Whatis one tohopefromaconcert of a band called DELTAMOON from the state of Georgia in the United States? Probablydecentdelta blues, withaproperspoonful ofswamporsouthern rock, definitely something reminiscent of theband’s southernorigin. Well,these hopeswerefully met last nightin the Maschinenhaus, because DELTAMOONoffereda superbmix ofexactlytheseelements.
In 2010 the bandhit Berlin forthe first time.At that time it was rather a chance that gave Tom Gray and his men their entrance in the GARBÁTY. I wasnot theremyself, but if you believe theeyewitness accounts, itwasa memorable, legendary night becauseDELTAMOONrockedthe houselike no onebefore.
Mypersonallive premiereof the quartetfrom Atlanta,Georgia,wasalmostto the daya year ago, when they playedexactlyas yesterdayin the Maschinenhaus, one of three concertvenuesonthe site of theKulturbrauerei. It wassuch afantasticevening onApril 4, 2012,thatan unconditionalrepetition was even thena done dealfor me.
As so often in Berlin this weekend there were more shows than you could visit. In the Kulturbrauereion Friday two wonderful events under the same roof threatened to steal the visitors from each other. In the Kesselhaus was JAN PLEWKA with his RIO TRAVEL program, while upstairs DELTA MOON awaited the acclaim of ordinary visitors. What I decided you know.
With this decision, I was fortunately not alone. It was revealed that the band enjoys increasing popularity, and thus are beyond the status of an insider tip. In addition to my German colleagues Thorsten Mugge and Wieland who, as I, appreciate terrific live music, I discovered WALDI WEIZ and MATZE STOLPE, two musicians from our German blues scene, among the cheerful and joyful expectant spectators.
At the heart of the band are the two guitarists, Tom Gray and Mark Johnson. How the two friends got to know each other is a funny story. A few years ago in the parking lot of a music shop Tom Gray wanted to sell Mark a Dobro guitar. Mark did not buy the guitar, but phone numbers got exchanged, and the two began making music together. That’s how it started, and what it has become we saw and heard yesterday evening. The origin of the band name is also worth mentioning. When Tom and Mark one day returned from a trip to MUDDY WATERS’ shack in Clarksdale, in the Mississippi Delta, they were so under the impression of the experience that Mark said DELTA MOON would be a very nice name for their band. So then it was. This village of Clarksdale with just 20,000 residents, by the way, offers a lot of room for stories about the blues, because from here and from the surrounding area came unforgettable musicians like JOHN LEE HOOKER, MUDDY WATERS or SAM COOKE. There is so much more to tell about Clarksdale, but there is no section for this type of report in Deutsche Mugge.
Now it is in itself nothing unusual for a band to have two guitarists in the line-up. The special feature of DELTA MOON however is that they both play slide guitar. Surely that is much less common. Supported by bassman Franher Joseph and Darren Stanley on drums, they formed a unit that was from the outset a lot of fun and gained much approval from the audience. That is not always easy because Berlin concertgoers have to be won over first. For DELTA MOON, no problem. Even as the “Midnight Train” arrived shortly after eight o’clock, it spilled over this incomparable southern feeling and had the crowd cheering in front of the stage and falling into rhythmic twitches. Over the next two and a half hours, nothing changed. At most the intensity increased.
Two equal slide guitars leading the sound — that calls for sophisticated arrangements. I do not know how they managed that, but it succeeded excellently. While Mark Johnson favored the classical bottleneck technique and executed it to perfection (which also MATZE STOLPE appreciatively noted), his colleague Tom Gray preferred to play the guitar in the lap-steel style, which sometimes seemed a little daring. The guitar lay on his thighs with the strings up. Gray did not put his hand around the guitar neck, but over the neck, the slide not over a finger as usual, but somehow wedged firmly between thumb and forefinger. The strings were plucked with the help of small claws [fingerpicks], which were pushed by the ring finger. As I said, it seemed bold. But the sound captivated, fascinated and aroused enthusiasm. It felt downright like tramping through a greasy Mississippi swamp. A perfect fit to Tom Gray’s rough, slightly hoarse voice, which created an atmosphere in harmony with the music. Talk of old-time ZZ Top, when they still indulged in the blues, raised wistful memories. In short, exactly as Southern music should sound! Slightly dirty, rough, impulsive and boiling with sweat. For the necessary groove Franher Joseph, a native of Haiti, pulled his four-string bass with the typical Caribbean laid-back cool, and drummer Darren Stanley played with enormous force. The latter impressed in the middle with a short but intense drum solo, which the audience quite rightly rewarded with a big ovation.
