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Marnie Stern’s Finger-Tapping Good Times in Williamsburg

April 12th, 2013

Marnie Stern – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 11, 2013

(Photo: Scoop Rickershauser)

Women have made so much progress in the world of rock music that at this point bringing up the topic seems a little anachronistic. But it’s not often that you experience a show like the one last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, booked with three female-led acts, all pioneering rock music toward new frontiers. Up-and-coming guitar-hook mavens Speedy Ortiz, out of Northampton, Mass., took the stage first, followed by the noisy, percussive and experimental duo Talk Normal. And leading the bill was Marnie Stern, well known for pulling some of the strangest sounds to ever come out of the guitar, rock’s mainstay.

Stern comes off as incredibly likeable. Her sense of humor seems to permeate everything, including her latest album title, The Chronicles of Marnia. She told the Music Hall audience that her band’s been unofficially calling the tour “Who Gives a Hoot ’13.” Stern’s banter comes off as equal parts adorable and hilarious, taking most of her time between songs to encourage her drummer to remove his shirt—and then after that his pants. When someone in the audience turned the request to her, she replied, “Me? But I’m not a fella!”

Any discussion of Stern is quick to mention her unique finger-tapping guitar playing, which watching live, sort of resembles spiders walking up and down her guitar’s neck. At times she’s alternating between these finger-tapping riffs and power chords, almost like she’s taking on the role of the lead and rhythm guitarist all at once. Some praise is also much deserved to her bassist and drummer, able to following her frantic rhythms that turn at a second’s notice flawlessly. It’s worth noting that while both appeared exhausted by the end of the show, Stern looked like she’d barely broken a sweat. And for those curious, the drummer’s pants did finally come off for the encore. —Dan Rickershauser