Moist guitarist Mark Makowy

Hot, Moist... and Kinda Boring

with Holly McNarland
The Orpheum
Vancouver, B.C.
Wednesday, November 12, 1997

Review by Dorothy Parvaz
Photography by Todd Duncan

Holly McNarland has the kind of voice that fills not only the room, but your ears, for days. She sounds like a pissed-off blues singer, and my, does she ever wear it well.

Holly McNarland Unpretentious and talented, McNarland carried off her opening set with gusto, although some of her quieter songs were a tad too mellow, almost lullaby-esque. She sings from her toes up, and by the time she belted out "Elmo," even initially indifferent audience members were totally sucked in.

Here's the thing about Holly McNarland: Because she is a female artist with a thing for angry, torchy songs, she's bound to be lumped in with a gaggle of annoying and/or less-talented artists. Just outside the Orpheum, the crowd was comparing McNarland to perpetual victim Fiona Apple and self-absorbed Ani DiFranco.

Moist bassist Jeff Pearce McNarland is a mature songwriter and a kick-ass performer. She should go far.

The brief intermission allowed the crowd to scope the scene. While parasitic scalpers were still selling tickets at that point (for about $10 below cost), the beautiful people (and some confused goth kids) all gathered in the gorgeous Orpheum lobby... yes, very aesthetically pleasing...

Was it the Second Coming, or was it just Moist taking the stage? The crowd screamed and prepubescent girls lost their minds as they let out soul-piercing cries. They clutched each other's slender arms (decorated with Jiffy-Marker tattoos) and let out hoarse cries of "He's sooooo hot." The heatedly hot one, of course, was Moist frontman David (gush, gush) Usher, in head-to-toe black, rock-star hair flopping over his eyes, looking like he knew he owned the crowd.

Moist's David Usher It's easy to dwell on Moist's image because the band's music is, well, less than remarkable. It's the Wonder Bread of rock 'n roll -- which isn't to say that Moist suck (listening to both of their albums back to back three times over is still a far more pleasing experience than listening to anything the Rolling Stones have done for the past 10 or 20 years). But unless you have a taste for achingly conventional rock, they're pretty boring.

Bag pipes and arena-rock drums started the band's set, and Usher did his best to tear into "Tangerine," but his voice hadn't quite warmed up yet, so the song ended up sounding a little washed out. His voice eventually did warm up, and that's when he decided to drop the mic and just belt out the lyrics -- too bad no one could hear him. He must have caught on, though, because he picked up the mic and the show went on.

Moist's Mark Makowy There were other moments of comic relief (intentional or not) to break the monotony, like when Usher knocked over his stool (rebel!) in some sort of defiant gesture. What a wild man! Usher's hair works much the same way that Elvis' pelvis worked for him, and had the same effect on the crowd. Whenever Usher whipped his hair around, the adoration intensified.

Then there were guitarist Mark Makowy's facial expressions, punctuating every solo. Either Makowy suffers from some sort of neuro-muscular disorder, or he was extremely moved by his own performance. Whatever the reason behind the spastic expressions, it was pretty dang interesting to watch. Heck, Angus Young shouldn't be allowed to corner the market on goofy guitarist antics. You go Makowy!

The highlights of Moist's set were the performance of their latest single, "Resurrection" (a pretty decent song) and the encore, for which they predictably saved the song that made them famous, 1994's "Push." The show ended on a high note, with the band finally breaking loose of their stiff posturing and having a little fun. There was a wee bit of "Enter Sandman" and a touch of "Billie Jean," all wrapped up in Moist's own "This Shrieking Love."

First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 22, 1997

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