New Jersey experimental/world music/jam/pop outfit Delicate Steve, led by mastermind Steve Marion, stopped off in San Francisco on Sunday night. Seeking out a bio on Marion turned into an unexpectedly fun experience. This happened due to the incomparable Chuck Klosterman writing it without talking to the band or listening to any of their music. This led to the claim that Marion can play 40-plus instruments and includes a comparison of “My Bloody Valentine without the guitars” (more on the bio here). The most amusing part of this bio is seeing this blatantly untrue information regurgitated by other writers. To their credit, Delicate Steve’s sound is difficult to pin down whether you’ve heard them or not.
As is typical with a Sunday night concert the crowd and mood was mellow, that was until Delicate Steve jumped onstage. The only lights onstage were LED lights on the ground that projected larger versions of Marion and his bandmate’s heads onto the ceiling. This was the perfect psychedelic backdrop for the wailing guitar riffs provided by Marion as he closed his eyes and shook violently up and down like a man possessed.
The set was a solid mix of songs from their debut release Wondervisions and forthcoming album Positive Force. Not surprising, their sound has led some to compare the guitar playing to Ratatat. This cannot be any more evident than on title track "Wondervisions." As Marion and his band performed the song live, each member froze as they slowly made their way through the intro. As soon as the guitar struck, the entire band began bouncing around energetically.
Highlighting the show for me was “Big Time Receiver,” the song that I feel is the strongest one from their forthcoming release. The wild guitar playing sounds way out of control if isolated, but the rest of the band helps keep it in check. The soothing vocal harmonies are an interesting pairing with the spastic guitar, but it all works seamlessly. As the set wound down, the pulsating drumbeat from “Butterfly” began. This song brought us one last visit of the slide guitar, reminiscent of Derek Trucks, by Marion to close out the night.Steve Marion and his band are on a North American tour in support of their sophomore album slated for release on David Byrne’s label Luaka Bop on July 10. In case you are curious to give the album “Positive Force” an early listen, and I recommend that you do, you can turn to the help of Spotify or the Positive Force Friendship Stream. Steve and his label have brought together a team of 10 friends to allow fans a first listen. Each track has been pushed out through each artist’s respective social media networks. You can view the full list here; which includes Yeasayer, tUnE-yArDs, Givers and Ra Ra Riot.