Dengue fever – A tropical South Asian disease known to cause rash, headache and explosive body temperature. Upon viewing the feverish crowd’s sweaty excitement last night at the Bluebird, one just might have thought that a small portion of Denver had succumbed to such illness.
Supporting act Secret Chiefs 3 are the sort of cult creation that have prevailed over all conventions of popular music to garner a loving, devoted sect of crazed fans, following every bizarre move they make.
With this cult status, they have been able to branch out musically, and their performance was quite an aural experience to behold. Seemingly on a mission to freak people out – donning dark cloaks and even exotic facemasks – the music is an almost unbelievably far-reaching cauldron of styles new and old, near and foreign. As their set progressed, a swirl of disparate influences all clashed – with vibes of the Middle East, jazz, surf and horror films all somehow being fused together by heavy metal undertones – to sometimes come out sounding like an Irish jig. You can’t make this stuff up.
Without a single word from any of the five members, the sounds of these influences eventually swirled into the headliner on the bill – a band known as purveyors of Cambodian pop music of the ‘60s, called Dengue Fever. The culmination of this group is an interesting story unto itself, and though it may sound like a gimmick at first, the band has stood the test of time, performing songs from its fifth proper album, released last year. A great live act, the show was packed with energy. All the elements were there; humor, catchy melodies, infecting rhythms, sex appeal and crowd participation all used in the right amounts. The band also incorporates a hard-hitting funk sound that could make one swear they were listening to a bona fide Afrobeat ensemble, which is a good thing. Lead singer Chhom Nimol has a wonderful ability to captivate an audience while the rest of the band backs things up with real chops. Coupled with the avant-garde sound of Secret Chiefs 3, Dengue Fever was a treat to see.
Cal Huss is a Denver writer and a new contributor to Reverb.