Tag Archives: Big Pink

For The Price of a Song

And the flame still burns

And the flame still burns

“Fans aren’t curious people coming out to check something out. Fans are intimately attached to your music.”

I’ve written about Marah several times over the years; they’re one of my favorite bands. Over the last decade plus, their albums have consistently connected and resonated with me, and when they are “on” (which is just about every time I’ve seen them play) they can light a room on fire like few others. And much like Dave Bielanko states above, I’ve seen the depth of devotion that Marah fans have to the band and their music.

The most recent show I saw was February of this year, part of a low-rent under-the-radar tour initially scheduled to work some new material out on the road and get the sea legs out from underneath a new rhythm section. By the time they hit Rochester, New York, the show had turned more electric and there were no new songs in the set. But while the band was still looking for clues (and cues) on occasion, there were enough moments of magic to keep the flame of hope burning. (You can read about that performance here and here.)

I noticed that there was a film crew darting about that evening at the Bug Jar, and hoped that the show was being filmed for a DVD. Frankly, after months passed and I didn’t hear much about it, I forgot about the taping. Wouldn’t be the first time I saw cameras circle at a great show with no public, tangible result.

Until today! Watch the mini-documentary here.

And in case you missed the credits, here’s a link to creator Topher Hopkins’ website. I was hoping the director and producer was a Rochestarian that I just hadn’t met yet, but no such luck; just serendipity that he decided to film at the Bug Jar. And thanks to the fine people on the Marah Board for posting and sharing this. I think more people outside the circle need to see it…it provides a glimpse behind the curtain at what happens on the other side of the stage.

It’s probably hasn’t been the easiest year for the band. A year before, they were ready to hit the road behind a great new album (Angels of Destruction) and the band imploded. This year saw Serge Bielanko take a breather to celebrate the birth and care of his new born daughter while the band would alternate playing as a duo, trio or quartet. Some woodshedding in Pennsylvania ala Big Pink. Some guest spots at festivals. The usual fun of trying to forge ahead and progress without a label, without a distributor, without the financial freedom to be able to do what they wanted when they wanted.

And although the road only got bumpier after this February date – failing equipment, broken down vans – I cling to the unflagging spirit that Dave has in this clip. Because at the end of the day, if you are an artist, the crowds and the attention and the buzz is sweet.  But it’s got to be about you. Without that drive, that soul, that emotional tug to pour yourself onto a canvas or into a microphone, you’re not going to matter. Like a bite of cotton candy at the circus, you’re a momentary burst of glory for the taste buds, then gone, almost before you can swallow.

Marah is more than that. I’m not certain how they will re-center themselves, but I hope what I’m watching is more than a detour. Perhaps it’s a transfiguration. They have earned my faith. I’m pulling for them.

Marah website.

Marah on MySpace.

There is no "i" in Marah

There's no "i" in Marah

Leave a comment

Filed under Editorials, Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Music

NEW ALBUM! Felice Brothers: Yonder Is The Clock

 

Grab your shovel, let's get to it...

Grab your shovel, let's get to it...

You have to take press releases with a grain of salt. While some are effervescent hyperbole, others spin wild yarns about the origins of the band (are The Hives still staunchly defending their Svengali bullshit?) and then there are the ones that fall in-between. But whether or not you believe that The Felice Brothers adopted a wayward dice player and tossed him on bass, or that the newest album was recorded in a studio built from remnants of a chicken coop doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Yonder is the Clock is a big step towards bringing recognition to one of the more genuinely interesting bands to come down the pike in a while.

The album both begins and ends with somber, quiet songs shouldered by the off-kilter vocals of Ike Felice. I’ll be blunt – there’s a good chance that you will absolutely hate his vocals, a nasal hybrid of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits (“Sailor Song” would fool a Waits fan) and Townes van Zandt. But like those artists, there’s so much emotion, heart and feeling happening within those vocals that you would do yourself a disservice not to make the effort. I mean really – does anyone complain about Dylan’s voice anymore, or do they simply celebrate his music and accept it? I’m not trying to put Felice on that pedestal, he’s nowhere close to earning that kind of comparison, but don’t judge a book by its (aural) cover.

There is one line in the press release that does capture the album’s impact – “the record is teaming with tales of love, death, betrayal, baseball, train stations, phantoms, pandemics, jail cells, rolling rivers and frozen winter nights.” Part hoedown, part revival meeting, The Felice Brothersare a cacophony of stringed instruments, organs and pianos, accordions and fiddles, like a rough-and-tumble version of The Band. Sometimes the instruments sound like they are slightly out of tune, and I can’t guarantee that everyone hits the beat exactlyon the mark every time, but songs like “Chicken Wire”, “Penn Station” and “Run Chicken Run” could kick-start any room full of people into a throbbing mass of jello.

But they can also toss out something as pretty as “Katie Dear”, a song that could be slipped into the tracklist of any album by Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chancewithout raising suspicion. My favorite track might be “Cooperstown”, a song so visual that a screenplay could be written around it. “Rise and Shine”, the closing track, is anything but a wake-up call, rather it sounds like Shane MacGowan singing a prayer at last call . But as the gentle coda to the rest of the album, it’s a gentle roll to a stop. I’ll be playing this all year long.

The Felice Brothers recently rolled to a stop in my town along with opening act Taylor Hollingsworth – read my review of their concert at Blurt Online.

2 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews