Friday, November 26, 2004

I Have Found a Family

I have known and liked this band Marah for some time, but never quite “got” what it was about them that made people keep coming back. When I saw them live or listened to the recorded material, I saw and heard the talent, yet the attraction always seemed to elude me—they were a bit too unfocused, rowdy and rambling—they were always too loud, smoking too much, drinking too much. I would think, “those guys are really good--man if they ever focused they could be amazing.”

Well it has happened—they have and they are. They hit rock bottom, started from scratch, and came up with one of the best albums of 2004, work which rivals their masterwork “Kids in Philly.” Their shows are transcendent, mindboggling, hypnotic bursts of energy after which no one in the audience or onstage is left standing. And that is great, and that would be enough. But there’s more.

These people and their fans are—to risk descending into cliché—family. They accept you as one of their own whether you’ve seen them once or 50 times, whether you are a longtime fan or neophyte. Standing in the sweaty crowd at a Marah show, you are in a community of friends that welcomes you as though they’ve known you forever. These people don’t care if you don’t know this obscure b-side or that unreleased studio outtake. They love this music and these musicians so much that they are thrilled to find someone who cares about them as much as they do, who just flat out “gets it.” It’s as though every person whom they welcome into the fold of Marah reaffirms their belief not just in this band or this music but in the world at large. That somehow faith and hope survive in these chaotic times, and that the things we hold dear are still worth fighting for.

The generosity surrounding Marah extends beyond the fans to the band itself—when you are with them, you are welcomed as part of the family whether they are just meeting you or have known you for years. They want to make sure you had a good time at their show, and they mean it. They look you in the eye when they talk to you, and they really want to hear what you have to say—about music, about politics, about sports, about life. They will invite you out afterwards to have a beer or two (you will probably end up buying but you won’t even notice or care) and you will sit at the bar and just talk until you have lost all track of time. And you will forget that this is one of the guys who have just restored your faith in the power of rock’n’roll to save lives. He is just like you, just some person at the bar talking about life, trying to forget his problems for a while. And you leave shaking your head, thinking you have just found not just your new best friend(s) but your new family.

These guys are the real deal—they care about people and about the world around them. You hear it in their music, but more importantly, you see it in how they live their lives. You want to thank them somehow, but how? They have bestowed perhaps the best gift anyone could give to another human being in such times—they have given back your faith in others, have restored your belief that “the better angels of our nature” truly exist. Their fans, having long ago intuited this, keep coming back for more. They are loyal to a fault, and understandably so. So if you somehow still don’t quite understand what all the fuss is about even after having seen them perform, they will forgive you and then they will invite you back again. Because when you are in the community of Marah, either at a show or sharing beers in a dive bar in their beloved South Philadelphia, such things are unimportant—all that matters is that you are family and you are home.

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."---Robert Frost

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