Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pilgrims and Keppers: 18 - 20 February

It was another thumping night on Thursday as The Hellhounds took to the stage at Sharky Bar, pumping through the weird, twisted and wonderful repertoire that keeps growing funkier.  Mythical Dude managed to break some kind of record with broken strings, showing real dedication to his endless quest for justifying the employment of a personal string-changing roadie.  We welcomed to the stage one Johnny Pilgrim who played some rattling rambling 1952 National guitar chug-chug excitement and took even the wheel to lead us through It's all over now - because the best performances are the unrehearsed ones.

On Saturday the Cambodian Space Project took its outreach programme to Kep.  After a set at the local Ecole Francaise, where I played official photographer, we headed for Kukuluku on the water, and set up for a big night.  Embarrassed by numbers, despite the absense of Bong Thom, we assembled with a three-guitar, two bass, accordion, drum and percussion line-up ... while the carnival.  A couple of punching sets, with a mystery bass player showing up at the end of the first, looking something like Santa Claus' kid brother, and playing the crap out of the funky band favourite, Miss you.  We also hurriedly rehearsed and brought to the stage a new song, Pan Ron's I'm unsatisfied, and the next morning the intrepid production crew headed out to shoot a music video for it.

Here's a couple of shots from later in the day, when the band got to stand around and look interesting.  Perched atop a crab, for example ....  photos courtesy of the fabulous Marc Eberle, space project documentarist.

Look out for the video soon.

This Thursday: Hellhounds at Sharky Bar

This Friday: CSP plays Khmarnival in Sihanoukville ... flamenco at Equinox on Friday night -- Jose de Lopera (guitar and vocals) and Mark Chattaway (mandolin) and maybe Eric on percussion

This Saturday: Stiff Little Punks at Sharky, supported by Lazy Jazz Drunks

See you near a stage soon

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Great Takeo Space Walk revisited

For all you French speakers and lovers of Google Translate ...


The Great Takeo Space Walk

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy New Year of the Tiger: 11 - 14 February

The long long weekend began with The Hellhounds on Thursday night at Sharky Bar. Another in a series of incremental changes to the sound, as the rhythm section gets to know the material and begins to take liberties, funking things up a bit and getting a bit of wildfire tearing through the list. We had a most vociferous and indulging crowd along, encouraging us to put that extra bit in (and I'm not just talking about the bluecheese and bacon burgers).

On Friday night the Lazy Jazz Drunks returned to the stage -- the first gig since the gunshot -- playing a birthday party at the Pickled Parrot. With the assistance of a prepared-beforehand setlist, and despite the insane new year traffic and the lack of a guitar strap for Tall Tom, and with the Swedish Ambassador on bass rather than keyboard, we burst into action with a good sound (applause at the soundcheck!) and a dancing crowd for a couple of decent sets until the PA speakers unexpectedly gave up about 20 minutes too early. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

But then things got really serious -- I hopped on a moto down to Tamarind on 240 Street, where the Mekong Pirates were crammed into a tiny space for a special send-off concert for Marion and Dom. Even unamplified the size of the group means the sound is big. They'd been playing for a while by the time I got there, and the place was rocking. Dancers were shaking and swaying in the narrow space between the band and the wall, drinkers were sneaking inbetween the dancers and the band to get to the bar, the crowd spilled out into the street. Funky Phnom Penh indeed!

Then the Cambodian Space Project hit the road on Saturday for the Lunar New Year, heading south down into Takeo Province to a small village to play a ricefield special. A huge wedding PA was brought in for the occasion, food and beer laid on and we were generally treated royally. Srey Thy was not so well, but soldiered on for a long set that in the absence of our usual three-strong guitar army found me playing six-string, and I proceeded to pull out some Chic-like funky rhythms over the dub reggaeish grooves. And in a new first, we added The Breton Bandit on piano accordion, and even had Godfather L, carried away by the excitement and the anonymity, making an unexpected return to the stage after 20 years of avoidance. But what happens in the ricefield stays in the ricefield.

D'Sco: The Geckos of Love, with bonus guest drummer Bong Sak, then tore up the night with a prolonged bluesrock bashing interspersed with growling sweetnesses to the general bewilderment of the crowd, the Swedish Ambassador pumping out some hot licks and tasty wah-wah.

On Sunday we stayed on the road, heading out to Chroy Chongvar to play a great big extravagant birthday party. A timely visit to the doctor had Srey Thy raring to go, even pushing the tempos along aggressively. Tired but rejuvenated by an enthusiastic and audience (there was even some very brave interpretive dance going on during Whisky Cambodia, good to see) we played long and hard and … actually, we just had a bloody good time. We dispersed into the night in three tuktuks, with The Breton Bandit squeezebox-serenading us across the Japanese Bridge, and the PA truck loaded to the sky with well-travelled gear, and came to land at a little place on 172 Street where I eventually left the crew to their own devices. Unfortunately, some of us have day jobs.

Here's looking forward to the Space Mission to Kep next weekend, and the return of The Lovely Irene.

Happy new year of the Tiger, let it be a bold and courageous one.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rooftops of Phnom Penh; raised, appraised and launched from: 4 - 7 February

The first in the Hellhounds' Spitting, Drooling and Snarling February Thursdays Tour of Sharky's kicked off the weekend with bonus new tunes, an involved audience and even some dancing over by the pool table.  The new commitment to harmony vocal sounds is really starting to pay off, particularly with Mythical Dude's encouragement that we include Dead Flowers in the list - it sounded like we'd been playing it for years, rather than never before. 

