Dengue Fever with Y La Bamba and Maus Haus
April 30, 2011
Detroit Bar, Costa Mesa
We arrived at the Detroit Bar a few minutes early, hoping to find a last
minute ticket for a friend, and walked right into the empty bar to find
opener Y La Bamba finishing up their sound check. We hung around for a
bit before someone took notice and kicked us out, and when we returned
outside we were surprised to find not even a single person waiting
outside for the show. Relieved at the realization that we wouldn't be
packed like sardines in the tiny bar that night, we left to grab some
food before doors opened.
About six people–including me and my two friends–were there to see Portland folk group Y La Bamba get up on stage. An awkward start to the early set, they took it in stride, seemingly pleased that the few people there watching them enjoyed their soaring harmonies and quirky-cute lyrics. The bar started to fill as their set wound down and by the end they'd clearly won over a horde of new fans with a sound equally inspired by the freak folk of Devendra Banhart and old school Mexican tunes.
San Francisco's Maus Haus followed and brought with them an irritating light show and a whole lot of smoke. We were standing by the stage and could barely keep our eyes open between the flashing green and red lights and the fog. They played a tight, but frantic set fusing electronic musicianship and psychedelic improvisation that was worth catching despite the minor annoyances of their presentation.
Half an hour later, five of the six members of Dengue Fever quietly set up on stage. After the lights lowered again, Dengue Fever lead singer Chhom Nimol joined the band on stage in a tight red-sequined dress and silver sequin heels, her hail perfectly curled, drawing the crowd into a to a dark, smoky club in Cambodia with her charm and exquisite beauty.
For Cannibal Courtship songs, guitarist Zac Holtzman brought out his Mastadong–yes, that's really what he calls it–a custom instrument that's half electric guitar, half Chaipai Dong Veng (a traditional, long-necked Cambodian guitar). Named for the type of guitar–“Masta” from ” Fender Jazzmaster” and “Dong” from “Chaipai Dong, the freak hybrid was apparently named by a fan.
Live, the Mastadong takes you on a musical journey without ever leaving the States with their unique vision of 60s and early 70s Cambodian pop and California psych-surf.
By the end of their fifteen-song set, both the band and the audience were sweaty and exhausted from the high energy show that took the Detroit Bar around the world and back.