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A Weekend with Yellow Dubmarine

Seeing The Beatles reggae tribute band two nights in a row gave me a good opportunity to dig into their interpretations of legendary songs.

At first, I was very skeptical of a band that played Beatles songs in a reggae style. I thought you’d better not mess with the greatest songs in the world from the greatest band in the world. The Beatles did it the best, so why reinterpret songs that were already perfect?

But once I opened my ears, shed my musical snobbery and gave Yellow Dubmarine a chance, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them. I love reggae and I love The Beatles, so why wouldn’t I love Yellow Dubmarine?

Two weekends ago, I caught Yellow Dub at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, where they opened for British reggae legends Steel Pulse. The audience was a multi-ethnic mix of reggae fans from teenagers to seniors, so it was good testing grounds for the appeal of Yellow Dub. In the audience around me, what started as head bobbing and foot tapping turned into a fully-fledged dance party at the end.

But what makes Yellow Dub more than just some reggae Beatles cover band is how they do what they do. I dug into them a bit more the next night, where I saw them play at my friend’s wedding. I realized there that the genius is in how the songs are interpreted.

One of the first things I noticed was that they play songs from all over The Beatles’ catalog in the styles of reggae, ska and dancehall, which allows them to switch up the rhythm and mood song to song.

The eight-piece band also cleverly cuts certain instruments in and out, allowing them emphasize certain parts over others. The three-piece horn section further allows them to accentuate certain parts and melodies.

Vocally and musically, the band is super tight. Four guys sing lead vocals on different songs, and they sing all the harmonies of The Beatles songs as well, no small feat in itself. The auxiliary percussion fits in perfectly with the reggae, the bass playing is melodic and thumping, and the guitar moves between playing on the offbeat to doubling the bass line to noodling between vocal lines, which touches on all the essential parts of reggae guitar.

The band has even caught the attention of The Bridge’s mandolin player, Kenny Liner, who is in the studio with them working on their version of Abbey Road. I got a chance to be part of the “Dub Choir” on “Carry that Weight,” a great experience that I touched on in a previous column.

So, if you like reggae or you like The Beatles, Yellow Dubmarine will definitely give you something to enjoy.

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