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    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    Mancino and De Novo Dahl @ Union Hall, 7-6-07

    If Mancino ever does a covers album, they need to tackle a take of "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" by Puff Daddy featuring Mase. After all, this is a band that thrives on challenges, leaping over hurdles with the zeal of a track-and-field star. Back in March, the last time I'd seen them, lead singer Mike Grimes was rocking through the flu. In April, drummer Jonathan Mason played on even after a very recent appendectomy. And now this time, neither Mason nor his vital organs could make the date, so, on a week's notice, Grimes and keyboardist Nadim Issa pared down to accommodate. (Mason had work-related obligations, but let's start the rumor that he was facedown in a pillow of losing tickets and cigarette ash at the OTB.)

    Because the show always goes on. Drumbeat or no drumbeat, healthy immune system or no, Mancino steps up their game no matter the daunting scale of the obstacle. (For their next show, I'm expecting all three to escape from being straitjacketed and submerged in glass tanks before launching into their opening number.) And while Mason's rhythmic presence was missed, Grimes and Issa ably did more with less. The key characteristics of the band's sound--the springy ebullient melodies, the joyful harmonies, the snazzy wordplay--came through just as clearly. Grimes, on acoustic guitar, sounded just as confident and natural. Issa, stationed behind his trusty Technics, brought his reliably inexhaustible bounce. Even as a duo, Mancino managed to be just as dynamic.

    "McEnroe's Poetry" (featuring Bryan of Subinev on tambourine)


    The other act I caught at Neon Lights that night was De Novo Dahl straight outta Nashville, Tennessee. The five-piece came on stage decked out in loud vintage suits Bedazzled with cobras, spiders, and owls. The bassist, Keith Lowen, also had a belt beaming the band's name on a scrolling marquee like a stock ticker. In my mind, their wardrobe was their home base personified: quirky country flair through a bold, funky lens. (Okay, granted there are parts of Cashvegas that are decidedly unfunky, but try telling that to the honky-tonk joints and the giant statue of Billy Graham.)

    The brash outfits also helped to foreshadow their sound, although there were heaping helpings of rock, pop, bluegrass and electronic mixed in too. Whatever genre they were spotlighting at any given moment, the band cranked up their enthusiasm to practically unprecedented levels. In a space that can only hold about seventy people, they seemed to be playing for thousands. De Novo Dahl: part pep squad, part stadium rockers. Most uncontainable of all was lead singer Joel Dahl. He was a frontman extraordinaire, swaggering and swaying with the inborn cocksure stride of a rock star. He was a goofball and a paramour, a wildcat and a shook-up soda bottle. His every movement was dramatic and his shaggy curls flopped and flailed so entertainingly they could've qualified as the opening act.

    Throughout their set, the band stood five feet in front of me, but they always projected that inimitable larger-than-life quality. The music was huge, the performance was oversized, and of course, the costumes never stopped shimmering.

    "Sexy Come Lately"

    * MP3: "L'amour (or Less)" - Mancino from Manners Matter [Buy it]
    * MP3: "The Funk" - De Novo Dahl from Cats and Kittens [Buy it]
    * Previously: L'amour (or Less) @ Union Hall, 3-3-07
    * Previously: Two steps to the left: Mancino MP3s

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