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During the mid-2000s, the music industry produced a rash of bands that embraced roots. Dobros were heard, percussion sounded DIY, and arcane instruments such as toy piano were embraced. Standouts included Cage the Elephant, the Black Keys, Cold War Kids, and Delta Spirit.

Delta Spirit made a record in 2006 in the piney woods of San Diego that would change their lives. But was it a true roots rebirth, or was it just rock music played rough around the edges? Cage the Elephant was a different animal live than on record. The Black Keys retained their urgent sense of grit, but the number-two CD from the once-meteoric Cold War Kids tanked when they changed direction and glossed their sound. I’d spoken to Delta Spirit about the roots/Americana resurgence (they’d used trash cans for drums on one track), and the impression I got was that even they didn’t know what direction indie rock was heading. At the time they were dead broke and just trying to get by, eating out of Trader Joe’s refuse bins and such.

Although Delta Spirit bandmembers have not lived here for some time now, the band did, in fact, start in San Diego. They polished their young act by playing a local club circuit that included the Beauty Bar (now Til-Two,) the Sports Club (now the Ruby Room), and the Ken Club. They drove to Orange County gigs in a van that singer Matt Vasquez says he slept in more often than not. They moved up to Long Beach and then on to Brooklyn, which has become the new home base for many indie-rock bands. Delta Spirit has since abandoned that rootsy log-cabin music they made on Ode to Joy and traded it in for a bigger, higher energy, effects-filled sound. It will be interesting to see if the rest of their contemporaries follow suit.

Waters and Tijuana Panthers also perform.

Delta Spirit: Belly Up, Saturday and Sunday, May 12 & 13, 9pm. 858-481-8140. $18.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 9, 2012 @ 2:44 a.m.

Well summed up! It's been a startlingly complete transformation from the sound they started out with, but it's hard to begrudge their accelerated evolution, nor their shoulder-shrug departure from SD, 'cause the songs really do keep getting better --


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