Published Feb 07, 2015The rise of Morgan Delt over the past couple of years has seemed like destiny. How else could a mystical lo-fi psychedelic rock musician from the outer limits wander all the way from the far-off kingdom of Topanga, in the rear-view mirror of Los Angeles, to record a debut full-length with Trouble in Mind, tour with the Flaming Lips and land a contract with Sub Pop? There's gotta be some serious juju at play.
Taking the stage with the immense talent of guitarist Spooky Tavi (of HOTT MT fame), drummer Lionel Williams and bassist Ian Gibbs (the latter two from Vinyl Williams) as the embers of "Pushin' Too Hard" by the Seeds crackled in the house speakers, Delt opened his set with an instrumental jam, the chords written out in sharpie on the back of his set list. This bled into an energetic rendition of "Chakra Sharks," the first hint of the amorphous kaleidoscopic sound that would unfurl organically through the course of their brief 45-minute set, which would take listeners from space-psych dirges channelling The Parable of Arable Land-era Red Crayola or a burned out Tame Impala to the more acid casualty, dilapidated pop end of the spectrum, where a more coherent Syd Barrett or a less together West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band might have resided.
Most tracks morphed into one another, with even their most rocking tracks teased out, changing gears in a stoned immaculate fashion, often pushing towards a more serious tone. "Mr. Carbon Copy" came off more propulsive, perhaps even sinister, while their version of "Barbarian Kings" transposed it to the fevered pitch of "The End" by the Doors, more of a lysergic trance than the shimmering contemplation found on Delt's eponymous debut.
The talent and vision behind it all was obvious. Gibbs, Tavi and Delt each had ten or more pedals and effects at their feet, and to see Tavi tap his sonic arsenal like a ballerina in boots was almost like seeing someone with three arms, picking out precise switches with a flick of his ankle. Williams crushed his kit, figuratively and literally, having beaten his crash symbol sideways mid-set during "Beneath the Black and Purple," requiring a tech to come on and fix it. Later, as they rocked out their closing track, "Lizard Brains," he lost a drumstick, and then used its replacement to crank the symbol askew again. Things like that are bound to happen that close to the edge.
Delt seemed reluctant up front, though, his introverted nature apparent in the rare instances he attempted to banter. Both times, he mentioned how it was nice to be there and thanked everyone for coming, then trailed off. No one in the band had much stage presence either, but it worked; they had a classic rock band vibe going, with Gibbs dressed the most psychedelic, bobbing along with his meaty bass lines, Tavi as the guitarist with mystique, Williams as the drummer insane on multiple levels and the heavily treated, largely incoherent vocals of the guitar playing frontman actually named Morgan (not so much Delt), which glided into the textures of his own orchestration. There's a power there that they tapped into, feeling the ebbs and flows of these tripped-out shamanic incantations that cascaded throughout this Owl they call Electric.
Despite the short set and minor imperfections, Morgan Delt clearly got his message across. For a half-full venue, a solid half of that ended up in the line-up to buy their album afterwards. Delt probably could have charged more than $15, because he sold out of all the vinyl he brought with him for the tour, leaving a few hopefuls to wait until the next time he's in town. After this, there has to be a next time.