Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Live Review: Dungen@The Empty Bottle 10/8/05

On the surface, Dungen is one 70's rock cliché after another. Big hair, bell bottoms, epic vocals, soaring guitar, a dash of Hammond organ and even a flute solo or two. The only thing missing are violin-bowed guitar solos. However, despite this Nordic raping and pillaging of the Classic Rock 101 songbook, experiencing Dungen live is a revelation...this isn't retro-rubbish, these 4 lads from Sweden are the real deal. While you'd never guess it from seeing them live, Dungen is essentially a one-man band project, lead by singer/multi-instrumentalist Gustav Esjes. Esjes is reported to have recorded "just about every drum beat, fiddle note, guitar lick, organ sound, bass strum & flute whisper" on their most recent album Ta Det Lugnt, their debut in the States. Sure enough for the live show, Esjes, looking like a cross between a Robert Plant, Roger Daltry and Peter Frampton, did jump around between guitar, organ, and flute while also handling lead vocals. However, percussion-wise, Esjes only handled tambourine duties and most of the guitar was handled by lead man Reine Fiske. A part of the recently assembled full-band version of Esjes' Dungen project, Fiske really stole the show with his Norse Godlike guitar chops. Not only was his playing amazing, but the sound that emanated from his Marshall stack was downright euphoric. Via a vintage Strat, he achieved this amazingly warm analog sound that had just the perfect amount of distortion and echo. The sound was so strikingly late 60's/early 70s pyschedelia that you'd swear he had bought all of his gear from a garage sale at David Gilmour's house. Speaking of which, as much as I think Dungen is a fresh talent that borrows pieces of rock's past rather than flat out stealing from it, they do highly remind me of the post-Barrett, pre-Dark Side version of Pink Floyd...only with more rock and less prog. I noticed the similarity in guitar sound on the album right away, but seeing them jam out live took me back to some of the more rockin' moments from the Floyd's cult video classic, Live at Pompeii. (the track "Lejonet & Kulan" is very "Saucerful of Secrets," especially live) Above all, as much as I like their latest album Ta Det Lugnt, I don't think it gives the band justice. Dungen is truly a band that you need to see live. Esjes is an amazing talent, and somehow he's assembled a full supporting cast that can not only keep up him, but actually make his psychedelic visions sound even better live. Easily one of the "tightest" bands I've seen in a long time, I'd recommend Dungen to not just retro rock fans, but to anyone who truly appreciates the work of talented musicians.


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