Delta Rae

Alex Liang Wong at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Alex Wong is someone I’ve written about so many times. Starting with this post, I’m going to do my best to never write about him again. The reason? Too many darned Alex Wong’s running around getting famous on the Internet. In order to stake out a defined spot, our Alex has chosen to revive his long-dormant middle name.

Alex Liang Wong will now be the target of my admiration (and to save myself a bunch of typing, he’ll also be known as ALW). Feel free to beat me up in the comments if in the future I slip and call him by his old name.

There have been other (in)famous Alex Wong’s for a while. So, why change the name now, specifically? Because ALW is getting close to releasing his first-ever solo album, on February 14th, 2012. Having your name collide with others is a friction point and ALW wants people to be able to find his music more easily.

Amen to that. This new album will be amazing in every sense of the word. That brings me to last night’s show.

ALW has been playing a number of the songs from the upcoming CD for a while now. Some of them are deep earworms for me and have been since the first listen. They have morphed from purely solo efforts (when only ALW knew them), to duets, to slightly fuller band versions, over the past six months.

Last night was the culmination of that progression. ALW has already recorded the CD (mixed and mastered as well), so he knows exactly what it will sound like to the world. He’s finally ready to get closer to reproducing that sound live (which is a big trick, because aside from being a great songwriter, ALW is one of the best producers around, so his CD is not going to be a humble singer/songwriter sitting alone at a mic with his guitar).

Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 was packed (from the set before as well). ALW played mostly new songs, but he threw in a big surprise as well. He played the grand piano on most numbers, and some acoustic guitar, of course singing the lead on every song.


He had a number of special guests and a core band of three fantastic musicians. He also performed one song solo on the acoustic guitar, Patiently, which is a great song. There’s a video of him doing a solo version on the site linked to his (new) name above. The CD version will have a much bigger sound with a full band.


Since the core band played on almost every song, let me mention them first, and then cover the guests in the order that they appeared.

Ward Williams on cello and electric guitar. Ward was outstanding on both, but I was particularly impressed with his play on the guitar. ALW has created a lot of unusual sounds on the new album, and much of effort to reproduce those live fell to Ward. Very impressive!


Ward also sang a lot more harmony with ALW than he has previously. He really nailed it every single time. I’ve always been a fan of Ward’s, including his performance in the set before, but this might have been the best all-around performance of his that I’ve attended.


Elliot Jacobson on drums. Elliot is always great, with last night being no exception. That said, as I think I’ve mentioned before, drumming for ALW on a song that ALW wrote has to be a challenge. ALW is first and foremost a percussionist himself, so he doesn’t tend to make vanilla drum tracks.


Of course Elliot is up to the task (there’s no way that ALW would consistently pick him to play his shows otherwise), but I’m still impressed to see it, each and every time. For a specific example, the major beat in Never Look Back is in opposition to the basic melody and in my head, feels like it would be really easy to lose focus as a drummer. Not only did Elliot nail it, he took the subtlest of cues from ALW when the song started as to tempo and volume, adjusted instantly, and then drummed to perfection for the remainder of the song.

Tony Maceli on electric bass. Tony is one of my favorites, but clearly he is one of ALW’s too, since he plays so many of his shows. Good choice. Tony was excellent last night. When I ran into him on the sidewalk as we left, I mentioned that the bass was the critical part in reproducing the really big sound in the bridge of Never Look back. So, Tony and Elliot were really key in that number.


Alex Berger (who headlined the set before, covered here) joined to sing The Fighter, a song they co-wrote (and it will appear on each of their upcoming albums, I’m betting it will sound quite different on each).


ALW also called up Alisa James to sing harmony with them (I couldn’t find a good link to her).


Before the show started, ALW tried to convince Rachel Platten to join him on a number they co-wrote, Make It Home (that link takes you to a page where you can listen for free, but please buy it, as 100% of the proceeds go to!). I saw Rachel shake her head no, but I couldn’t hear her reason.


