Marah / Robert Randolph / Slo-mo – Mercury Lounge (New York City, NY)
Some bands are made to play on a Saturday night. They rock. They scream. They explode with all the fury and abandon that the working slob needs to hear in order to overcome the drudgery of the working week. And on this particular Saturday night, as the guys in Marah burned their way through their set, it became more and more apparent that the group’s time on the road supporting Kids In Philly has turned them into an unstoppable live beast, tailor-made for a Saturday night.
Before they took the stage, the raucous mood had already been established by the opening acts. Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, fast developing a reputation as more than just Marah’s secret weapon, took the stage first. Dressed in his customary dazzling white suit, he performed several cuts from his recent album Novelty, accompanied on most songs by DJ Vincenzo’s scratches. Though it may sound like an awkward setup, Slo-Mo’s mastery of his dual dobro/lap steel — especially on the more fiery numbers “Thank God She Cooks” and “Country Girl” — proved that the marriage of twang and turntable can seem effortlessly natural.
Robert Randolph followed and proceeded to show what he can do with the pedal steel, or what he called the “four-legged monster.” Randolph, whose sound draws heavily on gospel and R&B influences, made the instrument moan on the mournful “The Prayer”, soar during the ass-shaking “The March”, and wail on a set-ending cover of “Voodoo Chile”. Faced with a slightly reticent crowd at the start, Randolph and his bandmates had a room full of converts by set’s end, a process likely to be duplicated often in the future.
Randolph’s incendiary performance proved a perfect prelude to the headliners, who sounded ready to conquer the night from the first notes of “Faraway You”. Playing songs old and new with equal ferocity, Marah confirmed their status as potential saviors of rock ‘n’ roll. From the bubbling undercurrent of “After The Implosion” to the dueling guitars of brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko on “The Catfisherman”, every second dripped with sweat and exploded with energy.
The band also sampled some new material along the way, as they get ready to head into the studio to record their next album. In their early stages, the songs appear to be a bit more sedate than the band’s previous work, though the song Serge said was the closest to being complete — “Heavyweights” — has the makings of a Marah classic. Serge introduced “Crying On An Airplane” as Marah’s first “sensitive” song. Though it did slow down the pace a bit, it paints a vivid picture right from the opening lines (“I’m crying on an airplane/Over the ocean/In a bathroom”).
No Marah show is complete without the barely controlled chaos that comes at the set-ending “The History Of Where Someone Has Been Killed”. This night was no exception, as Serge took to the crowd to wail out the song’s harmonica coda and, in a matter of seconds, found himself perched on top of a fan’s shoulders. As Serge careened around the room, brother Dave climbed on top of an amp to get a better look. Somewhere between this point and the band’s encore cover of “Love Train”, it became clear that Marah had yet again proven themselves the kings of Saturday night.