Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Musical Medication

I can't sing. At all. I also can't play an instrument. After quitting gymnastics I took piano lessons for, like, three whole weeks before deciding I was going to learn to play the guitar instead. Never did learn to play the guitar. I think a brief stint snowboarding caught my attention shortly thereafter. Perhaps that's why musicians fascinate me. I am in awe of anyone that can create a tune that dances in my head long after the music stops. Not only the tune, but someone who can link words together. Like threading popcorn onto a string destined for Christmas tree stardom. Word after word... link 'em all together, hang that string on the tune and you've got yourself a song.

The Surge has arrived home from Nashville with a whole slew of songs. I heard the musical skeletons of some of them a while ago.. The skeletons have done gone and grown tendons, ligaments, flesh and blood. They are living, breathing songs! It's so exciting to hear the progression. Words on lined notebook paper, chords plucked on a guitar.. then he goes away, sometimes ironically to a studio called "The Magic Shop" and ABRACADABRA! He returns with these songs. Stories from his life. From my life, your life, from everyone's life.

There is nothing better than hearing a new song you love. It's a best friend that understands you. The song gets it. It knows how you're feeling. I'm the kind of girl who plays the same song over and over and over again. Musical medication. Not only does music medicate, it inspires, causes introspection, reflection.. A song can take you back to your youth like no picture can. It can bring a person from the past, gone fuzzy 'round the edges with the passage of time, into sharp focus. Suddenly you remember. Ever been drunk in a bar when a particular song leaps out of the jukebox and slaps you in the face? Suddenly, you're standing out in the frigid winter night, finger jammed in one ear, cell phone in the other as you drunk dial the person with whom you shared that song? Yes. You have.

I'm continually amazed by these two brothers from a working class Pennsylvania town. The boys who dressed like the guys from Kiss, substituting ketchup for blood, boys who taught themselves to play the guitar, boys who played in a garage band with their high school buddies for years before starting their own band. The brothers who, despite fights, distance, crazy girlfriends and poverty managed to stick with each other for a decade - through circumstances that would have driven anybody else insane. And here they are... still playing. Still touring. For one reason... because they love it. The music.

During the long distance portion of our courtship, The Surge asked me what album he could buy that would best reflect me, my personality. He wanted to listen to the album and learn more about me through the songs he knew I loved. Under my instruction he promptly bought Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. That album was me. It was my summer of 2004. I listened to it so much, so hard that I had to go buy another copy.

I asked The Surge which album I should buy that best reflects him. (if you, gentle reader, fell in love tomorrow, which album would you tell someone to buy that best reflects you?) And so, one hot Sunday in August Max and I drove into the Utah mountains listening to Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge of Town. I listened hard. And I understood. Fell deeper in love. We had conversations through the music we loved, my husband and I. Had he told me to go buy Nickelback or Matchbox 20 and said "this is me" I don't know that I'd have married him.

The Surge grew up listening to Springsteen. Probably dreamed of being Springsteen. I think Springsteen has a lot to do with why The Surge is such a great songwriter. Someone posted this video on the Marah message board. Although I've heard stories, I've never seen the video. Imagine growing up to play on stage with your idol. S'like Mark Twain getting a kick outta me and inviting me to read one of my chapters at a book signing of his at Barnes & Noble... which would never happen for a million and one reasons, not the least of which is the fact he's dead and Twain probably wouldn't be a Barnes & Noble kinda guy. Regardless, I love this video.

Reader Comments (38)

Serge is wearing his Franks Auto Garage shirt. Perfect. Great video!
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRaj
I agree completely. I have always called it "Music Therapy" and I just don't know how people live without it. It has saved me tons of money on shrinks over the years and I didn't even have to spill my guts.
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJustified
That was so unbelievably cool I don't know what to say!

