A surprise sell-out crowd at the Mohawk on Monday night meant that 90’s nostalgia and Swedish dream pop hasn’t lost its luster. The Radio Dept. is a Swedish indie cult band that would prefer to operate out of the studio than be caught banging around on tour. Alas, having only released three albums since their debut in 1995, the Radio Dept. felt obliged to satiate the demand for their starved fans. Front man Johan Duncanson showed his dedication to his craft by orchestrating a show that ebbed and flowed but ultimately proved to be epic.
Germans, an indie rock band from Toronto, opened the show with a strong female vocalist and alternative 90’s sound. The group’s biggest hit “Cruel” got a welcome response and they primed the venue appropriately for the much-anticipated Swedes.
A raucous and anticipatory crowd welcomed The Radio Dept to Austin and they opened with their last album’s first track “Slobodan Narodu” with its flowery yet portentous lyrics. Half of the set was dedicated to the latest album, Running Out of Love, but older tracks were deftly shuffled in, all leading up to a crescendo at the end of the set.
The show was not without its pecularities, as Johan let his perfectionism and eccentricity manifest in some distinct idiosyncracies throughout the concert. About three songs in, Johan stopped and dressed down his bandmates with acerbic instruction. “You are in the wrong key. Stop that. I’m sorry everybody, this is our seventh show. We will have to come back to this song.” The awkwardness pervaded, as I have seen many disputes onstage before, but never with a front man broadcasting it into the microphone in front of a sold-out crowd.
The pulse quickened when the band launched into “Death To Fascism”, which was followed by the politically-loaded “Swedish Guns”, both interesting song titles and subject matter considering recent political developments. The band’s latest album has house and dance music undertones that brought the shoegaze vibe up a notch to almost rave-like levels as the set finished.
“Teach Me To Forget” got a couple restarts from Johan due to his pedantic attention to detail while the main set finished with “Occupied”. A brief encore included “1995” and “Why Won’t You Talk About It” as the road-shy phantoms of Swedish music exited the stage once again, leaving many unsure if they’ll be able to return.