Monday, December 28, 2009

Some fab images from the Stiff Little Punks gig at Frog & Shamrock on Boxing Day courtesy of "The Baron" Bruno Laurant

Christmas in Cambodia: 24 - 26 December

The Cambodian Space Project flew its bamboo Starex rocket down to Kampot for a few days of recording at New Leaf Studio, located in the grounds of Bodhi Villa.  Between bouts of eating, drinking and dodging dodgy backpackers, we put down some pretty cool material that will be unveiled in the near future.  Then we all piled back into the rocket and sped up the highway to make an appointment to play at the Christmas Eve party for Little Hearts Orphanage - more info here.  The Phnom Penh traffic pushed back the starting time a little, but we made a great noise and the kids loved it. I then fled back across the water to play fill-in drums for Russian Dave and Friends at a very quiet Chinese House.

On the evening of Christmas Day the CSP played La Croissette, with an expanded band featuring Jimmy Hellhound on sax and Ratta on congas.  A fine Christmas crowd was treated to the first full length CSP appearance, and despite some technical issues early on with the vocals we got a great reception; including the motodops watching through the doors.  Srey Thy put in a marvellous performance, charming the crowd and drawing in passersby - including an Indian couple from Dubai just in town for the day.  The photos below are courtesy of audience member and music fan Bruno Laurant.



On Saturday the CSP played on the Alley Cat's Boxing Day Cruise, now as a quartet with Davis Zunk returning to Ho Chi Minh City.  Afloat on the Tonle Sap and the Mekong, threading between the fishermen pulling in nets and the long thin working boats as the afternoon stretched into a soft tropical evening, we played a few sets mixing up the Khmer pop with some Neil Young covers and jams, and a short solo set of my choons.  A most enjoyable Boxing Day. 

UPDATE:   Now check out our video of I'm 16 shot on the boat.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A little too much CKB and one too many loud bangs: 18 - 20 December

Friday night I was without a gig, but as I was loaning my drum kit and a couple of amplifiers to Talking to a Stranger for their hosting of the Curtis King Band, in from Vietnam for the weekend, I took the chance to catch up on this well known outfit.  And a rousing old show it was.  They had a few friends joining in as well, making the stage quite crowded for the most part.  Part high school band, part rock theatre, part pantomime, part oldies jukebox, part inexplicable circus show ... essentially hard define as anything other than what it is. 

During the break a special performance of a few songs by the Cambodian Space Project changed the style briefly, and the night ended with something of a jam with Melanie Brew making one of her rare but treasured appearances. 

The Lazy Jazz Drunks, on Saturday night at Rory's, attempted to pull together an unusual combination of instruments - vocals, guitar, drums and accordion - that almost succeeded in spite of itself.  However, after the first set a delegation of angry neighbours showed up to complain about the noise, and the scene got all aggro ... culminating in a gunshot, probably a starter pistol but in any case enough of a cue for the band to quietly begin packing up.  Methinks not so much live music at Rory's for some time. 

I took advantage of the early finish to head up to Sharky's, where I was lucky enough to hear some blues featuring not-on-Phnom-Penh-stages-often-enough singer Kristin Rasmussen, and some scorching harp from Aussie Ken along with more of the same from the all-singing-all-dancing Curtis King Band.  

The Hellhounds were on at Talking to a Stranger on Sunday evening, chewing through a couple of sets to a very respectable crowd, including a generous helping of dancing children, but missing the Swedish Ambassador, currently in hibernation in Sverige.   We were pleased to welcome the bluesy folk guitar and songs of Seattle performer Paul Benoit  ( who played a few tunes to preview his gig on Wednesday (also with the Hellhounds supporting) with some drum and harmonica assistance.  He'll be worth checking out - Talking to a Stranger, December 23rd from 8 pm. 

Next week also look out for the Cambodian Space Project at La Croissette on Christmas night and on the river cruise on Boxing Day - contact the Alley Cat for tickets before the 24th. 