Friday night the Cambodian Space Project played al fresco on the rooftop at Studio 182, an evening characterised by the appearance of a small army of sound-technical personnel who dashed around underfoot plugging and unplugging things as the night draped itself around us.  An extended soundcheck grew gradually into a sound ... not entirely sure it was a dramatic improvement - but my ears are not always to be trusted.  A large, dancey crowd enjoyed a set and a half of crazy psychedelic Khmer space rock before the neighbours complained and we had to bring the party to a close.  We started it up again on Saturday night under the headline Whisky Cambodia at La Croissette.  Again, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit out a few numbers and enjoy the band from the front, with Bong Sak thumping the skins for us: somehow we were in the very rare state of having the same lineup on successive gigs. 

But this lineup is about to change again, as the Cambodian Space Project is temporarily losing one of its khosmonauts:  The Lovely Irene is preparing to sail on the evening tide, undertaking a project to further economic links between Cambodia and Western Europe, also to spy and search out trade secrets with other Space Projects to assist with improving the Khmer design, which is currently largely restricted to attaching a rocket to a tuktuk.  The irreplaceable elegant lefthanded hat-wearing charm that brought such a bloom to the front line of the band will be missed by all of us.  We wish her well, bid her safe passage and fair winds, with the unspoken trust that the fairest of these winds will be those that float her back to us.  To mark her departure, crowds were assembled, two boats were lashed together, and the Cambodian Space Project clambered aboard to send her off in style on a Sunday cruise of the Tone Le Sap.  A fiercely good time was had.  Now, the next project is how to organise playing on a boat roof .... a launch pad for a most spectacular liftoff.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The friends, the road, the magic: 28 - 31 January

It was the last Thursday in January, and the last date of the Blue Cheese and Bacon Burger Hellhounds 2010 Tour of Sharky Bar.  And the playing was of a highest uber-ian quality, and the audience was keen and engaged, and the Mythical Dude was standing up, and Bong Thom was having out of body experiences, and the Swedish Ambassador was grooving it up, and Jimmy Hellhound was howling and cussing and there may or may not have been some cowbell, and there was certainly some awesome harmonising, like a bunch of old country folk sitting around on someone's porch with big clay bottles of homemade cider ... and they saw that it was good.  

And lo they did book the Hellhounds for another month of Thursdays!  This will be known as the Sharky's Scratch, Snort, and Drooling Blues Sessions, but will probably still involve blue cheese and bacon burgers at certain junctures.

Friday night was the annual Green Night at META House, an environmental awareness event, with a number of presentations on Copenhagen, Tonle Sap fisheries and solar lighting, and some musical interludes courtesy of singers from Cambodian Living Arts (a first for karaoke at META House) and the now-you-seen-them-now-you-see-them-again Cambodian Space Project.  The CSP as usual played with too many people, too loud, for too long, had too much fun, and had to be dragged off the stage with shepherds crooks.  So why are we all so happy?  

Because Space Commander Bong Jay won a solar light.  Because it was a great night.  Because the neighbour didn't stop by to tell us to shut up.  Because ...

Because the next morning we all got on a bus and headed down to Otres Beach, Sihanoukville, to play Saturday night on the beach between Mama Ying Yang and No Name while it was still possible to do so (i.e. prior to evictions).  We got to soundchecking as the sun went down, looking out over the water, pulling out our collective hair over the difficulties of managing generators, wedding-size PA stacks, bus-sized amplifiers -- and this was a stripped-down, low-fat, streamlined machine of drums, bass and guitars with nothing too complicated going on.

We played a good solid sweaty hour-plus-long set (much of which no one can actually remember) to a beach full of dancers in various stages of enjoyment, from the fanatical to the merely engaged.  Was there some fire twirling going on nearby?  Waves broke gently on the beach, relentless and soulful like the Swedish Ambassador's bass playing.   Some beautiful Apsara dancing broke the chain of rock'n'roll, but then CSP played a rather crisis-ridden set (even less of which can be remembered) for about 45 minutes, which seemed to work by sheer force of personality rather than any musical chops, before we imploded under our own weight and had to disperse to the bar and to sleep.  Some good tunes though, and we note an increasing tendency towards the epic and anthemic which may have to be closely monitored.  The Our Biggest Fan award goes to The Baron Bruno, who later enthused about listening while indulging in the luxurious expanse of the Gulf of Siam under the full moon to the howling and the pounding ... we could all have been anywhere that night, but we were where we would have chosen.  Blue benevolent ghosts were watching over us. 

Sunday came, and with it a busload of orphans who frolicked on the beach and the sand and were treated to a double bill of D'Sco: The Geckos of Love (unrehearsed, unshaven, and exremely willing) and the Cambodian Space Project (ah, beach life ... from the bed to the bar to the sea to the stage to the bar ... repeat when necessary).  The gleeful performance of Srey Thy, the bouncing of Gildas McSwashbuckle, the effortless swaying of The Lovely Irene, the fierce guitar of the Space Commander, the all-encompassing Swedish Ambassador, the enthusiastic but flawed self ... from the rear of the stage the silhouettes were sharp against the shining sea, the music lifting off into the air like hello-aliens-here's-a-time-capsule-of-Otres-Beach, on a mission to the stars.  Coming soon, at the speed of sound, to a constellation near you.