“This is your time.” The opening lines to Freedom’s Intro could not better describe the progression of 2018 for Damon McMahon’s project Amen Dunes. After three long years of production and at least one full restart, 2018 finally saw the release of Amen Dunes’ 5th studio album to much fanfare. Over the course of the ensuing months the album has gone on to earn multiple top 10 spots for best albums of the year, including our very own. My fellow snobs initially put me onto the album via the singles Blue Rose and Miki Dora that were prominently featured in our 4UDIO SNOBBERY and accompanying B-Sides releases.
Despite a last minute deadline at work, I was able to slip out of the office in the nick of time and make it to the venue, the recently renovated and reopened August Hall. The opening act was fellow Sacred Bones label mate Spellling, a moody synth-pop artist that is vaguely reminiscent of acts such as The Knife. While the performance was decent, the accompanying backing band was somewhat awkward in that 1 of the 2 members essentially stood by idly for 90% of the set looking bored with nothing to do.
Amen Dunes took the stage to a nearly filled house as a five-piece band that included album collaborators Panoram, the Italian electronic artist, and Delicate Steve, who has toured for the likes of Mac Demarco and Dirty Projectors in the past. Two thoughts struck me as interesting throughout the show. One, just as on the cover of Freedom, McMahon spent the entirety of the show front and center in the spotlight with the rest of the band camouflaged by subdued colors, blending into the background. Prior to Freedom he had remained much more of an anonymous figure, but with this new album McMahon has truly broken through. Two, while I initially thought I was having troubles catching the vocals, it appeared that a decent amount of reverb and distortion had purposely been added in. Despite this fact, even when McMahon’s lyrics are somewhat unintelligible there is something that just seems so powerful and intimate about the entire experience overall.
McMahon comes across as an extremely humble and introspective performer, uttering little more than a few words between songs throughout the night. The one exception to this was about midway through the roughly hour long set when the front man slyly quipped that “you guys smoke a lot of weed…that’s good. I can multitask while I’m up here.” After working their way through the setlist, the band left the stage before quickly returning for an encore that included my personal favorite track off Freedom, Time.
For any of our readers that may be new to Amen Dunes or have not yet had the pleasure of seeing them live, I highly recommend that you catch them at smaller, more intimate venues like this while you still can.