Don't take any wooden money folks.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cambodian Space Project attacks the stratosphere! - 17 December

The Cambodian Space Project took to the stage at META House for a further sneak preview on Thursday night, following a screening of Julien's documentary Mekong Delta Blues.  Building upon the spontaneous energy of the Alley Cat gig, this was a tighter and punchier performance, with Phnom Penh alumnus Davis taking bass duties, and with the addition of Rattat on digeridoo and percussion.  The combo gave just a taste of its feast of 60s style Cambodian rock, with the beautiful Srey Thy charming the crowd and the band pulling out that extra helping of funk that had been hiding away during rehearsals.  After a break caused by a grumpy neighbour, the band returned for an extended jam for those few brave souls who were still around.

Look out for the Cambodian Space Project over the next few weeks!  Including a river cruise on Boxing Day - tickets from the Alley Cat

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Midweek madness - 9 December

The Alley Cat celebrated its fourth birthday last night with a buffet, free margeritas, and some music performed by wunderkind Julien Poulson on guitar and the delightful vocals of the beautiful Srey Thy, grappling like troupers against troublesome equipment and distortion issues.  The Swedish Ambassador and I did our Sly & Robbie/rhythm-section-for-hire thing, which I usually avoid on a school night, but in the spirit of the season, and the fact that we were asked and could be completely spontaneous about it, went along for the ride.  Unfortunately Guitar Steve was unable to round out the instrumental quartet due to the normal Cambodian electrics problems. 

Julien and Srey Thy kicked off with some old style Khmer songs, which flowed into a series of varied tunes that included a lot of material I didn't recognise, and some Neil Young, that got a few keen punters onto their feet to dance.  Other highlights included an impromptu run through of about two fifths of Oh, Pretty Woman, and Srey Thy pleasing the crowd with I'm Sixteen.  Look out for more from Srey Thy and Julien in the new year - and also Julien's documentary Mekong Delta Blues which is playing at Meta House on Thursday 17th. 

UPDATE:  See mythicaldude for pics:

Plenty of action this weekend, but for me as a punter only.  See you on the other side.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mostly about a boat ride: 4 - 6 December

Another busy weekend as we lurch towards Christmas, opening with the Lazy Jazz Drunks at Huxley's on Friday night in what may well be the last performance with the Swedish Ambassador before his winter hibernation.  The unit proves to be getting at once looser and tighter - jazz influences are increasing in the form of the Ambassador's chord substitutions and my insistence on turning the end of a song into the beginnning of the next one.  The crowd was a little thin, it being a first Friday and the damn joker draw continuing to capture the imagination of punters, but those that were there seemed to enjoy themselves; although, as Tall Tom pointed out at one point, not as much as the band.  Still, we had a guest apprentice drummer, an impromptu Riders on the Storm, and a late finish.

Saturday was going to be a punter's night for me, but events conspired against this.  A pick up band comprising of Aussie Ken, the Swedish Ambassador, Phil the Fiddler and myself clambered onto a Tonle Sap boat late in the afternoon to provide entertainment for the children of an orphanage called Little Hearts (on the far side of the river, about 2 km north of the Japanese Bridge).  The kids had been taking part in PhnomPenhPhoto, assisting a couple of photographers to display their work at several locations around the city.  For the first half hour the kids sat quietly and ate while we played a range of stuff that we thought we all might know - Cottonfields, Goodnight Irene, Dead Flowers - as we wandered in that boatish way southwards.  By the time we were turning around to head north again, the dark was falling, and the kids were starting to take notice, and we had an inquisitive audience.  With the help of some tunes like Stuck inside of Phnom Penh with the Memphis Blues Again (It's not the Mississippi, it's the Mekong) and the perennial Johnny B. Goode, pretty soon the deck was a sea of gleeful dancers.  Aussie Ken had brought some hand percussion and a slew of old harmonicas, which only added to the fun.  It was magic.  Eventually a broken guitar string (the only one of the whole weekend) brought the band to a stop, but the night then turned into a 'try an instrument' session, as one after another the children took turns playing violin, drums, guitar and mandolin.  Eventually the recorded dance music came on, and the dancing continued as energetically as ever, as we headed up the river to the orphanage.  We poured off the boat and up the riverbank to their home, where there were some final remarks and thanks, then the volunteers returned to the boat and with a little instrument swapping we played as we all cruised back to town.

