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Dengue Fever and The Lost World: May 5th at the Castro Theatre, SF – 5.8.09

By:  | published on May 8, 2009

Dengue Fever: Promo PhotoDengue Fever andThe Lost World
May 5th at the Castro Theatre, San Francisco

With funky basslines, surf guitar, stout brass, and a Cambodian pop princess as its singer, the sound of Dengue Fever is otherworldly. So it was little surprise that the LA-based band proved a perfect match as the live soundtrack to a screening of The Lost World, a 1925 silent film that depicts dinosaurs, intrepid explorers, and more than a few moments of unintentional comedy. Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel of the same name, The Lost World chronicles a trip by British explorers to prove the existence of dinosaurs deep in the Amazon forest. It features stop-motion animation dinosaurs created by Willis O’Brien, who later animated King Kong.

The band wielded a deft touch from the outset of the 100-minute cinematic gem, with Dave Ralicke setting the scene with ominous tones on the trombone. Although its music was an inherent fit for the film, the band had clearly spent a lot of time going through the scenes, crafting new music and re-arranging existing tracks. At the first appearance of Prof. Challenger, the bearded and brutish explorer, the band re-worked its song “One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula”, letting feverish drums and Farfisa organ accompany the crowd’s taunts for Challenger to “Bring out your Mastodons!” When newspaper man Edward Malone is told by his girlfriend that she will not marry him “until all of London rings with your name,” accordion and trombone captured his deflation.

A spare, spooky version of the band’s outstanding track “Sleepwalking Through the Mekong” with singer Chhom Nimhol’s brilliantly haunting vocals, ushered Challenger’s team into the great unknown. When two Allosauruses battled it out, Dengue Fever played it like a shootout, channeling Ennio Morricone by layering spaghetti Western guitar riffs, psyched-out organ, and heavy saxophone. And in the film’s climactic scene, as a volcano erupted, sending ash spewing everywhere and molten lava ignited the forest’s dense canopy, the band nailed it, with alternating sax and organ flourishes accenting the frenetically funky beat.

Most impressively, the band played it straight through laugh-inducing moments, either intended or not-so-much, due to the film’s age. Romance could have been met with a funky porno bassline, while a series of rimshots could have accompanied a slapstick brawl between Challenger and Malone. And while the Brontosaurus’ tumble through London’s Tower Bridge into the Thames River could have incited overly dramatic nods to the Loch Ness monster, the band let Zac Holtzman’s surf guitar segue smoothly into Ralicke’s mildly triumphant tones on the trumpet.

“We found it really challenging,” bassist Senon Williams told Crawdaddy!. “We had to play to moves and convey something, but also take a back seat because the imagery in the film is really strong and you have to be supportive of it. It was like having another band member that was 40-feet wide.”

Watch: Trailer for The Lost World [at youtube.com]

– See more at: http://www.crawdaddyarchive.com/index.php/2009/05/08/dengue-fever-and-the-lost-world-may-5th-at-the-castro-theatre-sf/#sthash.bDeLNodh.dpuf