When Alex got up to that number, he joked (or perhaps he was serious!) that Rachel couldn’t play it because she was contractually prohibited by her record label from appearing at the show. I think he was kidding. I’m guessing that they didn’t rehearse it and Rachel wasn’t prepared to wing it. But, even if it was true, ALW performed it beautifully by himself, so we got to enjoy it anyway.

ambeR Rubarth was a very special guest. She and ALW had a group called The Paper Raincoat which is actually solely responsible for our immersion in the indie music scene in NYC (we saw them at the Canal Room on April 16th, 2009!). ambeR took to the piano and ALW to the acoustic guitar and they performed one of their Paper Raincoat songs, The Same Old Things. Yay! Smile


David Fallo joined on that number and sat in on another, playing the viola as well as he always does.


To close the show, ALW picked one of my favorite songs (I’m obsessed actually, I could listen to it 24×7): Are You Listening. Typically, ALW has at most one other person singing the chorus (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) with him on stage. That never matters, as the entire audience sings it with him (no one sings it louder than I do).

Last night he shook it up a bit and had a ton of the best singers around belting out the chorus with him on stage. The wall of sound coming from the stage was heavenly and made it a bit more difficult to hear the audience singing along, but I’m not complaining!

Left-to-right, singing with Alex:

Ari Hest, Martin Rivas, Ian Holljes, Elizabeth Hopkins and Eric Holljes. The last three names listed are 3/4’s of the singers in the amazing band Delta Rae. ALW is producing their new CD as I type (literally) and it will be awesome, I have no doubt!




Here’s the (planned) set list. As you already know (e.g., Rachel Platten did not play), this was not followed like a blueprint, but rather like a guide. Don’t Be Afraid also didn’t make the actual cut:


Like I noted in the previous post, we ran into a lot of people between the two sets. Here are some photos that Lois snapped as we were heading out the door:



Delta Rae at Sullivan Hall

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Delta Rae opened for Carbon Leaf at Sullivan Hall last night. We went because of Delta Rae. Discovering Carbon Leaf (who we had heard of, but had never seen or listened to) was a nice bonus.


The last few times we saw Delta Rae were at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Those shows were all excellent (covered here, here and here, in reverse order).

When Delta Rae comes to town, you can be sure of one of two things:

  1. It will be over 100 degrees out
  2. It will be pouring

It wasn’t going to be 100 degrees yesterday, so that meant that weeks back (when the show was announced), you could be sure that it would rain in NYC on November 17th, 2011. So, seeing this tweet from Elizabeth Hopkins of Delta Rae, yesterday morning, should have come as no surprise to any NYC-based Delta Rae fan:

BatSparkles Liz Hopkins

raining in NYC again . #RockingInAnyWeather again!! 😉 looking forward to seeing Miss @alexandra_watts this fine evening@SullivanHallNYC

If I could make money with this information, I would! If only I were a farmer and could bet on the weather… Winking smile They’ll be back in January (Mercury Lounge, date not yet listed). Once the date is listed, start making bets about rain (or possibly snow) that day in NYC!

As awesome as the shows at Rockwood have been (all three), the stage is very cramped when Delta Rae is on, largely because of the Grand Piano. The sound there has been great too, but Delta Rae goes big (they never go home), and Rockwood might be a tad too small for their sound.

Sullivan Hall is a more classic rock venue like The Studio at Webster Hall, Mercury Lounge, Arlene’s Grocery, etc., with larger stages and wide-open, standing-only venues. It’s longer than it is wider (this was our first time there), but it’s not a railroad car (meaning, it’s not too skinny). The stage is reasonably wide and very deep. Delta Rae was easily able to spread out, move around and the ladies were able to dance a bit more freely.


With a notable exception (below), the sound was very good, even though we were smack in the middle in front of the stage, not the ideal listening place since we’re standing between the two main speakers on either side of the stage.


The show itself was one of the best we’ve seen. The crowd was at near capacity (Sullivan Hall holds 345) and the energy in the room was fantastic. While nearly everyone in the crowd (perhaps other than us?) was clearly a Carbon Leaf fan, everyone standing near the stage (meaning everyone around us) were clearly Delta Rae fans too (knowing every song).


