The Yellow Dubmarine is no gimmick. The band is a fusion reggae troupe that covers Beatles songs. They started out as a jam band, so they have a deft approach at making each arrangement work.
This past Saturday night, at the State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia, the Yellow Dubmarine bridged generations with their hip approach to reggae music (or approach to Beatles pop, depending on how you see it). With the release of their album Abbey Dub, the hearsay was evident. The band of eight prefaced their show with a fearless, calypso-driven rendition of “Taxman.” The groove, originally written by George Harrison, set the tone for the evening. Spectators got up from their seats in the raised table seating area and moved to the music.
Watching the young men of the Dubmarine brought to mind the days when John, Paul, George, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Pete Best cultivated their performance skills in Hamburg in the early ’60s. The Dubmariners’ youthful energy is so well-harnessed, they hardly ever miss their mark. Their shyness in between songs is excusable, since their M.O. is to get out there and delight people with the music.
When I interviewed vocalist-bassist Aaron Glaser last week, we talked about the dub subgenre and its rising popularity. Glaser has an infectious personality, and has a childlike giddiness for musical compositions. When the band played other selections from Abbey Dub, such as “Oh! Darling,” “Something,” and “Octopus’s Garden,” you could tell the young men were very particular about the rhythm accents and beat they ultimately chose.
See-I, this time led only by Zeebo, opened the show with their typical funky ire. Frank Mitchell burned sax chords so red-hot you couldn’t help but dance. Ashish “Hash” Vyas strummed life into his bass guitar. And Rob Myers triangulated the funkiness with his singing guitar strings.
Then the Yellow Dubmarine got to groovin’. And the party didn’t stop.
One of Yellow Dubmarine’s musical ventures was a tribute to a friend who met an untimely death. They played the song “Let It Be.” In my conversation with Glaser, he said the Beatles used their music to speak to the many themes of life. Blending Beatles music and Caribbean rhythms sheds light on those themes, death included. In joy and in sorrow, Yellow Dubmarine has succeeded in finding the right thematic voice.
There is no loss of credibility with a band like Yellow Dubmarine. Glaser has made a point about the unlimited forms and styles of reggae and rocksteady music, and how it can be attributed to virtually any other form. A purist could have some issue if he or she isn’t willing to embrace the fact that the Beatles’ music can be viewed as standards. They endure; never age. At the State Theater last Saturday, we weren’t caught up in run-of-the-mill Beatlemania. We heard something fresh and original. I’m looking forward to more.
Photos by Lauren Jaslow, Snarky Studios