Check it out at    or           Special thanks to Bart and Jean-Francois for getting the event on, and to Guitar Steve for being the liaison from his sickbed.

And so the night turned into eating, drinking and more playing, with the Swedish Ambassador giving drumming lessons to booksellers on the riverside, and some last acoustic fun at a somewhat reluctant little Khmer place near the Night Market.

The night was not over, and there was still time to catch a handful of songs at The Tree on 118 St by the Stiff Little Punks, who I can strongly recommend if you like it loud and fast.  They put on a fearsome show and I will be looking forward to catching more than half a set sometime soon.

The Hellhounds rode into Talkin' to a Stranger on Sunday for a couple of tight, energetic sets notable for some very tasty playing from Guitar Steve and the public debut of a new set of strings on the axe of Jimmy Hellhound.  The new material keeps rolling in, look out for some more unfamiliar tunes in the coming weeks.

I heard mixed reports about the two bands that played at FCC over the weekend, and was disappointed at missing the Khmer band at the Bodega.  Do we have any roving reporters that can bring me up to speed? 

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Aussie Ken reports: 27 November

Chris, Mathius and Dave were getting feet on the dance floor again on Friday night when Misspent Yooth played Talkin’ to a Stranger. They entertained the radiant assemblage with a mix of bounce, rhythm and melody that had several people up dancing by the third tune. Once they had the e-violin turned up to the right volume the sounds coming out of the speakers were a wonderful mix of bouncy dance-y bass, tight jazzy rhythmic guitar, a colourful suite of violin melodies and topped with smooth vocals. The result was a clean, colourful and tight sound that had the NGO crowd on the dance floor as soon as the first end-of-week wine started kicking in.

At the other end of town was a much rawer, dirtier sound coming from the vicinity of Sharky's in the shape of Lost Highway. Despite being down by 2 members, they did a great job in a performance of several Americana signature tunes. During the week they lost their bass player due to a broken arm as a result of a moto accident and their new rhythm guitar from Italy who had to bail due to sicknesses in the family. Undeterred the band did a great job to entertain the assembled beer-drinkers and the fairer, younger sex.

The long guitar leads from Kenny were a treat for us Phnom Penh-ers who rarely get a chance to enjoy the dying art of the blues/electric/rock guitar performances. Kenny’s vocal style also blends in so well to the songs that it doesn’t strike you at first but the way he flips the timing between the guitar and vocals adds a unique and robust flavour to many of the tunes. Tommy on drums also sang many of the tunes with a country flavoursome reminiscent of the long, hot dusty highways from his homeland – it was really well put together. Tommy rarely and surprisingly lets his technique dominate the tunes but his ability to get the sticks flying should not be underestimated. Oscar on blues harp was superb – adding raw, growly notes and rhythmical overtones to the mix and a blues-rock or country feel as the song needed. I didn’t get to see them on the Saturday night but I sure they would have enjoyed a larger crowd as most of the boys in the audience skipped off to the joker draw not long before start time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chaos and Disorder: 28 November

If you're going to have just one gig in a weekend, you'd better make sure it works.  And my word we did our best.  The Lazy Jazz Drunks assembled in a re-configured line-up on Saturday night at Rory's Pub on 178 St and did everything we could to keep ourselves afloat.  Continuing our bass-less theme, and in response to the exhortation to "keep it down" we lost the keyboard as well, so the Swedish Ambassador sat behind the small drumkit and I moved to guitar, with Tall Tom and Ian The Punk sticking to guitar and vocals respectively, and Aussie Ken doubling on harmonica and stomach trouble.  A particularly (unsurprisingly I guess) drunken Irishman opened the festivities by taking a microphone and making an a##hole of himself and reminding us how fragile some of our equipment actually is.  As if we didn't need reminding.  Because shortly it developed that my mixer was only working on one channel, so we flew in a replacement.  Before too long the speakers gave up as well, so there was another trip to Aussie Ken's to retrieve backups.

To mix it up a little further, we had two power failures and two broken guitar strings, the second of which somehow screwing up the electrics in my acoustic leading me to abandon performance briefly in favour of the comforts and reliability of the bar. 