Loved the video!
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJules in L.A.
For someone to understand me they must listen to The Replacements. Any album.
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
Okay, okay. If forced I'd go with Let It Be
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
That is so fucking cool. I can't even imagine how amazing that would be!
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersandra
Just came back from Nashville. Saw John Michael Montgomery jam for a bit at The Stage while Kid Rock and whats-her-name were across the street at Tootsie's. Did the Surge and the boys play anywhere??

Don't know which Album is "me." It would likely be Randy Newman, although the "Sesame Street Book and Record" (with the original cast/1970) springs to mind. My sister and I played that every day when we were kids.
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWry Bri
Wry Bri! Marah played at The Mercy Lounge in Nashville on the 4th.
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
Just watched the video today, too. Twice, calling my son over to watch with me. Look...look at Marah here...with Bruce!

You can see the excitement watching them. I could feel it. Dave is in a zone, playing. To me, he looks classic Dave. Lost in the music, rocking. Serge...he is radiating. Maybe it's more apparent since he isn't distracted by a guitar. He looks so happy to be up there with Bruce, BRUCE for godsake! and it made me smile. To me, he wasn't the performer I've come to watch time after time. The vest missing, here he was a fan, a Bruce fan, just like me. I could relate. It made me smile.

I've loved Bruce forever, too. A lot of people my age don't get it, get him, get his songs. Pick an album to describe me? I'd definitely say Bruce. I'd be Greetings from Asbury and Darkness rolled into one.
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTab
Great Video. Even though I've never seen Bruce (I'd love to) or Marah (wish they'd come to Boise)that was so exciting to watch. Back in the 70's I had a blind date with a guy from Philly that LOVED Bruce, so I have been a fan ever since. It's so funny that yor favorite Wilco CD is also mine. That's all I listened to last year. Still can listen to it over and over.
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah
Ooh, your husband's brother is pretty cu-ute. Is he single?
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercitywendy

Reason One: Marah has been recording. I can't wait to hear me some new Marah music.

Reason Two: That video was so much fun to watch - Serge looked sooo happy and excited. And when the song was done and the first thing he did was hug Dave...just great!

Reason Three: My husbands favourite album of all time is Darkness by Springsteen and I didn't like it when I met him. I worked to listen to it, started to understand it and him and eventually loved it. The first present I ever got Rob was a signed Darkness album (from EBAY) and it hangs on our wall to this day...your post brought me back to my courtship with Rob - thank you Monica...

I am happy...
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
I think, off the top of my head, mine would be Indigo Girls, Rites of Passage. My Bruce album would be Born to Run.

I love this post. I love popping here, late at night like I am, and seeing what's been happening today.
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
Video, schmideo, I was there that night! Great, great show. Thanks for the memories.

P.S. Darkness, great choice! Me, I'm probably Tunnel of Love, though Darkness could be a close second.

P.P.S. Love Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot too.
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
P.P.P.S. Can't wait to hear Marah's new material!
August 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Oh wow! That video is just the coolest!
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSloopy
This post made me nostalgic about getting nostalgic. I used to have this kind of relationship with music. Never went anywhere without my walkman/discman/ipod (in progressive order), had flashbacks to go with nearly every song out there. But in the past few years, I've completed backed away from that. I don't know why. I never listen to music. Ever. Not even in the car. The last time period in my life to which music is attached is probably 2003, with a couple of songs that go with events in 2004.

So when I try to think of an album that best defines me, I come up with nothing. Honestly, I think a record full of elevator music best describes my current self. God. How boring. If this question were posed to me 3 years ago (the last time music was a part of me) I would have said Sleater-Kinney's Call the Doctor.
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramanda b
"For someone to understand me they must listen to The Replacements. Any album.
August 18, 2006 | Gemma"

ATTA' GIRL! You rock!

My album is Paul Westerberg, STEREO/MONO
STEREO because of the internal tug of war and the haphazard brilliance, and MONO never stops.