While they didn’t abide to a strict rotation, the first four songs were lead by a different member of the band. Each did a fantastic job. And of course, when they sing together (in pairs or all four), make sure you take your heart medicine (OK, I’m older than most of their fans). Winking smile


Ian Holljes popped a string on his acoustic and switched to an electric for a few numbers.


The lighting person has a very different idea of how to light a show than I do. Often, the entire stage was nearly dark, or back-lit with bright lights shining on us, casting everyone on stage in shadows. Sometimes it took him a full verse to put a light on the person singing lead. At times, that made for cool looking effects (which perhaps is exactly what he was looking to accomplish), but it felt random to me, more like he didn’t know how to find the singer (whack a mole?).


The one sound complaint was that Grant Emerson’s amp (for his electric bass) was cranked too high. The same problem existed in spades for the Carbon Leaf set. It seemed a drop better for Delta Rae for two reasons: 1) Four extremely strong voices seemed to soar above even a loud bass and 2) I’m so familiar with the songs that (even unconsciously) I could have been filling in sounds I was sure I was hearing.


That said, every note of Grant’s play could be made out (which wasn’t true for Carbon Leaf). In fact, I was mesmerized by his play during the finale, Fire, where he tore up the bass lines (since he was a focal point, it was OK that he was louder than the rest in that instance).


If you want to know more details about them in general, please read the posts linked above. For now, I’ll end with the set list from last night, and more photos.




Delta Rae at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 CMJ

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Delta Rae made the trek to NYC to headline a CMJ set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. If they can make the trek from North Carolina, we can do it from midtown. We saw the previous two sets out of interest, but mostly out of wanting to guarantee that we’d be near the stage for Delta Rae. Mission accomplished!

I’ve written about Delta Rae a number of times. The previous two were at Rockwood 2, so rather than repeat how awesome they are (and why), I’ll link to both: here and here. Suffice it to say that they were (again) awesome last night.


So, what’s new since the last time we saw them three months ago. They just put up a new video:

Delta Rae performing Bottom of the River

That’s related to another big news item. Bottom of the River was produced by one of our favorites, Alex Wong. Delta Rae recently announced that they selected Alex to produce the entire new CD (first full-length one from Delta Rae). They had a successful Kickstarter project and will be heading into the studio (and the woods?!?) later this year.

They nailed this song on stage last night as well, so they don’t need multiple takes to rattle your bones!


Here’s a tweet from the band in the middle of the night:

DeltaRaeBand Delta Rae

Lucky enough to preview @highceilings new solo record today….its awesome!! Cant wait to make our own masterpiece with him!!

Ah, another reference to the upcoming solo effort from Alex Wong (a.k.a HighCeilings). Still have to sit on our hands another few months before we can grab a piece of that goodness.

Even though Delta Rae is all about the group blending together in a symphony of powerful voices/harmonies, it wouldn’t be fair to not call out each member, since they each were outstanding in their own right. Left-to-right on stage:

Eric Holljes on grand piano and vocals. So good on both, and an excellent songwriter to boot.


Brittany Holljes on vocals, shakers and tambourine. Great voice. Less banter/intros than usual (typical of a CMJ show). Watch the video to understand her true powers.


Elizabeth Hopkins on vocals, shakers and tambourine. Great voice (I know, I’m repetitive).


Ian Holljes on acoustic guitar and vocals. Another excellent job, including an introduction of a new song.


All four sang lead on at least two songs each. All four sang together on every number (exactly as it should be!).


Mike McKee on drums. Mike has impressed me in every show, last night included.


Grant Emerson on electric bass (normal and a skinny upright one as well). Grant is a terrific bassist. I will spend a considerable amount of time doing penance for mis-naming him two posts back. If you clicked on both links at the top (or at least the second one), then you know that I corrected the error, but I still feel badly about it.


Here’s the set list:


We ran out the minute the show was over to catch another CMJ set a few blocks away, so we didn’t even get to wave hi to the band. Next time. Smile

P.S. Do you think we were having a good time?


