With the demise this year of Los Angeles radio station Indie 103.1, one wonders whether indie rock is doomed. Indie 103.1 left broadcast for the Internet, citing low ratings and outside pressure to blend mainstream elements into its format that it sought to avoid. I mourn the loss. So much of today’s rock radio flogs a listener with relentless broadcast of the same old oldies culled from the same old lists. The net result is rock-radio-station parity: they all begin to sound alike. More than once while driving around this town I have hit what I call the broadcast trifecta — three rock stations playing the same artist at the same time. There ought to be a prize for that. But the darker side of this equation is the systemic pressure that comes to bear on new recording artists. If the controlling interests of rock radio truly crave gold (at least they do in Southern California), then perhaps the way in is to be like Delta Spirit: a hardcore indie-rock outfit that sounds just enough like classic rock to fool the bastards.
I’ve no idea if that was even part of Delta Spirit’s marketing strategy, but at least one of their singles from a record that they recorded in a rustic cabin in the nearby mountains has gained traction on radio playlists. Delta Spirit mix up energetic guitar with strong melodies and a lot of percussive hammering on drums, trash-can lids, and so on. They play the big throaty rock chords with a rough-hewn quality I haven’t heard much since the Band made music in the 1960s. No virtuosos, just good garage (albeit piney-woods cabin) rock. There is much to like in their solid, workmanlike competence and indie spirit, and that corporate rock radio has noticed them spells hope, maybe, that radio will once again be cutting edge.
DELTA SPIRIT, Belly Up Tavern, Friday, March 6, 9:00 p.m. 858-481-8140. $14.