It was delightful asTom Grayand MarkJohnsonrepeatedlyplayedslidesolos.Bothare absolutemasters of their craft. Even thoughtheyareso professional, they nonetheless noticeably found fun and joyin whattheydidthere.Oftenthe audience wascarried awaywith spontaneousapplausefor soloperformances, which the musicians acknowledged with a satisfiedsmile.The highlight of this for me wasthe theme song oftheir 2004album Going Down South.
Thenumberwas suitablebecause of itsfunkyrhythm,perfectto serveas a playgroundfor extended solosand jamming.That’s exactly what happened and culminated whenGray andJohnsonsuddenlysat down side by side on theedge of the stage,andthe songstretchedout in aminutes-long slideduel.It was as ifthe twoguitarswere talkingtogetherin a veryintimate way. Simply gorgeous.Tightlysurroundedby enthusiasticfans, these momentsgenerated a realgoosebumpsatmosphere.But otherwisethe successful song selectionensureda consistently highentertainment value.It was nice to experiencenot onlycurrent material, butalsosome oldernumbers,such asthebeautifulforward–marching“Shake‘Em On Down” from the debutalbum Delta Moon (2002), “That’s it” from 2004, or “Jessie Mae“, “Blind Spot” and some otherearly worksof theSouthernblues-rockers, although, of course, most of the titlescame fromthe last twoalbums, Hellbound Train and Black CatOil. HereI particularly liked theswampy“Hellbound Train”with itsimmensegrooveand “Black Coffee”, which shook right down to the ground. Most of the songswere works oftheir own,of course,but they did perform a few covers, especially one that’s been played probablya thousand times, the age-old“You Got to Move”fromveteranMISSISSIPPIFREDMcDOWELL. There are numbers thatyou canstrumstillanother hundred yearswithoutwearing them out—“You Got to Move”is that way forme.
Anyone who had ever before attended a DELTAMOONconcertwasprobably just asdelightedas Iwiththelastsong of the evening. Bandand fans(whicheveryone in the hall hadnow become)hadreacheda superbmoodlevel, so it was easy for singerTom Grayto leadthe audienceto sing along totherepeating“all night long” choruses.Meanwhilethe musicians dismantled Darren‘s drum kit, but of coursethat did notstop them fromfurtherdrumming. Aseach of themusiciansheld hisowndrumpartin hand,they walkedoff the stagePolonaise-style all the way through the crowd, playing percussionand continuously singingtogetherwitheveryone present,“All night long.”
Loud cheersaccompanied themenwhen theyreturned to the stageandrang thefinal chordof a thoroughly grandconcert. Immediately followingtheir exitfrom the stageTom Gray, Mark Johnson, Darren Stanley andJosephFranherappearedat the merchandiseboothand chattedwith visitors, sold andsignedtheirCDsand T-shirtsandthusensureda perfect ending toareally greatevening.
On the way homeI thought –for whatever reason – to thepeople who watch theSaturday eveningmesswith thePop Titanandhiscastingpuppets, andmayevenmakeRTLand Telekom rich throughtheircalls,I can sayonly one thing:peoplego out, visitingthe many smallmusicclubs aroundBerlin.Becausehonest, handmade live musicfor all tastes is available for little money.These musiciansdeserve to haveyou watchthem, andtheythank you for itwithpower. Last nightin the Maschinenhaus itwasagainexactlythisexperience. An incredibleconcert by afantasticband that willsurely have a full house for their next showin Berlin. In addition,anyone whohasa little somethingleftfor bluesand itsmanyvarietiesshouldalwayscheck out the
GARBÁTYconcerts.The schedulefor the coming months fills me with tremendousanticipation forexpectedconcerts.