Delta Rae Revival–Live at The Basement

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A vacation day to burn and a $10 ticket to see one of my favorite bands led me to make the trip from Atlanta to Nashville with, as expected, no regrets.  Delta Rae is performing a 16 week “residency” at The Basement, an internet-described “dive bar,” that is a basement and, if it were absent the the transformation into Delta Rae’s “revival church,” it most certainly would look like a dive basement.

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I was fortunate to come across Grant Emerson, the band’s bassist, for a short conversation.  Nothing revelatory, really, but how often do you get to chat with a member of a favorite band?  The band has essentially relocated to Nashville from Durham, NC, which makes sense for access to all the talent, publishers, studios, etc. that are available.  We also touched on their new classification as a country act, which probably makes marketing and economic sense, and Emerson pointed out that they’re not singing the stereotypical country lyrics.  And, sadly, there was no hint of an album.

Do albums matter anymore?  The band keeps releasing singles and EPs, so I guess they add to the same, but I’m a traditionalist.  In any case, if the remainder of the band shares Grant’s general humility and positivity, they should stay together for quite a while.  How they can afford to do so for $10 a ticket, is another question, especially in a spot where maybe 100 people can uncomfortably stand, and where the band could easily ask double that without a second thought.   That second thought should have led to even a higher price for this type of experience. 

A Delta Rae concert doesn’t normally have a venue factor involved, other than sightlines and sound quality.  The Basement, with a sellout crowd, is poor for seeing the artist, great audibly when the artist is acoustic or low volume, and less impressive when a band pumps the volume, as Delta Rae did… or maybe it’s the additive effect of seven musicians on the stage. 

In any case, the band converted the basement to a chapel of sorts, with faux stained glass windows, a candelabrum, several lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and a vicar warning of certain judgment.  This plays well into a ghost story written by the mother of several of the band members, and their own account that their audience frequently mention that they’ve been “taken to church” following one of their concerts, which is fitting.  They’re really, really good. 

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Here’s just an intro to the ghost story, accentuated by fishing line to tug on the overhead lanterns…


In December 1715, a small congregation was founded in the woods outside of Durham, North Carolina.  They built a white shotgun chapel and practiced their rituals fervently.  A year after its founding, this tiny community was swept with a paranoia over witchcraft.  They accused a young widow living alone in the unincorporated lands outside their village of practicing dark magic and a contingent of men and women from the chapel leadership were charged with bringing her in to face trial and judgment before the church.

The rest can be read on their Twitter dated 11/29/2018, if you’re so willing.  And then we have the recurring recital between the opening acts… it’s kind of campy, but it worked, as well as leading the way to a splashy entrance for the band’s ladies, appearing from the light, so to speak.

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Above and below you can see the windows, which initially show the four singing members of the band.  As the concert progresses, video is included as well – an unexpected visual treat for, well, a basement.

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This was my fourth time seeing the band – the first just after the release of “Carry the Fire,” when they introduced each song in depth and blew away the audience.  The second was when they passed through Atlanta basically on their way from one place to another, and an impressive concert at Atlanta’s also-small Eddie’s Attic.  Their showmanship has advanced year after year, increasingly featuring the band’s two female singers, Brittany Holljes and Liz Hopkins, who complement each other perfectly.

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I can’t find a setlist, but their early songs “Bottom of the River,” “Morning Comes,” “If I Loved You,” and “Dance in the Graveyards” continue to define the best tendencies of the band – crafted lyrics, adventurous musical stylings, and a powerhouse delivery when the singers come together.

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From their second album, “Outlaws,” “I Will Never Die,” and I think “Scared” and “Run” were covered, which pretty well fit the thematic aspect to the ghost story.  The band is no stranger to singing for a cause, and also included “Dirty Work,” a plea for people to get out and vote.  It’s a good song for the purpose, but it’s a unicorn stylistically to their other work and didn’t fit as well unless… you consider the “year of the woman” and the caliber of the evening’s supporting acts. 

Chloe Gilligan opened, endearing in the way she introduced her songs and seemingly lives on the edge of cracking herself up.  “San Francisco” was really good.  Elise Hayes was more polished, “but” her songs were probably better appreciated by those more in touch with their feelings.  And for a couple of songs, Delta Rae was joined by Maddie Rose, who had an excellent voice.  Later listens on the internet have piqued my interest – she’s really good, sort of soulful country.  I’m fairly certain “Pull You Through” was one of the songs she sang from her new album.

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Overall, it was an awesome evening, and reinforces what everybody says that I’ve taken to see them live – they deserve a bigger stage.  Maybe they’ll catch that break to get there soon, but until then, the $10 tickets are a steal, and I’d hate to have to watch them from an upper deck in a colosseum anyway.

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