Monday, January 21, 2008

The Tug of the Music, The Scene of the Crime

Illogical as it may be, the Hopedaddy housecleaning and re-start was provoked largely, not by rock and roll inspiration, but by a Tyson-esque slug to to the rock and roll gut.  In the past month, Marah, the one band that I've firmly believed was the last hope to save rock and roll, was locked, loaded, and ready for battle as it never had been before.  In an industry that seldom affords true artists even a first chance, Marah was enjoying round three.  After a couple of years on the road with new additions on guitar and drums, the heart and soul of Marah, brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko, found themselves again as a band.  Those seeking proof needed to look (and listen) no further than this month's release of their new record, Angels of Destruction.  Loose and full of life, Angels felt like a return to form that die-hard Marah-stafarians hadn't heard since Kids in Philly, their critically-acclaimed 2000 masterpiece, now appearing in a cut-out bin near you.

Ten days post-release, a slew of raving reviews, and an appearance on Conan O'Brien later, the unthinkable happened.  Speculation that began on the message boards was eventually confirmed: Marah, famously allergic to success, was coming apart at the seams.  Adam and Dave, the very "shot" of Marah's recent much-needed "shot in the arm," were leaving the band.  Forcing the collective jaw of the Marah Faithful the rest of the way to the ground was the news that longtime Marah fixture/bass player Kirk, considered by many almost a third Brother Bielanko, also found a pink slip in his pay envelope.  The timing could not be worse.  A half-page picture and review in the new Paste landed in my mailbox six hours after eighteen tour dates were canceled.

The sacking of half the band, the poor timing, the silence from the inner circle, and the ensuing discussion on the message boards occupied more than a fair share of my time and RAM in the past week.  My friends have suffered enough, and I won't go through all of the analysis here again, save for a few observations, good and bad, that weren't lost in The Fire:

(1) At times in the past week, the depths of my despair caused me to step back and question my own priorities-- I'm 41 years old for Christ's sake-- was I this unglued about the breakup of a rock band?  Somewhere in the back of my mind, the voice of Nick Hornby, introducing Marah in the back of Schuba's on a hot Chicago night two summers ago, was echoing, "Nothing like this can actually change your life, not when you're a grown-up with a job and a family."  Sure.  But Nick has felt it.  Plenty of my friends have felt it.  I have certainly felt it.  Aside from being a great bunch of guys, this band has given me, a veteran of hundreds of live shows, many of the greatest rock and roll moments of my life.  Now, as they briefly stood thrice-poised-for-greatness, I could only stand idly by, watching them become the Angels of Self-Destruction. There will be no apologies for the sincerity and magnitude of my malaise, a sentiment that appears to be a common thread through the Faithful.

(2) The speculation, hand-holding, rumor, and smack talk on the message boards, for all of its worthlessness, did manage to repeatedly stimulate an interesting topic of discourse: What personal explanations does a band owe its loyal fans?  In my angriest moment, I certainly weighed in:  No, artists should not have such responsibility . . . typically.  But Marah are anything but "typical" artists.  What makes the faithful love them through thick and thin, spend thousands of dollars flying around the world to see them, ram them down friends' throats, collect hundreds of bootlegs of their shows, log onto the boards from home and from work and from vacation, and generally feel like family, is that this HAS been a family.  We've all been there at shows where 10 people were in the crowd and shows where 500 were.  Dave and Serge invited us into their world every time-- they stuck around and talked to us all night after shows, they regularly jumped on the message boards with updates, and, most importantly, they bared their hearts to us in their art.  We obliged and spread the gospel.  We shared and we sang and we drank, and we danced all crazy with our rubbery legs.  So, for a bit, I felt justified in just being pissed.  No, this band is not all about us . . . but it is a lot about us, right?  At least it always had been, and that's the very essence of why we love them.  The art that means the most to us is the art that reflects something in us that we recognize.  In prying for details, I was not paparazzi chasing Britney into the beauty salon . . . I just wanted a bit of explanation for what I was seeing in my Marah mirror.

(3) With a bit more patience, just the right amount of explanation finally trickled through.  When Dave broke his silence, it all came rushing back to me: Dave and Serge make music.  They always have, and they always will.  They are not businessmen (clearly!), and, moreover, they are human:

"For these untimely events to occur . . . I understand it seems self-defeating, career damaging, whatever . . . but to us who remain, it's all gotten a bit too prophetic, spooky even . . . Now it's time for us to get the fuck outta here and start racing toward redemption, and fast!  With the best interest of the music in mind, we are more than fine.  Our principles and spirit remain intact.  Score!  Let's just take a deep breath and share a moment of silence for every soldier who ever died along the 'Road to Rocksville.'  God bless us all."

Thanks, Dave.  I don't need to know anything else.  Marah is and always will be Dave and Serge Bielanko.  I loved this version of the band dearly, but I eagerly await the next chapter, already being written in anticipation of European tour dates.  Marah (3.0?), blistering guitars, table dancing, suprise covers, extended stories of snakes and hookers and catfish and busted vans and, and, and . . . I can't wait to share, sing, drink, and dance all crazy with my rubbery legs, SO-COME-ON!


DC said...

How could they. My favorite.
So who fired who? Will Dave be another band? Who will be Marah? Who is John Galt? I'm so confused. . .

chubarider said...

Damn! I have had my head all stuck in work and family with not a moment to even hear "Angels" let alone buy it. I really thought I could justify, to the management, a flight to a mutually "close" show this tour. After reading your blog, I feel your pain, but only since I know you, having not seen them live yet.