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?