Friday, January 29, 2010

Photo update: CSP at Maxine's

Cambodian Space Project, all bluish and pinkish
                                                     on 26 January at
Maxine's over the river 

Fab photos courtesy of and with glowing thanks to Nathan Horton  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Midweek special - (Invasion of) Australia Day: 26 January

Last night a great seething mass, mostly consisting of Australians of various varieties, descended on Maxine's in an attempt to (a) tip the establishment into the Tonle Sap and (b) celebrate (Invasion of) Australia Day 2010. Wave after successive wave of oh-no-it's-a-school-night punters frolicked through the door as the Cambodian Space Project pounded out its signature brand of spacey trippy heavy Khmer rock'n'roll.  The doors even had to be closed at one stage to make sure only the most keen balcony destroyers got in. 

In keeping with our tradition of never having the same line-up twice, the CSP welcomed the Swedish Ambassador to the fray, alternating between bass and percussion. As Bong Sak (aka Charlie Wat Phnom) was in the house I shared the drumming seat with him, also playing some bass, doing some untrained-so-don't-try-this-at-home MCing and even taking the opportunity to dance around in the pink suit as the band continued its frantic plunge towards an apparent oblivion, the three guitar attack of Space Commander Bong J, Gildas McSwashbuckle and The Lovely Irene (do you know how hard it is to play guitar left-handed??) pounding relentlessly on a bed of Eric's percussion. Or so it sometimes sounds. At least the mix was better this week, thanks to an early start on lugging the gear and some effort taken to get the vocal sound to rise above the throbbing sonic rush. Bong Thom, resplendent in hat and shorts, blew his harmonica so hard he busted his amp.

After three energetic sets, with a brief interlude comprising of a couple of my tunes slipped in for good luck, the Space Project collapsed in a couple of heaps and eventually dispersed into the night. Thanks to Snow for opening especially for the night, for treating the Project so well, and for filling up the gaps with 80s-era Oz Rock (I was going to say it never gets old, but on reflection perhaps it's best left for one day in the year to dance around to 1987 INXS).

This coming weekend: Hellhounds at Sharky on Thursday; CSP at META House Green Night on Friday; and the Space Project takes to the road to play on Otres Beach, Sihanoukville on Saturday.

Don't take any wooden money, folks.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A quiet weekend for once: 21 - 22 January

The Hellhounds were glad to welcome the Swedish Ambassador back on bass playing & hat wearing duties on Thursday night at Sharky's. It was great to have my rhythm section buddy back filling in the holes that I leave behind in the grooves occasionally. We slipped into the old patterns as easily as we downed the bacon and blue cheese burgers beforehand. Now, if we can only get a couple more channels in the mixer, the vocals can gather together as well ... expect some new songs when you drop in this Thursday.

Friday night I dropped in at The Cavern and chanced across Shangri-la, a cross-cultural trio made up of Russian Dave and some very good young Khmer players, a drummer and a keyboard player/singer. They played a well-rehearsed, tidily arranged collection of songs, and seem to walk the fine balance between pleasing both expat and local audiences. I'd like to see more fire, but hopefully that can be added once they're up and running. Oh, and in the contemporary Phnom Penh music tradition, there was some great hat wearing. The Cavern are promoting live music Friday nights at present, and I am looking forward to seeing what turns up.

Subsequently on Friday I popped by at Memphis to catch up with the mysterious Repris de Justesse, about whom nobody seemed to have any information at all, and was most disappointed to find it was just another 70s covers crowd-pleaser touring band - perhaps that's harsh, but I allowed them a song and a half to fail to impress me and left. Bad timing, really: I had to get up the next morning and move house. 

(Invasion of) Australia Day on Tuesday - Cambodian Space Project live at Snow's (Maxine's) across the river from sundown!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Photo update:

Crazy headgear and funky eyewear:  Check.

Gene Kupra meets Daelim school of drumming: Check

Too-cool-for-words rhythm guitar:   Check

Guitar hero wearing orange, with bonus clarinet: Check

Self hiding from camera behind guitar hero:  Check

Glamorous lead singer:  Check

Crowd going wild:  Check

Documentary proof of the Cambodian Space Project blasting off at Equinox 4th Birthday party, 15 January. 

