Reviews

Dungen:14 August 2009 - Brooklyn, NY

Rachel Brodsky

Dungen’s demeanor is the anti-rock star. Their onstage smiles, gratitude and grace are what sifts and separates Dungen from the pile of Zeppelin wannabes.

Dungen

Dungen

City: Brooklyn, NY
Venue: Bell House
Date: 2009-08-14

Dungen want to be Led Zeppelin. There, I said it. And it’s true. Not only is the lead singer and Dungen brainchild Gustav Ejstes a dead ringer for Robert Plant (Google Image their names to see it for yourself) but Dungen’s music is a similar-sounding, freewheeling, jam-filled blend of free jazz, Swedish folk and psychedelic rock. During their performance at Brooklyn’s Bell House, I half expected the boys to come out swinging with a Swedish rendition of “Fool in the Rain.” Indeed, the very thing that sets Dungen apart from their 1970s doppelgangers is that they sing each song in sweet-sounding Swedish. Which leads me to wonder, if Dungen didn’t sing in Swedish, a language so completely unknown to the average American, would they even be half as popular?

Despite the copycat jabs a critic could take at Dungen, the evening of their performance had a promising vibe. Opening acts included Brooklyn-based minimalist-psychedelic act Ducktails and the crooning, electric jams of Woods. The two openers acted as a slick primer for the night that lay ahead, and by the end of their sets the Bell House had stuffed itself to the brim with young, hip Brooklyn residents.

Before Dungen walked in, the stage was arranged with multiple instruments, including a miniature piano/keyboard, a flute lying atop the piano, and a fine selection of guitars. Once they finally stepped onstage, Dungen met with loud appreciative applause, and the men onstage produced genuine grins in return. Obviously, Dungen were thrilled to be playing in New York, as so many foreign artists are. Lead singer Ejstes’ hair looked so thick, curly and blonde that my initial thought was “geez, how many women would kill for that kind of volume?”

During their one and a half hour set, Dungen mostly stuck to new tracks off of the recently released 4, and finished off with closing tracks and encores from their earlier releases, most notably 2006’s Ta Det Lugnt. Throughout their energetic performance, Ejistes played enthusiastically, and took different instruments into his hands for every other song. At times he’d sit at the piano, bending over so his long Robert Plant hair fell over his face, pausing to brush it back so that he could play the flute, or croon to the crowd. Each song on the set list was long and all consuming. Songs like “SÄTT ATT SE” and “Festival” were accompanied by lengthy textured jams, where each instrument fit into each other knowingly, as if the men on stage weren’t playing them, but the instruments were playing the men. By the set’s end, Dungen’s guitarist Reine Fiske looked like he was about to keel over, but like a true rock star, he reappeared on stage for a rousing encore.

Now, even a skeptical New York audience will be downright enthralled with a group of skinny Swedes expertly playing a stage littered with instruments, with an end result that recalls a lost era in music. Everyone who claims to enjoy music is likely to lap up the familiar strains of 1960-70s psychedelic folk, in this particular case emulating The Creation, Love, Zeppelin and the Who. Dungen are certainly not the first and only band to pluck their influences from the classic rock record bin, but the sheer likeness of their sound (not to mention their aesthetic) is cause for some cynical head scratching. Again, the question: Are Dungen only famous in America because they sing in Swedish? The answer is probably yes, they are, but luckily no one, not even pop critics, seem to mind, because Dungen are technically excellent musicians. It might even be because Dungen’s demeanor is the anti-rock star. Their onstage smiles, gratitude and grace are what sifts and separates Dungen from the pile of Zeppelin wannabes. Anyway, the Zeppelin likeness has to stop somewhere, because let’s be serious: Jimmy Page would never have looked that exhausted by the show’s end.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.