Marian Hill at Turner Hall: A Review

Marian Hill played at Turner Hall in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Oct. 5. Two openers, SHAED and VERITE, began the night with indie pop that grazed electronic. Although both great performances, there was something missing that turned me into a Will-Ferril-SNL-esque monster, yelling: more saxophone – it needs more saxophone. Cue Marian Hill.

I don’t remember when I first heard Marian Hill (truly baffling), but I do know it was the song “One Time.” It’s the type of music that stops you in a crowded bar or cafe or restaurant to say, “What IS this?” because you’re so floored by the sound of it. It’s sort of like contemporary jazz on steroids, but that doesn’t sound nearly as sexy as Samantha Gongol’s voice as it dances among Jeremy Lloyd and Steve Davit’s instrumental magic, and yes, saxophone. I saw an article call the music “sax-ual.” It wasn’t wrong.

There’s something special about seeing a group of millennials (and some, older) cheer loudly as electronic tunes are halted by a lanky saxophone player. Davit’s skill was apparent and complementary to Gongol’s bold stage presence and assertive lyrics. The show itself was a work of art, and quite frankly, one of the most fun live music experiences I’ve ever had.

With deep red lights, smooth and silky saxophone, and some beats that had even the most awkward 35-year-old men in Gap t-shirts swaying, Mariah Hill’s performance was about one common denominator: a love for really freaking catchy music. They played a solid number of tunes, from “One Time” off 2015’s Sway to newer “Down” and “I Want You” released this year on Act One. 

A strong female singer, jazz incorporation and timeless provocativeness. I don’t know what it is about Marian Hill, but it’s probably everything. As Gongol sings in “Got it,” “I’ve got this thing, it’ll blow your mind / I got it / I got it / I got it,” – yes, you really, really do got it.

10-05-16_marian-hill_photo_by_kellen-nordstrom-14Image courtesy of Turner Hall.
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