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Dungen Kick Out The Jams In Phoenix

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By Becky Bartkowski

The most obvious realization when seeing Dungen at The Rhythm Room: These Swedes can kick out serious jams live.

Sitting somewhere between pure-Kinks classic rock riffs, the gentle, beaming soundscapes of Sigur Rós and the most American of jazz quartets, this quartet marries some seemingly disparate ideas into a live show that is anything but a snoozer.

While the smell of burnt-out incense wafted over the crowd, songs led into experimental back roads with musical exercises resulting in serious and incurable ass shaking. Plaid and pleased, there was no static body in the house. There's absolutely something to be said for a band who can instigate booty dances with the predominant use of a flute.

Following up their longest jazzy passage, at the end of "Mina Damer Och Fasaner," the band switched in to the inevitable song that everybody knows, and helplessly loves: "Panda." The set's pacing was untouchable, and each section of speeding drums balanced with airy harmonies or psyched out guitar.

The second most obvious realization: Each member of Dungen comes with a corresponding, distinct hairstyle suited to his role in the band. Together these hairstyles span the spectrum of human possibilities for head grooming.

Front man Gustav Ejstes sports big, flowing waved locks reminiscent of Robert Plant. Guitarist Reine Fisk wears his purest of blonde strands arranged into a Bjorn Borg shag. The bassist tied his tightly wound mane of curls into a hybrid pony-bun, while the drummer's classic, short buzz resonated as the only haircut that might be acceptable at a nine-to-five.

Third and final insight: There's something so disarmingly genuine about Dungen that makes them impossible to dislike. Maybe it's the accents or the unassuming skinny sweetness that made and language inconsistencies more than acceptable, if not welcome entirely.

When Fisk wasn't tapping his pedal board, which could've passed for a miniature Star Trek ship depository, he curled his toes to the rhythm and gave the audience the two of the best one-liners (out of three) of the night.

After the band members debated the day of the week just prior to closer, "Ferdag," the bassist proclaimed: "In normal life [when not touring] we know what day it is."

Fisk replied in a tone that could've been honest or sarcastic, "And it's wonderful. I really think it's wonderful, too."

During the longest of the breaks the band took between songs, Fisk said: "I'm having a nervous breakdown..." after the drummer prodded him to move along. "Just kidding."

Now imagine a Swedish guy who's really good at guitar and wearing an impish grin on his face saying that. See. Nothing short of charming.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: Dungen at The Rhythm Room

Better Than: Driving through droves of newly arrived bro-dogs in striped polos ready for some higher education in Tempe. Yay Phoenix!

Personal Bias: Definitely a Dungen fan, however I was a bit skeptical about seeing them live.

Random Detail: Gustav grabbed my hand and said, "Thank you," as he walked off the stage. I'm not entirely sure why. But hey, like I said, they're charmers.

Further Listening: "Fest" from Dungen's Statsvandringar (2005).

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