Mark Mallman's Marathon 3 co-stars reflect on their contributions to the ultimate performance

Photos by Erik Hess

Some of us may remember when our friend Mark Mallman decided to do his first "Marathon" in 1999. Knowing Mark, it didn't seem weird that he would attempt such a stunt. The man has far too much energy and tends to be one of those creative juggernauts that fill the Twin Cities music scene.

Verging on impossible and downright dangerous as far as the human body and it's abilities are concerned, I think all of the musicians involved this time around  were enthralled with the chance to help their friend as much as thankful they weren't required to play all 78 hours of this run at the Turf Club in 2010.

But in all honesty, as Mark attempted to further "touch the raw nerve of creativity," I was nervous for the man. Each time he'd get up on that piano stool I'd get goose bumps and images of him collapsing into the abyss of craziness. But it never happened.

I got to sit in with the band on Thursday night (which now seems like ages ago), as about 100 others did all weekend. There was a sense of pride in being able to participate and carry the music on stage, while in the club and on the internets the event created a pervasive feeling of unity in the community. On a zombie-filled weekend intent on keeping the Twin Cities weird, Mark Mallman finished his Marathon Sunday night to roaring applause from all walks of life in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and around the world.

Here we've collected some thoughts, feelings and highlights from the musicians that helped carry the torch of Marathon 3 this year to Mallman's invincible finish.

Mark Mallman and Sean Tillmann
Mark Mallman and Sean Tillmann
Photo by Erik Hess

Photo by Erik Hess
Mark Mallman and Sean Tillmann
"I don't fancy myself a guitarist, but I had a great time playing on Friday night. Mark made it a really laid back and fun experience for everyone on stage. I love bantering with Mallman. He's a true eccentric, and it's not forced or affected. I stuck around and watched his odyssey until six in the morning. I did get worried about his physical health for a bit, but I know he can pull if off. One of my favorite moments was when he was deliriously plinking on one synth key while I read transcripts from the Apollo mission. On paper the 78 hour marathon looks crazy, but it's nothing compared to the actual mental and physical demands I witnessed in person. I found the webcast captivating too. An impressive production through and through. Godspeed, Mallman."
Sean Tillmann
Har Mar Superstar and Sean Na Na
"Sitting in on Organ/Clavinet during Mark Mallman's Marathon III (Saturday 2-3pm) was a real treat. I'd never met Mark before, but I play in a group with one of his good friends Peter Anderson. Being a runner, I couldn't help but see the similarities to running a real marathon. I felt anxious/nervous FOR him. Like joining a friend at mile 20 to help him stay on pace toward the finish line. I just wanted to keep his spirits up and make sure I didn't slow him down (or worse yet, speed him up). One of my favorite little details was a little note he had written down on his keyboard that read 'Pace Yourself'... Before I left, I walked down to the drug store to buy him a bottle of Gatorade and wrote him another little note for his keyboard, 'Keep The Momentum... All The Way To The Finish.' Like real marathons, I'm already hoping that I can join him again next year."
James Tyler O'Neil
Jon Hunt of Blue Sky Blackout
Jon Hunt of Blue Sky Blackout
Photo by Erik Hess

Photo by Erik Hess
Jon Hunt of Blue Sky Blackout
"My favorite thing about it is watching people who've never played together before spontaneously combine their styles into a unique sound. Throwing people like Ryan and Pony from Melismatics with Adam Levy -- which you'd think would be an odd pairing -- worked brilliantly as they each adapted their styles to fit the other. Equally cool was watching people who HAVE played together a billion times -- like Mercurial Rage -- make stuff up on the spot and take the song into a billion places. Art on the fly. Amazing to do and amazing to watch."
Jon Hunt
Blue Sky Blackout
"Mallman hands down is Rock N Roll. He's our Mick Jagger but with a Basquiat twist! It was fun jumping into the time machine with him!"
Mike Michel
Bill Mike, Saltee and Unknown Prophets

"Having played two sets over two days with two completely different line-ups, the two things I really appreciated most about the marathon are the following:

1) Stretching and redefining the ideas of what a "song" is and what a "rock show" is.

In 72 hours nothing was ever the same. In this day in age when even your favorite local band has been phoning in the same set over and over, this was a real "one-time" event. You could never recreate it or duplicate it if all the musicians involved lived to be a thousand years old.

Some will say this is all about getting some kind of world record, but they will totally be over looking and / or misunderstanding the unique creative process that was involved.

2) The ability of Mark and the other musicians involved to feel secure enough in themselves and the other players to walk on a stage and play something completely unrehearsed and improvised with people they had just met.

I've met plenty of really good song-writers and musicians who would never have the confidence or even the improvisational ability to do what Mark and the musicians who backed him this weekend have done.

It's a real testament to Mark to have the courage to empower these musicians to play what they have with very little direction from him. That's having faith in other musicians to understand your vision.

I think Mark also really appreciated how much everyone on stage supported him and would help carry it along when he needed to catch his breath.

Nobody quit playing or freaked out. Everybody knew what the end of the journey was going to be, it was just the matter of determining which path you were going to follow to get there and staying on it."

