Time-Traveling Band ‘88mph’ Parks Its DeLorean at Daymark

Jul 25, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

In the daytime and early evening, Daymark Bar and Restaurant in Barnegat Light could be the inside of a modern ship, should that ship belong to a fashionable, hipster fleet. White, reflective walls gather and emit light into every nook and cranny of the restaurant. Golden, rustic lamps hang over cozy booths made of smooth, repurposed wood, and single bulbs dangle above the bar from crisp white ropes. The restaurant is both sterile and antique: weather-beaten wood without the splinters, vintage photos without the dust.

But when the clock struck 10 p.m. last Saturday, the place underwent a swift transformation. Chairs were stacked and pushed against the wall, the televisions above the bar faded to black, the lights were dimmed, and the blue tie-dye-splashed walls glimmered on the east side of the restaurant like the moonlit depths of the ocean. The stage was ready, set, go for 88mph.

88mph is a South Jersey-based cover band whose “Back to the Future” namesake suggests an exclusive set list of ’80s synth pop hits. However, its musical leanings are anything but decade specific. What 88mph references is Doc’s famous line from the 1985 film: “Now, if my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles an hour, you're going to see some serious s***!” The five-member, self-proclaimed “time traveling” band simply wants to take bargoers for a little spin in their DeLorean.

The drivers of this DeLorean? Shannon Kelleher with lead vocals, her husband, Mark Kelleher, on drums, Joe Messina on guitar, Bob Clayton on bass and Elliott Nieves on keys. The group’s expansive repertoire includes anything from the ’50s to now.

They opened with Sublime’s “Santeria.” The reggae rock classic summoned the patrons forth with that unmistakable slow, staccato opening guitar riff. After the first verse or so, the group blended the song with “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy, showing the crowd, right off the bat, that this was no vanilla cover band.

The group of musicians typically operates with a full, theatrical production. “This right here is nothing,” lead singer Kelleher said, pointing to their setup at the corner of the restaurant. “We actually have a full production with TVs. We have lights everywhere. We have costume changes, all that kind of stuff.”

“When we have our full production up, you see more of what it means,” said Mark Kelleher, who operates the technical production. “Because all of the TVs are playing in time with us, every time we play a song, whatever year that’s from, there’s iconic moments from that year playing. If we’re playing Beatles, all the lighting is very old-looking. So everything fits the time.”

But a curated performance with light shows and video clips doesn’t restrict the band’s set list. The musicians like to read the crowd and mold their performances accordingly.

“We call it off the crowd, however the crowd is acting,” said Mark. Last Saturday, to appease the youthful Daymark bunch, 88mph opted for ’90s anthems and pop hits from the 2000s. A favorite was their rendition of “Closer,” a duet popularized by The Chainsmokers and Halsey. Before leading into the song, Shannon instructed the crowd to separate: men on one side, women on the other. For the entirety of the electropop tune, she orchestrated the two sides like a conductor, directing the women to belt one half of the duet while the men belted the other.

88mph was interactive and playful. They wove in and out of the crowd, pressing microphones toward eager participants and dancing amongst the flailing limbs of exuberant, tipsy patrons. Their energy was matched only by their skill and versatility.

Shannon in particular showed off her ability to power through both female-lead and male-lead ballads. Channeling the deep range of Adele and the edge of Gwen Stefani for an added sultry effect, she killed covers of Elle King and Bruno Mars.

“I’ve been performing since I was 3 years old; I’ve always been on stage. I started writing my own music. I wish I kind of wrote songs again because there is no bigger thrill than hearing everybody just sing for you. You get goose bumps all over your body because you know that you have them,” she said.

Despite their lack of original tunes, 88mph still gets gratification from playing covers.

“My favorite part about performing is when you know you have the crowd and you could literally play anything and they are just so into it and continue to go nuts for you,” Mark said. “Or when they sing so loud that you don’t even have to. They take over for you.”

The musicians’ energy never faltered from set to set. “We’re going to play a little drinking game,” said Shannon into her microphone. “Every time you hear us change up a song, you guys have to drink.”

The band sprang into “All Star” by Smash Mouth, followed by Sugar Ray’s “Fly” and “Every Morning,” then “How Bizarre” from OMC. The musicians bounded effortlessly from hit to hit of the ’90s, each short song bite melding into the next so fluidly it was often hard to tell when one had ended and another began.

“We just want to make everyone’s life better. I don’t expect to be the number one cover band in the area because there are so many phenomenal cover bands that I’ve met. But I want to be remembered,” said Shannon.

“We want to be known as that band where people are like ‘Holy crap, they are awesome,’” said Mark.

For more information regarding 88mph and their upcoming shows, visit 88mphrocks.com.

— Sarah Hodgson

Set List Snippet:

“Santeria,” Sublime

“Billionaire,” Travie McCoy

“Ex’s & Oh’s,” Elle King

“Rude,” MAGIC!

“Cake by the Ocean,” DNCE

“Ride,” Twenty One Pilots

“Havana,” Camila Cabello

“Smooth,” Santana featuring Rob Thomas

“Fly,” Sugar Ray

“Closing Time,” Semisonic

“Wonderwall,” Oasis

“24K Magic,” Bruno Mars

“Timber,” Pitbull featuring Kesha

“Shape of You,” Ed Sheeran

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