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.

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