You may have been first introduced to Dengue Fever on HBO’s True Blood during a 2008 episode in which Bill was driving Sookie home from the vampire bar. They were listening to the car radio and she asked, “Can we turn this down? What language are they speaking, anyhow?”
Well, Sookie, that language is Khmer.
Dengue Fever brought pop-psychedelic Cambodian grooves to a capacity crowd at Pappy and Harriet’s on Valentine’s Day. The band was playing its 10th show in 10 days in support of the group’s new record, The Deepest Lake, on Tuk Tuk Records.
There was not chance in hell that you were getting into the show without a ticket. Pappy’s had security chief Rick, a Viking of a man, sitting outside, ready to break the bad news to the holiday hipster migration that did not plan ahead. Also present: Willie Garson, of Sex in the City fame, sitting in a corner booth with his family having dinner. I could not confirm if he stayed for the show, since the venue was packed.
Lead singer Chhom Nimol started the set with the song “Ghost Voice,” from the new album, sang in her native Khmer. The song is inspired by the allegedly true story of a deceased artist from South Pasadena who—after his death—complained about oil stains on his driveway. “Girl From the North” followed, before Nimol wished her fans a happy Valentine’s Day and amped things up with “New Year’s Eve,” featuring the brilliant sax skills of David Ralicke; the sound had everyone bopping. “No Sudden Moves” came thereafter; it’s an exquisite tune about bassist Senon Williams witnessing a meth-house dog attack. There was no such drama at Saturday’s show, but he did have to borrow a bass guitar from the opening act when his failed.
Chief Doorologist Beth’s favorite song, “Cement Slippers,” from the album Cannibal Courtship, allowed the audience to showcase their best dance renditions of the swim, the watusi and the monkey—to one of the few songs sang in English by Dengue Fever.
The band’s 16-song set was full of joy—illustrating why this sextet is always a high desert favorite.