Dungen Bring Swedish Psychedelic Rock to Boot & Saddle

October 19th, 2015

Dungen – Boot & Saddle – October 16, 2015

It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider whether Dungen would be as popular as Australian contemporaries Tame Impala if they sang in English. Both bands play a similar brand of classic rock–inspired psychedelia, but the difference is that Dungen sing in Swedish. That’s not insignificant. While Dungen sold out Boot & Saddle, in Philadelphia, last Friday night, there were only small pockets of cheers for familiar melodies. Otherwise, it was a different form of appreciation, something more internal and directed toward the music rather than the lyrics. As such, it was refreshing—different in a good way.

Confusingly though, all members of Dungen seem to speak English very well. At one point, frontman Gustav Ejstes mentioned that Philadelphia was the home of the “scratch” and asked if the audience knew the scratch. Someone in the crowd sarcastically responded, “Yeah, we’re American.” But the band’s sincerity was endearing. Before “Festival,” one of a few songs played from Dungen’s classic album, Ta Det Lugnt, Ejsetes dedicated it to “Melissa, who drove 10 hours for the show.” And for the last number, “Du e för Fin för Mig,” drummer Johan Holmegard led people to clap along, encouraging them by saying, “Feel the vibe” before the tune digressed into a wall-of-sound jam. That was the sweet spot for Dungen: beginning quiet and building to a climactic finish.

“Thank you for listening to Swedish music,” said Ejstes after “Du e för Fin för Mig.” For an American audience, not knowing Dungen’s lyrics is part of the band’s unique appeal. They play within a cross-cultural genre while preserving their own culture. This is either disorienting if you cling to the necessity of understanding the words in songs or refreshing if you free yourself from that constraint and absorb yourself in the music. Choosing the latter, it was a wholly satisfying experience. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic