Wednesday, July 20, 2005

SWEDE EMOTION: Under the Boardwalk with Dungen

Something happened in Sweden in the last decade that caused the Volvo-driving, ABBA-loving, fondue-dipping Swedes to stop farting around and start burning churches. A thousand great bands have risen from the ashes.

This weekend I put on my KISS shirt, stuffed some dosh in my leather wrist cuff, and headed down to the Siren Music Festival in Coney Island to see Dungen, the Swedish rock band that sounds like Led Zeppelin refracted through a crystal glögg stein.

The day started out cloudy and threatening to rain but it was a Saturday in July and no New York woman worth her Metrocard would let that get in the way of a good time. Sober braved the dodgy forecast to go to the beach and work on her permanent just-back-from-Miami tan. Mex joined me for the Coney show. We met up with new buddy Jamie in front of Nathan’s hotdog terminal. He hooked us up with VIP passes. That’s how we met the band.

We were hanging out behind the stage enjoying the open bar when I spotted base player Matthias Gustavsson rolling a cigarette near a cyclone fence about twenty yards from the world famous Cyclone.

Chasing rock stars is a demoralizing grind full of vignettes like the one I’m about to relate, and I generally don’t do it, but I felt Dungen was worth a small tumble from grace. I had been grooving to their record for months, despite being unable to understand a word of Swedish, and I wanted to know a little about the men behind the music.

I sidled up to the fence and invited Gustavsson to share his thoughts on New York women. In clipped, scientific-sounding English, he informed me that he was not Gustav (the singer).

I told him I was interested in what he had to say anyway.

“I haven’t had that much experience in New York,” he relented. “But New Jersey is really nice.” (They had played at Maxwell’s in Hoboken two nights before.)

Nice one, Tiaz.

As we chatted through the fence, I spotted frontman Gustav Ejstes in the distance. It’s hard to describe that first glimpse without slipping into marble notebook lyricism, but I tell you, it was like spotting a fawn. He had a mane of blonde hair above dazzling blue eyes above broad shoulders above a narrow waist. Nice height. I wanted to stroke his neck and chase him through the woods.

I waved to him and he cantered over, gamely pressing his ear to the fence. I asked him about his take on women and New York. He either didn’t hear or didn’t understand.

“I love it,” he said smiling. “But I have a girlfriend.”

Then Tiaz sensibly informed him that it was time to play.

By the time Dungen got on stage the sun was shining, Mex was rocking the SPF 30, and we were all styling in our shades. Not letting the heat get the better of me during the performance that followed was hard and I felt my knees buckle a couple of times. Plus, looking at Ejstes was sort of like staring at the sun.

Guitar, tambourine, flute and piano – he played them all as he sang and struck classic centaur poses - an unabashed ham. Thank God. There’s nothing worse than an introspective mook fronting a rock band.

The rest of the group appeared content to noodle along the sidelines - nice, suburban guys who had likely packed alpine sweaters in case it got cold on the road.

Dungen are pretty clean looking as hard rock bands go, but their good grooming seemed a more matter of course – like politeness among Canadians – than a point of pride. Still, I wondered if they traveled with an arsenal of precious Neutrogena products.

Dungen did not play the tightest set, but they did pull off one of the most original. Their big acoustic Goth sound (Jamie’s description) was in stark contrast to the tight, rhythmic stylings (mine, gawd) of most of the other bands playing that day, managing to be evocative as opposed to just retro.

The Swedes have a tradition of allowing people to stroll freely in the forests and fields to pick berries and mushrooms, taking for granted that they will show due consideration to their fellow gatherers. Dungen has applied this principle in picking from the remainder bins of the last century. Claude Debussy, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, The Hollies and probably lots of other classic bozos I know nothing about are thrown into a mix with some homegrown in sonic compositions – scary as that sounds – THAT FUCKIN ROCK!

Dungen finished to booming applause and, almost immediately, fog began to roll in from the ocean. Ejstes appeared to be moving in a cloud of dry ice when we met up with him again after the show. Mex and I intercepted him en route to the bar.

Enchanted by his golden locks — which were just then plastered to his chiseled jaw - Mex asked what kind of shampoo he used. Was it some kind of Swedish herbal brand?

He told us it was whatever they had at the hotel.

Gustav, we love you. Dungen, we’re so glad you came.

this is an audio post - click to play

Check out Dungen's Website at:

Thanks for the photos, James!


posted by cherrybomb @ 7/20/2005 10:47:00 PM |


<< Home