Rainer Maria: Raw Electricity

Rainer MariaRainer Maria

Mercury Lounge, New York, October 2, 2003

Just another Rainer Maria show. Ho hum. Hardly.

The band has been touring for close to three years straight, traversing the country and back home to Brooklyn. And no matter how long it’s been, how many shows that have come before, or how many shows are coming after, one thing is certain. This band is playing as if this is it—the last show of their near decade-long career.

The band plays tight but with abandon. It’s as if in their pre-game warm-up instead of piling hands and shouting “go team,” they pile hands and whoever’s on bottom grips a third rail of electricity. The charge causes the three to clench and operate as one—the energy is so raw that it’s impossible not to be caught up in the current.

Singer/bassist Caithlin DeMarrais pleads for her life in her lyrics, but always goes out with a bang and never a whimper. So loud and yet so dear. She possesses the unique ability to scream melodically. Her voice, and indeed the band’s sound, shrinks and swells like a tidal wave. It’s the Sundays struck by lightning, incessantly.

And I haven’t even mentioned Kyle yet.

Kyle Fischer is the guitarist. His axework matches the urgency and intensity as DeMarrais’ vocals, but with the unadulterated joy of an overstimulated child prodigy. He leaps about the stage as if in the throes of a fit inspired by a Baptist faith healer. He dances and sweats and leaps, and soaks the first three rows of the audience with his sweat. He paints notes like Jackson Pollack, flailing against the guitar with no possible semblance of order, until it becomes clear that he’s created this reverberating craggy rockwall of sound that is part The Edge, part Billy Corgan, and entirely more fun than either.

Bill Keuhn’s drumwork is mesmerizing. You can’t take your eyes off him. A syncopated Stewart Copeland with the focused rage of Jimmy Chamberlain.

Midway through the set, Kyle Fischer’s pit stains had conquered the rest of his shirt. The show took place on the first cold night of autumn, and Fischer remarked that this was the only time he could remember wearing a long-sleeve shirt on stage, which by this point was completely imbued with sweat. The simple plight of two layers too many. DeMarrais smirked, “The first day of fall will getcha…” A little homespun wisdom which you’re entitled to share when you’ve finally made it back home. Without permitting pause for reflection, however, Keuhn had already begun counting off the next number with his sticks, and they were off again.

The band’s best offerings of the evening were all from Long Knives Drawn, including “CT Catholic,” “The Double Life” and “Ears Ring.” As always, the band unveiled a few brand new songs. They’re prolific enough that they could probably crank out an album a year if it wasn’t for the constant touring.

“Rise” from their second album, Look Now Look Again, began the encore (“I’m laying in the soil / Is it time for me to rise?”). A sole reprieve from the aural onslaught that comprised the rest of the set, this song hushed the once revved audience to the point you could hear a tear drop. As if the band was saying, “We can break your heart as fast as we can rock your world.” And come on, at the end of the day aren’t those the two reasons we listen to music in the first place?

How do they do it? It’s impossible that three people, only three, can render music this big and important. I’m no Rush fan, but all of a sudden, I can relate. It’s amazing that music can be played so loud and fast and still retain its pure beauty. When an audience is so amped they need to “come down” after a show, you know the band is doing something right.

12 thoughts on “Rainer Maria: Raw Electricity”

  1. Wow, all that smack for Wilco and so far no comments for this story.

    I for one checked-out Rainer Maria’s new album and was impressed. Another band that I’ve been turned on to because of Glorious Noise. Plus, that lead singer is soooo HOT!

    Peace Out


  2. I’ve been a Rainer Maria fan for a while, and I enjoy all their work… but I have to say, their newest album is definitely sub-par. Check out “Look Now Look Again” if you want to be moved.

    I really enjoyed reading this article… you captured everything wonderful about them!

  3. Ummm, like. I wish all these “ball cap” wearers would like, STOP coming to the Rainer shows. Geez, go back to your frat houses — leave us indie geeks to ourselves.

  4. Man, I haven’t heard “Sit on it” since Fonzie on Happy Days!! Derek, that’s almost as passe as “gag me with a spoon” or “smurftacular”. But not quite as passe as Rush Limbaugh.

  5. Rainer Maria is by far the best band out there. Im not an indie geek and take issue with the self-styled indie geek who said that all the frat people should stay home. If it weren’t for ALL RM fans, the band wouldn’t have a pot to piss in and therefore couldnt keep bringing us this music. Go grease up your hair with a pizza box or something, indie loser.

  6. Funny comments, great review. It makes me kick my own ass for skipping out on them in Seattle a couple weeks back. C’est la vie. You can’t catch them all.

    On a sidenote, you missed the third and often most-important reason for listening to music. To make you feel sexy and shake your ass…

    … and don’t even try to align that with “rock your world”. They’re two totally different things.

  7. I agree. Let the ball-cap crew come to the shows if they want. ha, IT IS FUNNY that they feel the need to wear their yuppie uniforms though is it not!?!?! Hahaha. Geez.

    I mean, come ON…put on a some dirty jeans and a vintage tee-shirt and muss that hair, but not too much or we’ll know you’re trying too hard. Oh, and lose the running shoes and get some old chucks from a garage sale. And whats up with the contact lenses?? Black plastic horn rimmed is whatcha want. After all this, maybe just maybe the fuck next to you listening to the band will give you a light on your American Spirit cigarette.

  8. Fuck. I think I wore a ball cap to that RM show at the fireside in 2001. Honestly. But, no really, get Look Now Look Again. It’s a great record. And go see the band. The article does not lie: they play hard, fast and tight like almost no band you’ve ever seen. I’m surprised Kyle doesn’t pass out from dehydration or exhaustion, and I’ve seen Bill break drum heads at several shows. The first time I saw them, he cracked the actual snare drum. Not the head, the drum itself. He borrowed one from another band and kept playing. Damn.

Leave a Reply