Dengue Fever, the Los Angeles-based Cambodian-inspired psychedelic rock band, will return to the Kingdom in May.
The band will play shows at The FCC Phnom Penh on May 31 and The FCC Angkor on June 1. Tickets are $12 for each show and includes one Agnkor draft.
Something like hometown musical heroes, the band has a large following worldwide and an intensely loyal following inside Cambodia.
In The United States, Dengue Fever’s danceable rhythms and tripped-out 60s sound has earned the group a fast niche in the landscape of the uber-cool.
Their song “One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula” was included in a season final of the Showtime Series “Weeds.” Matt Dillon, who produced the 2002 film “City of Ghosts,” included the band’s Khmer-language cover Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” in his movie soundtrack. And “Escape from the Dragon House” was used in the critically acclaimed HBO series “True Blood.”
In the Motherland
In Cambodia, the band has played half a dozen shows over the last decade, with each one larger and more successful than the previous.
The first was in 2005 at Maxine’s, more colloquially known as Snow’s, the almost legendary bar in the blue stilt house across the river.
Dengue Fever last toured Cambodia in 2011, when they performed to a packed house at The FCC Phnom Penh.
The band first came together in 2001, inspired by a 1997 trip to Angkor Wat by multi-instrumentalist Ethan Holtzman. While in Cambodia, Holtzman heard Sin Sisamouth crooning on a cassette tape of “Cambodia Rocks” and was instantly captivated. Afterward, he hit the markets and bought up everything he could find.
Four years later, when his brother Zac moved back to L.A. from San Francisco, the pair set out to find a vocalist and recreate the Cambodia Rocks sound. They found Battambang import Chhom Nimol singing in Long Beach at The Dragon House, a smallish Cambodian dance hall with mirrored walls and pulsing neon disco lights.
“At first I didn’t quite fully understand the guys’ intentions,” Nimol told the online magazine U.S. Asians. “I was a bit afraid. I brought a fellow friend along to help me interpret.”
It didn’t take long for the group to hit it off.
“I’m very fortunate I was surrounded with people who were able to provide me actual interpretation of the band’s intention. From any woman’s perspective it was hard to trust four guys (Zac, Ethan, Senon, and Paul) approaching with a bizarre idea.”
In the ensuing 12 years, the band has produced five albums. Their latest, “Cannibal Courtship,” was released in 2011 and almost universally well-received.
“Over the course of five albums and two EPs, their fusion of Cambodian pop, Californian surf/garage rock and more has blurred the artificial boundaries between world music and pop/trash culture with plenty of style and humour,” wrote BBC music critic Jon Lusk when the album was released.
Randall Robert from The L.A. Times was even more impressed: “Chhom Nimol, a Cambodian by birth, has become an exquisitely expressive singer.”
Tickets are $12 and available at The FCC.