When: Fri., Dec. 21 2012

MARAH In its 20 years, the Philadelphia band Marah has gone from scruffy, seat-of-their-pants emotionalism to overblown grandeur and back again. In the mid-aughts, these self-conscious Philly street poets accidentally became hip when “cooler” bands like Arcade Fire appropriated Marah’s mix of classic rock bombast and Bruce Springsteen obsession. (Hell, the Boss even belted backing vocals on Marah’s most overreaching LP, Float Away with the Friday Night Gods, in 2002.) Prior to that, Marah earned scorn for its E Street fixation. Hosannas from boomer scribes Stephen King and Nick Hornby reinforced Marah’s tag as dreary dad-rock, but even at its sappiest, the band somehow managed to touch the soul. Witness “Freedom Park,” in 2004, where chanted jump-rope rhymes transform boiler-plate “big city blues” lyrics into back-alley transcendence. Nowadays touring as an acoustic duo with sole remaining band-mate Christine Smith, founder Dave Bielanko strives to regain the rootsy ramshackle charm of Marah’s earliest LPs. He doesn’t quite hit that mark, but the duo gets props for shooting for the stars.

Pat Moran

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