Union Transfer was filled near capacity Oct. 4 for the indie rockers of Delta Spirit. The group, originally from California but now residing in Texas, are touring in support of their fourth full-length album, “Into the Wide,” released Sept. 9. Known for their energetic and engaging live shows, Delta Spirit did not disappoint.
Peter Matthew Bauer, formerly of the New York rock band The Walkmen, was the night’s opening act. At 9 p.m. sharp, Bauer took the stage with his band and three backup singers in tow. It was great to see the guy who was cooped up behind an organ on stage for years with The Walkmen bring such an energy to the stage in his new role of leading man. “Philadelphia Raga” sounded fantastic live, maybe even more so being played in the titular city. “Liberation!” and “I Was Born in an Ashram” sounded particularly great with the accompaniment of the three background singers, one of whom was Bauer’s wife Marisa.
Bauer’s set was highlighted by the incredible “Latin American Ficciones.” It’s a raw rock ’n’ roll song that creates this intense energy as Bauer wails into the mic with his vintage Gretsch guitar in hand. The last song of the set, “You are the Chapel” was also a stunner. With the song’s anthemic piano line replaced by guitar, the song took on neat new sound. Bauer left it all on the stage during that song and it was simply terrific. Hopefully there is another solo effort coming from Bauer in the future to follow up his great debut, “Liberation!” He seems to have found his groove on stage as Peter Matthew Bauer instead of being up there as just one of The Walkmen.
Delta Spirit came on stage a little after 10 p.m., receiving a huge ovation. A video was being projected on a screen behind the band; it created a cool effect as images were being projected not only on the band and the screen but also on the people at the foot of the stage. Opening with “From Now On,” the group brought up the energy in the room right away. While lead singer Matthew Vasquez’s grating vocals sounded a little off at first, the sound seemingly got adjusted by the time the group launched into “Tear It Up” and “Empty House.”
Vasquez is really something else. Besides his unique vocal style, he also gets this kind of crazy look in his eye in the middle songs. It can be a little off-putting when you are up close to the stage, almost looks like he’s giving you the stink eye! But nevertheless, Vasquez still does a great job of getting the crowd involved and making sure that they stay that way. He was always inviting the crowd to sing along by swinging the mic stand around to face the audience. A couple of times, he even bent down and stuck his head right into the faces of some patrons in the front row. The highlight had to be when the band came back on stage for the encore. Vasquez got the crowd to chant “Scotch! Scotch! Scotch!” as he slammed down a shot of it on stage before playing “Parade.”
The rest of the band played well while Vasquez went on with his antics. Drummer Brandon Young was rock steady off in the back corner of the stage. Lead guitarist William McLaren deserves a special shout-out for keeping everything straight as he switched guitars after, and sometimes even during, every song. McLaren also had some sweet solos including one he performed while riding atop Vasquez’s shoulders, causing almost everyone to frantically pull out their phones to snap a picture.
I didn’t realize just how long Delta Spirit had been touring when Vasquez thanked the fans for coming out “all these years” but they’ve been around since 2005; an impressive nine years for those of you keeping track at home. They closed with “People Turn Around,” a slower number that Vasquez encouraged everyone to sing along to. It was a satisfying way to end a great night of performances. If Peter Matthew Bauer or Delta Spirit ever come around town again, I highly recommend seeing them live.