mix between the Tornadoes and the Misfits or Ramones. There were some definite surf rock influences, but a lot of punk rock chord structures. They were interesting musically, but lacked charisma. Still, I found them to be a delightful way to start off. It was a long half hour to forty five minutes until Delta Spirit came on, but once they did it was well worth the wait.
Lead singer Matt Vasquez came on stage in what looked like a painter’s cap then almost immediately threw it off and it really began. It was fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! No wait that’s Ghostbusters, but still it was that crazy. The crowd’s energy was so overwhelming that the venue’s floor shook as if it were a trampoline.
Everyone knew every song. I stood there in wonderment as hipster girls and college guys were dancing like soft, mad children. To say it was a good show is to say Santa Claus is a giver. This was a built-in audience to a group that catered to them. They showed vast amounts of love by playing the songs people came to hear. They didn’t talk too much, they played the music and they played it in the same thrashing way that Nirvana used to, albeit in a very different style. Vasquez’s vocals were raspy and superbly on key as he even screamed with a tuning fork style pitch. He is the front man that writer’s live for.
As they left the stage and the crowd began singing, “Ole, Ole, Ole” Vasquez ran back and danced like a hippie on Mescaline and repeated the refrain back to the crowd, then he wiped his drenched brow, smiled to the crowd and ran behind the piano. The crowd erupted as the band started into “Trashcan” from their Ode to Sunshine album. They howled as he screamed the refrain and then climbed on top of the piano, moved around like a belly dancer and then jumped off the piano sticking the landing. As the band exited the stage and the crowd left, the buzz was still palpable as we shuffled off to our various destinations like herds of buffalo. We watched a lead singer that is reminiscent of Joe Cocker at Woodstock and a band that plays musically tight, but physically loose. The electricity coursed through the veins of the masses and won’t soon be forgotten in a city that was built on music.