Delta Rae at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Delta Rae bring the heat, on stage, and outdoors. 11 months ago, we saw them play at Arlene’s Grocery. We cut a trip short to have dinner with our friends from Thailand and came home a bit earlier to catch Delta Rae. The temperature on our car thermometer that day (August 31, 2010) was 105 degrees!

This week we cut a business trip short to have dinner with the same friends from Thailand. We also caught Delta Rae at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Yesterday’s NYC temperature hit 104. Coincidence? I think not!


Seven weeks ago we saw Delta Rae at the same venue. Last night’s set list substituted three songs, but the basic description of the band and the experience was quite similar (in other words, awesome). So, I urge you to read my last post to get the bigger picture. I will spend the rest of this post highlighting some differences and talking about a more important event in Delta Rae’s life.

Assuming you’ve read the post linked above, I’ll skip telling you about Eric Holljes, Brittany Holljes, Elizabeth Hopkins and Ian Holljes. I’ll repeat that Mike McKee did a great job on the drums, again.




The biggest news is that I totally messed up in my last post (just corrected a few minutes ago!). At Arlene’s Grocery, the bass played was Mark McKee, Mike’s brother. He did a fine job. I assumed (I get in trouble every time I do that!) that he was also the bassist at the last show. I mentioned that he had improved multiple levels, so I noticed a difference but missed the biggest change.

Grant Emerson replaced Mark as the primary bass played in Delta Rae. Mark is good, Grant is better. Last night Eric introduced Grant, which made me go back and check the photos in the last blog. Sure enough, it was Grant that night too. If Eric introduced him them, I missed it. Sorry Grant, you deserved a shout-out both times, which you now formally have!


Eric didn’t play guitar (he had in all three previous shows). Ian played a song we hadn’t heard before, Country House. They played All of the Lights, their cover of a Kanye West song. It has over 25K views on YouTube (at the moment).


Last time, the place was packed. But, as I mentioned at the end of my post, it filled up late. People were still filing in as Delta Rae was setting up. Last night was even more mobbed and people got there early. We caught the last two songs of the set before. He noted that people were streaming in, indicating that Delta Rae must be pretty special. Yes indeed, good observation! Smile

Here’s last night’s set list:


Here’s the bigger news. Delta Rae is raising money to record their first full-length studio CD. If you’re a fan of the band, this is extremely exciting news. It’s awesome to see them live, but that doesn’t happen often enough, no matter where you live. We own their EP (and love it), and can obviously watch YouTube videos of some of the newer songs, but the audio quality of live recordings doesn’t match the magic that can be created in a studio.

They’re well on their way, but I urge you to push them over the top soon by contributing to their effort. You can reap some pretty cool rewards for helping out as well.

Visit their Kickstarter page and donate away! We had the honor of being the very first donors. Smile

Delta Rae at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Having seen Delta Rae twice before, we were looking forward to this show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 with great anticipation. Whatever expectations I had, they were exceeded.

You can safely stop reading now, as everything else will be detail to back up that statement. Here is a retweet of theirs with my additional comment coming before the RT:

Yes it was! NY loves you too! RT @DeltaRaeBand That was AWESOME! WE LUV YOU NEW YORK!

Now you know their Twitter handle so go follow them. Aside from learning about upcoming shows and projects, there are often other delicious things you will get. For 12 straight weeks they released a free song (available for download as well as streaming), often accompanied by a fun video. Some were covers, some were originals. I’ll get to one of the originals a bit later in the post.

That series was called gRAEt Mondays. Get it? If not, you might only appreciate the music this group produces, rather than enjoy the complete package of their personalities and style. Winking smile

You can read my past reviews of them, but I’m going make you jump through the tiny hurdle of searching for them rather than linking them. That’s because both times, while I thoroughly enjoyed their performances (the first time acoustic, just the four of them, the second time with a full band), neither approached last night’s quality. That means you can ignore all of the quibbles I might have had in the past, this band has grown up fast (really fast).

