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T Basa Catches the Fever; Croc Gets Hot Again

Posted by May 2nd, 2011 No Comments »

Dengue Fever Live @ The Crocodile
April 30, 2011
By Tim Basaraba 

Throughout the 90s and in to the next decade, The Crocodile was one of the premier venues to see great talent from outside Seattle.

Since it’s reopening in 2009, the Belltown haunt has struggled a bit to retain its prior glory. With sound issues, grumpy personnel and inconsistent start and stop times I was hoping the beloved Seattle venue wasn’t turning in to one of those re makes that never lives up to the original (see also Clash of the Titans and the newly-released Arthur).

The Dengue Fever show on Easter Sunday put those worries to rest.

Openers Maus Haus hail from the Bay area and, other than their joy for performing, they have nothing in common with the Dengue Fever.

My concerns over sonic consistency became a distant memory after just three songs, though, as these guys tested the low end of the Crocodile’s sound system with three keyboards, a bass player and a drummer who seemingly produced a kick drum sound deeper than 32 Hz.

Harmonies and showmanship proved that bass wasn’t the only thing Maus Haus had to offer. They delivered their Man or Astroman? (Touch & Go Records) meets The Faint (Saddle Creek) sound to a nearly packed house and the crowd, obviously there to see Dengue Fever, didn’t seem to mind that they played for more than an hour.

As soon as Maus Haus finished there was a rabid push toward the front of the stage. The five male members of Dengue Fever quickly began noodling around and setting the tone with their unmistakable psychedelic sound. As they built to a fevered crescendo, lovely frontwoman Nimol Chhom came out from behind the black curtain and the crowd erupted with glee. Her graciousness was evident as she performed her customary bow to the crowd. She wished us a “happy Easter Day” with even better English than she demonstrated at the last show at Neumos, and we were off.

Nimol ChhomGuitar player Zac Holtzman unveiled to the Northwest the half Fender Jazzmaster half Chapei Dong Veng instrument. This crazy monstrosity not only looked cool but it sounded otherworldly, adding twangy deep guitar tones to the already eclectic sound.

Bassist Senon Williams continued to amaze me with his trademark “bunny hop.” Getting two feet off the ground, maybe this was his special homage to the Easter Bunny?

The rest of the band, though more restrained, still brought the perfect amount of energy. The sounds coming from the various horns seem to ground the band in reality as they ventured deep into a kaleidoscopic fever.

Sound at the Crocodile was tremendous too. Even though Dengue used more than 15 instruments throughout the performance, there wasn’t a single hiccup.

It’s rare for a crowd to call a band back for an encore on a Sunday in Seattle, but chants of “Fever, Fever, Fever!” rang out until the sextet came back to the stage and performed three more songs. One saw the band put out a open casting call for singing in Khmer. Two young ladies from the crowd obliged and stood on either side of Nimol Chhom beaming with joy as they tried to remember the words to a classic song from Cambodia.

If Easter Sunday in Belltown was any indication of the power of the Fever, not only will there be more smiles on jaded Seattle music fans’ faces, the Crocodile may have a chance of returning to its former prestige. Especially if they can talk Dengue Fever in to playing a few times a year.

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