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The Leng Pleng Gig Guide comes out on a Thursday or Friday of every week

Gig Guide - Week starting Thursday the 7th of March, 2013

This weeks gig-guide wrap has been written by one of Phnom Penh's best known and appreciated musicians - the lead singer and guitarist of the Grass Snake Union - TJ Brown.

Soon after I made the decision to move to Phnom Penh in March of 2010, I typed the words "music Phnom Penh" into a search engine. LengPleng.com was one of the top results along with a video of Cambodian Space Project singing on a boat:

(I actually just recreated that first online search…Leng Pleng…still top of the list!). I checked out Leng Pleng and it highlighted some of the gigs happening around that time (there was not that much at that time) and linked to some of the musicians in town. It was a cool little site that was obviously run by music lovers. There was absolutely no way I would have been able to predict how everything unfolded from that point on. Let's just say it was an extremely pleasant surprise. Now I’m in the waning weeks of my time in Phnom Penh and am filled with gratitude for the experiences I have had as a whole, since this is Leng Pleng, I shall focus on the music.

What follows is a highlight reel, of sorts, from my own perspective and flavored by my own tastes of course. Frankly, this is a letter of gratitude to the local and expat music scene in Cambodia. It goes out to the musicians, the venue managers/owners, and the supporters of live music. Seriously, it was an amazing journey and I shall miss this amazing community as it continues to flourish and grow. I will continue to receive and read the weekly gig guide from Leng Pleng and be able pop in on some gigs via Equinox’s and Chris Rompre’s (Durian) Ustream channel.

May 2010 - Within the first two weeks upon my arrival I met Karin Schelzig of The Fumes. The band had a gig coming up and they invited me to open for them at Paddy Rice. I played a 20 minute set on my acoustic guitar and that was that - my first gig in Phnom Penh. After my short set The Fumes put on a highly energetic show complete with mosh pit and broken beer mugs. It was clear that I was going to like this place.

I was asked to return to Paddy Rice for a solo gig the following Sunday. I went from a 20 minute set to 2 hours. I frankly didn't have the chops to carry-on for 2 hours but there were a couple note-worthy encounters during this evening. This included meeting the talented bassist Dan Ögren (who was ranting about the crap sound) and Amanda Bloom - who was on holiday at the time and would become another fixture on the live music scene in Phnom Penh within the year.

My first few months in Phnom Penh contained some amazing shows to behold. The Fete de la Musique party in June of 2010 was hands down a highlight. That was my introduction to Equinox. The owner of Equinox, Marco Salvetti, had convinced a visiting Parisian band called Java to play an after hours set at the venue. Oh my word! It. Was. A-may-zing! The crowd was nuts, the room was hot and sweaty and it made clear that the thirst for live music in Phnom Penh was strong.

In July of 2010, I had the pleasure of meeting and sharing the stage with Scott Bywater. It was during in an opening role in which I was involved with Expresso Thmei - the acoustic duo of Scott and Channthy from the Cambodian Space Project. If you have never seen Expresso Thmei then I urge you to catch them next time they play. I love the stripped down acoustic songs of the 60’s Cambodian rock. That same evening I met drummer Greg Lavender (our paths would cross again) of Los Poporks. The night ended in an energetic and large jam late into the night – well, at least until the noise complaints shut it down. Noise complaints were a regular occurrence circa 2010.

As October rolled around I hopped on a bus to spend the day listening and dancing to the Cambodian Space Project playing at the village of the band's drummer - Bong Sak. There I met the humble man behind Leng Pleng and accomplished harmonica player, Ken White, space captain Julien Poulson and bassist and all around nice guy, Gildas Maronneaud. Also on the bus were Professor Kinski (electronic and dub master) and Johannes Kast (a huge supporter of the arts). It was such a fun day, and looking back I made some really amazing friends. Hundreds of people from the nearby surroundings came out and danced to the sounds of the 60’s - just an outright fun party.