Each of the four members of Delta Rae sings lead. They combine for harmonies including two, three and all four of them. Every combination of their voices is exquisite (even when it’s just two of them, any two of them!). Their arrangements of building the harmonies from two, then three, to the explosion of all four are done to perfection. At other times, they’ll launch directly into four part harmonies that will knock you back a few rows (especially if you’re standing).


I’ll be brief about each of them, since this is really a group (team) effort, then I’ll cover the other two band members. Left-to-right on the stage:

Eric Holljes grand piano, acoustic guitar and vocals. Eric has an incredible voice, plays the piano wonderfully (on a few numbers he was really flying up and down the keys) and plays the guitar nicely. He’s an excellent songwriter as well (I’ll circle back to that when I mention some highlights in the set list). Check out his site, and you’ll see that his talents extend well beyond Delta Rae.


Brittany Holljes vocals, tambourine and shakers (no good individual link). Very powerful voice. Brittany typically takes the highest parts of the harmony and hits those notes very cleanly. She takes the lead on some of the more passionately sung songs, and at times I fear she might collapse afterward given how much she’s putting into it (I’m kidding, I just want you to realize she leaves no gas in the tank).


Elizabeth Hopkins (she goes by Liz) vocals, tambourine and shakers. Liz sings a bit lower than Brittany, but also has an exceptional voice and gives her all. Both women dance a lot on stage (which matches the feel of the music), with Liz perhaps doing a bit more of it (or more dramatically) than Brittany.


Ian Holljes vocals and acoustic guitar (no good individual link). Ian sings well and plays rhythm guitar on nearly every song. He kicks off the majority of the songs on the guitar. On quite a number of them, he’s the first singer, even if he doesn’t end up being the main lead. He’s quite a good songwriter as well.


Mike McKee on drums. After the first acoustic Delta Rae show, I requested (in my blog, not of them) that they bring a band up to NYC. They delivered. Mike played drums (extremely well) the last time I saw them. Last night he cranked it up a lot. Aside from excellent and energetic drumming throughout, Mike got to really let loose a few times, notably on a number he was absent from the other time I saw him.


One of Delta Rae’s signature covers is The Chain by Fleetwood Mac (the group Delta Rae most credits with inspiring them). At Arlene’s Grocery Mike (and Mark, up next) were dismissed from the stage. Last night, everyone participated in The Chain. That included fantastic drumming by Mike. After all, it’s one of the more iconic Rock songs, so you’d hope and expect the drums to be prominent. Mike delivered.

Grant Emerson Mark McKee on electric bass. Mark is Mike’s brother, but there’s no way he got invited to play with Delta Rae through nepotism. He’s a wonderful bass player. I felt that the last time we saw him, but he too took it up a level (to be honest, a few levels). He had a few shining moments (across a number of songs), but like Mike, The Chain saw him wail on a nice bass solo (something he too missed out on at Arelene’s).

Update: Wow! Mark played bass the last time we saw them, but in between, they replaced him with Grant Emerson and I missed that completely. That totally explains my feeling that he took it up a few levels from the performance before. No disrespect to Mark, but Grant is a better all-around bass player.


On one song, Grant Mike banged a heavy set of chains on a large metal garbage can (percussion, hillbilly style). Winking smile


I attach the set list, which doesn’t include the encore.


Song #8 on the set list is Memphis. It’s a song that Eric recently co-wrote with Marcus Hummon. Check out Marcus’ Wikipedia Page for a list of his extraordinary songwriting accomplishments. Some of those songs rank among our favorites. As I understand it (and I might be completely wrong), Memphis was driven by Eric, in collaboration with Marcus, not the other way around.


Here’s a video (one of the gRAEt Mondays releases!) of that song. We love the entire song, but definitely stick around for the last full minute (the crescendo), to get a sense of what I described above about the four part harmonies:

Memphis, by Delta Rae, featuring Eric Holljes


While every song was a highlight, I’ll call out one last song. I think it’s the one listed as New Days, but I’m not sure, since I can’t find a mention of that song online in order to verify it.

