Recently, the beautiful, talented and incredibly nice musician Marian Call decided to do a major tour and take on all of the 50 states. She calls it the 49>50 Tour, since Alaska, where she lives, is the 49th state. She came to Arizona fairly early in the tour, and played last Wednesday evening at a house in the Phoenix area. Despite being the middle of the week, we trekked the 122 miles down to meet her and see her show. She thanked us multiple times for driving so far. She even said we got extra points for making the trip but she wasn’t sure which game the points were for!
Marian Call is well trained in music and grew up surrounded by it. I am fairly new to her music, but was drawn to her because of the kind of person she is. I also figured, how can so many geeks be wrong? I knew her live music wouldn’t disappoint, and it didn’t. Her voice is so beautiful that you wonder if it is even possible for her to miss a note. Apparently it is possible, but only when she does it on purpose. Her melodious voice lends itself well to every style of music she sings. Her music runs the gamut from geek music to love songs to a cover of a country style song originally sung by the guy who runs an open mike night in Alaska. Her song titles show her range and include such treasures as “I Wish I Were a Real Alaskan Girl,” “The Volvo Song,” “I’ll Still Be a Geek After Nobody Thinks It’s Chic,” “It’s Good to Have Jayne On Your Side” and “We’re Out for Blood,” which is a song about zombies. My daughter remarked, however, that it has to be about vampires and not zombies because the lyrics don’t say, “We’re out for brains.” Can’t argue with that logic.
Her guitar player for this part of the tour, Scott Barkan, did an excellent job as well. Even in such a small setting as a house concert, Marian fills the air with her voice and Scott with his guitar. You are surrounded by the music. They use just enough equipment to make for a complete experience without being too loud for the neighbors. Marian Call’s music needs very little accompaniment, and Scott’s guitar was sufficient for most of it. But she also does her own percussion, using such instruments as a kazoo, a rain stick, a tambourine and an interesting old typewriter.
I had never been to a house concert before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. We RSVP’d to the proper email address, got the address and printed out directions. Marian was nice enough to let us show up an hour early to chat and feed her dinner. We visited for a while, and then other people started showing up. We knew no one, but most people there were pretty friendly. There were almost two dozen people by the time the concert began. Fortunately, one other couple brought their young son, so my kids weren’t the only ones there.
Marian played from about 7:45pm to 10pm, with a break about 2/3 of the way through. I didn’t count how many songs she sang, but she picked quite a variety, including songs from each album. All of them were better live than recorded. I have found that hearing music live gives you a whole new appreciation for the recorded versions. She would also add commentary and asides to many of the songs, which made them funnier and applicable to that particular concert. She also shared the background for many of the songs, explaining why she wrote or sang them.
At the break, people paid their money, bought her CDs, and generally gushed about the concert. We saw a satellite fly over. When it was over, we said our goodbyes pretty quickly, as we had another 122 miles to drive home. I’m sure we don’t get the award for driving the farthest to see a Marian Call concert, but I am glad we made the effort. It was so worth the drive.
All in all, I would definitely go to a house concert again. Marian says she enjoys them the most, and I can see why. They bring people together for one night, often complete strangers, which can sometimes facilitate more lasting friendships. In addition, you get to hear live music and support the independent arts. Helping one person achieve success inspires others to take chances. Additionally, you can directly support the artist, instead of a venue taking a cut.
I wish more musicians would do house concert tours. Listening to live music is something that used to be ubiquitous in our culture, before recorded music was widespread. Concerts were attended, balls were held and there was usually at least one person in each family who knew how to play an instrument. Live music is so much more participatory, even if you’re just clapping or swaying with the melody. We should all try to take our kids to live music when possible. It’s not like listening to mp3s on their iPod. It is all about being a part of the experience.
I talked to Marian about us bringing our kids to the concert. We tend to take the kids with us wherever we go, partly from necessity and partly from wanting to expose them to real life. Marian agreed that it is important to take kids out in the world, including to places that some people might choose to get a baby sitter and leave them at home. Kids need to get out to learn how to properly act. If you don’t take them anywhere, they’ll never learn, so you’ll never take them, etc. It’s a vicious cycle.
Marian Call has plenty of her tour left to go. Most states still remain unvisited. Check her tour schedule on her website, and see if you can make a show. Or better yet, host a house concert yourself! But either way, try to go see her. If you are lucky enough to see her play at a house concert, you will get to actually talk and laugh with her. You don’t get to do that often at a concert these days.
Marian gave me a couple of CD download codes for her full album Got to Fly. We will give the codes away to two lucky GeekDad readers. To win, write a tribute haiku to Marian or her music in the comments and we will pick two random winners in the next week. Make sure to leave an email address so we can contact you if you win!
Note: All of these photos are copyright 2010 Eric Fiallos, all rights reserved, used with permission. I tried to take plenty of photos myself, but my camera battery died before I got any good ones.