Live: Marnie Stern Works Blue At The Rock Shop
Better than: Most Sarah Silverman routines
Marnie Stern talks about vaginas a lot. Maybe you knew this. Tonight we are celebrating the release of her pretty great new album (self-titled, her third), but this is not up for discussion. Instead, she touts her new blog (the "Vagina Monoblogue"), compares a pleasant sensation to "when the vagina rubs against the soft sheets," asks us whether two pounds of wings or "a Big Mac and McNuggets" are worse for you (she had the latter, her bassist the former), uses the word redonk, is referred to by said bassist as both "diva with a little d" and "John Cougar Mellencamp" when she flirts shamelessly with the 23-year-old soundman, asks her drummer whether one can get "a callus on the vajean," and muses as to whether she could conceivably trick Courtney Love into drinking her urine.
In between this chatter, she plays songs. The Rock Shop's young soundman is mercifully up to the task -- anything less than ideal circumstances and Marnie's frantic, fingertapped noise-pop dissolves into an incomprehensible, unpleasantly angry, and headache-inducing cloud of treble. It's shrill and sing-song-y and clattering and unnerving by design, of course, but tonight the guitar, bass, drums, and yelping vocals ring out rather than collapse inward, each a separate identifiable entity, allowing "Vibrational Match" to cohere and build momentum and morph into the rousing hometown anthem ("We are connected, New York!") it was seemingly always meant to be.
The Marnie Stern tunes are generally less frantic and more melodic than their predecessors, and that helps too, of course, "Cinco de Mayo" ("You will always be here! And here! And here!") a frenzied anthem all its own, "Risky Biz" settling into a concussive stoner-rock rumble. She looks beatific and thrilled through all of it, even during "For Ash," which every review/interview paints as a painful, personal, cathartic song for her, but there she is, finger-tapping with that winsome mixture of elation and total nonchalance. And after finishing off a 12-song set with the cacophonous "Build Her Confidence," she throws on a jacket and picks her way apologetically through a crowd loudly clamoring for an encore, preferring instead to hold court by the merch booth, perhaps the better to deliver quieter, more personal vagina-themed jokes. I would advise Courtney Love to drink whatever Marnie sees fit to offer her.
Critical Bias: I am in full support of Marnie launching a stand-up comedy sideline, if that's what this eventually comes to.
Overheard: "Sailing the seas of cheese!"
Random Notebook Dump: "I can't believe everyone came to the show -- I'm very excited!" she exclaimed at the beginning of the set, sounding just for a second, in I assure you a tremendously appealing way, exactly like Gilbert Gottfried.
The Crippled Jazzer
The Things You Notice
Cinco de Mayo
Transparency Is the New Mystery
Build Her Confidence