Delta Rae – Live at Vinyl

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Absent the vacuous “talent” shows on TV, how does a talented band find widespread appeal in 2012?  Tour.  Leno.  Conan.  VH1 Exposure. Major recording label.  Special events.  Internet radio.  Real radio.

Delta Rae’s done all of that.   Except real radio.  Where is a radio station that plays new music that isn’t approved on a corporate list of acts blessed with songs that sound like all the other ones currently in rotation?  You won’t find it in Atlanta.

Ever since I saw first Delta Rae at Bele Chere at the end of July, I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to see this band again. In the last three months, they’ve played their way to California and back, had the late night TV music spots, just missed playing the DNC had President Obama been able to fill the stadium, and been listed as VH1’s “You Oughta Know” Artist of the Month.  They released an exceptional CD, Carry the Fire, four months ago.  They’ve made very entertaining videos for YouTube for their leading songs.  There’s an ample selection of fan videos of their concert history.  Add active Twitter and Facebook postings, And Delta Rae is making all the right moves.

Add to that, they’re insanely talented group.

So, $10 at Vinyl?  Are you kidding me?

I’m quite pleased to only pay $10 to see them.  The time will come when I’ll have to pay a multiple of that to see them from much farther away.

And at Vinyl?  I’d expect with their hard work that they’d be playing at the Masquerade or another venue where “acts on their way up” find themselves... with larger crowds.  I guess that just represents the glut of talented artists and/or the travails of finding commercial success for musicians in the modern era.

Well, small venue, limited sight-lines... arrive early!

We did, just as the The WildFeathers took the stage.  At it’s core, their style takes acoustic roots and amps it up to a southern rock feel.  It was an enjoyable opening act.

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Following them was Erin McCarley, a little lady with a big voice.   With guitarist and keyboardist in tow, she played a variety of songs with an independent spirit that might sound like Fiona Apple if she played closer to centerfield.  She had a great stage presence and was very entertaining.

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It was 10:00 on a Wednesday night in Atlanta when Delta Rae took the stage.  Where the heck was the crowd?  The fans that were there mostly knew the band and their songs, but I was disappointed in two ways.  1) A lot people missed out, and 2) I’d hope that their venture from NC would be profitable enough to warrant another visit in the future.

Delta Rae is a band to be heard live.  I’ve listened to their CD many times over the last few months, and, as good as it is, it remains a pale reminder of how this band exploded at Bele Chere.  It’s not like the singers have quiet voices.  In a given song, they may start that way, but they built to a full throated delivery.  How would they sound after three months of fairly hard touring?

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Just fine.  Eric and Ian Hölljes’ voices sounded good, but Ian struggled at the high end.  The set list (at the end of the blog) seemed to recognize this, featuring the other band members on lead more heavily.  The female harmonies, particularly, seemed truer than several months ago.  And Elizabeth Hopkins’ voice may actually be stronger at this point.  Happily, Brittany Brittany Hölljes retains her trademark squeak and fiery delivery on the band’s more rocking songs.  

Much (but not the full measure) of their vocal powerhouse approach can be heard on their CD, but live, it becomes apparent how important the rhythm section is to the band.  Mike McKee’s drums and Grant Emerson’s bass added punch and variety to match the intensity of the group’s vocals.  This band has all the right pieces.  They click. 

And their overall energy? On a small stage on a Wednesday night with an undersized crowd? Just awesome. Sign me up for more $10 tickets.

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They introduced two new songs.  “Cold Day” is much darker than their other songs, with lyrics about a relationship that has fallen apart.  It has a heavier rock feel, a different direction and potentially a good complement to their set.   The other, likely titled “My Whole Life Long” pointed to soulful R&B.  Both had had hit and miss moments and didn’t sound as polished as their other songs.  It will be interesting to see if they evolve.  “Bottom of the River” remained a highlight, but really, this band is so joyful in every song that they do everything well.

Not exactly a disappointment, but the band chatted much less than they had at Bele Chere, during which they really connected with the audience, giving insights into most of their songs and the band itself.  However, notable here was that the Hölljes siblings had lived in Marietta for 6 years when they were young, and they made use of the tour stop to pay regards to their school music teacher.   

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How many artists take the time to seek out educators that had an influence? It says a lot about them, and it says a lot about their teacher (who attended the show).

Another  disappointment was that Delta Rae’s set was abbreviated to an hour and 10 minutes, including the encore.  I’d rather skip the opening acts and hear this band sing nursery rhymes or phone books if they’re out of material.  I guess three bands were needed to sell an evening’s worth of beer, as commerce demands.

The band’s encore, by the way, was in the round, entering into the crowd for their album closer, “Hey, Hey, Hey.”  Pretty cool stuff.  I hope the best for this band, because they deserve it.  But, I’ll be quite happy if they continue to perform in small venues...  There’s no better bargain in live music.  Wow. 

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Set list:

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