Great post, Monica!
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
This morning, my husband headed off to his 65th Dylan show right after we scored Stones tickets for a show this fall in Atlantic City - at an affordable price, for a change. Music has been the absolute foundation of our marriage. The first night my husband took me home after a Suicide Commandos show at the Longhorn Bar in Minneapolis, Minnesota, did he turn the lights low, look deep into my eyes, try any of a number of smooth get-her-into-bed moves? No, he went immediately to my record collection. And if he hadn't seen that Velvet Underground album I truly don't think he would have spent the night. Six months later we were married.

I was at this Marah/Bruce event, and it was glorious. My favorite Marah/Bruce moment came, however, at the Stone Pony a few years earlier, when I got to see them share the stage for the first time ever with Bruce. They all three were on the same microphone singing Twist and Shout. I never ever, before or since, saw two happier faces. Shake it up, baby.

August 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
music: the fabric of our lives

August 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterleggo
'Had he told me to go buy Nickelback or Matchbox 20 and said "this is me" I don't know that I'd have married him.'

This reminds me of how when I was 15 my best friend and I made a promise that we wouldn't marry anyone who didn't like Van Morrison..

13 years later we are both in long-term relationships with people who love Van the Man..

Great post. I think my album might be Paul Simon's 'Graceland' - that album has played consistenly throughout my whole life. Or else maybe 'Hunky Dory' by David's hard to pick one!
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramy dee
Hello Monica
I found your blog after seeing Marah for the first time last month in Springfield Il.
They were GREAT!!!!
My husband Brian is in a band called The Bottle Rockets,We live in St.Louis Missouri.
Marah opened that show in Springfield and this is what Brian had to say afterwards about Marah on the Brox message board:

Saw our old friends the Bielanko brothers. If you've never seen Marah, go do it ASAP. They've never been anything less than amazing. Were amazing "back in the day", are amazing now. They blew our asses away, if you ask me...& I ain't gonna let that stand. Serge and Dave, we're comin' to GETCHA!!!
I thought Marah were fantastic. I like me a rock star, if the rock star's a good 'un.
I like how they're rock stars, to what end? Just for the sake of rock.
Ain't 'cause they're rollin' in dough, or playin' to huge crowds.
Takes a certain type, to still be able to "get it up", in the face of adversity.
Inspired, solely by music, to rise above their surroundings.
To totally ignore the fact that they're playing in a cheesy hotel ballroom, to a small crowd, in the middle of Illinois, on a Thursday night.
I can't do that.
Reminded me of stories of early Springsteen.
They hit the stage like an atomic bomb went off.
I'm down with the Bielanko boys.
Ain't no shoe gazin' at a Marah show, that's for sure...

Brian is also a HUGE Bruce fan.
Here is another quote from Brian on Bruce:
I love Springsteen.
He's about the only one who still can get me all choked up at the notion of the importance of this mysterious thing called "rock and roll".
If he ever got jaded about rock and roll, he never let it show.
Seems like you either get him, or, you don't.
If I get deep into Springsteen memories, it can make me cry. He's made me cry, just by taking me away from my lameass self. Making me forget all the bad stuff, and just making me believe there's really no reason to ever surrender.
I have to go back to him, from time to time, just as a "booster shot", to keep me from giving up on damn near everything.
I don't really know how he does it. It's not his lyrics, it's not his music, it's like he puts out something "bigger" than just lyrics and music.
People who don't "get" him, look at people who do, with total confusion in their eyes.
Bruce either saves/focuses your life, or, he doesn't offer much for you.
I still remember, after the "Born In The USA" show, in St. Louis, talkin' to Jeff Tweedy, and, Jay Farrar about it.
Me and Tweedy cried at the show, Jay fell asleep.
That's how Bruce is.
I shudder to think where I might be, if I had never gotten into him...

