July 16, 2018


Marah Last Night at the Ardmore Music Hall and What can Conshohocken Learn....

Marah Last Night at the Ardmore Music Hall and What can Conshohocken Learn…..


by Brian Coll


         Okay, I have spoke many times about my love of a band called Marah out of Conshohocken then South Philly, a stint in New York and now making music in central Pennsylvania. Last night I went to see them again at the Ardmore Music Hall. I knew the old Brownie’s 23 East closed and after a brief shutdown period was replaced by the Ardmore Music Hall. If you go further back it was known as 23 East Cabaret. Some musical acts over the years in all it’s inceptions include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band, Cheap Trick, Phish, of course the Hooters and now Marah. Actually I think I have saw somewhere that the Ramones may have played here as well.


Now I know, if Conshohocken can somehow pull off a small music venue like this that we aren’t guaranteed to get any of these bands play there, but we can hope for the best though. Why do I want a small music venue? … I think it would help fill our community with other small shops and stores. While Conshohocken is very picturesque, I wouldn’t mind seeing an old record store on Fayette Street, or maybe right off Fayette Street where it might be a little cheaper rent. Maybe I’m thinking about it because today (August 12th is National Vinyl Record Day) It was the day that Edison invented the phonograph in 1877…… Maybe a cool consignment shop (boy do I miss Conshy Consignment, Libby and her friends were great) Not only a consignment shop for clothes but maybe show off some local artists ( Another reason I miss Conshy Consignment)


I listed a few bands that played in Ardmore over the years, I know many of them hit the club as they were up and coming artists, it would be cool to say someone like Pearl Jam played that cool little club in Conshy all those years ago if we had that cool little club….. In addition to just seeing some great bands and live music here, it might help the local restaurants as well, who wouldn’t want to hit the Great American Pub or Boathouse before or after a concert? Maybe walk along Fayette Street and check out some of the other stores along the way? If you buy a poster of the band maybe get it framed at Coll’s Custom Framing (okay cheap plug for ourselves) (but we do love to frame music stuff and talk about music if you ever stop in).


Let me talk about the concert last night. I sat with a few friends, one of which had never seen them, and I think they made a new fan. My girlfriend Anna had only seen them once before at the Conshohocken Music Festival and enjoyed them enough to want to go again last night, she says the live show sounds amazing. Let me start again…. I can’t tell you the order of the songs, what songs they played or didn’t play, looking at a set list won’t help because one of the great things about the band when you see them live is the ability to play off the crowd. I have seen a band or two over the years that actually writes parts into the set list, something like wait for applause…. play song XYZ and say its by request…. Not with Marah. They can take a left turn at any second and you want to go for the ride. Sometimes Dave can simply wink at the other guys in the band and they know where he wants to go.


Last night, in a small venue it felt a little like an episode out of VH1 Storytellers and a little bit like you were lucky enough to have great seats at a giant stadium. They play to every part of the room and yet make you feel like you are one of a few friends over Franks Garage listening to them get ready for a gig at the old Tin Angel. I remember seeing a documentary where people were talking about the late Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone, and they were talking about how he’d play every show like it was in front of 60,000 people. I see a little of that in lead singer Dave Bielanko when he is really into a guitar part. If he had a bigger stage I know he would work it like one of the greats. Last night I left the big camera at home and just let myself really enjoy every second of the show. They played a few songs that had roots in Conshohocken and Dave even spoke of Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken when introducing one of my all time favorite songs by any band titled Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft. Serge took the lead vocals on a song he wrote inspired by the old Bolero’s Pizza in Conshy… if you are a fan of the band you may recognize the song Pizzeria. If you are a fan of pizza and were around long enough in Conshohocken you will have to remember Bolero’s. At one point in the show Serge Bielanko wandered away from the stage playing a haunting harmonica and even channeled a little Frank Sinatra. If my daughter was at the show she would have thought it was “Mike from the movie Sing” . At one point in the night Dave thanked the first producer they worked with Mr. Paul Smith. Paul was there last night and got a nice round of applause. From start to finish it was really a great show. I talked to a person or two who thought it was the best concert they have seen in years from any band not only Marah.


On Facebook I am in a group with some other fans of the group Marah, it is a great group of people from many different countries all over the world. Fans from one country can’t wait to hear what songs they played in another country or a certain show. The guys in Marah really appreciate their fans and at one point took a moment to thank a fan for really embracing them early in the careers from Europe. This fan has been having some medical issues and the guys in the band heard about it and sent a song out to him from here. It was really nice and sincere. While I’m talking about this Facebook group, there are some great people in it. I have seen fans offer up tickets if they or a friend can’t go, not asking for face value or anything, just offering it at no charge because they want someone to go enjoy themselves with great live music. One fan in the group had a flight cancel on them yesterday ( I hope they made it some other way ). It’s a great group of people and I’m glad someone invited me to join it.


Every time I write or talk about Marah I talk about brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko. I grew up with Dave and Serge and me and my family are really proud of them and all they have done musically of course and Serge has become an amazing father and Dave is a cool uncle, I mean these kids have a rock star as an uncle…. how many people can say that? I at least have to mention and thank the guys in the band in addition to Dave and Serge…. Adam Garbinski, Dave Peterson and Mike “Slo-mo: Brenner are all very talented guys in their own right. When they all get together on one stage something magical happens. If you saw them at the Conshohocken Music Fest you missed out on Mike “Slo-mo” Brenner but you caught a few special guests in Conshohocken owns John DiPietro and Kevin Duda. Maybe they can all get together soon and play again here. Maybe even cut a record, Conshohocken does have a legendary recording studio. Just throwing it out there guys.


If you are a fan of the band, or maybe since you have read me raving about them over the years you might want to go see them, they are working on a concert around the holidays somewhere in and around Philadelphia. I know Conshohocken won’t have a venue for them, but it sure would be cool if it did. In other Marah news, they are going to reissue a record of theirs on vinyl, I know I can’t wait to order it. I have loved playing the couple of vinyl reissues I have of theirs on an old school record player. My daughter dances around the basement when I turn it on.


Thanks for reading this. I’m not sure how many people actually read what I or anyone has to say sometimes. It seems like people will respond to a picture or something but may not take as much time to read the ramblings of someone….. thanks. Marah, thank you for starting to make music all those years ago on Forrest Street in Conshohocken, Last night you got a real response from hundreds of people who appreciate what you do.


These aren’t the best photos, but here are a few from last night. I was more focused on just enjoying myself and singing along than I was making sure I got the best photos.


The old Brownie’s sign hangs in “the green room”

Marah performing at a packed house in Ardmore


Dave Peterson is a hell of a drumer

The Ardmore Music Hall made a few changes from the Brownie’s days and it sounds incredible.

Thanks Marah for putting on a hell of a show.

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