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.