by Adam McGrath
Take note: If your wife is a hot actress, find a way to get her in your band. That’s just one of many pro-level moves made by Peter Matthew Bauer, well known for his work in The Walkmen and now touring behind his debut solo album, Liberation!, a collection of songs that takes listeners through various spiritual and mystical motifs drawn from Bauer’s early life.
Saturday night at Union Transfer, Bauer performed as if possessed, his body sustaining an unhealthy amount of tension as he belted out songs like “Latin American Ficciones” and “Fortune Tellers”. Making up in intensity what he may lack in vocal range, Bauer set his pompadour quivering as he led three other musicians and three backup singers through a 45-minute set.
The dominant characteristic of Bauer’s music is its driving rhythm, achieved with simple chords strummed powerfully on top of thumping tom drums, punctuated by the jangle of a tambourine. Also key, though, are the voices of his wife, Marisa Brown, and her friends, who lend a striking sense of depth and space on the exotic-sounding title track, “Liberation!”
It’s always cool to see musicians explore personal projects after being in well-known bands, and Bauer’s Philadelphia connections make him someone worth rooting for.
Headliner Delta Spirit, the Brooklyn-via-California-via-Texas band that has gained a large following over four albums and the better part of a decade, brought a sense of fun, passion, and professionalism to their nearly 90-minute set. Largely drawing from most recent release Into the Wide, lead singer Matt Vasquez dug deep after two big New York shows and an appearance on Letterman earlier in the week.
Accompanied by guitarist William McLaren, pianist and percussionist Kelly Winrich, bassist Jon Jameson, and drummer Brandon Young, Vasquez flung his guitar around his body like a plaything, pointing it every which way and even wearing it as a hat at one point. McLaren wielded his Fender more like a chef’s knife, but he got in on the fun in Delta Spirit’s version of a swimming pool chicken fight, playing a riff while perched on Vasquez’s shoulders.
The new album is the heaviest the band has sounded, though they still have atmospheric elements to their songs. “From Now On”, “Hold My End Up”, “Language of the Dead” and “Patriarch” either soar from the start or build into crashing waves of sound. The crowd was equally delighted to hear older cuts, though, such as “California”, “Bushwick Blues” and “People C’mon”.
With swirling images projected onto a clever slatted backdrop, the stage visuals added extra excitement to Vasquez’s antics, and made for a really fun show. The charismatic singer offered some sincere words of appreciation toward the end of the night, further cementing the band’s good relationship with Philadelphia music fans.