Paul Simon, Robert Plant, Dengue Fever + Ghazal -- Around the World in Five Days
It started with the Mastadong. "It" being a trip that went from California to Cambodia, from Soweto to New York, from Calcutta to Tehran, from Timbuktu to the Thames. All in five days. All without leaving Los Angeles.
Of course, it was a musical journey, not a travel adventure, but it covered a lot of ground last week with Dengue Fever, Paul Simon and Ghazal on consecutive nights and then, after a one-day break, Robert Plant -- each representing ambitious global perspectives, creative and often iconic approaches to culture-crossing and, crucially, voracious appetites for new sounds and experiences.
And how better to represent that than with the Mastadong? That's the Frankensteinian concoction that these days is as much the calling card for Dengue Fever as is singer Chhom Nimol's smile. The Mastadong splices a Fender JazzMaster with a chapei dong veng (a two-stringed, long-necked lute), a perfect representation of the band's ever-evolving blend of Cambodian pop and California psych-surf. When Zac Holtzman brought out the Mastadong midway through the concert at West Hollywood's Troubadour club celebrating the release of the band's new album, 'Cannibal Courtship' -- which features the Mastadong on the cover -- it brought the show into sharp focus.
The hybrid clearly shows the continuity between the notion of a bunch of SoCal alt-rockers hiring a Cambodian-born singer who survived the Khmer Rouge to recreate the pop sounds of '70s Phnom Penh (how the band started) and the same bunch making exuberant, twisted globo-rock, sung as much in English as Khmer (the emphasis of the new album). He'd play modal lines of pipeline twang on the guitar neck and then suddenly shift down to the other fret board and, wham, a loamy rumble would utter forth.