The backdrop of the towering blast furnaces is a striking image not lost on indie folk rock band Delta Rae.
In 2015, Delta Rae released the song "Bethlehem Steel," which was inspired by their previous tour stops in the city. (The song was included on the North Carolina's 2015 sophomore album After It All.) That same year, they performed at Musikfest Cafe in front of the same structure that inspired their single.
"Performing 'Bethlehem Steel' in Bethlehem, in front of the (furnaces) was very cool. It felt very cosmic to be performing the song we wrote about this place in front of people that kind of place makes," singer Elizabeth Hopkins said during an April 10 phone interview.
Tonight, Delta Rae returns to Musikfest Cafe as part of the 2018 SouthSide Arts & Music Festival . "In the northeast, when you see things like (the blast furnaces) it's like a tribute to an era that's over, but I think what that era and the type of people who came out of there made this country the country it is today," Hopkins said.
Bethlehem is one of many places around the country which have served as lyrical inspiration for the band, she said; each landscape evoking a different story. "Because we're a band that's been on tour for the better part of nine years, we're very influenced by all of the places we go and Bethlehem Steel is a huge example of that," Hopkins said.
Formed in 2009, Delta Rae released their debut full-length album, Carry the Fire, in 2012. Carry the Fire spawned the singles "Morning Comes," "Dance in the Graveyards," and "Bottom of the River." They followed it up with the 2013 EP Chasing Twisters.
Their career has taken them across the United States, including sets at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits. "(Our music) is a tribute to the majority of band having grown up in the south and the appreciation of the passing of the four seasons and the wildness of things you find in the south," Hopkins said. "You'll be driving down a long, country road and at some point you see a huge plant in the shape of a house, a car completely consumed by ivy; Mother Nature always wins."
While nature and their surroundings have played pivotal roles in their songwriting, have not been afraid to tackle social issues head-on in their lyrics. "We have a song about violence against black people in the U.S.; we have a song about women still not being paid an equal wage and that's really messed up," Hopkins said. "We're not afraid to say how we feel. We are most certainly a band of feminists."
Hopkins said the band is constantly writing new music and recording demos. A new music video, or two, are also soon coming down the pipeline, she teased. However, nothing quite compares to being on stage, she said.
"The live performance is my absolute favorite aspect of this job. The fact that we get to go up on stage to humans... it's incredible every time and it never gets old," Hopkins said. "It fills my soul up."
Delta Rae performs tonight at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem. Show time is 8 p.m.