There is something about Scandinavian bands that is so refreshingly modest you can’t help but be swooned by their subtle charm. Dungen is no exception to the rule. Their ability to captivate an entire audience for an evening doesn’t compromise the very best in rock & roll etiquette. As they entered stage, they politely thanked the audience and the city of Chicago for hosting their performance. The band’s gratitude was well received by an adoring crowd packed to the brim at the Empty Bottle’s sold out show.
Just two days prior to being on stage at the Empty Bottle, Dungen wowed thousands of sweaty fans with an impeccable performance given in the heat of Pitchfork’s Intonation festival. As Rob Lowe (no, not that one), the opening performer, stepped off the stage, I wondered how many members of the audience had been inspired by Dungen’s performance at Intonation to return for second helpings. Whatever the percentage might have been, it didn’t matter at this point. I had made it to the front and now positioned between two peoples’ heads, I was able to see just about everything on stage. The guitar techs checked over each instrument and I noticed how clean and well kept the drum kit and guitars seemed to be. Moments later, the band had taken the stage and were proceeding to move through their set.
Red, blue and yellow lights painted the room a series of different colors, while Gustav, Reine, and Taiz convulsed on stage to the music. In appearance, I can’t help but think of Zeppelin when I watch Gustav shake about on stage wearing a pair of low cut shrink-wrapped denim jeans. But the band’s musical talents draw from a range of sources that may have been introduced to Gustav in his days of digging through record bins. Before moving into the realm of Swedish psychedelic, Gustav experimented with hip-hop sampling, which is how he came into contact with an abundance of Swedish psychedelic music produced in the 1960s.
Dungen has managed to come out of the basement, where the first recordings accrued, to meet the world with open arms. An article and cover story in The FADER Magazine, as well as a full-page write up in NME have brought considerable attention to the band. Their sound moves from heavy to soft in almost orchestral moods that moved Dungen’s set along without many pauses. At different times in the performance, Gustav picked up either electric or acoustic guitar, while at other times he just dramatically banged away at the tambourine. With most Swedish bands I have witnessed, there is always a serious emphasis on giving an audience something in a live show that couldn’t be offered simply by buying the recording. A stage performance is an exhibition and a chance to be a spectacle. To no surprise, this makes watching Dungen a very entertaining experience.
The band’s lyrics are in Swedish and are both screamed and sung in moderation during various songs. The rhythm section drives the band by keeping everyone moving forward, while melodies provided by guitar sections liquify the atmosphere and take listeners on a psychedelic tangent. I couldn’t have wanted anything more. After having seen this band twice in two days I am convinced that their popularity will continue to rise.