It was the type of doowop you’d play in a haunted house, ‘50s and ‘60s rock n’ roll, stripped bare and thrust into a post-industrial soundscape. Every eye in the audience fixated on the enigmatic figure on stage, lurching back and forth, shrieking and howling into the mic
The cool kids showed up in force Saturday night to KC Grad, to see Dirty Beaches in concert. Alternative music fans from all over the Balkans flocked to the small gallery and music venue, located in a once forgotten industrial district of Belgrade, to wile the night away dancing to sloppy lo-fi beach tunes.
“I can’t believe someone is bringing him here,” said Uros Vucinic, who travelled fourteen hours by train from Podgorica with his brother Danilo to see the show.
The show opened with Tough Guys of America, a local lo-fi surf pop band formed in November 2011, who stole the show. Described as the Real Estate of Serbia but with a younger sound, these four rockers, adorned in party shirts, dished out some tasty ‘60s-inspired ditties as the whole crowd bobbed their heads and stomped their feet and dreamt of summer. Watch out for them this October as they tour Southeastern Europe.
The second act was another Belgrade local band, Stray Dogg. A fusion of dream and chamber pop with Americana-style pop, they recalled bands as diverse as Beach House, Ra Ra Riot, and Kurt Vile, but glazed with their own melancholic charm. Towards the end of their set, the crowd was getting antsy and it was hard to hear them over the din, but these kids still made us ache and sway in all the right ways.
Cool and mysterious, Dirty Beaches, a.k.a Alex Hungtai, walked on stage and set up for his first show in Belgrade with barely a glance at the audience. The set opened up with a pulsating reverb, a simple but lush base note that remained constant throughout his set. Hungtai sang with his back to the audience for most of the show, only turning around occasionally to ask for a light or when he lost control of his body, at one point launching into a crowd surf. And the audience ate it up: every eye was fixated on this enigmatic figure, lurching back and forth, shrieking and howling into the mic.
The whole experience of his show felt like getting into a car with a stranger and not knowing where you’re going: it was scary, but also seductive and thrilling. Described as fusing lo-fi and rockabilly in a distinctive unembellished fashion, his is the type of doowop you’d play in a haunted house. It’s ‘50s and ‘60s rock n’ roll, stripped bare and thrust into a post-industrial soundscape. The set closed with a powerful rendition of Speedway King, although he declined to play crowd-pleasers Lord Knows Best or True Blue because “my heart is broken.”
That this show sold out the same night as a Prodigy and Skrillex concert is a testament to the strength of the counter-cultural scene here in Belgrade. So, even though Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have split up, the Dirty Beaches show at KC Grad is living proof that the Daydream Nation is alive and well.