by Jake Viswanath
The line at Gramercy Theatre wrapped around the block early last October for new electronic pop duo Dumblonde, an impressive turnout for an upcoming act’s debut show, but Dumblonde is not a new discovery for these dedicated fans.
Dumblonde members Shannon Bex and Aubrey O’Day were two of the five members of Danity Kane, the urban-pop girl group formed in 2005 on the hit MTV show “Making the Band,” under the guidance of iconic rapper Diddy. They released two albums and several hit singles before disbanding in early 2009.
Following an attempted Danity Kane reunion in 2014, which ended after a fight ensued between O’Day and former bandmate Dawn Richard, Bex and O’Day announced the duo in March and released their self-titled debut album last month.
The fans in line, adorned in homemade Dumblonde t-shirts, reminisced about the days of Danity Kane, speculated who was at fault for the failed reunion, and gabbed about Richard’s solo career, before being let in to witness their girls in action.
Brooklyn-based band Color Guard kicked off the night and hyped the crowd with their rock-tinged disco tunes. The party continued with Zeke Thomas, the DJ son of famed NBA player Isiah Thomas, who started off well by getting two audience members to have a twerk-off for a hundred dollars. But after almost an hour of playing random hip-hop tracks and Madonna deep cuts, Thomas lost his momentum and the audience became visibly bored.
The crowd didn’t light up again until Dumblonde finally hit the stage, after an additional forty minutes of waiting. Kicking off with the trap-infused “White Lightning”, the duo performed choreography with black sheets and blowing fans a la FKA Twigs, before mashing up reggae-inspired “Remember Me” with a cover of Beyoncé’s “Partition.”
The setlist was essentially their debut album on shuffle, leaving no song untouched. The only nod to their former girl group days was a snippet of “Lemonade,” Danity Kane’s last single released, performed while Bex and O’Day straddled a lucky fan’s lap on stage. Fans reveled in every minute of O’Day’s powerful vocals and Bex’s sharp dancing, but the girls knew when to step back and share the spotlight, as shown when two female dancers performed an interpretive routine during the experimental “Yellow Canary.”
As the show drew to a close with the euphoric house stomper “You Got Me,” the energy remained electric throughout Gramercy as the audience sang every word. But the following chants of “Dumblonde!” were ignored as the house lights went on and the projection screen descended. The only complaint heard among the audience was that the show was indeed too short, lasting only fifty minutes. Despite their shortage of material and a history of Danity Kane’s brief sets, a show will always feel weird when the opening act plays longer than the headliner.
Nevertheless, Dumblonde knew how to make the most of the short length, giving their loyal fans a night to remember and leaving them wanting more. It’s not known if Dumblonde can break away from their members’ failed girl group past and establish their own path, but at their debut New York show, O’Day and Bex proved they have the talent and drive to do it.
Jake Viswanath is a Contributing Writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org