Erik Mathison

"It was really cool to be part of something so historical, something thats never been done before. In this day and age of jaded, bland alternative rock posturing - well don't get me wrong, there's a lot of interesting challenging new music being created by many artists out there - but it'd be hard to say that there's anything truly unique and original going on at the moment (except maybe Robert Pollard!). The Mallman thing was cool in that it also was a community thing. It really brought a lot of people together, not just twin cities musicians but the whole community - and the world wide web watchers- they all seemed to be rooting for him, worrying and wondering if he'd make it or if he' d collapse in an exhausted heap. Perhaps there are some cynical folks saying 'oh it's just a publicity stunt!,' but so what, hasn't he made a career of doing that? Even if I wasn't a participant, I'd still think it was spectacular. When I was at the Turf watching that last hour, that last 10 minutes, l was like 'holy shit! Nothing like this has ever happened before!' That's saying a lot. Oh, and it's also worth mentioning that the music was of consistent high quality too!"

Terry Eason

"I cried just like last time. I'm a sucker for rock and roll.
I am so proud to be a part of this.
thanks Mark and everyone."

Jeremy Ylvisaker
Andrew Bird and Alpha Consumer

"They say that when you have sex with someone, you've had sex with everyone else they've ever had sex with. This is kind of like that. Having played on the Marathon stage, just this one song, is like you have played with everyone else who has been on that stage and left their mark on it. It's like a big, long, musical gangbang and I mean that in the best, possible way."

Tal Tahir
King Can, 12rods, The Hot, currently a solo artist

"First of all, it is amazing how technology has brought this event and the local music community to a whole new level. Thanks to the live stream, I can watch people from different bands, genres, eras come together because we love music and we love Mark Mallman.

I've attended Marathon 1 and Marathon 2, but Marathon 3 is the first one I've played, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity.

M3 has made me super excited to start rockin' again, and inspired me to learn a new instrument."

Sarah Huska
ex-Ouija Radio, Heroine Sheiks

"Well that was invigorating, I think Mark Mallman could power a decent size city with his keyboard."

Casey Call
Pictures Of Then

"The only difference between playing at Mallman's Marathon 3 and playing any other Mallman show is that it goes on for 78 hours and includes massive sleep deprivation. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same.

It's like jumping in a car driven by Hunter S. Thompson. You never know where you'll be going or if you'll make it there in one piece. You just put your seatbelt on and hope for the best. During my second shift--at hour 51 I think--there were a couple of moments where we ended up in a ditch and I had to get out and push, but then the engine would rev back up and we'd veer off the road and plow through a corn field.

Photo by Erik Hess
Jacques Wait

There is definitely an energy about the Marathons that is different than anything else I've experienced in my years of playing music. It's not always a good energy.  It's very conflicting: one moment you feel ashamed for participating in the madness and enabling it, the next moment you recognize the sheer ridiculousness and amazement of it all and you're so proud to a be a part of it. And you're glad to have Mallman around, the mad ringleader, bringing us all--the music community and the fans--together.

The music itself is conflicting as well; at one moment you're cringing at how horrible it is, and then you're blown away by how fucking amazing it is when the musicians,--several of whom have never played on a stage together--start to gel and that swell of energy fills the room.

Having played in two Marathon's now, I can say that it seems that Mark has learned from the past two. This one was better managed. Chris Strouth and the rest of the crew deserve huge credit. And Mallman was in better shape and better prepared. This one was so much harder, not just because it was longer, but because he had been through it before and knew what was in store for him."

Eric Kassel
Crossing Guards

"Mark gives a lot to Minneapolis music with these offerings.  He actually sacrifices days of his life, and his physical and mental health to assemble musicians who might not have ever met each other, much less played on the same stage.  Bands have probably formed from meeting one another at previous Marathons!"

Jacques Wait
Twilight Hours and Pink Mink

"I had the privilege to play some guitar during this epic event.  My shift was Thursday, so just a mere three hours in, so it felt more like a straight up rock show-with all the energy and focus that accompanies one.  Mark took his first bathroom break during my shift!   lol
Anyway, I have three simple observations to share:

1. Mark Mallman is as inspiring as he is inspired.

2. This event really symbolizes the fertile and supportive music scene we have here in the Twin Cities. So many musicians rallying around one man to show support without any egos or personal agendas getting in the way.  i.e. I really don't think anyone cared what shift they had-they just wanted to help out and be involved.

3. A 78 hour music marathon such as this brings an amazing amount of perspective to all of us, our lives, and ambitions, on so many levels-too many levels to go into, but I can say that I, personally will likely be drawing on this inspiration for years to come.  If Mark can put himself out like this-to this level- and for no real purpose except purely in the name of art, music.  Who are we to ever consider any challenging task at hand-whatever it may be-as 'insurmountable'?"

I'm amazed."

Al Weiers
Communist Daughter and Idle Hands
Al Weiers
Al Weiers
Photo by Erik Hess

Photo by Erik Hess
Al Weiers

"There was a strange feeling when we took one knew what to expect.  By midway through we all felt something special.  You can't recreate an atmosphere like this, Mark was a mad captain commanding a runaway ship."

Joe Gamble
Pictures of Then

"I played from noon to 1 Saturday and was dead exhausted (have been ever since) after. I can't believe he can do this...or anyone can. It's great. I love the sense of community it brings to our fair musical city.

From a watching standpoint, I was completely blown away for the 11-12am slot last night with Ryan Smith and Pony from The Melismatics along with Peter Anderson and Adam Levy. The groove could have taken Mark to the finishing line."

Craig Grossman

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