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Lawyers, Guns & Money – Marah & The Happiest Day of My Life

Posted by February 1st, 2006 No Comments »

Lawyers, Guns & Money – Marah
By Gabe Baker

Marah plays Seattle this week, and I’m gonna be there. I’m gonna be there even though it’s a Thursday night and I won’t get home until 2:30 a.m. I’m gonna be there even though my kids will be shaking me awake less than three hours later. I’m gonna be there even though my wife is 8 months pregnant and I’ve got a deposition on Friday and a mortgage I can’t pay unless I bill 10 hours a day, every day.

I’m gonna be there even though Marah’s previous Seattle show was like an awkward conversation with a best friend you haven’t seen in years. Even though they’ll never be able to match my glory days memory of the winter of ’98, when Let’s Cut The Crap and Hook Up Later on Tonight was just out and I was a kid in Philly who dropped dead during the first verse of "Reservation Girl,” then went to heaven on the chorus.

And how could they? Surely it could not have happened how I remembered it. Life is not an indie-rock fairy tale. There never was a boy raised by tongues-speaking, hand-waving, Bible-quoting, ex-hippie, well-meaning-but-ultimately-misguided fundamentalist Christians in the cultural wasteland known as Yakima, Washington. (When entering Yakima on I-82 by way of Wapato and other points south, a sign once read, "Welcome to Yakima, the Palm Springs of Washington” which raises the question, "If Yakima is the Palm Springs of Washington, why are all the old Jews speaking Spanish?")


Lawyers, Guns & Money – Marah By Gabe Baker

Marah plays Seattle this week, and I’m gonna be there. I’m gonna be there even though it’s a Thursday night and I won’t get home until 2:30 a.m. I’m gonna be there even though my kids will be shaking me awake less than three hours later. I’m gonna be there even though my wife is 8 months pregnant and I’ve got a deposition on Friday and a mortgage I can’t pay unless I bill 10 hours a day, every day.

I’m gonna be there even though Marah’s previous Seattle show was like an awkward conversation with a best friend you haven’t seen in years. Even though they’ll never be able to match my glory days memory of the winter of ’98, when Let’s Cut The Crap and Hook Up Later on Tonight was just out and I was a kid in Philly who dropped dead during the first verse of "Reservation Girl," then went to heaven on the chorus.

And how could they? Surely it could not have happened how I remembered it. Life is not an indie-rock fairy tale. There never was a boy raised by tongues-speaking, hand-waving, Bible-quoting, ex-hippie, well-meaning-but-ultimately-misguided fundamentalist Christians in the cultural wasteland known as Yakima, Washington. (When entering Yakima on I-82 by way of Wapato and other points south, a sign once read, "Welcome to Yakima, the Palm Springs of Washington" which raises the question, "If Yakima is the Palm Springs of Washington, why are all the old Jews speaking Spanish?")

This imaginary boy certainly did not serendipitously meet a giant who turned into his big, sweaty Best Friend Forever. And his Best Friend Forever didn’t have the Cool Uncle. And that Cool Uncle did not really kick down mix tapes featuring Pixies, Clash, Echo, etc.. Those mix tapes could not have sparked pilgrimages to Seattle’s Cellophane Square Records. And said trips certainly didn’t lead to the acquisition of The Rocket’s 100 Best Albums with the Replacements’ Let It Be at #1.

Life isn’t a fucking Oliver Stone movie, Jim Morrison didn’t emit a Christ-like glow and the Replacements never saved anyone’s life. "Unsatisfied" never cured anyone’s self-loathing or stress-related barf disorder by making him feel less like a hell-bound freak of Satan and more like just a dude who liked to masturbate and listen to songs with gritty guitars and pretty melodies. There was no make-believe guy who thought his life would be complete if only he saw the fierce, young "˜Mats play one of their legendary live shows instead of a depressing half-solo gig at a fancy Portland concert hall where the pretend guy and his brother showed up four hours early to claim the best seats, only to discover that no one else wanted them ("Let me see the tickets again. Are you sure this is the right day?" "Yeah." "But why isn’t anyone else here?").

No mythological hero ever chose to go to law school in Philly due to not being able to think of anything else to do, and a combination of factors too stupid to get into didn’t leave Mr. Happy Pants struggling to get out of bed every morning.

With that disclaimer, here’s how I remember it: Philadelphia Weekly did a cover story on Marah in conjunction with the release of Let’s Cut the Crap. The article dropped all the right names to drag me down to the Khyber Pass. The night is a blur. All I remember for sure is a Velvet Underground cover, "Reservation Girl," and telling my wife over and over that it was the happiest night of my life, which in retrospect could have been phrased better.

Following the show I purchased Let’s Cut the Crap as well as a t-shirt with the old baseball-style Marah logo on front and the number eight on the back. It didn’t fit me then and I couldn’t get it over my neck now. We saw three more Marah shows that season; each one got me off. I’m pretty sure they closed one show with "Limb." They played it for a half hour and, as one instrument at a time cut out, they stood in a line clapping hands and stomping feet until all that was left was the banjo. That may not have happened.

I graduated from law school and moved back to Seattle, and Marah released Kids in Philly. At that point, I thought they were the Rolling Stones. Float Away and 20,000 Streets came along with the kids, the bills, and the rat race. Marah played Seattle in support of 20,000 Streets. The band may have been tired, but the crowd didn’t give them any help. Seattle may just be too ironic, too detached to be saved by rock n’ roll.

Now If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry is a fine new album, and I’m excited for the show but the wistful fact is, the magic is real but elusive. Also, no one is getting any younger, and the first cut really is the deepest, although it really is not better to burn out than fade away. Better to grow old, gracefully or no.

Fuck it, they say it better than me.

"Comin’ in my room in the middle of the night
When I’m listenin’ to the punk rock radio station by the moonlight.
Get outta here Dad.
I got my own thing goin’ on.
My own thing.
And I ain’t never gonna stop.
I ain’t never gonna stop."

– "Punk Rock Radio" from Let’s Cut the Crap

"Don’t expect much these days, buddy,
Coupla beers and life is so funny.
You’ll be coming back sooner or later
And we’ll be waiting for you."

"Sooner or Later" from If You Didn"™t Laugh, You"™d Cry


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