The following was an email exchange on Wednesday, September 28th:
Hope the tour is going (well) so far.
So, I heard that the show tonight is now happening at the Barbary? Any truth to the rumor?
Yes, true! It's been moved!
I'll see you there?!
Times like these I’m happy we’re no longer reliant on carrier pigeon, Morse code and the pony express as means of communication. A last minute venue change put Canadian psych-poppers No Joy and Marnie Stern and her crew at The Barbary, which is comparably intimate and cozy next to the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, which is a church. Though the reasoning behind the switch remains a mystery, it did score me an opportunity to check out The Barbary, to which I had never been.
I got to the venue just before 7pm, and was informed that doors would not be opening till the big hand was on the “12.” I think it was about 7:15 when the amassing crowd was let in, which at that point, numbered at about six. It didn’t take too long to walk around and inspect the décor, obligatory band stickers, show flyers and tags. There’s an offshoot bar area upstairs dubbed Barbarella. You can hear the music while chugging a cold one, but you’re otherwise cut off from the show.
By about 8pm, No Joy had begun their set, a Sonic Youth-meets-Shangri-Las homage whose reverb crowded around the audience like walls of insulation. I would classify them perhaps as a more abrasive and noise-driven Vivian Girls, which I mean to be taken as complimentary. I did like their set, and though they were mostly shrouded by amplification (vocally inaudible), you could find the melodies. You could definitely get into their speed when they kicked it up a notch.
Thirty minutes were allotted for No Joy and Marnie Stern was given about the same amount of time:
“Hello, Philadelphia! We’d talk more, but we only have a short time to play.”
By 8:45, another thirty or so people had arrived. With the last minute change in venue, it’s likely that some prospective attendees showed up at the cancelled spot. Plus, the show coordinators put the thirty-minute slots in place, which consequently left Stern and her touring band - bassist Nithin Kalvakota and drummer Vince Rogers - no real time to engage with the crowd, as they are typically known to do.
In spite of that, Stern and band were remarkably sharp. Most of the material played was from her most recent album, the self-titled Marnie Stern, with songs like ‘Cinco De Mayo’, ‘ Risky Biz’ and ‘Nothing Left.’ The scattershot drumming never overwhelmed Stern’s fretwork and the low end provided a solid backdrop. The crowd responded well to ‘The Crippled Jazzer’ and participated happily in the round of claps that preceded ‘Prime’. At one point, Stern asked if the band had time for three more songs, which sort of reminded the audience that they were getting a rushed set thanks to time constraints. Even so, they played really well and made the most out of the situation. Stern closed her set with, “Thanks for finding the venue!”
A line (or mob) gathered around the merch table seconds after she left the stage. Once the gangs of eager merch-hounds broke up and began to leave, I got to talk to Stern briefly about the remaining dates for this tour and received a lesson on how Canadians pronounce “pasta,” which then led into a whole conversation about whether or not they also pronounce the “H” in “herbs.” They don’t, or I should say at least, the Canadians with whom Stern was touring didn’t. A rather intoxicated young man waiting to buy a shirt found the whole exchange “charming.”
A No Joy/Marnie Stern split 7” was made available for the tour, so I picked one up and had it autographed before I left. I was sent off with a hug.