Dengue Fever is the name of a potentially deadly tropical disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. It is also the name of a Los Angeles-based indie-rock band that plays Psychedelic Cambodian (Khmer) music inspired by sounds that founding members Zac and Ethan Holtzman discovered after a trip to Cambodia in 2001. In the 2007 documentary “Sleepwalking Through The Mekong” (directed by John Pirozzi), we follow the band as they go on their first Cambodian tour in 2005—possibly the first time ever that an American band played Khmer music there. Except for the Holtzman brothers and lead singer Chholm Nimol (who was born in the country), none of the other bandmembers knew what to expect—during one interview, bassist Senon Williams admits that for the first time in his career, he doesn’t know where he is going to play or how audiences might react. Among striking images of the city and live appearances from Dengue Fever, we learn about the country’s tragic history during the time that the Khmer Rouge was in power—intellectuals, artists and pretty much anyone with an education was targeted, and as a result the country’s native culture almost disappeared—Cambodian rock pioneers like Sinn Seamout and Pen Ran disappeared during the regime, and are sadly believed to have been murdered under Pol Pot’s orders. Thankfully, the recordings survived, and all these artists are still household names even three decades after their passing. Dengue Fever is currently on tour promoting the DVD and the accompanying soundtrack, which features some of the classic songs that inspired them, plus live recordings from the Cambodian shows and new studio cuts made with local musicians during their stay there. (Ernest Barteldes)
November 15 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, (773)728-6000, at 7:30pm. $20.