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.