Friday, 19 June 2009

Concert Review: Dengue Fever @ The Scala 18th June 2009

Zac Holtzman

The first time I saw Dengue Fever play was at Rough Trade East just under a year ago. At the time, their third album 'Venus on Earth' was on heavy rotation in our flat and rapidly becoming the soundtrack to my Summer. Their unique blend of Cambodian psychedelic surf rock had me hooked but seeing them live brought another dimension to their appeal. Their energy on stage is incredibly infectious and this filters through into their music creating a sound that seems impossible to recreate on record. Since then I have seen them perform twice. If I hear they're coming to town I can't help myself, I have to book a ticket, I have to get my Dengue Fever fix!

The music that Dengue Fever plays might best be described as a reawakening of the 1960's heydays of Cambodian pop music including covers of songs by such artists as Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron, and Ros Sereysothea, they also perform their own compositions. Most of their songs are sung in singer Chhom Nimol's native language, Khmer with only some tracks on their latest album sung in English. The fact that I don't understand what the lyrics mean most of the time surpisingly doesn't deter me as I thought it might, Khmer is a such a beautiful sounding language.

The Show

After a disappointing couple of failed attempts at showing the Dengue Fever documentary 'Sleepwalking Through The Mekong' the band seemed keen to start and entered the stage to huge applause, the word on these guys has travelled fast, the room was full.

They played mostly tracks from 'Venus on Earth' and a couple of others I didn't recognise but sounded equally as good. Singer Chhom Nimol looked as glamorous as ever in a dress not that dissimilar to the one I wore on the day of my wedding give or take a good few inches shorter and I was pleased to see guitarist Zac Holtzman was still sporting his fantastically long signature beard.

Chhom Nimol

Watching bassist Senon Williams move about the stage is a show in itself. That guy is always on the move, take your eye off him for one moment and before you know it he's standing right there in front of you, balancing off the edge of the stage strumming and bouncing away, last night he even handed me and another girl spare bottles of beer each in between songs! Zac Holtzman also made it into the audience near the end of the show playing his guitar while four Cambodian audience members who had been dragged on stage by Senon made a commendable effort at singing and dancing along with Chhom Nimol. Maybe this is another reason why Dengue Fever are so good live, they make you feel like a part of the show, they get you involved and you just can't help but smile and have a little dance!

Crowd members on stage

Zac Holtzman & Senon Williams

Summer 2009 officially begins on Sunday (June 21st) so it seemed fitting that Dengue Fever were back in the UK for a one off official London show last night. Forget visiting Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice, these guys are the marker I now use to officially start my Summer.

Dengue fever on MySpace



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