MARNIE STERN at Parts & Labour, Tuesday, April 16. Rating: NNN
In the case of Marnie Stern's music, what can sound confusing on record makes even less sense live. The New York City singer/guitarist prefers choppiness to groove and, live, sloppiness to perfection, making for a head-scratching audience experience that never quite turns into head-bopping.
The noise-pop musician's unique playing style - constant fret-tapping, basically - is flashy enough to get a basement bar full of fans craning their necks for a look. But tapping can be difficult to hear, especially over someone like Kid Millions, the busiest drummer on the planet. I wanted so badly to crank up her guitar.
But Stern seemed at ease and happy, joking with bassist Nithin Kalvakota that this was their "we don't give a hoot tour." Crouched over her mic, her blond side braid unravelling, she croaked out high, difficult melodies from fourth album The Chronicles Of Marnia while her fingers flew. Now and then a pre-recorded loop kicked in that upped the cohesion and power.
A messy spectacle, but a spectacle nonetheless.