Category: Dengue Fever

Mariachi El Bronx, Dengue Fever make KCRW Halloween party a scream


Halloween, a holiday inspired by the grateful dead, can make those of us who are gratefully alive reflect on, and revel in, the pleasures of the temporal realm we inhabit.

In Los Angeles, one of those fleeting seasonal gifts is KCRW-FM (89.9)'s annual Masquerade dance party. On Saturday, the costumed bacchanal took over the Legendary Park Plaza hotel -- built in 1925 and overlooking MacArthur Park -- with a musical lineup that included Moby, Mariachi El Bronx, Dengue Fever, Milagres and the Santa Monica-based radio station's own gifted mash-up artists (Jason Bentley, Liza Richardson, Chris Douridas, et al).

Roaming the Art Deco hotel, patrons dressed as zombies, airline stewardesses, Black Swans, Travis Bickle and Cap'n Crunch (among many, many other guises), swigged drinks and sampled tunes across a wide sound spectrum, spaced across various lounges and ballrooms on two floors.

One of the evening's early revelations was Milagres, a Brooklyn-based band that, after changing its name and reshuffling personnel, deserves to find a wide audience for its ethereal, haunting compositions such as "Halfway." Kyle Wilson, the group's lead singer and principal tunesmith, hits high notes with the breathy eroticism of a young Prince, while his bandmates assemble a sophisticated sonic skeleton that evokes Radiohead and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

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Dengue Fever premiere 'Uku,' to play the Getty's 'Saturday's Off the 405' series

Cannibal-Courtship-General-Photo-1-credit-Lauren-Dukoff-Lo It's not hard to argue that Dengue Fever is the best '60s Cambodian psych-pop band that Los Angeles has ever produced.

They formed a decade ago when Cambodian-born dinner house-chanteuse Chhom Nimol auditioned for brothers Zac and Ethan Holtzman, who had become enamored of the Khmer pop that had flourished in the years before Cambodian dictator Pol Pot commencing his bloody reign.

The last decade has seen Dengue garner  worldwide acclaim and performing in distant lands. Dustin Roasa's article from last year takes a particularly in-depth look at a recent trip to Cambodia for festivities marking the 60th anniversary of U.S.-Cambodian diplomatic relations. In addition to illustrating the fidelity of the group's vision, it provides a backdrop for a short exploration of the Southeast Asian nation's turbulent history.

The sextet has flourished because of its ability to go far beyond well-meaning replication. Since their 2003 self-titled debut, they've incorporated slanted Ethiopian grooves, rough surf rock, New Wave and American indie. The same eclecticism and fusion of far-flung influences that Cambodia incubated by the revolution that ultimately led to a crushing of the nation's fine arts. For their efforts, they garnered international raves and prominent cinematic placements, including in Jim Jarmusch's melancholic "Broken Flowers," and the goofball romp, "The Hangover 2." 

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