Marnie Stern definitely feels like an artist on the verge of something. Whether it is indie stardom or technical brilliance or both, I'm not sure. You would think that a big write up in the Sunday New York Times Arts & Entertainment section would mean she is beyond the verge. But the sparse attendance at Monday night's show at the Entry proved she is still relatively unknown, at least in fly-over land. Part rock star, part girl next door, Marnie Stern blew me away with her sound check. She and her fellow guitarist shredded through 10 second of speed guitar, looked up at the audience, grinned and said "Okay" and launched into her set.
You do not want to duel banjos with these two unless you have a death wish. Stern's guitar playing has a deceptive metal sound to it with the fast and fluid notes she produces by "tapping" the fretboard (something I guess Eddie Van Halen was known for.) Her vocals, however, are decidedly punk and maybe a little pop. Hailing from NYC, Stern released her first album earlier this year, In Advance of the Broken Arm, to great critical acclaim. (For the record, I love that title.) Her music is anything but ordinary and it will have most rock critics scrambling to come up with a new 'prog' category to fit her in. Joining her on stage was no less than a kick ass duo of Zach Hill (from Hella) on drums and Robbie Moncrieff on guitar. The only thing disappointing about the set was that it was way to short.
I think Stern was enjoying playing as much as everyone was enjoying watching her play. Of course, that is how it is supposed to be, but I think we have all seen bands or performers who look like they are having about as much fun as doing their laundry. Not Marnie Stern. Even if she was just being polite, she seemed modestly thrilled to be rocking out. I was modestly thrilled too.