Charlie Mars gained momentum at the Pour House 

A live review of the Miss.-based songwriter's show

Charlie Mars, Sanders Bohlke
The Pour House
Jan. 21

Arriving to an already packed Pour House around 10 p.m., the crushed PBR cans and empty Bud Light bottles would have you thinking the night was winding down. But the post-comedy concert, featuring two Oxford, Miss., originals, was just getting underway.

Charlie Mars' primary concern was with the crowd. "What's up, Charleston?" he voiced several times during and between songs. The response was positive, as it must be nightly, from a crowd of 20 or 200.

Compliments go to Mars for featuring Sanders Bohlke, a talented artist with little notoriety outside the college towns of the Deep(er) South. Now, if only more concertgoers would lend an ear and leave their egos at the door. Bohlke set the stage for Mars, closing with a bare bones version of his fabulous "The Weight of Us."

Solo at first, sporting a harmonica, Mars' set started slow and mellow, and gradually picked up steam as his band joined him on stage. A rendition of "Like A Bird, Like A Plane," the title track from Mars' most recent album, kicked off the full-band set. From then on, it was smooth sailing.

Mars could have played through his songs back-to-back, stopping only for a sip of a drink or a twist of a tuning peg, but he stretched out each song, letting the groove grow. Adding his personal touch, he shared anecdotes on the origins of songs and personal facts, like his first car: a wood-paneled station wagon. "I feel like we need a dance break," he confided halfway through. "Put on something funky." Maybe the best thing about Mars, he doesn't take himself too seriously.

Mars and his band rolled through tracks, new and old. As the set winded down (close to 1 a.m.), they brought out the real winners. After an introductory confession of writing the song in five minutes over a banana Popsicle, highlight "Listen to the Darkside" was underway. Simple lyrics last, like the straightforward invitation, "If you want to come over and get high, we can listen to 'The Dark Side of the Moon.'"

Would-be closer and crowd-pleaser, "Meet Me at the Backdoor" was interrupted by a front row catfight (seriously), and sent some fans breaking for the backdoor, finding it a fitting end to a solid two-hour set.

All in all, the Mississippi musicians provided plenty of memorable melodies, perfect for anyone who can sing in the slightest, over a broken-radio on the car ride home.


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