Review | Marian Hill at The Middle East

Marian Hill

A few months ago, I was cleaning my apartment while an internet radio station was on in the background. One song came on that made me stop what I was doing and pay attention to what I was hearing. This song had soulful yet wispy vocals laced by deep synth beats that were refreshing and addicting. It was by a band called Marian Hill; I was instantly hooked.

Fast forward to this past Saturday at the Middle East Upstairs. Marian Hill, the duo comprised of Samantha (voice) and Jeremy (beats) were accompanied by Steve to help them out with both sax and bass. The three of them hopped on stage, and I knew that this sold out show I was about to experience would be magical.

Samantha’s voice was mesmerizing. Jeremy mixed every beat live in front of us. Steve seamlessly swapped between sax and bass. They were on point with every beat throughout the night. Being restricted to only mixed sounds, Samantha’s voice, and deep bass/sax actually helps them define their unique sound, which I could only sum up as “deep boogie sounds.” At one point, they spun out a cover of Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” that was so their own that I could audibly hear people around me exclaim when they realized that it was a cover of something they actually knew.

A few times during the show, Samantha would step back and let Jeremy and Steve freestyle. The crowd loved it (we were all dancing from beginning to end). It was exciting watching them watch each other to keep in sync with the other’s tune. You could see in each of their faces how enthusiastic they were about their music and how flat out excited they were that their first show in Boston had sold out to such a supportive crowd.

One of the things I appreciated most about the show was Jeremy’s live mixing. He was cranking out some seriously impressive beats all night, and on top of that, he was playing back, looping, and mixing Samantha’s voice onto each track with precision that astounded me. At shows of similar music styles, I’m used to seeing bands show up with keyboards preloaded with each of their track’s instrumentals and not doing much of that work live. Marian Hill has officially raised my expectations in that department for any future show I go to. And just as I had expected, seeing them live was a totally magical experience.