Band performs at Sellersville Theater on Aug. 19
STORY WRITTEN BY ED CONDRAN
For Digital First Media
When the Boss requests to meet you, it’s an offer you can’t refuse.
When Marah’s vocalist-multi-instrumentalists Dave and Serge Bielanko left Asbury Park’s Stone Pony stage after showcasing their brilliant but underheralded second album “Kids in Philly” 16 years ago, Bruce Springseen’s late pal /bodyguard Terry Magovern approached the brothers.
“Bruce wants to see you over there is what Terry told us,” Dave Bielanko recalled. “He looked like he was out of “The Sopranos” said. But Terry was a sweetheart. He directed us over to the Stone Pony’s walk in freezer and there was Bruce, who caught our show.”
That was the start of a special relationship between Marah, which formed in Conshohocken 20-years ago and Springsteen, who became a paternal force in the Bielanko’s life. The Bielankos joined Springsteen on stage during the incendiary Christmas shows held at Asbury Park’s Convention Hall at the turn of the century. In 2008 Springsteen invited Dave Bielanko onstage during a show in Nashville.
“There were a lot of recording artists in Nashville he could have asked to join him,” Bielanklo said while calling from his home just outside of Lewisburg, PA. “But he asked me to come up to play “Rosalita.”
The Bielankos have enjoyed dinner at Springsteen’s Rumson home.
“I remember one time having a great time there with Bruce when (producer-drummer) Steve Jordan was there,” Bielanko said while calling from his Lewisburg home. “We were just talking music and having a blast. I remember being out with Bruce and him being so cool with us. ‘Let’s make sure the boys from Marah eat.”
Springsteen even played on Marah’s 2002 album “Float Away With the Friday Night Gods.”
“I think what initially connected us with Bruce is the musical geography between New Jersey and Philly,” Bielanko said. “There are common denominators. We’re both drawing from the East.”
Marah reissued “Kids in Philly” last October. The band’s second album is a throwback since it has that regional feel.
“When we recorded “Kids In Philly,” to me it had more of a Lou Reed feel to it,” Bielanko said. But most reviewers couldn’t help but compare it with Springsteen’s work.”
The album is filled with sonic slices of Philadelphia. There is banjo play that would make a Mummer proud. There are shout outs to the Point Breeze neighborhood, Christian street and Vietnamese barbers in South Philly.
The bonus is that Bielanko’s brother, vocalist-multi-instrumentalist Serge has rejoined the band after taking paternity leave for the last seven years.
Serge Bielanko was raising his three young children in Brooklyn but after going through a recent divorce he expressed an interest in his old band.
“I was thrilled to have Serge back,” Bielanko said. “Serge is the one who spearheaded this (“Kids in Philly” reissue). There’s an obvious connection between us. It’s always better to be with him onstage or making music. He’s incredibly talented and the chemistry between us is obvious. I’m excited that he’s with us. Serge makes such a difference in this band. I don’t think there’s a rock band that can touch us.”
Bielanko isn’t exaggerating. Marah is a throwback of a band, which delivers incendiary shows. Sweat pours from the brothers faces as the band rocks with an unbridled intensity, which is sorely lacking with the under 40 set.
No wonder Springsteen embraced Marah since they’re cut in his cloth, a gritty band with considerable talent and an uncommon work ethic. “Round Eye Blues” from “Kids in Philly” sounds like a lost Springsteen track. If the Boss recorded the hook-laden tune about a bitter Vietnam veteran, it would probably score airplay.
“If you see Bruce, suggest that to him,” Bielanko said. “That’ll put some wheels on our bus…I’m proud of our connection with Bruce. Who wouldn’t be proud of it. There is nobody like him but I also don’t think there’s anybody like us.”