Oh my, Santa brought us an early present - the Marah Christmas show at Underground Arts! I've attended a few of these annual bacchanalias and they are always fantastic. Friday night added to the holiday legend of Marah.
I hate the description of a band as simply "rock 'n' roll," but I hope you'll forgive me this time. Marah is a rock band, plain and simple. What makes them different is great songs, passion, stage presence, and a live show that always has surprises. I've seen a bag-piper open their shows, female backups, and crazy Christmas props and spectacles (more on that below). But if you care about rock, and hope that a band still goes on stage to play soulful and raucous rock, you have to sleep better knowing that Marah is in the world.
Marah has been around a long time, but they did break up for a while. The two brothers who are the heart, soul and leaders of the band, Dave and Serge Bielanko, had some ego issues a while ago, but you would never know it from their live show. Dave is very emotional, moving about stage, kicking his leg in the air, and sweating profusely as he gives it his all. Serge is somewhat less animated, but also a huge presence, coming down off of the stage to wander the crowd and play the harmonica. They exchange guitars, sing at the same mic, switch off as lead singer, and otherwise appear to be completely on the same wavelength.
The brothers originally hail from Conshohocken, and are as local as they can be. Many of their songs reference Philly and its environs, and the band seems to really give its all when playing in front of the hometown crowd. The band's live performances are loose and sprawling, with the band playing rollicking, ramshackle rock. No band can be this loose and not actually be well-rehearsed and tight. And no band looks like they are enjoying themselves more than Marah. That attitude is infectious. I'm not sure I would call the fans rabid, but loyal and loving? Hell, yeah. This audience cares about the band in a way that is unusual. When Serge came out into the crowd, one of the women standing next to me started massaging his shoulders as he sang. He even stopped for a second, said "that feels really good," and then started back in while she continued to work the muscles.
And of course, the band had surprises. A dancing Santa with sunglasses. Fake snow. Holiday decorations throughout the club. And Serge putting on a Santa costume on-stage, while the band played a song and he sang, and then Serge throwing out candy canes to the laughing audience.
But the band also came ready to roll. Besides the brothers Bielanko, the band also features Dave Peterson pounding on the drums, Adam Garbinski on guitar/bass, and Mark Sosnoski on guitar/bass. The Matt Cappy horns were also there, and then some other dude pounding on a percussion drum. Lots of guitars, lots of percussion, lots of horns - yum! And Dave plays electric and acoustic guitars as well as an electric banjo. I counted 8 musicians on stage, and the sound was BIG. I'm glad I had the plugs in, but I'm also glad that they played LOUD. Rock should be played LOUD. It's better that way.
You probably already have concluded that I loved this show. You are right. It's become my very own holiday tradition, and I'm super glad that I got to attend yet again this year. It makes me thankful to live in Philly and be surrounded by magnificent musical talent. Not only Marah, but Low Cut Connie, the War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Sheer Mag, etc, etc. It's a damn embarrassment of riches here, people. And Marah is right at the top of the heap. I love 'em and their great rock shows.
I took lots of photos. Brian and I were right up front, and the sight lines were excellent. I hope you like them. Oh, and if this isn't the best bang for your entertainment dollar, I don't know what is. Marah came and poured their passionate rock 'n' roll hearts out for 3 hours and they charged $20. Twenty bucks! I don't know how they make a living doing this, but I'm glad they are doing it. They are nice, not naughty, for doing this. Hopefully, Santa rewards them enormously.
I don't know if that's my last show for the year or not. I hope not, but Christmas time is busy, and there are lots of other commitments. I'll be sure to let you know if another show pops up. Oh, and I still have to tell you about my adventures with the really big star who I was supposed to see. That's a post of its own, and I'm working on it.
In the meantime, I'll keep posting if you keep reading. I've always got lots of things to say, and find that I just keep saying them. Thanks for humoring me by checking it out and laughing only behind my back. You guys are the best. See you soon, rockers.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.