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Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas @ Milkboy.

December 17, 2013

Text and images by Kyle Bagenstose.

You know those strange little corners of your mind, where imagination and emotions hideaway together until something sparks their release? You wake from an odd dream, or get hit with a case of déjà vu, and for a moment reality gives way to wonder.

That seems to be the creative force driving Detroit-based singer Jessica Hernandez, who performs backed by a collection of musicians known as the Deltas. The group hit Milkboy on Sunday night, treating a low-key crowd to a performance that blended elements of rock, soul and jazz.

The main attraction throughout the performance was Hernandez’s powerful, soulful voice (often drawing comparisons to Amy Winehouse), and energetic stage presence. The set started by showcasing both in “No Place Left to Hide,” in which a pounding drum beat provided a launching pad for Hernandez’s raw vocals.

The group kept the rock sound going next with “Caught Up,” on which Hernandez also plays rhythm guitar. After a lively performance on stage, Hernandez seemed to recognize the cold Sunday night mellowness of the half-full room.

“I know it’s a Sunday night but we can act like it’s a Saturday, if you want,” Hernandez said.

As it turns out, Hernandez was a little road-weary herself, as the set marked the final tour date for the band for 2013.

“Of course I got really sick today, on the last day of the tour,” Hernandez said after the show. “I think it might just be bronchitis or something, so I was hoping everybody wouldn’t catch my sick vibe.”

Despite the illness, Hernandez continued to dance and belt out a full range of notes as the set progressed, with the eclectic instruments played by the Deltas blurring genre lines; the sounds of slide trombone providing jazz elements on “Run Run Run,” and organ-synths and tambourines turning songs like “Gone in Two Seconds” into something like a carnival number.

Lyrically, Hernandez visits some dark and strange places, often singing of demons, souls, death, and even not-so-apologetic lover-stealing (“This song is written for my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend,” Hernandez told the crowd ahead of the song “Sorry I Stole Your Man”). But the energy and catchiness of the music brightened the vibe around the lyrics– if the macabre topics had basis in reality, they seemed to be written with a fantastical pen.

The diverse sounds of the performance were all on display during the closing “Carnie Threesome,” a wild song that featured a frenetic organ, walking bass line, and wailing trombone, leading up to a standing Hernandez pounding on a drum for the final minute, as the Deltas rocked around her. Hernandez thanked the crowd before hopping off stage to a healthy applause.

Hernandez says the band is planning on laying low for a while, until the release of their first full-length album in early April.

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