Delicate Steve started the show at Off Broadway the same way that the band starts its debut album "Wondervisions," with an explorative and experimental piece that sets a tone of imaginative music for the evening. Dancers crowded the front rows, expressing a connection to the music through a disparate range of movements so diverse that they seemed to be dancing to different songs altogether, yet still united by the band on stage.
Birthed from Marion's bedroom in rural Fredon, N.J., Delicate Steve is more than a man and his guitar. When composing and recording, Marion handles most of the instrumentation himself with only a little help from a couple friends, but to tour and perform, he is joined by a few area musicians that all seem to share both his attitude and aptitude. In a trademark style, each member of the band has a small but potent floor light beaming upward on their faces and instruments, casting gigantic, dancing shadows into the rafters above the stage and putting Marion quite literally in the spotlight.
Taking the lead throughout the mostly instrumental set, Marion embodies the prototypical rock star on stage. He matched each chord with a stance and each riff with a shuffle as his bleach-white, canvas high tops seemed to fasten themselves to the floor with every step. On the guitar, he mingled an eclectic blend of styles as he plays, blending mellow and melodic background riffs, shredding freeform frenzies, precision with the slide and a true mastery of feedback tones. As he is a multi-instrumentalist, he even took a turn on the keyboard for a track, at times tackling both instruments simultaneously with a tap style on the guitar.
Marion came to impress, but it's the touring band that truly creates the sound of Delicate Steve's live show. Christian Peslak is the only member of this tour's band that appears on the album, adding additional guitar and vocals as well as handling the keyboard in place of Mickey Sanchez who did not join the band for this run. With his skills and musical agility, Peslak could easily lead a band of his own, but remains an intricate part of Delicate Steve.
Bassist Adam Pumilia filled out the rhythm section well in a number of styles and roles but wasn't afforded many opportunities to demonstrate his potential greatness. That wasn't the case for drummer Jeremy Gustin. Adding a percussive element not found often on the albums, Gustin makes the most out of a relatively simple drum set, going as far as tuning the tightness of the drumheads mid-song when necessary. In addition to the versatility of his set and sticks, he added a few electronic components to his set and had tailored his cymbals to create just the right tones.
There were a few moments when Delicate Steve challenged the norms of a typical rock show. Mid show, the entire audience was instructed to sit on the floor and remain there until it felt like it was time to stand up. The musicians then started a deep toned introduction that sent the buzz of the bass straight up the spines of the seated assembly of fans. A single fan stood up and in a fashion that resembled a 1980s slow clap, the crowd slowly joined her on their feet in ever larger groups until Marion dropped into a wailing riff that raised the last lingering backsides from the now shaking floor.
The night was started by local Dots Not Feathers, who more than sufficiently warmed up the crowd despite a technical delay. The six-piece, indie-pop band offered plenty of opportunities to dance and a blend of sounds that was well matched with the headliners. They featured a variety of vocalists and included a seldom-seen electric harpsichord that often set an ambient background tone as each song built in intensity. The two acts complemented each other, creating a night of dancing and aural amazement that entertained and inspired those wise enough to show up at Off Broadway on a Sunday night.
Delicate Steve set list:
Welcome - Begin
The Ballad of Speck and Pebble
Don't Get Stuck (Proud Elephants)
Big Time Receiver
Afria Talks to You
All photos by Wil Wander.