Bonnaroo 2009: Delta Spirit

(Photo Credit: Jay West 2009)

(Photo Credit: Jay West 2009)

Perhaps my favorite story from this years Bonnaroo happened on the first night. The day, spent obtaining press passes and setting up campsites in the rain, was anything but magical. Nervous faces and knotted stomachs were a sign of the apprehension, but people maintained hope for a positive, pleasant weekend.

Poncho on, we headed in to catch the White Rabbits, Chairlift and Passion Pit. The shows did not disappoint and the crowd was just happy to see some music. I’ll expound on those shows later, but the real treat of the night came in the form of California natives Delta Spirit. Originally set to go on at their 7 p.m. slot, the poor guys were stuck in a Dallas airport as their stage time passed. I can only imagine their shock when they found out that they would be going on after Passion Pit–12:30 a.m, This Tent,  in the pouring rain.

Occasionally clarifying their anxious bewilderment with bits of banter that included “thank you for listening,” and “we definitely aren’t the best band out here,” Delta Spirit exemplified raw, honest energy better than any band I had the pleasure listening to all weekend. Though I didn’t catch the whole show, I was assured that their hour long, last-minute set was full of folk-infused, no frills Delta rock. Lead-singer Matthew Vasquez led the band with authority and an ear-to-ear grin, culminating with “People C’mon,” a call-to-arms for wandering souls. As he screamed, “And I’ll be wondering all, for all my years. What I become no one can say!” I was sold. The crowd cheered and fed off their raw energy. I can say, without a doubt, that whatever was lost in inexperience and nervousness was more than made up for with sheer enthusiasm.

What would have been a normal festival run serendipitously turned into a once-in-a-lifetime, Cinderella-story. I can only hope that the press and attention resulting from such a story will bring Delta Spirit closer to being required listening and competing with the best we have to offer.

MP3: Delta Spirit – “People C’mon”

MP3: Delta Spirit – “Strange Vine”

MP3: Delta Spirit – “Streetwalker”

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Pick up Ode to Sunshine NOW: iTunes | Amazon | eMusic

The only reason I had even heard about Delta Spirit was from a particularly wonderful “Take-Away Show” at La Blogotheque. As I still know very little about these dudes, the video says more than I ever could about the band and their sound. Check it out the whole article here.


In 2010, Delta Spirit will issue the follow-up to their debut, Ode to Sunshine, with an LP entitled Natalie Portman Says This Album Will Change Your Life. (via)

I’m very very excited. Plus: More Bonnaroo reviews, live tracks and pictures coming this week…

Muxtape vs. The RIAA (and what we can learn)


This week Muxtape shut down indefinitely due to conflicts with the RIAA. Muxtape is a simple service that allowed users to upload music and make mixtapes that were easily sharable. It was a great way to find new music, and by only allowing users to stream mp3s, many purchased music they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Users knew that the site was in jeopardy of being shut down due to obvious copyright conflicts, but its death is not going to help record sales. It’s an interesting issue that is not as black or white as either side makes it out to be. The music industry, and consumers, would benefit from understanding two realities:

1) If a musician doesn’t blow off their label, fans shouldn’t either.

2) A compromise needs to be reached that will work in favor of labels, bands, and fans. This is achievable with a basic approach. 

Addressing the first issue:

Sure, bands have other ways of making money, like touring, and yes, they don’t make as much money from their record sales as they should. At the same time, though, consumers need to understand that no one is forcing bands to sign into this marriage. Labels invest time and money into their artists, and without their marketing, the band might  have remained under your radar. If there is a band that you really like, there is no excuse for not buying their music, other than not wanting to cough up the money (like other art forms which are nearly impossible to steal, i.e. paintings).

Which leads to issue two:

The RIAA’s refusal to let listeners hear full songs before purchasing them is like an art gallery only allowing a buyer to see a third of a painting. People are forced to make up their minds after listening to a short preview of a song or hearing it once on the radio. To me, that seems like an unreasonable expectation.

A compromise needs to be found.

For example, imagine if a site like Muxtape allowed you to stream one-hundred songs in their entirety for every one song you purchased digitally via an iTunes or Amazon affiliate link. Users could fully utilize the service of Muxtape with a reasonable assumption that they will really like at least 1 out of 100 songs that they previewed. If they didn’t like any of the songs, would Muxtape really be a valuable service for them anyway?

A process like this would guarantee revenue for the music industry, a music store, and Muxtape–as well as satisfy users’ needs. There will be users out there who complain and say that they like to buy a physical album, but hey, that’s all part of the compromise–look at it as a small (.89-.99) fee for a great service. 

Instead of taking an approach like this, the RIAA tries to cut off these useful services like Muxtape and Pandora, which won’t help promote music at all, and is a lose/lose for everyone. It also leads to more piracy. I don’t expect the RIAA to understand this concept, because after all, that isn’t really their job. However, musicians and record labels must take more of an initiative before they allow the RIAA’s practices to bury their music. 


With a little forward thinking, it doesn’t have to be good vs. evil.