Matt Vasquez has fantastic memories of Delta Spirit’s first Vancouver concert, and not just because the Media Club was packed despite the band being almost unknown. What sticks out about that rain-drenched Saturday night in February 2009 was the reception the singer and his bandmates received, with newly minted fans buying them shots, handing them beers, and singing along to every song. Leading the lunacy was the dude who showed up in a plaid shirt, plunked himself in the front row, and then proceeded to lose himself with the kind of fervour normally seen at Christian tent revivals in the American South.
“That one guy in the front acted insane,” Vasquez recalls with a palpable sense of awe, on the line from his home in Long Beach, California. “He’d been in a church monastery or something like that and he’d been locked up in the wilderness for months. That was his first night out—I know because he contacted me after the show. Later on, he drove all the way from Vancouver to Los Angeles to see us. He was soooo excited, but he went ”˜Alright guys, I’m not going to act as insane as I did last time. I know that I was crazy, and I’m so sorry.’ What’s funny is that I was kind of bummed that he didn’t go insane.”
Plenty of people are nonetheless going crazy for Delta Spirit these days, with the San Diego–spawned band having mushroomed from an obscure regional act to a solid national draw in just over 12 months. The buzz was built on the back of Ode to Sunshine, an epically infectious roots-rock outing that Rounder Records rereleased in 2008 after the quintet had gone the DIY route with it the year before.
The new and equally excellent History From Below proves that sometimes lightning strikes twice. Forget the sophomore jinx: Delta Spirit recaptures the unbridled enthusiasm of its debut with tracks that ricochet from the loping trash-can country-pop of “9/11” to the percussion-powered psych-folk of “White Table”. The band—which includes bassist Jon Jameson, drummer Brandon Young, guitarist Sean Walker, and keyboardist-guitarist Kelly Winrich—also knows when to dial things down, with the gorgeous golden-dawn Americana of “Ransom Man” built around desert-shimmer strings and spartan acoustic guitar.
Recorded with My Morning Jacket’s Bo Koster behind the board, History From Below marked a new approach for Delta Spirit.
“We did that first record (Ode to Sunshine) by ourselves for 2,500 bucks,” Vasquez says. “We had some equipment and set out to make an EP, but decided to do a [full-length] record. We’d only done one tour at the time.”
Since then, there have been 11 swings through North America and Europe, all of which have helped turn Delta Spirit into a potent force on-stage. That’s scary when you think how insanely excellent the band was back at the Media Club; when Vasquez wasn’t swinging from the water pipes, he was swigging beers bummed off the newly minted faithful, most of whom were almost as into it as the guy in the checkered shirt.
“People end up getting so enthusiastic that we do, too,” Vasquez notes. “It’s all really positive. We did this short tour at the beginning of the year, and it totally sold out. What was funny was that the bartenders were always impressed with the people who came to see us.
They’d tell us every night ”˜It’s so weird the way your fans say “please” when they ask for a Pabst Blue Ribbon.’?”
Delta Spirit plays Venue on Saturday (June 12).