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"Alternative Funk’ Sounds Strange, But It Sounds Good"

Posted by J. Strong

“You can describe us however you like, just don’t use the word ‘country.’ I have a reputation to maintain,” says Mark Mann, lead singer of the “alternative funk” band Dimestore. He shouldn’t be concerned—Dimestore’s set at Clarendon Grill on Thursday is exemplary.

As the band begins their set, Mann starts on the floor with the crowd, his white shirt neon under a black-light. Although the show’s opener canceled, they aren’t necessary—the crowd is ready to have fun. The band’s sound is all Thievery Corporation, especially with the temporarily Jamaican-tinged accent of the vocals.

The chorus arrives and the harmonized background singers remind one of an early Beatles song. Rhythm guitarist Jodie Mosser, who when strumming brings an Allman Brothers influence to the band, rips a solo with a guitar sound like Santana’s “Smooth”. Next, Nick Henry on Saxophone is taking us to Dave Matthews Band territory (in a good way). Michael Hermann’s Cello solo is—sorry, Mark—alt-country, if only because of its instrumentation.

So how does one describe these guys?

“Pop, funk, jazz, rock, all sort of mixed together—definitely I think most of the draw is from old school funk,” says Hermann. Really, though, “it’s all about the pocket: the groove, the bass and drums, and the way they work together.”

The band’s sound is dramatically good for the small venue. “This is actually the first time we’ve had someone help us with our sound,” says Hermann. The group has a lot of talent—Hermann and Mann are classically trained, while the others definitely pull their weight—but the Clarendon Grille’s sound system is unexpectedly vibrant. My only criticism is that Hermann, who incidentally is the favorite band member of the many women I speak with, is too low in the mix and hard to hear.

Henry is a new addition to the band, tonight is the first time he’s ever played with everyone. He belts away on the sax, sometimes red-faced with strain, putting the band over the top. A few times, he sits out because he doesn’t know the song—the band is remarkably reduced.

Bass player Brian Weakly brings a rock influence to the band: “Radiohead, Wilco, he’s always warming up with ‘Hysteria’ by Muse.” Weakly lays down a solid bass-line underneath the songs.

Dimestore (the name harkens a flea market or dime store with a little bit of everything on the shelves) has had its share of lineup changes. A 12 song album was put “on hiatus” because it no longer fit their sound. Right now, a 4 song EP, yet to be named, is on its way to being mastered.

Mosser and Hermann mention Jamiroquai as an example of a contemporary artist playing a similar type of music. It’s a pretty good fit. But Dimestore adds a dash of the Dismemberment Plan’s “Emergency & I” album, full of different styles integrated into the same song.

The strongest part of Dimestore’s show is their unbelievably good sound. The obvious musical talent here is missing from a lot of small acts. That said, the songwriting, while accessible, is still coming along. And the few hastily recorded songs available on the band’s Myspace page hardly do their live show justice. I’m hoping that the new EP matches what I see in Clarendon.

About ¼ of the songs are covers, including a funk rendering of Otis Redding’s “(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay”. The band finishes the song without the famous whistling at the end, then taking an intermission. I press Mann away from the stage—“no whistle?” He laughs. “I hope we did [the song] at least some justice.”

Mann is irreverent and funny. Starting the show in the crowd, he says, is as much for him as it is for the crowd—it gives him a “bundle of energy that has to come out somewhere.” He mentions that his race—he is black—is a “unifying element to the band.”

“It's an interesting dynamic, you typically hear a funk band—you think of Parliament Funkadelic, Sly & the Family Stone—you don't usually think of four white guys and a black lead singer.”

I ask Mosser and Hermann what motivates them to play music. “It’s all about having fun,” says Hermann, “but if that takes us somewhere, you won't find us fighting that.” I won’t be too surprised if it does.

- The Washington Planner


Soon to be Relased EP (4 tracks)
Full Length 12 track Album to be released Fall of 2008

Oil and Water (EP) Stride Records, Washington, DC
Daisy Chained: #1 pop song on sound xposure, UMD campus radio, XMU, U of Delaware radio
Oil and Water: XMU, UMD campus radio
Busy Bee: 4000 plays on myspace profile



Dimestore's chemistry is all about "the pocket." This band can move some air, with Micheal Henne's kick drum- just boomin', Brian Weakly's bass- just bouncin', walkin' and groovin'. Then you throw in the funky chunk, blazin' guitar of Jody Mosser, and a true and naturally talented vocal and crowd pleasing man- Mark Mann.
These are the ingredients that make Dimestore, a band originally formed in Washington, DC during the fall of 2006. After a lineup change in mid 2007, Dimestore has started to gain some serious recognition within the DC, Maryland, Virginia and Pennyslvania areas.
Dimestore strives to make as many people move as possible. Come see for yourself, this band gaurantees a night of booty shakin' madness!