Concert Reviews

Last Night: Marnie Stern and Tera Melos at Sons of Hermann Hall

Marnie Stern, Tera Melos
Sons of Hermann Hall
February 24, 2011

Better than: corporate team-building exercises.

Marnie Stern stepped onto the small, half-circle stage at Sons of Hermann Hall, looking casual and cool with her hair braided down the side, wearing a cut-up Elvis Costello T-shirt that complemented her no-fuss style.

During the sound check before her set, it became apparent that she had a cough -- but she didn't seem deterred by this in the least.

"Are you OK?" an audience member asked her.

She just smiled in return.


Stern then broke into her set with loud, frantic guitar work. Both of her hands danced along the fretboard of the guitar in her trademark, finger-tapping method -- a technique that has gained her a lot of attention as an innovator in the indie rock genre.

But, with her guitar singing on its own, it was hard to pay attention to Stern's vocals, which were just as rushed and energetic as everything else, with Stern wailing and howling into the microphone with a sense of unmatched urgency.

At some points, the pace slowed down. Stern rocked back and forth with her eyes closed and her mouth formed into a small smirk, her singing a little softer and gentler than before, all the while still managing to keep up the groove she had established. By the end of her performance, though, the crowd was wired and high-strung -- no doubt a result of Stern's emotional and volatile act.

Co-headliner Tera Melos played an equally frantic and exciting set, starting off the night with a song that quickly took them into thrash mode. Watching Tera Melos perform was akin to watching a group of friends play for fun in their garage -- except, of course, that Tera Melos is a band with serious skill to back up the fun factor. Frontman Nick Reinhart showcased a proficiency with his guitar that rivaled Stern's, managing to hammer out notes in fast succession while simultaneously dancing like a severely malfunctioning robot.

Dance moves aside, the band's energy was staggering; each member was completely engaged in songs, the experimentally digital noises and thumping bass and guitar reaching new levels of intensity as the set progressed.

Both Stern and Tera Melos put on one heck of a show. And, as such, the crowd couldn't help but be severely disappointed when the night ended.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I hadn't listened to too much Marnie Stern before I went to the show, but after her performance I couldn't wait to hear her entire album.

Random Note: I was attacked by sprinklers on my way to Sons of Hermann Hall. This seems to happen to me more often than it should.

By The Way: Stern is really funny. At one point during her set, when a bandmate handed her a bottle of water, she stopped and said, "I really don't understand water. It tastes like nothing."

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Chelsea Upton