Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Rock Flute Returns: Dungen Blows House Down

This weekend Swedish rock band Dungen played The Bowery Ballroom, an old brass and marble theater on the Lower East Side with a vaulted ceiling that swirls sound like cotton candy.

Coney Island (the last place we saw Dungen, see "Swede Emotion" July 2005) is it’s only rival for greatest rock venue in New York.

Galvanized by the majestic psych-folk of ta det lugnt, the recently reissued Dungen album that’s been quickening pulses (yikes!) all summer, Sober, Dorth, Starman and Jamie all came out for the show.

Down in the Bowery Ballroom’s dungeon-like mezzanine bar, Sober vigilantly sipped a Diet Coke. The bartender had absent-mindedly slipped her some bourbon earlier in the night and she wasn’t taking any chances.

Dorth, on the other hand, was still bombed from an afternoon of baking spice cake and spent the early part of the evening rehydrating with water.


Meanwhile, Starman enjoyed the first of many beers while scoping out chicks with Jamie who was sporting a new mustache.

After an interminable opening set by the aptly named Endless Boogie, Dungen took the stage. We headed upstairs, elbowing our way to the front of the crowd like the pushy New York broads we are.

The long summer of touring had been good to frontman Gustav Ejstes, who stalked around the stage with a head of even longer, more luxurious hair (see "Swede Emotion" below), and a band that was tight as a drum. But being on the road must be pretty disorienting for an artist. Not long into the show, he admitted to not being sure what day it was.

We hooted, pumped our fists, and let him know that it was Saturday night. Dungen took our cue and tore into a mind-blowing set of spacey rock epics and folkie stomps replete with flute solos, thundering drums and even a bit of that screaming thing ABBA does on songs like S.O.S.


Ambidextrous Ejstes worked his way through a Vienna Philharmonic Jugend Gruppe of instruments (guitar, piano, flute, etc.) with a natural musicianship that made it clear he could likely play the shit out of a gourd if need be.

Brandishing his tambourine in time with his flailing hair, he threw himself into a wildman stomp that, well beyond rock flute, hailed the return of pagan abandon to heavy music.

I stood before him transfixed (lots of wine but not a bite to eat since noon) wondering what he could be singing about. Anyone out there speak Swenska?

We were lucky enough to reconnect with the band after the show.

Assuming he was talking to a fellow classic rock geek, Starman rattled-off a litany of obscure noodlers to bass-player Mattias Gustavson. The easy-going basist had no idea what he was talking about and made a polite exit for his hotel.

I approached Ejstes and stole a hug, which he warmly returned. He thanked us for coming in English that seemed much improved since the last time we spoke (see "Swede Emotion" below).

“What is it about jazz flute?" he asked. Apparently the band had watched Anchorman on the tour bus and couldn’t understand what Americans had against the instrument.

“Nothing,” I thought, “When you play it.”

I bummed a cigarette and noticed his knuckles were badly nicked -- a jarring reminder that beyond a natural born hottie, Ejstes was a working musician prone to occupational hazards like hand-abrasions, burnout, bad management and groupies.

I asked him where he was headed next.

There was some chatter from the road crew about a recording studio or rehearsal space -- something with the possibility of our tagging along.

Ultimately Ejstes said, "It's not gonna be that way."

And I felt deeply relieved.



Thanks to Lisa for the great photo.

Log on to http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=12d78ahh.6m4jfasl&x=0&y=9ijo83 for more.




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posted by cherrybomb @ 10/18/2005 08:57:00 PM |

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