ACL Live Review: Amen Dunes
Anonymity gives way to being relatable
By Christina Garcia,
9:55AM, Mon. Oct. 8, 2018
Amen Dunes, born Damon McMahon, doesn’t do choruses, but he’s created a sleeper dance LP full of dreamy, synth-laden folk and surf on his fifth album, Freedom, which he and his band performed almost in its entirety early Sunday afternoon.
Sweating in his grandmother’s black and gold, chain-print, Hermès track pants from the Eighties and a white cotton tank top, the New Yorker played songs about the men he grew up with and around. First song “Satudarah,” about his father and an outlaw motorcycle gang, introduced the theme of machismo and its typical paradigms, which resurfaced in “Blue Rose” and “Skipping School.”
Sunday’s small crowd languished in the heat. To huddles near the stage and people spread like melted ice cream across blankets, McMahon’s clear as dirt voice – a throat full of grit and gravel – rasped “Lonely Richard” from 2014’s Love and “Song to the Siren,” a Jeff Buckley cover from 2015’s Cowboy Worship.
Though he’s preferred anonymity up until recently, eschewing radio-friendly unit shifters and major labels, McMahon’s changed his mind. His picture is on the cover of Freedom, for example, and he’s writing more accessible music. He wants to be of use that way.
“To help people who can relate,” he said.
“Believe,” about his mother after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, brought excited cheers from the crowd. The emotional song quotes his late mother, building slowly to a fevered, crashing, Western apotheosis.