Pick Your Pop Culture

So, I've like written about music for 25 years, and like I've got a lot to say and not enough people to pay me for it, and like I like to write about TV, and books, and movies, and stuff like that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hurrah for Marah

Serge Bielanko lifts his head up high, closes his eyes, and delivers all the passion and energy of his body through his hands as he strums his guitar. His brother Dave is barking into the microphone, picking riffs on the banjo, and channeling the mood of the crowd into the music. The non-Bielanko members of Marah are just as excited to be there; the rhythms are furious, powerful, irresistible.

I know, I know, Nick Hornby has already gone on and on about how Marah is the greatest live band in the known universe, and one of the few that’s been worth anything in the last ten or twenty years. I’m not going to make a claim like that. But, I can tell you that seeing them last night at Off Broadway was one of those experiences that can completely recharge any tired batteries I might have had going in. This is what rock’n’roll is supposed to do – connect musicians and audience into a communal ecstatic frenzy, all grounded in basic, elemental structures and solid craftsmanship.

It’s not as though I’ve grown tired of music. I listen to it all the time, I go out to see bands week in, week out. When I meet people away from the music scene, and I tell them I go to only about fifty concerts a year, they seem shocked at how high that number is. I’m just comparing it to my peak years of 150 shows attended annually, so it seems as though I’m being conservative.

I have good experiences all the time, but shows such as last night’s Marah performance remain magical. I saw these guys three times last year, and only the first time was better than this one. I can’t honestly say whether or not I remember it as being better because a) I had absolutely zero expectations, having never really heard more than a song or two from them, so all the good of the show seemed remarkably better; b) the mixing in of a greater number of Serge Bielanko vocal songs, as well as a larger influx of r’n’b, really made for a more powerful show because of the variety; or c) Cat, Karen, and I had downed a lot of wine before the show, and we weren’t ready to stop drinking once we got there.

At any rate, last night I imbibed only moderate alcohol, so my mind is clear. This was a show of pure joy. It’s funny how Marah’s lyrics are generally bleak, but their live shows are so gosh-darn happy. But, that’s what they do, and when they are feeling completely comfortable, as they were last night, Marah really can be just about as good as rock’n’roll gets.


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