Photos by Geoff Fortune
Delta Spirit’s farewell tour wasn’t so much about them saying goodbye to the fans as it was the fans saying goodbye to them.
They’re not leaving forever — or so they say — but the San Diego-born band is using the word “hiatus” to describe the next part of their career. After four albums, impressive indie-level fame, and the relocation of band members to multiple points on the map, they’re taking some time off. They haven’t gone into much detail as to why they’re doing so, but they thankfully had the foresight to schedule one last tour, and they brought some friends along for the ride. They spent this weekend in San Francisco to give the city a final farewell.
“Go basketball,” singer Matt Vasquez said after taking the stage at 9pm. The house was alarmingly empty at the scheduled showtime of 8, possibly due to Game 5, the Game of Thrones finale, or both. But an hour later, Delta Spirit was playing to a packed house of impossibly handsome hipsters. Lit by a spooky single light, they opened with an uncharacteristically upbeat rendition of “Bleeding Bells.” And the energy only elevated from there.
So here’s how this tour has been working: in advance of each show, they’ve been sourcing suggestions from fans via social media as to who should play with them in each city. No word on whether fan suggestions actually influenced the lineup, but it seems likely. The “friends” this night included a few local darlings: members of SF’s Tumbleweed Wanderers and Oakland’s Ezra Furman.
The night was a nonstop stream of covers, originals, and old favorites. After the band opened with a few retooled revisits of their own work, each guest took the lead on a song of their choosing. Tumbleweed Wanderers worked with Delta Spirit and others for a whole-gang singalong of “Don’t Let Me Down,” Jessica Dobson hushed the crowd with an acoustic selection, and Furman utterly charmed the place with a solo performance of his “Day of the Dog.” Sam Owens took Nico’s part on “She’s A Femme Fatale,” and Ivan & Aloysha stayed for several.
A few minutes into the show, the Indy had started to feel like an arena — the lights pulsing in time with the keys; the thump of the bass drum in your ribcage. Later in the evening, the set switched back to Delta Spirit-penned pieces, this time with help. Excitement peaked with with Furman assisting on an electric version of Violent Femmes’ “Add It Up” and a performance of “People C’mon,” which somehow topped that in terms of sheer intensity. The previous night had sold out, and it was tough to say if this was close, but every time the house lights brightened, they revealed a sea of smiling, singing faces.
A lot of times, it seems like the better the songwriters, the more jaded and bitchy the band, but that’s never been the case with Delta Spirit. There was a lot of heartfelt commentary from them throughout the evening, and the other artists all gave gushing tributes when passed the mic. “You’ve been along the road the whole way, and we’re never gonna forget that,” Vasquez said of San Francisco at the start of the show. And if anything was clear after this weekend, no matter what this hiatus holds for them, they’ve got friends in San Francisco, too.