But did we give up?  The beer was flowing and so was the music.  We sang, we played, we had a sh*t-hot guest or two (playing Chuck Berry, Neil Young), we pushed through about half our regular material and added everything from AC/DC to Abba, including half a dozen of my originals, some inspired gibberish vocals from Ian The Punk, at least three versions of Dirty Old Town (one unplugged in the darkness) with crowds coming and going around us, dancing, headstands, dropped glasses, bewildered passers-by, and managing by mistake to play the manager's favourite song in a nostalgic nod to the bar formerly known as Revolution.   

Just another quiet Saturday night on the expat island ...

More LJD madness this Friday (4th) at Huxleys from 8, and the Hellhounds are back at Talking to a Stranger on Sunday evening (6th) from 6. 

Don't take any wooden money.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pink Suit weekend: 19 - 22 November

The weekend kicked off early, with the Hellhounds taking the stage at Sharky's, pushing through two solid sets despite some illness in the ranks that threatened to derail proceedings earlier in the day. If you haven't caught up with the extended, rhythm section version of the Hellhounds yet ... well, you should.  It's better each week.  

Friday night saw the Lazy Jazz Drunks take over upstairs at Huxley's, overcoming some technical issues (such as the absence of a second guitarist, disintegrating drumsticks, and the need to go out and find extra mics) to raise the roof in the way that only the Drunks can.  The Swedish Ambassador was doing his damnedest to put the Jazz back in the LJD, and after the crowd thinned out to go to Walkabout for the big draw things got looser, culminating in a prolonged stopping-all-stations jam on Whole Lotta Love with Ian throwing in lyrics from any song he could think of, and I think several that he couldn't think of.  The Drunks will be at Rory's on Saturday 28th trying to be as quiet as possible, and back at Huxley's on the 5th. 

For a complete change of pace, Saturday night's first birthday party for Chinese House was a much mellower affair.  The occasion called for something special, and it became the debut of The Panthers, a new project that the Swedish Ambassador and I have dreamed up:  the quieter, mellower side of D'Sco: The Geckos of Love, with an emphasis on standards and ballads, a chance for him to play keyboards and a chance for me to sing rather than play guitar and to wear a pink suit and hand out roses to beautiful women.  Stick around, that sort of stuff happens all the time.  So we captivated the crowd for an hour or so, taking the usual opening night nerves in our stride, before being joined by Ritchy on guitar and vocals (and switching to bass and drums) to provide some live music for a herd of swing dancers (is that the appropriate collective noun?  perhaps a press of swing dancers, or a swirl of swing dancers) who put on a very enjoyable show (including an intriguing solo number Cupid's Arrow).  The evening then degenerated into pre-recorded music ...

On Sunday D'Sco: The Geckos of Love were back to basics at Talking to a Stranger, relaxed with less equipment and just two guitars.  We played the game where I play songs that Dan has never heard (and in some cases I've never played in public, or indeed at all) and he does his best to keep up, and usually does dazzlingly well.  In the second set I played half an hour's worth of my own songs, at the strong encouragement of some gentlemen at the bar, feeding my interest in putting together a band to play original material next year, to test the theory that punters are interested in such a thing.  A quiet night, but by no means unpleasant. 

I gather there was a band at The Cavern on Saturday night which from reports sounds quite interesting.  Anyone see them? 

Seeya round the traps

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I couldn't attend my 25 year anniversary high school reunion: 10 - 14 November

The weekend began early - an informal drop-in jam/gathering organised on Tuesday night at Chinese House.  And quite successfully, too.  The cozy/sophisticated interior makes the bar a nice room to play in, not to mention the relaxed nature of the seating and the lovely acoustics.  Players included David, Tree, Melanie, Jet, Ritchie, Mattheus, Paul and myself (including a healthy smattering of original material, particularly a recent batch from Melanie) interspersed later with a number of young Khmer chaps who played a mixture of Western ballads and Khmer pop songs.   Looking forward to the next one.

Friday night was a blast - as D'Sco: The Geckos of Love we took keyboard and drums, augmented by  Memphis Fred on sax, to new heights as the house band for AsiaLife's Blind Date night (the format based on the TV show Blind Date/Perfect Match/The Dating Game) at Talking to a Stranger, providing pre-show entertainment and then incidental music for the event itself.   Photos can be found at AsiaLifeGuide's Blind Date     'Twas an absolute blast to play corny backgrounds and soppy tunes all night. 

