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Mama K and the Shades channel loss into powerful debut

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Mama K and The Shades performs at The Sahara Lounge in East Austin on Friday, July 17, 2015. (Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman)

On July 11, Mama K and the Shades came in with a wall of sound when they took the outdoor stage at Empire Garage. The backline shook the crowd with wicked funk grooves punctuated with horn blasts while the three singers holding down the front danced madly and unleashed a barrage of spirit-raising soulful hooks. Coming together in polyrhythms and structured harmonies, the large ensemble seemed to move as one. The energy was explosive as they implored the crowd to dance away the midsummer sluggishness, to release their bodies in something akin to the ecstasy of praise.

Then, the mood shifted. As cool blue light bathed the stage, and the band drifted into the wistful instrumental intro to “Midnight Train.” The song was one of the first written by Garcia and the group’s co-founder, saxophonist David McKnight, at a makeshift kitchen-top recording studio, and, Garcia explained, it was McKnight’s signature jam.

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