Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dungen in Philly

Words and photograph by Danielle Reicherter

Hallå skarp pojken! Jag lik söt svensk fisken bäst! Now you all know the traditional Scandinavian greeting which translates to “Hello cute guy! My favourite candy is Swedish Fish!” I learned that from a girl I went to middle school with and of course I remember it several years later despite this being the only time it has come in handy.  Save for Old Swedes Church, there is unfortunately little Swedish influence in Philadelphia.  I’m pretty sure all us intense Germans and Irish folk scared them off so they decided to colonize Minnesota instead (a lovely place, but I’m contractually obligated to laugh at them because of Brett Favre).  Fortunately, some of my favourite Swedes are fond of crazy ol’ Philadelphia and paid the hipster hangout Johnny Brendas a visit.

I first discovered Dungen while reading a review of their 2004 album ‘Ta Det Lugnt’ in an issue of pre-sellout Spin Magazine.  The description of their prog-groovy sound caught my interest and I jotted their name in a notebook I carried everywhere with me like Harriet the Spy.  Except, I stupidly wrote ‘Dungeon’ and not the Swedish word for ‘group of trees.’  Imagine my confusion when researching their music several weeks later, I kept coming up with an Australian metal band.  I forgot about Dungen until I was (ironically) in Australia on a road trip with none other than Angie.  ‘Panda’ came on her shuffle and I was completely mesmerized by it, asking her to play it repeatedly.  “You like Dungen? I love them. Swedish is like the language of the elves,” she laughed.  Thus, I became hooked.

“ALL THE HONEY IN THE BLOSSOM!” sing-yells the guy next to me, who oddly resembles Ron Jeremy.  You’d think a fan would know that though everyone in Dungen can speak English, they proudly sing in their native tongue (sadly a rarity these days, Americans Against Global Americanization!).  I love how not understanding the language a song is sung in makes me pay extra attention to the beauty of the words rather than their meaning.  Gustav Ejstes is probably used to misheard lyrics and continues to sing as ‘60s montages are projected behind him, casting colours on his face.  The band (rounded out by guitarist Reine Fiske, bassist Mattias Gustavsson, and drummer Johan Holmegard) seemed a bit shy at first, hiding in the shadows toward the back of the tiny stage, but open up and jam on songs like ‘Hogdalstoppen’ and ‘Barner Undrar.’  Keep in mind, when I use the word ‘jam’ here, it means an appropriate length piano or flute riff with beneficial additions to the recorded song as opposed to ‘jam’ in the horrid Dave Matthews Band fifteen minute saxophone solo for no reason sense.

There was little banter between songs other than a comment from Reine about eating cheesesteaks (the equivalent of Will Smith doing a show in Sweden and saying “Had some herring today! Mad tasty, yo!”), but it was their quiet charm that made the show extra interesting.  Here are a bunch of foreign musicians singing words you can’t understand in a dark indie bar with no props or gimmicks to a crowd in a country that usually demands neon, bling and Autotune.  Yet I’ll be darned, everyone present was just as entranced as I was by those incomprehensible lyrics and flowing music that gives the feeling of cruising around in a ‘74 Chevy Laguna.  Especially Ron Jeremy-guy.


  1. Hi! Sorry to disappoint you, but "Hallå skarp pojken! Jag lik söt svensk fisken bäst!" is not very good Swedish. A more idiomatic way to say it would be "Hallå snygging! Jag gillar söta svenska fiskar bäst!".

  2. Hey! Thanks for the comment. Sorry that our Swedish sucks :) Thanks for reading!

  3. Love that you tried out yr Swedish! Here's another opportunity to practice (Dungen live + interview from Swedish TV): http://klubbland.se/2011/02/18/22-dungen-2/

  4. Hej Mikael!
    Thanks so much for the comment and the link! That was great!! AND English subtitles for those of us who are still not proficient in Swedish! :)
    I'll be sure to pass the link on to Danielle who wrote the article.
    Thanks again!