The last time she played in Juneau at the Rookery Café, the place was so packed that people were listening from the sidewalk. This Saturday, Marian Call will again play the Rookery, but this time she has hit upon a way to make sure everyone can get a seat.
“We’re selling tickets to this one,” said Call. “It’s on a pay-as-you-can basis, $5 or $10. But that way we can know how many people to expect.”
Call didn’t know what to expect for her first performance in Juneau last August, but she isn’t thrown by much, having just come off of a 50-state tour of America last summer, playing coffee houses, theaters, and even fans’ backyards. Call has carved out a niche in the world of Geek Music and plans out her tours with the help of a broad online community and fans’ enthusiastic support.
“I just contact my fans as I travel and ask them where I should play in their community,” Call said. “And sometimes that ends up being someone’s house, or sometimes it’s a great spot like the Rookery.”
Call said that the Rookery concert in August was “one of the most vibrant audiences I have had. Very warm and open to my music.”
A 50-state tour may seem like an ambitious undertaking, but Call is taking on even more with her latest studio project.
“It’s the result of me being too ambitious for my own, or anyone’s good,” Call jokes. “It’s a double album, but it is really two distinct albums sold together.”
The collection is called “Something Fierce” with the first disc subtitled, “Good Luck With That” and the second called “From Alaska.”
“’Good Luck With That’ explores a lot of my ‘geek’ themes and ‘From Alaska’ is all about the great things that Alaska has done to me in my nine years in the state,” said Call. “Only one of the songs, ‘I Wish I Were a Real Alaskan Girl’ mentions the state outright, but the songs are all about living here.”
Call says that she held back from performing that song in the Lower 48 tour, because she thought it was something only an Alaskan audience would respond to, but she was overruled by her fans.
“People had heard that song by downloading it and that sort of thing, and they kept requesting that I play it,” she said. “I feel like I am sometimes an ambassador for the state when I am on tour – explaining a real Alaskan experience to people who are very curious about what it is like to live here.”
To see Call in person can be a curious experience. She takes the stage with only a guitarist accompanist, a rain stick, tambourine, microphone and fairly ancient Underwood manual typewriter. While she pounds out percussion on the typewriter and the guitarist assists with melody, it is Call’s powerful voice that is truly front and center. She studied at Stanford and holds a degree in composition and vocal performance. The vocal performance aspect has the most immediate impact when seeing her perform live, but it is the composition of her songs that makes her so unique, and has made her one of the poster girls for “Geek Rock.”
“I think Geek Rock is mostly defined by subject matter, not music style,” said Call. “And I don’t think it is inaccurate to say I fall into that category in some of my music — I know way too much about Star Trek, Star Wars, comic books and spaceships. So sometimes I do write about those things. But I think my latest work has a little less of the geek factor.”
And a big part of that work for her is contained in the liner notes of her new double album. Call says she is trying to recreate the experience she remembers of buying a CD and then reading in depth about the artist, the lyrics and deciphering the meaning of the music.
Call plays the Rookery on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7pm. Tickets are available at the Rookery and are pay-as-you-can with suggested donations of $5 to $10.