Give Marah, the formerly Philadelphian roots-rock band that used to be fronted by Dave Bielanko and his brother Serge and is now fronted by Dave and keyboardist Christine Smith, this much credit: They know when they suck.
Which they pretty much did on Sunday night at the World Cafe Live, on the closing end of the last night of an It Came Upon A Midnight Beer Christmas tour with Jesse Malin and the St. Marks Social. Dan Weiss' review from Tuesday's Inquirer is here, and if anything, it doesn't go far enough in slamming what was a pretty listless, sloppy, dispiriting and awfully short show that barely touched on either the new not-half-bad Life Is a Problem or the back catalog that had the band poised for great things a decade ago.
Bielanko talked about how great the show was the night before at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and how he was looking forward to the Philly show so much the next night that he blew out his voice. Huh? What's the connection there? I missed both opening acts, unfortunately, and what everybody told me was a strong start by Malin, and Mike "Slo-Mo" Brenner. That momentum did not carry over to Marah's set, which came crashing to the ground after some initial bagpipe and "Theme From Rocky" powered liftoff. When the Pogues' "Fairtytale In New York," sung by Smith and Malin as an encore, can't save the day, you know you're in trouble.
After Weiss' review ran in Tuesday Inquirer, however, our intrepid correspondent and various editor types here at 400 N. Broad recieved the following e mail from "Max Bielanko" which is the nom de web the band uses for official missives:
"It must be said that Marah are very, very disappointed in not being able to deliver Philadelphia the show they obviously deserve (they were a fantastic crowd, with much love in them). We were counting on giving them an amazing long comprehensive gig, we weren't counting on Dave getting a wicked throat infection from a germy SM57 & cold, December touring....this sucked for us.
Anyway, despite having blown his voice out on Saturday at The Stone Pony, Marah didn't cancel (although it was discussed backstage) we didn't cancel for the sake of Slo-Mo's awesome band and Jesse's awesome band....we decided we'd go out, be happy and have fun with the audience.....and honestly it was fun as hell.
That's a laudable admission of guilt, I must say. Bully for the power of the press. And though I missed the fun as hell part, I'll gladly grant them a do over. A free Marah show to come, sometime in January, somewhere in Philadelphia, the amazing long comprehensive gig that didn't happen Sunday night. Let's just hope Marah makes more good on its promise than Bon Jovi did.
Previously: Christmas Was Better In The '80s