Sunday, February 22, 2009

Marah and Brandi Carlile

Dave Bielanko and Marah

I make it a rule to see Marah at every reasonable opportunity, and I'm never disappointed. We were all psyched to see them in their latest formulation (temporarily without Serge, the other Bielanko brother, and with a new drummer and bass player plus Christine, the keyboardist) and arrived at the appointed place...only to find it completely deserted! Refusing to believe it, we got out and saw the sign pinned to the door -- the show was moved to another bar. Every time I've seen them, they've been relegated to a smaller, crummier venue. They really ought to be packing out the Palace or the Waterfront on a summer night. I think it bothers me more than, say, Dave Bielanko, who seems to take it in stride. I think he's genuinely more interested in the music and the experience than achieving wealth and fame, and they never shortchange an audience, no matter how small.

On this night, I was in the middle of an allergy attack, which made me feel miserable, but between a medicinal, near gag-inducing swig of my hubby's bourbon and Marah finally coming on, it magically dissipated. It was a somewhat surreal evening of kick-ass music, a dirty backroom dive, and these crazy-dancing ladies who kept drinking white russians and buying them for the band, prompting Dave to claim, "It tastes just like Christmas morning!" And through all of this, from the time we got there until we left around 2 a.m., some poor dude was sitting on a stool, as completely passed out on the bar as I've ever seen anyone. I never saw him stir, apparently not even when the gals playing foosball adjusted his chair to give themselves more space, or -- needless to say -- while the band ten feet away ripped through, "Coughing up Blood." Someone else needs an intervention.

Well, one good thing about such intimate gatherings is that you actually get to talk with the band if you want to. I had to stick around to buy a new tee, since my only other one from Marah is too small to wear in public. I told Dave how much we always enjoyed the shows and asked him about the new album. He said they were close to finishing it up in Nashville (the next stop) and that he thought Serge would be ready to rejoin them when they toured in April. He and Christine were both very nice, tired, and grateful for kind words. I'm so glad I stayed up past my bedtime.

Brandi Carlile and Sondre Lerche

In the Pops series, the Louisville Orchestra teamed up with Lerche to open and Brandi for the headliner. Lerche is really impressive. Such a youngster, but with lots of poise and a fabulous crooner voice. I think the crowd in Whitney Hall was well-pleased with his performance, since of course, everyone was really there for Brandi. And even though he didn't play guitar with those huge, Norwegian mittens from the PR headshot, I still enjoyed it!

My expectations were high for Brandi, since she's one of my very favorite artists; I actually think she was even better than I thought she'd be. Her voice is phenomenal -- really, really big and strong -- the recording process does not add a thing that's not already there. And if you possibly can, you aspiring leaders-of-the-band, manage to frame yourself with identical twin musicians! I love the harmonies Phil and Tim Hanseroth bring, and of course, the guitar skills. Oh, and I should not forget the barefoot cellist, Matt. She sang new songs from the forthcoming album, which were strong -- "Dreams" and "Oh Dear" -- some from her other records including "The Story" and "Follow", and great covers of "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Hallelujah." She does the best Johnny Cash since Johnny Cash! She's so inspiring. She's the reason I bought a guitar (even though it's currently gathering dust in the corner), and now that I've seen how skinny she is in her second-skin blue jeans, I'm also inspired to get a little more running in. Dang you, Brandi Carlile!

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