September 15th, 2011 – Dante’s, Portland, OR

Alex Zhang Hungtai’s desert-dwelling, sunburnt Suicide jams didn’t really do much for me on his debut LP as Dirty Beaches, but the man’s set at Dante’s on Friday night of MusicfestNW was absolutely mesmerizing in a most bizarre and awesome way. Even now, almost a week later, I am completely convinced that the ghost of some long dead Rat Pack stand-in buried by mafiosos somewhere outside of Vegas inhabits his body, Contorting his limbs and voice into a nightmarishly desperate plea longing for a second chance to sing to the masses. Dude ran through countless variations of his minimal Lost Highway after-hours martini bar punk themes, including an appropriately appreciative Mattress cover sent out to the man himself. Though I couldn’t really tell one song from the next, I couldn’t stop watching. He sings to lost lovers fizzling out in distant mirages. He shouts at unseen figures suspended before him while thrashing his guitar. Hungtai throws down a vibe so eerily familiar yet suspiciously supernatural that it demands your attention. Now if only he could find a way to embed that essence into his records,,.

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