I'm marveling at how natural and inevitable it felt to see a young band picking up the 500 year old Sephardic musical tradition, without irony or kitsch, and letting it shimmer and shake. The Sephardic music tradition is deeply passionate, religious and romantic, a passion that never gets old. And it's passion that's as well suited to Deleon's brand of indie-rock; frantic and bustling, spinning with layered bass and drum-beats and writhing under the evocative (yeah, I mean sexy) voices of Dan Saks and Amy Crawford. It's also well suited the stripped down acoustic of a jangly banjo and tambourine.
And both versions of Deleon, electric and acoustic, were on stage tonight. You see, Deleon is normally a 5 piece. Opening for a large band like Os Mutantes on small stages like Detroit's Magic Stick, means that they were forced to strip down to the essentials and are traveling as a three piece: Saks on voice, electric guitar and banjo, Crawford on voice, tambourine, xylophone and melodica, and Kevin Snider on bass. That's the acoustic combo. For some of the songs, though, Snider kicked off a pre-recorded version of drummer Justin Riddle's complicated and off kilter drum tracks. Then the band, and the audience, jumped on board for a wild ride.
Deleon is not the first contemporary band to take on Sephardic music. Bands including Galeet Dardashti's Divan, Basya Schechter's Pharaoh's Daughter and the Sarah Aroeste band, and Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles have all explored this space already. But Deleon's high-energy, high-passion, highly-intertwined pop mixed with their sly acoustic work are helping them carve out their own space. If you haven't seen 'em yet, get going.
You can check out their MySpace page for a tour schedule.