Last Night: Dengue Fever at the Orange Show

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“We were in Austin last night and folks over there warned us that Houston is not a music town.” Bearded Dengue Fever guitarist Zac Holtman brought the house down with what proved to be the only irony of the evening as a sold-out, crammed-to-the-rafters crowd took advantage of some great cool weather to hear Dengue Fever’s first ever Houston show. The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art outdoor venue added a magic touch to the LA band’s airtight show that brought together an audience as diverse as those at I-Fest.

The whole idea of an American band emulating Cambodian psychedelic rock certainly invites irony or a measure of cornball mimicry, but Dengue Fever performs with a straight face that says they truly love and respect the music. The band has a great visual aspect about it as tall bassist Senon Williams remains in continuous dancing motion, at times doubling the moves of singer Chhom Nimol to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd.

This was a real event for the Cambodian community in Houston; a number of video cameras were in evidence, recording every note and move with almost religious fervor. We stood on a landing at the top of the center section, and on our little raised patio there was a young Cambodian couple with their two-year old daughter who seemed to enjoy every minute of the festivities. There were also three Indian fellows, an Anglo-Cambodian pair, several older grayhairs like myself, and a couple of regular date-night twenty-something couples. Everyone shared in the unbridled joy of the show, lending a certain vibe of peaceful coolness that could never happen at shows at our hipster venues. No doubt the next time Dengue Fever comes to town they will perform at Warehouse Live or Continental Club and the atmosphere will be entirely different.

This was our first time at the Orange Show, an art-slash-concert space in a neighborhood just off I-45 near Telephone Road. We were surprised to find a convenient vacant lot just down the street where there was orderly parking. The Orange Show is a great space for a show as long as it doesn’t rain and mosquitoes don’t descend in hordes. The only complaints we had or heard were in reference to the alcohol service, which consisted of two kegs of Saint Arnold’s and a few coolers filled with Bud Light, Bud Select, water, and soft drinks. There was also wine available, but it was of the Kool-Aid variety. At $3, the alcohol is certainly a bargain (you buy tickets outside to exchange for the booze), but the promoters might be wise in the future to offer a bit more quality and variety and up the prices a dollar. Houston may not be a music town, but it is a town where people know and appreciate good beer and wine.

That minor complaint notwithstanding, this show couldn’t have been better. If the weather is good this coming Friday (April 4), the Xiu Xiu show at the Orange Show should be the place to be. – William Michael Smith

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