- Sorry, it was crowded. But look, she’s tapping!
Live at The Rock Shop
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
Even between songs, Marnie Stern doesn’t so much talk as she does sing, and it hits you like a ton of bricks: her speaking voice is loud and piercing, extremely rhythmic and surprisingly engaging. She sounds like that one girl in your office who you’re friends even though you know she was in a sorority and definitely wouldn’t have spoken to you in college. It’s fascinating—especially when she’s talking about vaginas, as she was for much of last night. She told us she’s started a new blog called the Vagina Monoblog, which, jesus, she really has. She instigated a drinking game, even, where each time she mentioned her or your or anyone else’s lady-part, it was bottoms up for everyone. “No wonder you like her so much,” I heard one woman say to her very much in-the-bag male companion.
But of course there are many reasons to like her so much, not the least of which is the very good self-titled album she released yesterday. It’s a sprawling, noisy affair that’s immediately mesmerizing for its displays of technical proficiency, but it grows more and more likable with each listen, too, as you realize it’s the first time her vocal melodies actually qualify as melodies. It adds an element of playfulness to an album that’s otherwise just relentlessly pummeling.
Live, though, for the sold-out record release show at The Rock Shop, it’s hard to focus on anything aside from the relentless pummeling. Her vocals become something of an afterthought, literally: as Stern looks down to play her signature, tapped-out guitar lines, she sometimes forgets to sing into the mic, and it creates a strange, disorienting effect as her voice comes in and out.
Adding to the disorientation is the crack rhythm section she’s got on tour with her at the moment—Bassist Nithin Kalvakota and drummer Vince Rogers come as close to stealing the show from Stern as anyone possibly could. Kalvakota’s bass playing is sharp and aggressive, mids cranked so that it can’t help but stand out in the mix. Rogers is truly something to behold behind the drums, too, as he lifts moves from the same scattered, jazz-influenced playbook used by post-rock bands the world over in the 90s. It’s always been my favorite type of drumming to watch, and he does it as well as anyone.
Impressive as the three of them are individually, it’s the strange, prideful racket they make together that’s transcends impressive and becomes special. They move forward in deafening unison much of the time, and then one person suddenly veers off. And then so do the others, until it seems they’re not even listening to one other. And then before you know it, when you were least expecting it, they fall right back into line. It’s a dance they do to great effect all night long. No wonder we like her so much.