Photographs courtesy of Bruno "The Baron" Laurant - many thanks dude. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

From burger-fuelled hounds to a cake for a pachyderm, via piracy: 14 - 17 January

Another big weekend kicked off with the continuation of the Hellhounds' January Blue Cheese and Bacon Burger Thursdays Tour of Sharky Bar that continues to bring blues to the blue and troubles to the troubled. Canadian Dave once again sat in for the Swedish Ambassador, who was a little jet lagged and assigned to bar-propping-up duties, but did take over the drums for a few numbers in the second set. As usual the adrenalin-pumping relentless machine that is the Hellhounds chalked up a few wins and a few losses, but ended on a high, such that the Mythical Dude, he of the sweet notes and deep deep bass, was left begging for more tunes. I'm told he returned to Sharkys the next night to let his guitar gently weep and wail some more, in the presence of Lost Highway.

On Friday night Equinox held its fourth birthday party, kicking off the show with a singer/guitarist whose name I didn't catch, followed by the debut of a brand new band (some familiar faces, and some new) Cacash and Los Poporks: bass, drums and percussion, keyboard, trumpet, flute, guitar and Satchmo-meets-Serge Gainsbourg vocals. They gave us a kind of jazz/funk stew that ranged from French-ish Django-ish standards at high speed to a very funky reading of a Herbie Hancock tune, the title of which escaped me then and continues to elude me.

Hot on the heels of Los Poporks came the Cambodian Space Project. Unfortunately we started without soundchecking, and encountered the familiar problem of getting the vocal to soar above the psychedelia. Our in-house carney-barker, Aussie Ken, kept the patter up while we twiddled knobs, switched cables, spluttered and swore. Once we solved the volume issue (unfortunately shedding some cosmonauts along the way), however, the rocket took off with resounding force, and the crowd -- which was substantial, and had been blocking tuktuk passage along Golden Street for a few hours already -- only seemed to get larger and louder. Charlie Wat Phnom pushed the groove along , The Lovely Irene made her electric debut with a blue guitar with go-faster white stripes, and Srey Thy charmed the assembled throng once again.

The crowd -- and the band -- was even larger and even louder the following night when the Mekong Pirates played FCC, their final gig with this line-up as guitarist Marion is returning to France. Once again pushing physical boundaries of the stage, the Pirates kept playing and playing until half the audience was dancing. I love the swing and sway of the Phnom Penh Horns, the rhythmic interplay of the drums and percussion, the bouncing of Gildas McSwashbuckle, the Apsaric sway of Mom … we were also treated to a brass invasion of the dance floor, and some thumping funk headed by guest The Fabulous Ms Esther.

But still the weekend was not over. Sambo the elephant turned 50, and a party was held at Wat Phnom, somewhat to her bewilderment I expect. Even more to her bewilderment was the appearance of a six-piece acoustic version of the Cambodian Space Project, leading the singing of Happy Birthday before launching into a last-minute rewrite in the form of I'm 50 (and boy is it hard to sing "haksep chnam" twice fast without spitting). After the cake cutting, the CSP reassembled for some more tunes, surrounded by a crowd of mostly Khmer onlookers.

So now I've finally achieved one of my childhood dreams: to play drums for Khmer tunes at an elephant's birthday party wearing a pink t-shirt.

See you soon -- watch out for Cambodian Space Project special Australia Day show at Snowy's over the river.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prey Veng photo share - Cambodia Space Project: 9 - 10 January

The CSP Worldwide Tour of Prey Veng now visible on Fbook for you Fbookers.

Great pics taken by The Lovely Irene (except the few she's in, of course)

I don't usually do pre-show promos, but this time I will

Here we are, out standing in our (rice) field.

for all the many other gigs in town this weekend:    

Monday, January 11, 2010

From Hell(hounds) to Prey Veng ... and back: 7-10 January

The Hellhounds are playing Thursday nights at Sharky's in January - guaranteeing an early start to the weekend for the next few weeks. With the added bonus that they have a full drum kit installed - this not only makes it less of a lugging activity for me to move in and move out, but gives me a little more colour to play with than the old snare-hihat combo.  The Mythical Dude had some jolly nice things to say about my added extras this week.  Microphones were the issue of the week, but with a little moving about we were able to cook along very nicely.  Aside: it seems Sharky's are getting serious about live music right now: Check out their plans for the rest of the month!