Eric came out from behind the piano and picked up an acoustic guitar. Ian stepped back behind Liz. The four of them were close to each other. The ladies stepped away from their microphones. Ian didn’t sing, he only played rhythm guitar. Brittany, Liz and Eric sang directly to the crowd and both Ian and Eric unplugged their guitars. This was 100% acoustic.


We were sitting under their noses (as you can see from the angle on some of the photos), so we had no trouble hearing it with full force. I hope that those in the far corners of the room could hear it as well (and I suspect that they could, given how powerful and clear it was to us). It was awesome and would be a crying shame if we were the only people who got to enjoy it. Winking smile

Right before they played their last song, a number of people in the crowd yelled out some requests (uninvited). When someone yelled Darlin’ If, loudly (he wasn’t the only one to yell it, but he was the most vociferous), I noticed that Liz (who sings the lead on that one), had a reaction. They didn’t play any of the songs that were called out.


When the set was over, clearly, they had to come back out. They played Darlin’ If, to the delight of everyone in the room. I’m thinking that Liz’s reaction came from knowing that if they were called back out for an encore (hahaha on the if part), she would indeed be fulfilling the guy’s wish.

We would have loved to stick around and say hi, but we had an issue that needed tending to since 8:45am, that we couldn’t take care of until this show was over. We scooted immediately after it was over, and resolved our problem successfully at 11:05pm (thanks for asking). Winking smile

In closing, I’m going to relate a story mostly so that I can remember it. Even though the set was scheduled for 9pm, we got there very early (because of our issue, we drove instead of taking a cab, and left too much time in case we had trouble finding parking). The set before Delta Rae was a paid show, so I waited (very patiently) outside (it was stunning weather). Obviously, I was first in line. Lois went next door (Rockwood 1) and watched most of the the 8pm set.

I was right near the bouncer (or whatever more polite term you might wish to call him) and saw everyone come and go. At one point, someone associated with the band (Delta Rae), but not one of the performers (I have no idea who, Manager, Booking Agent, very good friend, etc.), bumped into Tommy Merrill, the person who books shows for Rockwood. They had a very warm exchange.

Tommy mentioned that the room wasn’t crowded (this was at around 8:40). The Manager (I’m just saying that to call him something) said, well, I’m gonna bet that between 9 and 9:15, it will be a lot more crowded. I admit publicly that I laughed a bit inside (but had my poker face on) at his bravado. Crowded shows usually start filling up early.

Well, you know how the story ends. It was incredibly crowded with wildly enthusiastic people. It would seem that the Manager knows Delta Rae fans better than I do. Apparently, they like to cut it close (or is that just called being Fashionably Late nowadays). Winking smile

Delta Rae, y’all come back soon now, ya hear? Smile

Delta Rae at Arlene’s Grocery

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We weren’t supposed to be back in NYC until tomorrow (Thursday). Friends of ours from Thailand were in the states and are leaving tonight. We decided to come home early and have lunch with them today to see them off (that didn’t work out in the end!).

Once we committed to that, we left even earlier (yesterday morning), so that we could be back in NYC in time to catch Delta Rae at Arlene’s Grocery.

We’ve seen Delta Rae once before, at Rockwood Music Hall and I covered that evening in this post. I mentioned that I would love to hear them play with a band. Ask and ye shall receive. Delta Rae played at Rockwood again this past Saturday, another acoustic set, but at Arlene’s Grocery, the set was billed as full band.


We picked a good day to come back early. As we pulled in front of our building, the thermometer in the car read 105 degrees:


Delta Rae performed an excellent set last night. It was extremely well-received by the audience (including us). Having a full band meant adding a drum set and electric bass. That was enough to make the difference I was interested in hearing, but they could also stand a good lead electric guitar, and possibly even a fiddle or mandolin on a few numbers.

The four members of Delta Rae have wonderful voices individually, that blend in magical ways collectively. Given the power and emotion that they produce while singing, it’s a very good thing that each can hold their own singing lead, as it gives a slight rest to the others when they pass the proverbial baton around from song to song.

