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  • Jonathan Widran


The edgy, rousing and playfully rockin’ double bill of the Rob Morrow Band and Mia and Jonah at Molly Malone’s on Saturday, September 15 wasn’t just business as usual in the hipster indie room of the famed Fairfax pub. The two artists were performing as the local contingent of the Playing for Change Foundation’s “PFC Day,” a global event that simultaneously brings established acts and aspiring musicians together for music festivals/events across the globe, from Argentina to Mexico City.

Morrow, a renowned TV actor/director and multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominee who also happens to be a versatile singer/songwriter, guitarist and frontman, says, “Music is my salvation. I love what #PlayingForChange is doing: healing, opening, softening, enlightening through music.”

A little background: The Playing for Change Foundation, established in 2007, provides music education in areas that are culturally rich yet economically challenged. Children in countries around the world, from Africa to Latin America and Southeast Asia, attend free classes, in music, dance and languages, taught my qualified local music teachers and led by regional administrators. Students learn about their own cultural traditions while employing technology to connect and share their experiences with others around the world.

Working with his slammin’ crew of veteran rockers – including electric guitarist and frequent co-writer Carlos Calvo - Morrow packed the house for what doubled as a release party for his new single “Tyranny of Beauty,” a slow simmering but ultimately explosive power ballad about our attraction to beauty and how we’re mysteriously captivated by it. His passionate, emotionally rangy voice – which for me compares favorably to 80’s pop/rocker Corey Hart – and crisp, jangly guitar playing took the enthusiastic crowd on a trip through 55 minutes of compelling originals with dynamic variations in tempo.

As he did a few months ago at Bogie’s in Westlake, he scored big with the rumbling, high octane “Out & About” and the irrepressible, ultra-infectious “Jean Jane Joan” (a clever response to his wife’s unusual name, Debbon). Balancing these was the gentle sparkle of his and Calvo’s strings and their sweet harmonies during the wistful ballad “The Way Things Go.” Unrestricted by TV scripts, Morrow is a lively, entertaining and multi-dimensional force of nature, prone to dancing and jumping around and otherwise engaging his fans whenever the groove kicks up. His bouncy and blistering closer, based on the Jack White version of the blues classic “I’m Shakin’” gave him his best opportunity to do just that.

Morrow will be running a Pledge Music campaign for the band’s upcoming full length album through October 23:

Husband and wife Americana folk rockers (with a twist) Mia and Jonah’s show was also a release party – a week ahead of schedule, as their new EP Spin As One was officially released September 21. Their set was a mix of tracks from their earlier works in the 2000s (“Troubled Mind” and “Coalminer” from Shine 1, “Angels Down” and “Wish” from Rooms For Adelaide) and three equally timeless times from the new collection – including the meditative seduction “Our Old Farm” and the lilting “Sugarbones.” Their personal romantic chemistry shone through in the dreamy sway of their harmonies, which render them a contemporary male-female version of Simon & Garfunkel, albeit with extra raw edges.

Jonah captivates with his bluesy rock guitar licks and his colorful harmonica playing, but what helps the duo stand apart (way apart) is the trippy, ear bending sound of Mia’s singing handsaw. The songs she colors with that vibe makes it feel like there are angels (or ghosts, or perhaps an eerie mixture) attending on high (or even closer) as the duo breezes along and dares us to go along for the ride.

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