Tuesday 15th November 2011
Well, I’ve never seen THIS before.
There are more people on stage when this gig starts than there are in the crowd.
Even in my own extremely minor musical career I’ve never encountered this before.
By the end of a gig, sure, when everybody has enjoyed the band sufficiently and gone home, but nobody has the heart to tell the band.
There was a pub gig I played in 1990 where we started out with around twenty fairly enthusiastic punters. Two hours of blaring original metal later it was just the bar staff, and I’m pretty sure they were only still there because they wouldn’t have gotten paid otherwise. We even played an encore for the barman.
But this is the Bull And Gate in buzzin’ North London. Yeah, I know England are playing football on the telly, but seriously … if I can make the effort with a dose of the man-flu and a cough that would not sound out of place in a 60–a-day man then so can everybody else.
The gig is a Club Fandango promotion featuring four bands. Its the first act I’m here to see though, so its an 8.00 start in a freezing, near-deserted room for Genna Marabese.
A little research on that internet reveals an intriguing set of influences – Joanna Newsom, the Velvet Underground, Hole, and so on. And in this day and age there’s no excuse for going to a gig without checking out the songs, which I have done and they all sound amazing, intriguing and pretty much original.
GM’s set is superb. Six piece band perfectly complements her doomy yet hummable songs. There are echoes of the likes of Anna Calvi here, and lots of chord progressions that owe less to rock and more to East European folk music.
But … Genna and her band ROCK. And you can dance to them, which is always good.
The key here is the songs, which are ragged and garagey, dark and countrified.The band play a very important part in creating a unique sound – she definitely needs to keep a hold of them. There isn’t a weak song played tonight, which is most unusual for an artist at such an early stage of her career, but We Are Animal and Masquerade are contrasting standouts.
And she avoids all the cornier stereotypes of the alt.girl-fronted-rock genre – if you’re not careful you end up coming over like some horrible big-haired early eighties “alternative” harpy. Much as I like The Machine, for instance, their girl singer Florence does occasionally strays into Toyahland.
Genna Marabese reminds me of early Tom Waits more than anyone else in terms of song structures and sound. Nearest female comparison I can think of is Lene Lovich (slightly Gothy, punky singer with a Balkan origin who had three strange and wonderful hits back in 1979, the era when left-field music could still get in the charts. Lucky Number was her big hit)
Its a crowded market, sure, but Genna’s uniqueness should assure her a place in it. There is nobody who sounds quite like this. And I admired the way she and her band didn’t let the sparse crowd bother them and still put on a great show. At least one of the bands that followed didn’t seem to be bothered to be honest.
By the end of the set the crowd has increased to the point where we comfortably outnumber the band. One day we’ll be able to say we saw Genna Marabese before she was famous. And so should you.
Mind you, coming out tonight made sure that the bug really got a hold of me to the point where I didn’t go out again for more than a week. But, had I unfortunately not survived, at least the last gig I ever attended would have been worth it.