Also on Friday night - that i missed due to Blind Date - was Bum'n'Draze, who I am still yet to see, at Sharkys.  Scheduling is a bastard sometimes.   Not to mention Australian blues legend Phil Manning at FCC.

However, the extended Hellhounds took to the stage to support Manning's Saturday night show at FCC, smoking through two sets of blues and country.  And no broken strings this time!  Manning himself put on a great show, demonstrating his tag line (electric fingers on an acoustic guitar) to good effect.  I particularly enjoyed the slide playing.  He gave us a generous 3 sets, and said he was keen to return where his schedule will allow.

The coming weekend looks fun:  Hellhounds at Sharky's on Thursday, Lazy Jazz Drunks at Huxley's on Friday, the debut of The Panthers at Chinese House on Saturday and the regular fortnightly Sunday session at Talking to a Stranger.  

See you around the traps.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Solo, Salsa, and then Swinging: 6 - 8 November

As Water Festival receded like a king tide, the Swedish Ambassador headed for the coast, and the Geckos of Love had a few days off.  Consequently I had the rare opportunity to check out what other people were doing:  but it seems everyone else was out of town as well.  Friday night I found Patrick at the Velkommen Inn, wrestling a little with the equipment, but otherwise playing a confident and tuneful  mix of songs to a decent and at times enthusiastic crowd.  Saturday night I was encouraged/dragged to the institution that is FCC to witness what was billed as 6 authentic Cubans, which was not so much half a dozen fine cigars as four musicians and a drum machine playing Latin to an dancing-oriented audience.  My first reaction was not so much Buena Vista Social Club as Miami Sound Machine but I decided that was a bit harsh.  Not really my thing - tight and slick but with the passion painted onto the sound rather than arising from it - but people were enjoying it.  And it was certainly a pleasurable experience walking home down the empty street next to the Palace with the sound humming in the air all the way through to St 19. 

On Sunday night I was back behind the small kit with the extended Hellhounds, cooking through a couple of really good sets at Talking to a Stranger that had first the kids and then the assembled adults dancing about gleefully.

This coming weekend look out for Australian blues legend Phil Manning at Chow and FCC (Hellhounds supporting); the following weekend Lazy Jazz Drunks will be dismantling Huxleys on Friday, and the 1st anniversary celebrations at Chinese House on Saturday, which will include the debut of Phnom Penh's newest and possibly classiest duo The Panthers

See you around the traps.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Winding up at Velkommen & selling SIMs: 30 October - 3 November

Water Festival of course changed the musical landscape over the weekend.  Friday and Saturday were relatively quiet nights, even more so for me as I had to sit out of the Hellhounds final Velkommen Inn gig on Friday due to a damaged wrist brought on by an ill-advised participation in a game of football with some kids, which just goes to show that exercise is bad for you.   A few guest vocalists rounded out the Beer O'Clock Band's performance, and then the Hellhounds carried on with a guest drummer fresh off the plane from Australia for the first set, and then the Swedish Ambassador taking the thwacking duties and Dave of Misspent Yooth sitting in on bass. 

Saturday night I was back in action, and was able to drum for the Lazy Jazz Drunks' public rehearsal at The Cavern, which then evolved into some impromptu jamming with Tom, Russian David and Khmer wunderkind TR. 

Sunday and Monday D'Sco: The Geckos of Love shared a stage outside Riverhouse for Water Festival with some Khmer entertainers, promoting one of the local mobile phone companies.  We added our particular shade of lusty, bluesy noise to the cocktail of uptempo dancing, slow balladeering and endless Khmer prattling about special deals by a guy who could speak underwater.   The view from the stage was sometimes formidable, not really our regular audience.




Special thanks go to a group of young Aussies on Monday night who called up AC/DC, allowing me to pull out my guilty pleasure You shook me all night long, and then not only demanded an encore of Johnny B. Goode, but turned on a great bit of rock'n'roll dancing that delighted the crowd ... or perhaps astonished is a better word.  In any case, a lovely bit of magic. 

