What’s Left: 9 days. 29 bands.
Band #71: Delta Rae
When/Where: August 26, Casbah, Durham, NC
Expectations: The last time I saw Delta Rae live, I had mixed feelings about the band. I thought that they were definitely a very talented bunch, but they were a bit too cheery for me. Their music might have been a little bit too Southern and kind for me, too. Since then, though, I have heard some of their new releases and have been incredibly impressed with the direction they’ve gone in.
Concert: Despite Hurricane Irene’s upcoming trip to the neighborhood, a large crowd made the trek to Casbah to see local band Delta Rae perform. It always impresses me to see the multiple demographic groups that Delta Rae can pull together for a show – the audience ranged from freshmen college students to a flock of post-grads and all the way up to retired folk who chose to spend an evening with their spouses in the presence of some ground-rattling music from Delta Rae.
Delta Rae includes four band members – the front four, Eric Holljes, Ian Holljes, Brittany Holljes, and Liz Hopkins, are all singers, while the back two, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson, provide support on the bass and the drums. They started off the night with an opening song that set the stage for how the rest of the night would continue – all four singers grouped together at the front of the stage and each sang a solo section of the song, as if they were going down the line showing off their incredibly powerful voices and beautiful harmonizing skills.
Throughout the night, Delta Rae played a large collection of songs. It seems to me as if they’ve grown into themselves a bit. Perhaps they once were striving to draw too grandiose of a picture, but if so, they have figured out how to fill those shoes with their wider range of songs, ability to get the crowd clapping, swaying, and dancing, and more energetic movements and actions on stage. One highlight of the night came when they performed their original Gospel song called “Bottom of the River,” during which they proved that despite their majority fair-skinned appearance, they embody the soul, power, and heart of a full choral group with a sound that can fill an entire church with the echoes of the Gospel. The acapella tune and the beautiful foot stomping and hand clapping made it feel as though Casbah itself had been transformed into a house of worship.
The band played a new song called “Surrounded,” which is repurposed from brothers Ian and Eric’s old band, Running Lights, and is a personal favorite of mine. They also played “Morning Comes,” “If I Loved You,” “Country House,” “Right Before My Eyes,” “Memphis,” “Holding on to Good,” “Rain Down On Me,” “Darling If,” among others. They created a very personal atmosphere by introducing the majority of their songs with the story behind the song or what inspired the lyrics.
I noticed this evening that Delta Rae has found a perfect algorithm to songwriting. Between gripping lyrics to grand choruses, acoustic bridges, solo vocal sections, intricate piano overtones, heavy electric guitar sections, harmonies, foot stomps, hand claps…they’ve got a whole cannon of tricks and talents, and they somehow manage to blend all of these styles together to create beautiful songs that represent what music was created to be: catchy, heartfelt, and emotional. Add to that the raw power and emotion in their live show and you’ve got a band that has just nailed the equation for a successful performance.
Delta Rae proved something to me tonight that until now I wasn’t sure they had in them. They showed me that they are some of the better songwriters I’ve seen in my time, and that they will leave a lasting mark on the music of our generation with their ability to blend historic Southern soul and gospel music with a modern twist of folk, pop, indie rock, and even some heavier rock influences. I learned tonight that Delta Rae is more than just a band; it’s a movement.
Concert Afterglow: This was an incredibly entertaining show. I’ll have “Darling If” stuck in my head for days, and I am not upset about it. I’m absolutely blown away by the strides this band has made since the last time I saw them live, and I’ll be itching to see them again live on a bigger stage soon.
Recommendation: I will go ahead and say that it wont be long before Delta Rae will be playing on very large stages in front of enormous audiences. No doubt about it, they’ll turn that into a beautiful act, but I urge you to go see them in a small setting while you can. It’s truly a wonderful and intimate experience.
“Surrounded” – Running Lights (performed this evening by Delta Rae)
Footage from the show: (apologies for shakiness)