24 Jun 2016
Dungen and Tame Impala- June 14-16 Show Diary
Text and photos by Chris Sherman (Sky Picnic)
Over the course of three nights, I was lucky enough to see arguably two of psychedelic rock’s biggest (and best) acts. For the Brooklyn shows at Prospect Park, just a few short blocks from my home, I still remember questioning the bill when it was first announced; how was it plausible that they were playing together, and would the universe somehow explode? Needless to say, those six months of waiting seemed to take forever. When Dungen added further headlining dates in the area, I knew I had to jump on them. As I had written previously about Dungen in my October 2015 show review, it had been five years at that point since I had seen them, and now, here I was looking at three shows over a 72 hour period and feeling absolutely spoiled, yet grateful, for the abundance of northeast U.S. shows. What follows is a synopsis of those shows.
Prospect Park, Brooklyn, June 14 and 15- On two perfect summer evenings, as the sun was making its decent down, peeking through the tops of the trees, and a cool breeze filled the air, Dungen took the stage at precisely 7:30. As openers for Tame Impala, they played the part of relative unknowns but definitely brought their best to win everyone over. The younger crowd was definitely appreciative but I fear only a select few were getting into it. Both sets began with the energetic and driving “Fredag”, before giving way to a string of material from 2015’s "Allas Sak". Of note on the second evening was a transcendent performance of “En dag på sjön” the jam-esque conclusion to “Åkt dit”, which has evolved considerably not only from the LP version, but from the last time I heard it live in October 2015. The rhythm section of Mattias and Johan bring the song to a crescendo (then to a pulse and back again) while Gustav and Reine weave melodic patterns over this, creating an epic monster.
The band joked that “the park smelled good tonight”, leading to “Franks Kaktus”, a crowd pleaser, with the flute creating an exotic other-worldly vibe. On night one, rare Ta det lugnt era b-side “Jämna plågor” made an appearance much to my delight (never thought I would hear that one live!). Even though they played a condensed set, a four song medley appeared, the bulk of which was material from the lesser appreciated "Tio Bitar" album. While last tour it seemed rushed and out of place, this time it was perfected and felt like a mini-prog rock epic in four movements. “Panda” was of course a highlight; on the first night, it concluded the set, while on the second, it gave way to an improvisational piece where Gustav pranced around the stage with tambourine while Reine absolutely slayed on a heavily distorted solo riff. Dungen played a tight 40 minute set both nights, thanking Tame Impala and their fans for listening before leaving the stage. (The feeling of course was mutual, as Kevin Parker mentioned on at least three occasions later how he was overjoyed to be playing with Dungen and that without them, Tame Impala might not be where they are today.)
Prior to this, I had last seen Tame Impala in 2012 right at the start of the "Lonerism" tour. The live sound had already begun to advance drastically since the halcyon days of their "Innerspeaker" dates; less organic, bigger, and with more sonic manipulation to align the songs more with their studio counterparts. While to some, live and studio are sometimes seen as separate domains, Tame Impala helps put that notion to rest. Their set was tight and shows a band continuing its musical development and ascension upward in the music scene. Having seen them in less than sold out 200 capacity venues in 2010 to adoring sold-out ones now, where Parker has the crowd singing along to every word was astonishing. It seems at this point psychedelic music isn’t just something you listen to in a dark room at night with headphones and intoxicant of choice while pondering the meaning of life. It isn’t some underground scene that you have to know someone who knows someone to turn you on to. It is something more mainstream, something culture can embrace and something that hypnotizes the senses while your body grooves along. (You can even argue this to be the case if you go all the way back to Pink Floyd’s “Money”, “Time” or “Dogs”, all of which are the “parents” to what is currently happening. The trends have a way of being cyclical).
As “Nangs” came over the speakers, a roar erupted from the sold-out crowd, the standing room area fully filled like sardines. The brief piece dovetailed into “Let It Happen” which immediately got the crowd moving, while the series of visuals behind the band had others entranced. Aided by samplers and loopers (and presumably the sound guy and various effects), they were able to replicate much of, if not all of, the sonics and layers involved with the "Currents" material, of which “The Moment” particularly stood out. Old favorites “Mind Mischief” and “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind” were welcome songs early in the set, both featuring slight changes in arrangement. (Note: the same set was played both nights, hence this song synopsis applies to both). As the material is definitely synth based now, one could close their eyes and think it might be the mid-1980’s. This affords Kevin the opportunity to not have to (or need to) play guitar in every song and he can grab the mic and saunter around the stage while singing. I found this to be an interesting dichotomy, as one can tell he is not totally comfortable doing it (this is again, the guy who embraced being alone and isolating himself), but is the likely byproduct of him partly embracing the role of being the front man.