Tuesday turned into a bit of a washout, thanks to the rain, but we did play on at the afterparty until the beer ran out, playing Chuck Berry music and trying to find some songs that we had in common with the partiers (and coming up with Hotel California and Take me to your heart).

November is here, and it's going to be full.  Catch you around the traps.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hellhounds (Extended) versus Sharky's: 26 October

The Hellhounds gig at Sharky's last night turned at almost the last minute into an Extended Hellhounds gig.  A rousing soundcheck of an impromptu Honky Tonk Women set the pace for a lively night that was notable for only minor string breakage, an encouraging level of applause, an attack of photography (gotta get some of those posted soon) and closing with a request for a cajun number.  We were only too happy to oblige.  We even had some of the girls shuffling along with the sound. 

The Sharky's blog now has photos up.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rain, rugby and wolf whistles: 22 - 25 October

The weekend began, as usual, with D’Sco: The Geckos of Love performing quietly but enjoyably at Sayon Silklounge (on St 19 about 50 metres north of St 240), a night made quieter than usual, incongruously, by the crashing thunderstorm which cleared the streets most effectively and made sure everyone stayed home.

Street 104 was busy on Friday night, as billowing clouds of rugby players in black-and-white-sharkskin patterned shirts gathered and dispersed, piling in and out of tuk-tuks and bars. These individuals, however, were not there for the music, and there was a broad acreage of carpet viewable at the Velkommen Inn where the Hellhounds held forth; although it must be said that there were a number of patrons who sat on the street to watch the rugger lads and formed a small audience.

Undeterred, we whipped through a couple of sets, with the 5-piece ensemble (the Swedish Ambassador and I adding rhythm section to the existing 3-piece core band) continuing to improve its swing and groove, and myself making fewer glaring drumming errors.

Saturday night, however, at The Cavern on St 104, was something of a different story. The evening began with a short practice session for the Lazy Jazz Drunks, who after the normal rehearsal style of a few ropy numbers were playing pretty tight and getting a very favourable reception from the small crowd gathering around the bar. Many of these were wearing matching t-shirts, some kind of business mafia apparently (I assume rugby was involved somehow) but there were familiar faces attached so they were forgiven, particularly when they were clapping and cheering.

After the rehearsal the Swedish Ambassador and I took to the stage for our regular tomfoolery, pulling out some Supertramp on request from the floor as well as a keyboard-driven version of The Long Division, and Stuck inside of Phnom Penh with the Memphis Blues again (otherwise known as It’s not the Mississippi, it’s the Mekong) again proving that there is at least one band in the capital playing original material. Singer/guitarist D who had joined us the previous week returned for a solo set that included a brief a capella-with-drums moment when the power adruptly took a short break.

I for one was somewhat disappointed that I was missing the Khmer rock’n’roll band at Chinese House (the menace of gigging too much is not getting to be audience enough – can anyone enlighten us? Was it good?) However, the magic was about to blossom again on 104 Street.

At some point during the last set, with D'Sco back on the stand, Sir J encouraged a young Khmer guy up to play with us -- picture a youthful Khmer Marc Bolan in a schmick all-black strip with perfect stage-hair – who took us through Knocking on heaven’s door, Don’t look back in anger and a song in Khmer, with an ease and grace suggesting he’d been performing since he could walk. Then he announced that he would rather play drums, so D’Sco clicked into rock’n’roll mode, thumping out an only occasionally played original Som Chop! and a medley that started with Polk Salad Annie, passed through Bang a Gong and ended with a chorus or two of Little Queenie (as far as I recall).

Less than 24 hours later, the extended Hellhounds broke into a shuffle for the Sunday session at Talking to a Stranger, which led of course to the first flashes of lightning in the south east. At the end of the first set, which had included some new tunes briefly rehearsed that morning (including Got my mojo working, which may or may not refer to a small Japanese car, and Walking the dog, which benefitted from some participatory wolf whistling from the crowd) the rain arrived, forcing a rather longer break than expected and succeeding in keeping audience numbers low. Still, being Phnom Penh musicians, we are well trained at having a good time whether people show up or not.  We cooked nicely through the second set, chugging through as though we'd been playing together as a 5 piece for years, not weeks. 

What else went on that I missed because I was busy?