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Damien Smethurst

My Mum

and Marah

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 Damien Smethurst started writing when he was really young, and sometimes manages to write stuff that other people actually seem to like. He's a refugee from the UK, now living and working in Prague, and survives in a diet of beer and vodka with the occasional nap thrown in to reboot his system. 

Book links;

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For all things about the band Marah visit their web site


Marah photo credits - Amanda Coplans -

I was, of all places, in a Second World War Gestapo prison just outside of Prague with a very cute young Australian girl when my phone rang. It was a rare thing for my phone to ring while I was on holiday, hell, it was pretty rare for my phone to ring when I wasn't. When I saw on the caller I.D. that the call was coming from my mother, I instantly assumed the worst and made my way out of the exhibition room as quietly as I could before answering the call.

"I need you to call the Roadhouse for me," said my mum, before I'd even had a chance to ask her what was wrong.

Now, to put things into perspective before I go any further, I should explain a couple of things about my mother;

1 - She had been running a bar in the center of Manchester for over 10 years at that point
2 - She knew EVERYBODY in town
3 - Her bar, The Castle, was less than a 5 minute walk from The Roadhouse, which was a live music venue
4 - The girl that ran The Roadhouse was a good friend of my mothers and used to work for her
5 - The guy that originally opened The Roadhouse used to own The Castle
6 - There was a standing, unspoken agreement around town that if my mother ever wanted to go to The Roadhouse, or in fact any other venue in Manchester, to wacth a gig, she just had to turn up and she'd get in for free.

With all this in mind, you can perhaps understand why I was feeling more than a little perplexed at this sudden insistance that I call a venue from Prague that my mother could quite easily walk to within a couple of minutes and sort out whatever minor disaster happened to be going on in her own little world at that precise moment in time.

Still, she was my mother, so the least I could do was hear her out.

The 'emergency' turned out to be a band called Marah.

I‘d seen Marah play a couple of times before at that point, and had come back both times raving to my mum about what a great live band they were, and how she would have to go and watch them if they ever made it to Manchester. And it appeared that they were now doing just that, just a few days after my visit to the Gestapo prison, and while I was on holiday in Prague. I was instantly gutted about missing the show.

My mother, being the kind of person that she was, had decided that as I had gone to so much trouble to get her excited about this damn band, it was clearly my responsibility to make sure that everything was sorted out for her to see them. And of course I would also have to change my flight home to escort her to the show, as she couldn’t possibly venture into such a place unaccompanied.

Which meant I had to call The Roadhouse there and then and make sure that we were both on the guestlist (although, as I already said, we were permanently on the guestlist anyway), and then I had to hurry up and change my flights around so I would actually be home in time for the gig.

This I did with the minimum of fuss. I‘d been to Prague plenty of times before anyway, and also had another trip booked for around 6 weeks later, so there was no big issue with me heading home a couple of days early. Especially when it meant going to see a band I truly thought were someone special with my mother, who I knew would absolutely love them.

And so there I was, a few days later, fresh off the plane and heading down to The Roadhouse with my mother to watch some band called Marah.

When we got there the band were just starting and the place was pretty packed, meaning that the only place to really stand was at the back of the crowd. I was fine as I was tall enough to see what was going on, but poor mother was a bit on the short side so couldn't see anything.

I noticed a table right by us, and jokingly offered to help her get up on it so she could watch the band, but she just told me not to be stupid and ordered me to the bar. I returned with the drinks pretty quickly as people were more interested in the music than the drinks, and by the end of the second song my mum was really getting into the music.

It was round about then that she punched me in the arm and ordered me to help her up on to the table after all, which I was more than happy to do.

A lot of guys might have felt uncomfortable going to a gig with their mum, but for me it was cool. The fact that she was 55 years old, rapidly approaching 56, and was dancing on a table watching a band was also something that I thought was amazing. This woman was the strongest person I knew, and she believed in living life to the full, and sod the consequences.

