The Delta 72
with the Donnas and Sossad
Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando • 7/17/99
The opening act was introduced with a whisper, so for all of their set I wondered if this was local talent that was tacked on or someone I should already know about. Their studied playing, constructed out of shards of disharmony and the occasional boogie-woogie riff, recalled a skippy Yes CD at times, firing new time signatures shortly after they’d been hired. The band was mostly instrumental — their drummer, who leaned into his kit as if into a wind tunnel, would punctuate sublime moments with a wonderfully loose yell. All in all, I enjoyed it, but then again, I respect people who can recite a few thousand digits of Pi, so your mileage may vary. The band closed their set with another whispered band name (what? Softside?) and quickly stripped the stage.
Most of the people accumulating at this point seemed to be there for a good seat for the Donnas, rather than to take in the Delta 72. The sight of a couple of organs being strapped together with duct tape on stage should have built some anticipation, but it was pretty clear that very few really expected the band’s jungle mix of “soul punk” (as they put it). More precisely, the Delta 72 seem to take a whole lotta wobbly R & B and funnel it through a much smaller punk outlet, where it comes out at high pressure. Temp organist Mark Boyce more than filled in the space left by the departed Sarah, with exciting moments of precarious teetering as he stabbed chords out of his right hand while his left slapped random keys. The sight of endangered vintage equipment couldn’t really compete with guitarist/vocalist Gregg Foreman, who swaggered his skinny frame from monitors to rafters and back, with a couple splits in between and plenty of gyrating for the ladies. The rhythm section seemed to be relieved to have everyone’s attention focused on Foreman, and concentrated on a steamy pumping miasma of voodoo boogie. Jason Kourounis played his drums like a jackhammer, detonating fills and grooves with the precision of a demolition team.
Low points came as Foreman exhorted the Sapphire and Donnas crowd to be a little more “into it” — probably a doomed project. Some people were actually grooving up front. Those of us in the back stood a good chance of flailing a passing waitress into a heap of limbs and a tray of wasted drinks, so there wasn’t much movement where I was. Foreman grew a bit pouty at the audience’s aloofness, and I would rather have seen redoubled efforts. They’re a good band cursed with his bad attitude. The crowd got their revenge at the end of the show, when Kourouinis attempted a stage dive just as a hidden Moses parted the sea of bodies in front of him. I hear subsequent shows were played with one arm in a sling.
If you can get past the onstage sulking, Foreman makes a good showman, though he must curse Jon Spencer every day for stealing Jerry Lee Lewis’ persona first. I’d recommend the Delta 72 live in a heartbeat, especially when asked what the difference between putting on a show and playing your instruments is.
Though the Donnas were the official headliners, I sorta skipped out after their first song. Straightahead slutpunk seemed like a letdown after the Delta 72’s high-octane soulpunk.