Rainer Maria live in Philadelphia

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Performer caught up with Rainer Maria live at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia on August 11, 2015

At the end of a tautly played hour, Rainer Maria exited a sold out Johnny Brenda’s. Someone yelled out, “play some more, please!” Maybe it was the tone, maybe it was the timing, but the exhortation paused Caithlin De Marrais. De Marrais turned, and smiled. “We don’t have any more songs,” and she with William Kuehn and Kaia Fischer walked off.  

When Rainer Maria disbanded months after releasing, what became ironically titled, Catastrophe Keeps Us Together, it seemed just another signpost of the end of emo. Sure Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional were landing radio chart success, but the pains of the 1990s seem quaint when belted by bands in their mid-thirties.

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For the adoring crowd at Johnny Brenda’s, Rainer Maria did work out some new songs. They have energy, and a renewed sense of purpose as a band. Time apart, giving birth, transformed gender identity, global travels, have propelled them into songwriting once more.

The show pulsed with Kuehn behind drums, Fisher whipping her hair with each hard guitar stroke, and De Marrais handling bass and vocals. Some issues with cables gave the band their only interaction with the audience, explaining how the Fairy Godmother of Guitar Equipment needed to make her presence felt. Nothing standoffish, but there was a distance between band and fans. Fisher noted, “you’re a polite bunch.”

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Can emo live past that special existential zone of confused identity found in early adulthood? For those disappointed that Rainer Maria didn’t play “Tinfoil,” or who needed to get back to babysitters, or who just discovered the band via Spotify playlist, it can and it has.   

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