There was a slight mid-set lull during some of the newer ballads, (or was it simply that the crowd lost its collective energy at that point?) but songs like “Elephant” and “Alter Ego” brought everyone back to life. The main set closed with an extended “Apocalypse Dreams”, leading to the crowd begging for more. The band returned for sing-along “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and dark horse candidate for highlight on Currents, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” The crowd was still not ready to leave, but alas, the show had ended. Eager to leave the sweaty, stale-aired floor area, ears ringing, I made my way to the exit realizing that, absent some of the weirdness, Tame Impala might be following in the footsteps of psych rock legends The Flaming Lips. Would this be looked back on as their Yoshimi stage, or have they not even begun to hit their stride?
June 16-I made my way to Boston the following morning for Dungen’s headlining show at the Sinclair in Cambridge. Holding around 500 people at capacity, this was in stark contrast to the outdoor shows. The intimate setting helped foster an atmosphere for creativity and a crowd full of engaged fans allowed the band to feed off that energy. Kicking off with “Fredag” as had been the case, the tone was set when the song veered into the jammier coda. “Åkt dit” is quickly becoming a fan favorite, with some attempting to song along, despite the vast differences in native tongue. This of course led to “En dag på sjön”, and while I thought I had already seen what could be considered an ultimate version, this was elevated to a level beyond that; the tacit communication between the band, knowing each other’s moves instinctively, and playing to the dynamics of the piece were absolutely stunning. If Tame Impala is a well-oiled psychedelic machine, then Dungen is an organism growing and evolving with each performance, exploring as it goes, veering into unknown territories.
So how does a band top that? How about with the following trio of songs: the ode to Gustav’s neighbor (“Franks kaktus”), personal favorite “Blandband” (this version replacing the flute with an organ solo, all the while Johan moves around the kit in a Keith Moon-esque fury) and “Det tar tid” (a song rife with Reine riffs that make me just want to pick up a guitar and play for days). The Mellotron heavy medley followed and in the looser setting tonight, sounded even better. “Panda” led into the same heavy improvisational piece as the previous night (based on Jesse Harper’s song “Jug A Jug”), with Gustav again dancing around the stage with tambourine, this time jamming so hard, he accidentally knocked down a mic stand.
Standing in the front row, I was privy to seeing the set list, and following along as we went, could not wait for new song "Häxan", which will be on their upcoming LP based on the film The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Trust me, this is awesome stuff that has the feel of an extended jam but is nuanced and speaks like an eerie musical discussion as it ebbs and flows. It was pretty intense stuff, and to lighten the mood a tad, the band, who was in a particularly talkative and cheery mood, sought out thirst quenching beers from the crowd while telling an amusing tale about meeting Wayne Coyne the previous night in Brooklyn. The main set closed at this point with the classic “Ta det lugnt” and a chorus of fans chanting along.
They returned a few minutes later for an encore and thanked the crowd again for an amazing evening before diving into the dark closing song from "Allas sak", “Sova”. As the song wore down, I braced myself for the energetic closer “Gor de nu” per the set list in front of me. Instead, we were treated to a 10 minute organ-driven psychedelic freakout, not too dissimilar to “Interstellar Overdrive” or other early Floyd. I can only hope this is part of the aforementioned upcoming LP as well so it can be heard again. As it died down, a dark moody piece to cap it all off actually did seem like the perfect way for a set full of experimentation to end. I left the venue and walked into the cool evening air wondering if I had just witnessed one of the best shows I had seen. While I am still unsure of that answer, I do know that the next tour cannot come soon enough and I can only hope to again experience some evenings as magical as these.
Dungen- June 14 Fredag - Marken låg stilla - Åkt dit - En dag på sjön - En gång om året - Franks kaktus - Jämna plågor - Det tar tid - Bandhagen [part of a medley] - C visar vägen [part of a medley] - Så blev det bestämt [part of a medley] - Svart är himlen [part of a medley] - Panda
Dungen- June 15 Fredag - Åkt dit - En dag på sjön - En gång om året - Franks kaktus - Det tar tid - Bandhagen [part of a medley] - C visar vägen [part of a medley] - Så blev det bestämt [part of a medley] - Svart är himlen [part of a medley] - Panda - Improvisation - Sova
Tame Impala- June 14 & 15 Nangs - Let It Happen - Mind Mischief - Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind? - Why Won't They Talk to Me? - The Moment - Elephant - The Less I Know the Better - Daffodils [Mark Ronson/ Kevin Parker song] - Eventually - Yes I'm Changing - Alter Ego - Oscilly - It Is Not Meant to Be - Apocalypse Dreams - Feels Like We Only Go Backwards - New Person, Same Old Mistakes
Dungen- June 16 Fredag - Marken låg stilla - Åkt dit - En dag på sjön - En gång om året - Franks kaktus - Blandband - Det tar tid - Bandhagen [part of a medley] - C visar vägen [part of a medley] - Så blev det bestämt [part of a medley] - Svart är himlen [part of a medley] - Panda - Instrumental jam on "Jug A Jug Song" by Jesse Harper - Häxan - Ta det lugnt - Sova - Improvisation