Delta Spirit were originally scheduled to play the House of Blues at the end of October with FIDLAR, but due to unknown circumstances, FIDLAR left the tour and The Growlers took their place for a belated show last Tuesday.
It was a bizarre lineup from the beginning. FIDLAR are a band with song titles like “Crackhead Ted” and “Cheap Beer,” whereas Delta Spirit are a pop-rock band that goes heavy on the Christianity. Those two acts would have made for strange bedfellows, but exchanging FIDLAR for The Growlers didn’t make any more sense.
From the beginning of their set, The Growlers looked out of place. The band was dressed in relatively normal clothes with lead singer Brooks Nielsen in a brown button-up. The lights from the venue dutifully changed colors every now and again while The Growlers just stood on stage and played their songs. There are a couple reasons why this seemed off.
For one, The Growlers had closed out a stage at this summer’s FYF Fest with one of the most bizarre and psychedelic sets imaginable. The backdrop had featured ‘70s softcore porn, scenes from A Clockwork Orange, and a hologram of a friend who, the band informed the audience, had died. They had also played at Coachella, where Nielsen spent most of his time mumbling into both the mic and a dildo that someone had thrown on stage. So seeing them on stage just performing the songs and dancing awkwardly was unnerving.
Seeing The Growlers play a mere 30-minute set was even stranger. They’ve put out two LPs and a third is currently being produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Relegating the band to the time slot of some obscure opener was just plain wrong. The audience was composed of mostly white, preppy-looking, college-age kids who yelled out “Delta Spirit!” in between The Growlers’ songs. The psychedelic, surf-rock tracks seemed to go in one ear and out the other. Even the catchy “Sea Lion Goth Blues” received only polite applause. The set passed way too quickly, but the songs blended nicely and some of The Growlers’ new material sounded excellent.
Then began a period of about 45 minutes where the attendees waited around and tweeted pictures of themselves to Red Bull for a chance to hang out with Delta Spirit after the show. When Delta Spirit finally took the stage, they did so with bundles of energy. Dressed like Urban Outfitters models, the group blitzed the crowd with song after song, working attendees into a frenzy. Lead singer Matthew Vasquez stretched his voice from a soulful rumble to a throat-shredding scream in nearly every song, while two percussionists filled out the sound.
But something was missing. While most of the people in the crowd were going nuts, the songs felt too static. The melodies were predictable and even though Vasquez was screaming, it never really felt like there was a reason for him to do so. Although there was a smattering of slow, pretty songs, for a band that banks on its bluesy-ness, there simply wasn’t enough soul. It was all too staged, too safe, and there were too many moments where the songs sounded like run-of-the-mill Christian rock.
Nevertheless, Delta Spirit obviously have a very wide following that really gets into that kind of music. The true source of the show’s mediocrity came from the incongruous lineup. Luckily, The Growlers will return to San Diego in mid-December for a show at the Casbah, where things are certain to get weird.