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Live the (Party) Dream

Gil Mantera as X-Man ''Lycra'': He has the power to shine. (Photos by Ryan Ward)

Gil Mantera’s Party Dream

at Spaceland, May 30

Gil Mantera strolls around Spaceland before the show, nonchalantly catching the eye of most every girl, demurely smiling. Such a gentleman. Next thing you know, red spandex snaps, Navajo necklaces are clasped, beats start bouncing, and Gil appears onstage — having undergone a brutal, self-imposed lycanthropic transformation. This is Gil Mantera’s Party Dream, but Gil and his brother want to be everybody’s party dream. Two songs into the set, the place is all smiles (literally), as the ratty crowd bounces in time like a human metronome. I hear myself saying, “This is amazing” with a laugh, but it’s actually the girl next to me, her eyes riveted to the stage. “I wanna make a baby with you!” she yells, and the girl behind her echoes, “I want two babies!”

Party Dream’s salty-sweet, synth-heavy drum-machine rhythms (manned by Gil) sound like something right off a Herbie Hancock record. The cherry on top is singer Ultimate Donny, with his power-chord slashes and fist-clenching cries harking back to the love-starved glory days of Bon Jovi and Journey. And, no shit, he’s an accomplished vocalist. In fact, you could compare this duo’s sensibilities to a ménage à trois between Stevie Wonder, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Rush. Ultimate Donny and Gil have birthed a pop form scraped from the rusty carcass of Youngstown, Ohio, lovingly tinted with the youthful nostalgia that resides in every jaded hipster heart. That means power hooks aplenty, delivered in candy-coated, Vocoded prose, topped with crunchy Boston-esque guitar — performed as tight as a can of Crown Prince sardines.

Suddenly, Gil pulls his pants down around his knees and proceeds to punch out a familiar rhythm from L.A.’s gold-dust days. “Now here you go again, you say you want your freedom,” he chirps through the Vocoder. “Well who am I to keep you down?” It’s “Dreams,” by Fleetwood Mac. Someone take a picture.

Ultimate Donny maintains his older-brother persona throughout the show, hilariously harassing songwriter Gil about a “faggotty-ass mistake” he makes on his sequencer and explaining how it was destiny that brought them to Spaceland tonight.

Later, they pack up their little Honda Civic and ride off into a refreshing and credible future.

—Ryan Ward

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