BrittanyHolljesElizabethHopkins EricHolljesKeyboards IanHolljes

Mike McKee on drums (no good individual link for him, sorry). He was really good on every song, I thoroughly enjoyed his play! Photo isn’t good either.


Mark McKee on electric bass. Very solid throughout. As much as I really liked the drums, the bass is what really created the bigger sound (big bottom) for Delta Rae, to differentiate from their acoustic set.


While I liked the bigger sound, there’s always a tradeoff. They play a song (Morning Comes) where the ladies clap between lines in a way that adds a very nice touch to the song. They did it last night, but you couldn’t hear the clapping at all over the bass and drums. Of course, I could see them, and fill in the sound in my mind, but it wasn’t the same thing.

We still got a taste of the acoustic side with their Gospel number, Bottom of the River, delivered largely a cappella (the drummer did enhance their normal foot-stomping). They also did the Fleetwood Mac cover The Chain with Ian on acoustic guitar. That’s the only song where the McKee boys left the stage. Here’s a YouTube version of the song performed in Eric’s bathroom! 🙂

They closed the show with a song that they pitched to Kelly Clarkson. She liked it but it didn’t fit her current album so they’re free to use it themselves again. That said, when we left, Lois told me that Lady Antebellum would be nuts not to want to cut that song immediately. So, if you’re listening Hillary Scott, Lois thinks you would fall in love with this song. Grab it while you can, before Delta Rae scores with it directly!

We support the artists we like. We already have two copies of their EP (get it!) so Lois bought a Delta Rae T-Shirt after the show.

Thanks for coming back to NYC a second time in one week (they played in MD in between!), and bringing along the McKee brothers to let me experience the full band sound so quickly.

Already looking forward to our next Delta Rae encounter!

We chatted briefly with Eric and Ian before the show and I noticed Ian was carrying around a tired-looking set list. Here’s a photo of it, though it was from a previous show and they tweaked the set last night from this one:


ElizabethHopkinsIanHolljesBrittanyHolljes EricHolljes

Delta Rae at Rockwood Music Hall

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The first time I heard the name Delta Rae was on April 2nd 2010, in an email from a good friend. He forwarded a note from a friend of his (who I’ve never met). Ever since then, I’ve formed an email friendship with our mutual friend and he’s been promoting Delta Rae to me.

I don’t begrudge him one bit, he’s the very proud uncle of 3/4’s of the group, the Holljes siblings, Ian, Eric and Brittany. Their childhood friend, Elizabeth Hopkins rounds out this extremely talented band.

I’ll end with a back story as to how we finally got to see them last night, but first, on to the show!

Delta Rae is two guys and two girls. All four sing really well individually, but in any combination (two, three or four of them) the magic comes to life.

EricHolljes1 IanHolljes

BrittanyHolljes ElizabethHopkins

The women, Brittany Holljes and Elizabeth Hopkins sing and on occasion play a tambourine and shaker. Ian Holljes sings and plays the guitar (mostly rhythm). Eric Holljes sings, plays the piano and the guitar.

Instrumentally, Eric carries the day on the piano, he’s very good. The guitars are mostly background, with the exception of one song that was finger-picked by Eric.

Delta Rae writes their own songs. All of the ones they performed last night were excellent. They write in a variety of genres (they list themselves as pop/soul/folk, I’d add country as well). They also performed a wonderful cover of Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac (one of their big influences).

They performed a gospel song a cappella with Brittany singing the lead. Breathtaking.


During one number, Elizabeth was hitting the tambourine so hard with the shaker, that one of the little cymbals came flying off. A few seconds later, a second one flew off. Thankfully, the song ended before more of them had a chance to escape. 😉

When all four sing together (not often enough for my taste!), they remind me of One Flew South, Love and Theft, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, all at their best!

What separates Delta Rae from the above is the incredible bands (musicians) that back the others, giving them a much richer sound. Clearly, Delta Rae can’t afford a bunch of professional musicians to back them, but I’m betting that day is not far away and they will break out in a big way.

