Friday, April 2, 2010

First Cambodian-based band to play in Hong Kong (unless we're wrong about that) - 24 - 27 March

I guess I should pull my finger out while I can still remember it all ... I've not been sure if Hong Kong has a place in a Cambodian-centred blog.  In the end I've decided that the title gives me the answer: I shall follow the applause.

Especially when the weekend began late on a Wednesday afternoon with the news that Sharky Bar had had to cancel live music for the foreseeable future; and that the story only got worse over the next few days.  Trying times, my friends ... the devil's music seems to be causing a moral ruckus.  

So the secondary phalanx of the Cambodian Space Project took off for Hong Kong at about 6.30 Phnom Penh time, landed in Hong Kong at 10-ish then bundled itself (all 5 of the travelling party) into a taxi (complete with stretchy straps holding the boot down) to Wan Chai, where in a familiarly un-staged, vivid, Englishy kind of pub called The Wanch we inserted ourselves behind the advance party of vocals and guitar and played a big thumping long set fired by tall cold Carlsbergs, timezone changes and travel dust.

In the break between sets the crowd, who had (1) never seen anything like it and (2) loved it all the same, took their chance to get home on the highly efficient, cheap and pumpkining-at-midnight subway.  This put an end to the gig, but not the party, as the night was still young.  It was 16 degrees and drizzling, the smokers were shivering in the cold, and I stood in the street under the gentle rain and was reminded of Hobart town.  Yes, the night was still young ....

The following night saw us top of the bill for SPACED at Rockschool, just up the street from The Wanch.  Here we were treated to equipment, a drum kit on a riser, a mixer ... we responded with an extended set playing on and on until we were too tired to play any more.  Prior to playing we had dashed around the city on foot and tram filming video in the astonishing company of filmmaker KM Lo .... paying homage to Wong Kar Woi with such madness as banana gangster-agogo-hkg.mp4 and agogo-hkg-intro.mp4 ... hearing an awful lot of bad cover bands banging on into the streets entertaining the Rugby 7s crowds.

Friday night we were just another band on the line-up at The Underground, also at Rockschool.  Limited to 30 minutes, we stripped down to the basics - jettisoning the psychedelic in favour of the energetic fun pop, and we were so tight ... it was very cool.  It was great to bring this music to an audience that didn't know it, to see how a crowd will react to the pop genius of Chnam Aun Dop Pram Moi and Happy New Year.  At the conclusion of the evening we went in search of a restaurant that was allegedly on the second floor of a building somewhere ... our inquiries were fruitless until a particular gentleman said, "Restaurant?  Sure.  Let's go."  He walked 20 feet and unlocked a steel rollerdoor, turned on the lights and headed for the kitchen, bidding us come in and sit.  This is 2 a.m. Hong Kong hospitality.  Mr Wong (for that was his name) quickly opened several bottles of Tsaing Tao, and whipped up large platters of fried pork and chicken and a huge vat of rice, and we ate like visiting emperors.  Or visiting an emperor.  Or something.  We emptied ourselves into the night in the vicinity of 3.30 am vowing to return the following evening ...

The following evening, after a day of sleeping and a little shopping, we gathered on a 32nd floor rooftop, with all big city lights around us ... jamming acoustic, swapping songs, and managing to coax Srey Thy into improvising a song about the weekend experience, the chicken from Prey Veng flying all the way to Hong Kong.  This and some other magic was captured by our videographer The Fabulous Marc.  At around midnight we headed back in search of the mystery restaurant (which I was convinced was only a group hallucination, or a freak hole in the space-time continuum) and discovered that it did in fact exist.  Super Restaurant Kitchen was open and ready for us to bundle in with instruments flying in all directions, with impromptu performances of our greatest hits to the bemusement of the customers, and indeed Mr Wong and his Thai waitress as well.  Our great thanks for their fine hospitality. 

The music continued after dinner on Great George Street, Wan Chai, where the few early morning pedestrians were treated to the rump of the Space Project busking some French ditties and my very ragged version of Ca Plane Pour Moi.  We considered it a fitting end to this chapter in the Space Project archives, and we got the Space Commander to his plane the next day -- he is off to wander the globe for a few months and we will do our best to carry on in his absence. 

Fear not!  (or, on the other hand, Fear!)  The Cambodian Space Project will rise again.  Maybe sooner than you think.

p.s. D'Sco: The Geckos of Love return to the Chinese House tonight at 9! 

Additional photos by The Lovely Irene

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