Anyway,I thought that you might get a kick out of this-plus I have wanted an excuse to write to you and say thanks for sharing your stories,pictures and videos!
That Bruce video gave me goosebumps!
You must be so proud!
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commentershuga deluxe
That album, the one that defines me, has changed over time. It used to be Murmur by R.E.M. Then it was New Adventures in Hi Fi, still R.E.M. Ask me today, and I hand you Kids in Philly.

EDW and I were at the next Bruce show, two nights after the one in the video. I wore my Marah shirt, the one that co-opts the WaWa logo. Several people that night told me I was one show too late, that my boys were on stage the other night. I was bummed, but at the same time so happy that they were up there with their childhood hero.

That's the thing about these guys, and this band: how many people are happy for Nickelback? How many people are happy for Matchbox 20? Who out there is glad that those dudes have fame and fortune? Please. But I got a chill watching that video because Serge and Dave are clearly beyond elated.

A friend of mine, a guy I know and love, doesn't get passion. He just doesn't get it. He works in the music business, so I understand his detachment, but still: he doesn't get why my wife and I are so into this band. He likens it to "loving" a professional sports team and its players...who can be emotionally attached to guys who are just out there trying to make a buck?

If only more people could open up their souls and let music speak to them. Drop the pretense and the lower their guard and just let music seep into their fabric. We're a stick-in-the-ass people, we really are. We relegate our real poets and songwriters to the fringe and embrace the treacly pseudo-emotion churned out by the mainstream entertainment industry. We confuse obvious tugs at the heartstrings - Nicholas Sparks, anyone? - with real emotional depth. We shun intelligent wit for Larry the Cable Guy - the guy's funny, no doubt, but if that's the heights of American humor then we're in a shitload of trouble.

Anyway, sorry for the rant, but that video and this topic got me fired up. It's the passion, that's all.
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdu_dragons
Since I've never seen them play together, I'll have to say my my best Bruce/Marah memory is when Bruce saw my Marah spaghetti and meatballs tee-shirt before a show and we chatted about Marah. It's making me smile like an idiot as I type this....
August 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTab
Holy Shit. Totally off topic, but girls, can you point me to this post and du_dragons' reply when I next wonder why I married the guy?



August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEDW
And that du_dragons is why we are friends! See you in a few weeks - great post...
August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
In a sentimental way, my eyes moistened by that video and what you wrote. I grew up being a musician's daughter, so I fully understand why you love this video. I've seen that awestruck face of your hubby on my father a few times. Every time my dad would play with someone famous or one of his idols, I would get emotional over the whole thing. It's a beautiful thing to witness his reactions in their presence. He always worked so hard at doing what he loves and never quite "made it" but he kicks ass on bass and he continues to play every weekend...whenever, wherever. To love what you do is very important in life and I learned that from him. No matter if you "make it" or not. To do what you love keeps a smile on your face and a profound feeling of happiness when you start, get to the meat(heart & soul) of it, and then complete.

Marah is awesome! It appears that they are "making it" and that is truly a remarkable, excitingly wonderful thing. :)I've heard their stuff, I've told my friends to check them out and I've learned about them and you through your words. It's all just so inspiring...everything...your whole story. This story, in particular, will be filed away in my memory cabinet under the 'Follow Your Dreams' file.
August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterValerie
I was in the first row at this show...using a ticket I scored on ticketmaster online that afternoon. I decided to celebrate my very first legitimate 1st row ticket ever by making a sign and holding it up.(so what if i was 28 years old at the time!)

I sat in the parking lot at the tailgate and couldn't decide what song to put on my sign. I wanted something he hadn't played yet, but something that they could play without rehearsal. I also wanted something fun. I also wanted a song that when i tell people.."Bruce played _______ off of my sign" that it wouldn't lose me points with my bruce buddies for being too lame of a choice. After much thinking and asking my tailgate buddies I finally arrived at Raise Your Hand.

