As soon as Yellow Dubmarine started their set with a cover of The Beatles “Norwegian Wood,” you could tell this was not your average tribute band. With horns replacing George Harrison’s distinctive sitar intro, and the songs’ folksy atmospherics replaced by a steady reggae pulse, the audience Friday at Strathmore AMP quickly piled onto the dance floor to groove to Beatles classics reimagined as reggae jams.
“It was just an idea that came to us one day,” said bassist Aaron Glazer. “We started with just four people and then grew, with percussion and horns, and it took on a life of its own.”
The seven-piece band featured a three-piece horn section, along with a rhythm section of guitar, bass, drums, hand percussion, and keyboard. This extensive lineup allowed them to vary their arrangements throughout the night.
Yellow Dubmarine played some songs relatively straight. Their cover of “Back in the USSR” kept the original’s distinctive guitar line and manic energy intact. The covers of early Beatles’ songs, such as “Got To Get You Into My Life” preserved the dynamics, and tempo of the original as well.
Several songs, however, underwent a dramatic transformation. The keyboard intro of “You Never Give Me Your Money” became a bombastic horn introduction. The tempo then slowed down for a somber first verse before the band kicked back into high gear, performing the rest of the song with a heavily syncopated mid-tempo feel. “Hey, Jude” and “Mean Mr. Mustard” were remade as fast-paced ska jams. The latter song’s instrumental section featured guitarist/singer Jonathan Sloane trading leads with the horn section.
Yellow Dubmarine used a variety of effects to give a psychedelic edge to the music. Drummer Robbie Cooper had an electronic delay added to his snare drum; the vocals often had a delay added to them as well. The group started off several songs with an ambient introduction before going into the song itself.
“If you look at our song list we try to hit on all the songs that we know people are gonna have fun to, where we know people are gonna sing along and have a good time,” said trumpet player Daniel Davis.