Thursday, May 2, 7 p.m.
Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel, 304 East Third Street, Davenport IA
The diverse, instrumental rock/prog/pop outfit Delicate Steve, fronted by charismatic guitarist Steve Marion, plays the Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel as a Moeller Nights headliner on May 2.
Since he formed the band Delicate Steve in 2010, New Jersey-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Marion has become an in-demand hired-gun guitarist for a wide swath of the indie-rock world. He’s performed live and in the studio with collaborators ranging from more instantly recognizable names such as Paul Simon and Mac DeMarco to an array of bands that you’ve seen headlining festivals for the last five to 10 years, among them Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer, and Akron/Family. Marion’s trademark guitar tone lands somewhere between the chirping, squeaky melodies found on '60s surf-rock records or Joe Meek’s catalog, and the chunky arena rock leads in the school of Thin Lizzy or more recent touchstones such as Ratatat or Sleigh Bells.
With the exception of a few tracks that drift into wordless vocalizations, and a few one-off collaborations with vocalists, the catalog of Delicate Steve is entirely instrumental, as Marion relies on his guitar to carry the weight of his arrangements. His melodies are clearly highlighted within each track and follow cadences and lead lines akin to a singer’s vocal performances. The band’s music rarely drifts into the instrumental tropes of post-rock, eschewing long atmospheric build-ups or moody interludes in favor of straight-up pop/rock jams more fit to soundtrack a block party than a quiet sunset reverie. When Delicate Steve’s arrangements get a little more complicated and stretch into the realm of prog, with unfolding song structures and bursts of heavy soloing, the band still maintains a sense of fun and a danceable beat, as any instrumental pyrotechnics serve the song without overwhelming its elemental appeal.
After first coming to fame with the fantastic Wondervisions album in 2011, released through David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label, Delicate Steve has since signed to indie juggernaut Anti- Records for a series of albums including this year’s most recent LP Till I Burn Up. Wondervisions found its charm in songs that alternated from the territory of folksy indie pop, built over acoustic guitars and hand percussion, into the heavy rock grandeur of Marion’s searing electric leads and emotive melodies. Tracks such as “Butterfly” trace his sizzling slide guitar work through a narrative arc that begins in a calm, major-key bed of electronics and ends in a bombastic climax of pounded toms and overdubbed distorted metal chords. Till I Burn Up bubbles along at a more even clip, as Marion’s guitar floats over tracks that feel closer to highway cruising anthems (“Rubberneck” and “Freedom”) or more straightforward twilit dance tracks (“Selfie of a Man”).
Delicate Steve plays Davenport's Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel at 7 p.m. on May 2, admission is $12, and more information is available by visiting MoellerNights.com.