I held up my sign everytime Bruce came down the walkway towards me and I know he saw it. When Bruce brought out Dave and Serge I just about lost it. I was so frigging thrilled for them, that it didn't matter that I could barely see them(in reality the front row seats all the way at the ends have quite a limited view of the stage). I knew how important this moment was for them. I was so ecstatic for them. Then they start playing Raise your hands!!! I just about lost it. I quickly realized that this had to have been soundchecked and that's probably why my friends who had heard the soundcheck from the parking lot agreed with my choice to put "Raise your hands" on my sign. I didn't care. I know my sign didn't effect anything in the set that night, but to hear the song I was looking for, with the Marah boys onstage no less was pretty damn priceless.

Fast Forward to the first house concert at Drew's house. A few weeks before I was transporting something or other in my truck and found that sign still in there for almost 2 years. I decided to give it to Marah and tell them my little story. Not sure if it made it to the wall of the rehearsal studio or not, but it was a really good memory for me and to share it with Serge out on Drew's deck made my day!

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Jo
Now I'm going to respond to my own posting and say that I should have entered this in the Night of Phidelity contest but I sort of forgot about it till just seeing this video posted! Damn..too little too late!
August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Jo
...yup! I'm definitely a new fun of Marah from Poland:) I can image how amazing was being on stage with Bruce, great video, and as Richelle said before I love the hug of two brothers at the end that was so real and it shows exactly what you describe above:)

my music hmmm I think... it would be ever despite of changes in my head:), so it's pearl jam - it could be each album, it's kind of me in high-school, and bob marley - his music give me believe in my dreams - (it's kind of me travel in USA) and some polish albums (we've got some great music here as well)
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
I've been reading your blog for a while now. I love it, but I've never commented. I think your writing is fabulous. The Bruce video...amazing!

If I had to pick an album to define me, I'd probably go with anything by Edwin McCain, or maybe Willy Porter's High Wire Live...hmm.

Keep writing. You rock!
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrownie
This whole thing was really fucking cool!!!!

I was listening to the Marah show at the North Star last night and was thinking about the you guys....

I hope your well!!!!
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
Very cool. I would probably wet my pants if I met my hero, but I'm just like that.
August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHales
Damn. I'm so struck by the idea of sharing an album title with a person like it's a piece of your soul for them to know. Beautiful.
Thanks for sharing this.
Mine would be Patty Griffin, Living With Ghosts. I hope that someday, someone asks.

August 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteremily
what are your top 10 favorite songs of Marah??
August 26, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah
Oooh Okay! I'll bite!

1. Fever (Let's Cut The Crap)
2. Phantom Eyes (Let's Cut The Crap)
3. Formual Cola Dollar Draft (LCTC)
4. Boat (LCTC)
5. Faraway You (Kids In Philly)
6. Point Breeze (Kids In Philly)
7. Catfisherman (Kids In Philly)
8. Soul (Float Away With The Friday Night Gods)
9. People Of The Underground (Float Away)
10. Pizzeria (20,000 Streets Under The Sky)
11. Sooner Or Later (If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry)
12. So What If We're Outta Tune (IYDLYC)
13. The Hustle (IDLYC)
14. Dishwasher's Dream (IDLYC)
15. The Apartment (IDLYC)

Sorry.. I can't do it in ten... I could maybe do it in twenty.. I know I've left out some.
August 26, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Thank You!
August 28, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah
This video made me smile. I'm smiling still as I write this. I was always a fan, but never saw Bruce in concert (gasp - and I'm a Jersey Girl!). I've never seen Marah either but damn did I enjoy this video! du_dragon is right, it's the passion.

I just loved this blog, and the responses to it. Although it's a fascinating and revealing concept, I don't know that I could ever define myself with one album or artist. Like the true Gemini I am, there are multiple albums and artists that define PHASES of my life. Bruce is certainly one. So is Van Morrison (anything by), Jackson Browne (Late for the Sky), Dan Fogelberg (Souvenirs), Al Stewart, Neil Young... for starters....

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