The year was 2004. My sloppy collegiate indie rock band was making its Columbus debut where every sloppy collegiate band debuts: Bernie’s. On the bill that night was Delay, a preternaturally smiley pop-punk trio that had relocated from Northeastern Ohio suburban enclave Berea the year before.
Even back then — my God, that was eight years ago! — the members of Delay were veterans of DIY punk, eager to show us the ropes. They’d been at it since middle school. They still haven’t stopped.
I caught the quintessential Columbus DIY band in concert for the first time in years last Wednesday at Carabar, where they were opening for kindred spirits The Sidekicks’ album release show.
From the bouncing power chords and cascading rhythms that marked Guided By Voices-inspired set opener “Stand Me,” it was clear Delay’s DNA has been deeply and permanently affected by years spent rubbing shoulders with bands of all stripes. The raw materials were the same as ever, with beaming melodies strapped to boisterous, no-frills rock, but they’ve assembled them into so many different shapes and sizes.
A quick spin through their new album “Rushing Ceremony” affirms the evolution. Barreling punk ragers like “Wine Teeth” and “Fever” are more the exception than the rule. Slower tempos abound, as do many different modes of guitar trickery, from post-Pixies bumblebee zingers to power octaves straight from the early Weezer playbook. It feels like going to a tried-and-true burger joint and finding out they expanded the menu. I guess this is what pop-punk sounds like when it grows up.
That said, at Carabar, they showed few signs of surrendering their youthful fervor, delivering the tunes with slapdash exuberance at a volume level that left me wondering whether the band’s name refers to the interval between seeing their concert and the onset of extreme hearing loss.
It felt more like a party than a revelatory musical performance; this breed of band thrives more than most on communal experience, with honest emotion often trumping craftsmanship and execution. When your band is as much a community-building project as an art project, success might be better measured by the number of friends and fans crowding the stage, lungs bursting, bodies colliding. In which case: Well done, bros!