Friday night META House celebrated their third birthday with a packed out rooftop party featuring one of the more exotic line-ups that the Cambodian Space Project has been able to come up with so far.  Featuring the debut of The Lovely Irene on left-handed guitar, Gildas McSwashbuckle on right-handed guitar, Eric on effortlessly tasteful percussion, plus the lilting strains of Khmer clarinet player Bun Hong (along with regulars Space Commander Bong J, Aussie Ken, monkosmonaut Ratha and the ever-charming Srey Thy) (oh, and self)  we entertained long past our allotted timeslot ... particularly with the extremely special appearance of Charlie Wat Phnom on tight-as-a-gecko's-clacker drums.  Asia Life Guide has put up some great pics from the night.

And so the next morning, The Cambodian Space Project set off for our next venture, a mission to Srey Thy's village in Prey Veng to play a concert in a rice field - with the assistance of an $80 collection from the META House audience, we purchased, delivered and handed over a brand new generator for the village.  In the last of the afternoon light we played for half an hour to a large but mostly bemused crowd; the feedback was that we weren't loud enough, so when we went back on to play in the dark, lit by a single fluourescent tube that was largely covered in mosquitos, we cranked it up and attempted to get the sound louder than the nearby wedding.  I think we managed it .... then it was back to the house for acoustic guitars and djembes until late, stretching from Ros Sereysothea to Neil Young to something in Khmer that was awfully similar to She'll be coming 'round the mountain to Del Shannon to Tom Waits ... a lot of old fashioned hooting and hollering and some pretty sore fingers.  I hope to add some photos in the coming days.

Like this one:

Friday, January 1, 2010

And a new year gift for FTA readers ...

Cambodian Space Project's first film clip:  I'm 16  now available on YouTube, featuring footage shot on the Boxing Day Cruise only a few days ago.

Penhstock Blue Moon New Year: 31 December

On the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, and marking the end of 2009, Sharky's outdid themselves with a sensational night.  No less than six bands, made up of around 20 performers, playing from 9 pm through to 2 am.  It was great not only to see several bands I've not been able to catch before, but also to be a part of such a friendly and enjoyable crowd. 

The night kicked off with the inimitable Bum'n'Draze who, we were told, had that day achieved the distinction of having a box of their CDs stolen from the seat of a car.  Be on the lookout for (a) pirated Bum'n'Draze albums at your local CD shop and (b) young Khmers turned on to their crazy Scandinavian subgrunge.  As the fella said: we'd rather be heard than paid.  And heard they were:  with two guests along, a third Finn who played some cool trumpet (never heard Sabbath's Paranoid with horns before) and Gildas McSwashbuckle contributing some mean guitar.  The throbbing madness was brought to a close with the destruction of a tv set.  All in a day's work.

Following on, out of France and Kampot, came JP and the Nurses, a very cool little outfit playing some post punk pop including covers of Zombie, a deliciously mangled Sweet dreams are made of this, and even Gildas McSwashbuckle and I contributed some backing vocals for With or without you.   Then with a minor change of line-up we enjoyed the Happy Cockroaches, playing a mostly French set with similar tight rhythms and a more continental punky feel.  I especially enjoyed I will survive

The Stiff Little Punks were in fine sweating form, again proving to be more than the sum of their parts.  The highlight of their set was undoubtedly the closer:  Holiday in Cambodia, of course. 

The boogie blues rock of Lost Highway took over the stage next, and they brought in the new year with their usual brand of enthusiastic sound: loud guitar, honking harp, augmented by (unfortunately   a bit lost in the mix) keyboard.  A broken guitar string created an opportunity for Tall Thom to show off some licks, and Ian the Punk contributed some vocals.

The Hellhounds were last on the bill, and we had some pretty hard acts to follow.  The crowd seemed to be on our side, though, and we cranked through some of our louder, faster stuff with Canadian Dave filling in on bass in the absence of the Swedish Ambassador.  After a while the stage filled up with Lost Highway personnel and the jam was on: I recall Stormy Monday and Ian the Punk helping out on a boisterous Honky Tonk Women - the night's not over until someone's played HTW.  And so went the jam until 2, when the curfew kicked in; the only downside of the night, as I'm sure the groove could have kept cruising for at least another hour.  But maybe it's not such a bad idea to finish when it's still good.  

There are already some great photos over at the Sharky's page; less impressionistic than these offerings.  

Thanks to the Sharky's crew for putting on the show, for making it work so smoothly, and making it so much fun to be a part of.   Penhstock continues with Lost Highway on 1 Jan and Plan B (from Australia) on 2 Jan.   

Seeya near a stage somewhere in 2010.

The view from behind the drums