Monday, 24 November 2008

Concert Review: Dengue Fever @ The ICA, London 20th November 2008

Chhom Nimol

I booked my ticket for this concert months ago after I first saw LA based band Dengue Fever perform a free show at Rough Trade East. Back then there were only a handful of people in the audience, last Thursday night was a sell out. I'm sure a recent appearance on the Jools Holland show probably helped raise their profile in the UK but also intensive touring and plugging looked like it had finally paid off and deservedly so.

I've been enjoying listening and following this bands progress all Summer (see their entertaining home made videos on YouTube) so I was so pleased to see other people were just as intrigued and enjoying their music. I wasn't sure the British audience would accept so many songs sung in Khmer (singer Chhom Nimol’s native language), I thought it might back fire on them but thankfully not. Thursday evening proved they haven't been chastised into the World Music Section yet (hands off Kershaw!)

Zac Holtzman

Dengue Fever hit the stage and aced their first song “Hold My Hips” sending ripples of excitement through the audience who responded by starting to dance. A combination of the almost hypnotic sounding Farfisa organ (played by Ethan Holtzman who with his flat cap and moustache looked a little bit like Luigi from Super Mario Brothers) and psychedelic 60’s sounding surfer style guitar riffs (played by his brother Zac Holtzman) did something to my mind sending it into overdrive, a musical frenzy! Their sound is mesmerizing, it draws you in and their energy is incredibly infectious. Senon Williams (very tall bass player) bounced around the stage with a great big smile and at one point stood literally right in front of me (I had managed to bag a spot in the middle at the front) making him seem like a giant!

Senon Williams

I always find it interesting to see the different kinds of people bands draw to gigs. Dengue Fever pulled quite an eclectic mix, everyone from middle aged people in suits (that got very sweaty and I hope weren’t worn to work the next day) to youngish looking hipsters. They were a friendly bunch as well, a couple of songs in Zac seemed to be a little unhappy with his sound levels and tried to get the attention of the sound engineers to which a guy in the audience shouted out “Don't worry! You sound great!”

The last time I went to The ICA was to see Brooklyn based band Yeasayer and I remember complaining about the sound quality of the show in my review. Although The ICA quickly put the sound right this time they did however manage to slow roast the band under the stage lighting. As a result, the lead singer Chhom Nimol looked like she was struggling a bit, even I could feel the intense heat off the lights in the front row. Nevertheless all credit to her, she didn’t complain once and gave a note perfect performance, a true professional.

They played:

Hold My Hips

Lost In Laos

Shave Your Beard


Sober Driver

Doo Wop

Thanks A Lot


Tiger Phone Card

A Go Go

Pow Pow
Glass Of Wine

SNI Bong

1000 Tears

Mr Orange
I'm 16


Made of Steam / Tip My Canoe

During "SNI Bong" Chhom tried to get the audience to sing along a few words in Khmer, and like a Chinese whisper 10 people down the line, we all gave it our best but I’m sure it sounded nothing like she had initially instructed us to sing – I know for a fact what I was singing didn’t bare any resemblance, I just made it up! She didn’t correct us and I felt proud that maybe (but most probably not!) I might have sang my first ever words in Khmer.

The band sounded tight, their show sounded and looked polished and they seemed to be really enjoying themselves. I think nearly everyone chuckled when Zac (guitarist with the cool long beard) took his chance to introduce a song saying "The next song is called Shave your Beard", you couldn't fail to smile.

After about an hour, they left the stage and the lights dropped. I knew there was going to be an encore because I could see the set list from where I was standing but I'm pretty sure the rest of the audience couldn't who by this point were whistling and shouting out for more, drumming their feet wildly on the floor.

They returned to play 5 more songs and at the (real) end of the show Senon announced their next gig in the UK would probably be in June and I think he mentioned it was in Scotland. I’m not sure I can wait that long but I guess I have no choice!

(**UPDATE: DENGUE FEVER WILL BE BACK IN LONDON ON JUNE 18TH @ SCALA - Well Scala can sound like Scotland right?!**)

Brilliant night, great band. I couldn’t sleep a wink when I got home from all the excitement, definitely a band to watch.

Dengue Fever - Later with Jools Holland

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