We bought two copies of their new EP (buy it, you won’t be disappointed!) and I listened to it this morning. It’s gorgeous and is produced well, with drums, bass and even a cello (viola, etc) on one number. It gives a hint of what they can sound like on a big stage with a full band.

If you still need your arm twisted, go listen to their MySpace page, but then, after you like it, support them and buy the EP!

Very impressively, Rockwood was packed with very enthusiastic fans. This is nice to see for a band that is based in NC. When their set was over, the crowd was demonstrably upset, wanting to hear more. Eric announced something that was cool and highly unusual (and potentially fraught with a number of problems).

He told us that they would do a one-song acoustic encore outside, while the next act was setting up. Nearly every person rushed outside, and indeed, they played a stunning number with the boys on guitar and all four singing. There was quite a crowd listening to them.


When the song was over, Eric dealt with the biggest potential problem, siphoning off the next act’s audience. He implored people to go right back in and listen to people he described as awesome. Nicely done, and I hope enough people took his advice. We were so wiped that we weren’t going to stay either way.

A more minor problem could have been the embarrassment of only a handful of people going out to hear them. Thankfully, they didn’t have that problem! 🙂

Delta Rae actively suffers for their art. They drove from NC to NY yesterday, just to play a one hour set. After playing the outdoor encore, they hit the road for an 11-hour drive back to Asheville, NC, where they are opening for Hanson tonight. That’s dedication, and that’s one of the things it takes to make it in the crazy music business. Bravo!

Jason Adamo performed the set before Delta Rae, another NC-based band. We listened to their MySpace page earlier in the day, and liked it a lot, and decided to catch Jason and his band as well.


Unfortunately, while they are all talented, the live performance didn’t work for me the way it did recorded. It’s possible that it was entirely due to bad sound levels, but I’m not sure. The entire band was loud (but distinguishable). That caused Jason to literally yell into the microphone, and most of his words still couldn’t be made out.


On a few songs, the intro was much softer and Jason didn’t have to yell. It was clear he has a very nice voice. Each of the band members was good in their own right, so I’ll give them each a quick shout out:

Doug Casteen on the electric guitar (and a drop of harmony). Doug was excellent on the guitar on every song, taking some really nice leads. He co-wrote many of the songs that the band performed last night.


Fabio Consani on the harmonica, a bit of acoustic guitar (and a drop of harmony). Fabio was very good on the harmonica.

FabioConsani1 FabioConsani2

John Briggs on electric bass and harmony. John was solid on the bass throughout. He co-wrote at least one song, and produces some of the Jason Adamo band songs.


Shedrick Williams on drums. Shedrick was solid as well. On two occasions he took short but very nice solos. The second was during their last number and helped end the set on a very high note with tons of energy. Shedrick is also a master of flipping and spinning his sticks, without missing a beat during the song. He’s an understated but excellent showman. Here’s a YouTube video of him playing along to a soundtrack.


Finally, our back story. 😉

We have friends who live in Durham (where Delta Rae are based!). They have a 13-month-old whom I haven’t met yet, though Lois did in December. They are here in NY for the weekend. A few months ago, we set Friday night to have dinner together. A few weeks later, City Winery announced a benefit for the Gulf Coast with a few of our favorite performers. We were disappointed that we would miss the show, but we happily choose good friends over an evening of music out.

Last week our friends called to ask whether we could move dinner to Thursday. We immediately said sure, and purchased tickets for Friday night. The music gods were looking out for us. 🙂

Then, a day or two later, I got an announcement that Delta Rae would be playing at Rockwood on Thursday (last night), the same night we just agreed to have dinner with our friends. Once again, we would have to miss Delta Rae. It seemed like the musical gods giveth, and then taketh away. 🙁

Oh me of little faith… Our friends got into town at 4:30pm and we hung out with them until 7pm, when they had to leave for a number of reasons. We had a lovely visit with them and still had plenty of time to catch Jason Adamo at 8pm and Delta Rae at 9pm. Thanks musical gods for setting everything straight again! 🙂