These are the moments true live music fans treasure. Perfect is boring; we want realness.
Firebird, St. Louis
The first time I heard Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas was back in 2013 when they released Demons. She was serving a Betty Page image with full-on rock goddess vocals. Needless to say, I was smitten at first listen. Their 2014 album Secret Evil was even more impressive, as each song showcased the band’s musical diversity and Hernandez’s stellar songwriting abilities. It has been ages since I have loved a ska/rock band this much.
As Hernandez & Co. took the stage, I was intrigued by her new (to me) image. Gone were the dark locks, replaced with a gorgeous platinum blond hairdo. She was giving me Gwen Stefani circa No Doubt 1995—and I loved the new look.
Instantly, they broke into their signature sound full of strong rock rhythms mixed with groovy keyboards and a killer trombone player. That’s right: a trombone player. Extra points for having brass in the band.
As the band launched into “Caught Up,” Hernandez’s manic stage presence was fascinating to watch. When she stalked the stage like a woman possessed, there was a fire in her eye that spoke to me as a fan of live music; I instantly knew this was going to be a spectacular show. That’s the charm of Hernandez: When she performs, she becomes the musical embodiment of each of her songs.
Not only was her voice on point, her infectious energy spilled out into the small but mighty crowd. When the song was over, her voice changed from a big, bombastic one to the voice a very sweet, young lady. When the band played, “Bombay”—assumedly from their upcoming album—the big voice came out again and she worked the stage like a seasoned professional. Not only does her voice change, but her physical appearance alters, as well. The comparison between her and Ilana from Broad City is an obvious one. Plus, she has all the ska dance movements perfected. It is quite a stunning duality of personality to watch unfold on stage.
As they followed up with fantastic performances of “Cry Cry Cry” and “Run Run Run,” it was exquisite to watch Hernandez get lost in her own lyrics. Her stage movements reminded me of Jim Morrison as she danced around the stage to the beats of her own drummer.
Hernandez then told the audience about her recent nuptials and how the next song was the first love song she ever wrote for her (now) husband. How can one properly describe the vibe of “Don’t Take My Man to Idaho”? The song has charisma. The lyrics are catchy and the rhythms are cheeky fun.
When the band segued into “Picture Me with You (Carnie Threesome),” it dawned on me how much Hernandez’s vocals reminded me of Amy Winehouse—yet another facet of this talented singer’s intriguing vocals. This song also highlighted each of the band member’s strengths. Steve Lehane got to flex his funky bass line, Taylor Pierson tickled his ivories, and John Raleeh once again displayed his mad trombone skills. The Deltas are a very tight band rhythmically, and earned my respect in spades.
The band left briefly, only to return to give the audience a memorable encore. They opened with the emotional “Neck Tattoo,” and then went into a song called “Telephone.” I only know this due to the fact that I swiped the set list from the stage once the show was over: a piece of rock memorabilia that is now part of my permanent collection.
When the band started the final song of the night—a personal favorite of mine, “Deceptacon”—tragedy nearly happened: Hernandez forgot the lyrics. Frustration clouded her face as she struggled to remember the words. The band kept the music flowing as she went to each of her band members in an almost sensory type of way, trying to jog her memory. After another failed attempt, she went to more band members and laughed it off. The band kept playing and the lyrics came back to the singer as she slayed the audience with an insane performance of the song.
I have to give credit where credit is due. Any other inexperienced singer would have stormed off stage, but Hernandez kept her composure and delivered the highlight performance of the night. These are the moments true live music fans treasure. Perfect is boring; we want realness.
Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas not only gave us every ounce of energy they had, they gave us one hell of a show that will be sure to make my Top 10 list of live concerts of 2016. While I think the band has a bright future ahead of them, I am glad I got to see such an amazing performance in such an intimate setting as the Firebird. | Jim Ryan