Mammal Dap ft. Shira Elias, with the Telle The Acoustic, Bridgeport, CT February 15, 2018
Story, photos, and video by Kelly D
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There was a point in Mammal Dap‘s Beck tribute night where I said to myself, “Wow, these guys are making me realize I’m more of a Beck fan than I initially thought” – and I can’t help but think that’s high praise indeed. After months of social media hype, the Northampton, MA-based synth pop quartet unveiled their latest project to a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Acoustic: an entire set of Beck songs, faithfully reproduced with a millennial flair. Shira Elias, one of the lovely singers of Brooklyn funk outfit Turkuaz, provided the bulk of the vocals in a bold creative decision that ended up working out perfectly. I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I need to give mad props to the Telle, the EDM duo that opened the evening. Upon coming from the washroom, I said, “Wow, that’s some raging dance music they got going through the soundsystem” and then looked at the stage. To my surprise, the Telle had already begun their set. Theirs is a combination of the kind of pulsing, thumping beats you’d find in a hip nightclub and ambient soundscapes, all with Gabrielle Lakshmi’s vocals interspersed throughout. Their music was a good appetizer for the synth-happy, bouncy Beck songs to come. Mammal Dap and Shira took the stage not long after. The men- Zack Cross on synthesizers and auxiliary percussion, Colin Jalbert behind the drumkit, Reed Sutherland on bass, and Killian Karlsson on axe duty- all visually paid homage to the thin white “guero” that is Bek David Campbell with matching white button-down shirts, skinny ties, and sunglasses for Zack and a fedora for Colin. Shira was radiant in a red top, tight black pants, and her long wavy hair in a fluffy ponytail for most of the show. Pulling no punches, they immediately launched into “Devils Haircut.” With its growling, swirly samples, nonsensical yet wise lyrics, and eminently groovable beat, it was a natural choice to open the set. They continued on with “Think I’m in Love,” a moody banger from Beck’s 2006 effort The Information They then burst out with one of the many cuts from (my personal favorite) 1999’s Midnite Vultures, “Nicotine and Gravy.” Shira’s voice really shone here, her natural alto complementing Beck’s soulful brogue/falsetto in the original tune. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGhcom1o2SI Things slowed down, but only briefly, for “Paper Tiger,” a melancholy selection from 2002’s Sea Change. That and “Earthquake Weather,” which came later in the set, were basically the only times the tempo slowed down all night. A fellow fan yelled out, “Are you going to play any new songs?” referring to Beck’s latest release, entitled Colors. Shira slyly replied in the affirmative, and then, as if this dude was a mindreader, the band launched into an ethereally spectacular version of the Colors title track. I entirely lost my shit and consumed myself in the music and the lyrics by dancing raucously, particularly the chorus:
All the colors, see the colors, make the colors, feel the colors She says “See it in your eyes” All the colors, see the colors, make the colors, feel the colors Tell me, do you feel alive? All the colors, see the colors, make the colors, feel the colors She says “Nothing’s in your mind” All the colors, see the colors, make the colors, feel the colors Tell me, do you feel alive?
As I have synesthesia (wherein I see and feel music as well as hear it), the words couldn’t have been more apropos. The group of people around me seemed to experience something at least similar and the band and audience gelled as one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXWIsf4IX4U&t=2s The hits (and obscurities) kept coming! After joyous renditions of “Tropicalia” from 1998’s Mutations and “Girl” from 2005’s Guero, the setlist came to a clever trifecta of titles related to the environment: “New Pollution,” “Earthquake Weather,” and “Chemtrails,” the latter being from 2008’s Modern Guilt. But the climax came when at last the group (jokingly referred to by Shira and the audience as “Mammal Kuaz,” “Shiral Dap,” or “Shira and the Scientologists”) launched into Beck’s biggest hit “Loser,” with Colin performing the dry spoken-word-salad rap all the while playing his drums (see the video at the beginning of this article). I was getting a serious alt-rock millennial Phil Collins vibe and I was ALL ABOUT IT.
Wild versions of “Mixed Bizness” and “Sexx Laws,” both off of Midnite Vultures, capped off the setlist but not before they sandwiched “Where It’s At” in between. Zack handled vox duties with a mini megaphone (is that an oxymoron?) providing a realistic, tongue-in-cheek tribute to Beck’s painfully white yet utterly funky personality. I knew they would have an encore, and in my fairly tipsy state, I hollered, “This better be ‘Debra’!” to which Shira snarkily responded, “That’s it, show’s over”- me apparently having ruined the unveiling. Whoops. However, after the appropriate amount of public shaming, they began the sublimely sensually silly track, another from Midnite Vultures, that at once pays homage to Prince and David Bowie. My favorite local band- Rodd Cummings and the Vibrators- also covers “Debra,” their version of which made me fall fully in love with them back when I first saw them in December 2015. Mammal Dap and Shira Elias’ was pretty damn great too, as Shira being a woman queered up the bizarre love triangle envisioned by the song’s protagonist:
I wanna get with you, oh girl Only you! Yeah . . . And your sister I think her name’s Debra
It was the only way to end a night like this. I indulged in some lighthearted bump-and-grind with myself and my companion for the evening and sang along with fervor. What a triumphant end to a magnificent evening! With Beck’s music as the soundtrack, it seems like anything is possible.
- Devils Haircut
- Think I’m in Love
- Nicotine and Gravy
- Paper Tiger
- New Pollution
- Earthquake Weather
- Loser (with Colin Jalbert on vox)
- Mixed Bizness
- Where It’s At (with Zack Cross on vox)
- Sexx Laws
Encore: Debra To submit a review for consideration hit us at firstname.lastname@example.org