How could anyone NOT admire that attitude.

The gig itself, as always with Marah, was an absolute blast. Every 20 minutes or so I would get a punch indicating it was time to go to the bar again, but other than that my mother was just going with the flow and loving every minute of the show.

I'd been with my mother to other gigs, mainly to see people that she had been into for a long time, including Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi amongst others. She loved live music and was always more than happy to get down and go a bit crazy. But I never saw her enjoy herself as much as she did during that gig.

As always happens though, eventually the gig came to an end, much to the chagrin of everyone there, who would have been more than happy to watch them all night. As soon as Marah went off stage and it became clear that there wasn't going to be another encore, my mother decided that her one goal in life from that moment was to get the band back to The Castle so she could have a drink with them.

About ten minutes later the band members started coming back out of the dressing room to meet and greet people and sell CD's and T-shirts, which was their customary post-show routine. My mother wasted no time whatsoever in charging up to Dave Bielanko, lead singer of Marah, and asking him what the bands plans were for the rest of the evening.

His reply left her absolutely stunned.

"We've heard there's a really cool bar somewhere around here called The Castle, so we're probably going to go check that out."

Of course, it’s possible that I may have mentioned to Katie, the manager of The Roadhouse, that my mother would probably want to drag the band back to the pub after the gig, and that any help she could offer with that would be greatly appreciated when I called to get us put on the guestlist. But it was a long time ago, and it’s possible that I may not have. The Castle just had a great reputation at that time as one of THE places to go, and I’d definitely mentioned it to the band the two previous times I’d seen them play.

Anyway, after swelling up with pride, mother dearest went into military officer mode and started issuing instructions. She was going to go back to the bar and tell the staff that they would have to work late. I was to stay with the band and ensure that they made it to the bar without any problems. I was left with no illusions as to what my fate would be if I failed in my escort mission!

In the end I took the band and half of the crowd from The Roadhouse back with me.

Marah seemed to think it was really cool when they discovered their own CD‘s on the jukebox, bought and paid for by myself at previous gigs of course, although I would later put a bootleg of that nights gig up on there as well, and my mother, who made it a point to never pay to watch any band, refused to accept their money for any drinks.

Several fun filled hours later I was tasked with escorting the boys from Marah back round to The Roadhouse so they could get in their van and make the trip down to Nottingham where they were supposed to have been spending the night. Although by the time they got there it would have been time for breakfast thanks to their little side trip to The Castle.

The following day my mother was still enthusing about what an amazing night she'd had, and telling anyone and everyone about this great band called Marah that I had been talking about for a couple of years, and how she was now friends with the band, and she suddenly decided that she had to make it up to me as I had cut my holiday short to take her to the gig.

So she informed me that she had been on the bands web-site that morning, which in itself amazed me because she was petrified of technology. It took her five years before she would plug an electric kettle in by herself, for example, because everyone knows water and electricty don't mix, so I would have to plug it in for her. Evidently she wasn't overly bothered whether I got electrocuted or not, as long as she didn't!

Anyway, having visited the web-site, she had found out that a week later Marah were playing two nights back to back in Barcelona, and as I had flown back from Prague to take her to the previous nights gig she was now sending me to Spain to watch them play a couple more shows!

And so my propensity for flying all over Europe to watch Marah play live was born.

Just a couple of months after that gig, on her 56th birthday, my mother was diagnosed as terminally ill, and just seven weeks later she died.

She was the strongest, most amazing person I ever met, and every single day since she passed away has been a real struggle for me. But when I remember nights like the one detailed above, I can't help but smile and be grateful for the time we had together.

The image that will remain in my mind forever is the one of a 55 going on 56 year old woman dancing on a table to a band, without any thought whatsoever of how silly some people might have thought she looked.

I think that's a good way to think of her, at her happiest, loving life, and giving it everything she had. Life is too short to spend it chasing the things that don’t matter. Go out, live life. It’s only a game after all, and none of us gets out alive...



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