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The Jefferson Review: Delta Rae 06.22.13


There was definitely a shortage of open space and an abundance of excitement on Saturday night as Durham, North Carolina’s Delta Rae took the Jefferson stage. From their opening song of “Morning Comes” (off their recent album Carry the Fire) to their incredible in-crowd encore, the folksy-Americana-rock group kept bodies movin’ and groovin’ with powerful vocals and heart thumping bass percussion all night long.

The evening began with incredible opening performances by Jillette Johnson and then by the purely southern rock of The Wild Feathers who both energized and frenzied what was a robust early arriving crowd. Jillette came armed with powerful vocals and The Wild Feathers brought a level of energy that would not be easily topped. This bill truly had no holes and there is no doubt that both Johnson and 5-piece band, The Wild Feathers, will be back to play the Jefferson, and we can only hope sooner rather than later!

Although there was a good turnout already for the opening acts, the Jefferson only became more packed to welcome Delta Rae. Delta Rae’s setlist for the evening consisted mainly of songs from their debut album Carry the Fire (2012), which demonstrates the strong vocals and fun beats of the band’s 6 members. Delta Rae consists of three siblings, Eric (vocals, guitar, and keys), Ian (vocals and guitar), and Brittany Hölljes (vocals), in addition to Elizabeth Hopkins (vocals), Mike McKee (percussion), and Grant Emerson (bass guitar). The group had their debut performance at Duke University, from where both Ian and Eric graduated, in October 2009. The band’s name comes from a fictional story that the Hölljes siblings’ mother intended to write about a southern girl who summoned the Greek gods to earth named Delta Rae. Although the band started out as only a four-piece crew, the addition of Emerson and McKee in 2010 allowed for greater versatility and more intense rhythms and harmonies for the band. The group has been touring nationally since 2010 and has sold out many popular venues throughout the country. Their performance history also includes festival performances at this year’s Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee and Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

The band definitely proved itself worthy of praise and fans on a Saturday evening Jefferson play. Ian, Brittany, and Elizabeth seamlessly switched leads on vocals throughout the performance, all seizing the opportunity to amaze audience members with their powerful ranges and complex harmonies. Although most of the setlist was comprised of tracks from Carry the Fire, Delta Rae also threw in their popular single “Bottom of the River,” which definitely got the crowd jamming with a strong percussion line and even some chains being rattled in a trashcan. Additionally, the band debuted a new song and then brought out Jillette Johnson again to perform a spectacular cover of The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling.”

After powerful stomping and “encore” chants from the audience following the band’s “final” song, “Dance in the Graveyards,” a handful of spectators began glancing towards the back of the theater, appearing to be searching for something up there. A Delta Rae virgin myself up until last night’s show, I had no idea what was going on until suddenly music was coming from a huddle in the middle of the audience, literally just an arm’s length away! From there, the band gave their encore performance, capping what was truly a great show.

Throughout the night Delta Rae exhibited expert musical talents and powerful vocals as well as a very down-to-earth nature, meshing incredibly well with the Charlottesville crowd. If you are a fan of really great vocals and harmonies with a dash of twang and funk and happened to miss last night’s show, be sure to catch Delta Rae the next time they pass through Charlottesville or at any of their other many stops around the country. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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