On the bus ride back from Bong Sak’s village Julien told me about an acoustic open mic he was going to host at the now defunct Setsara restaurant. For several months Setsara was a place where enduring musical connections were made. One of the early open mics I got to hear Ken White sing in Khmer (the tuk-tuk drivers were going nuts) and met super amazing female rocker Melanie Brew (Tango & Snatch, Squishy). I also met the gregarious founder of Cambodian Living Arts, Arn Chourn-Pond and his amazing companions; the beautiful vocalist Seyma Waterek and skillful and friendly guitarist Savang. Arn and Seyma invited me to come out and jam with them the following week and more musical friendships were forged. I would join their Waterek Band on a number occasions over the next couple years. I would recommend any musician who want to collaborate with traditional Cambodian musicians to get in touch with Arn. He is a dynamo of energy and loves making connections through music.

The Chinese House was a regular venue on the scene in the fall of 2010. The venue, now known as a place to meet for some tasty cocktails and art exhibitions, was often a sweat-stained-beer-soaked floor of energetic live music. The venue was regularly packed with thirsty live music patrons dancing wildly to the likes of the Mekong Pirates, Los Poporks 


and the early days of the Phnom Penh Hippie Orchestra. The ever talented and entertaining James Speck played there as well in one of his numerous bands. One could write and entire entry on just the bands that James started. Same goes for Greg Lavender. Volumes.

In October of 2010 the Chinese House hosted one of my favorite live music experiences during my time in Cambodia. It was an amazingly fun evening of Khmer music - part tribute to the past and a nod to the present and future of music in Cambodia. The event was organized by members of the Cambodian Space Project and Arn Chorn-Pond. There were acts that spanned the generations from the unabashed metal of Cartoon Emo 

to the serene voices of Channthy, Seyma and Ouch Savy. Hem Sovann also sang a duet that she originally recorded with Sinn Sisamouth. The night rounded out with an energetic set from the Cambodian Space Project.

Around this time I started paying rhythm guitar in the rousing Irish traditional band, Kheltica. Jean Claude-Dhuez started this project several years ago and they are still going strong. At an FCC Phnom Penh gig in December I met the Kheltica banjo player, Jose Encinas. I have to admit that I was ecstatic once I heard Jose was a fan of Bluegrass music. Back home in Colorado I played in weekly Bluegrass/Americana jams at my friend’s house and I was missing playing that music. After the FCC gig Jose and I grabbed a drink at Equinox and started just playing acoustically at the bar. We entertained ourselves until well past 3am!! We promised to get together sometime soon and play some more.

Early in 2011 we started meeting at my house to jam. Lead vocalist for Kheltica at the time, Alex Leonard, joined in to sing harmonies (Bluegrass needs harmonies) and Jose’s friend Borja Serrador brought along his bass. We continued meeting regularly and soon added Daniel Talstra on fiddle and Greg Lavender on drums. All of a sudden we had a band. I think it was Greg that pushed us to line up a gig. We had a month to learn two sets of music and off we went.

We played that first gig as Grass Snake Union at Equinox in late May of 2011. Being new to performing and singing into a microphone I was living out a dream. The crowd was electric, the members of the band (speaking for myself) were having more fun than the crowd. Equinox had hired experienced sound engineer, Anthony Mrugacz to manage and make it a kick-ass live music venue. We have added Sam Day on mandolin and the rotating bass bench of Andre Swart and Sébastien Adnot since forming the band.

Later in 2011 and early 2012 a couple new bands came on the scene. First Dub Addiction had an amazing debut and they continue to record and release amazing tunes as well as pack out every single one of their gigs. Chris Rompré’s brainchild became the massive and stanky funk band, Durian. They took Phnom Penh by storm and are still doing so. So much so, that I can’t get the smell off me. They pack it out whenever and wherever they play and are chock full of talented musicians.

I also can’t conclude without a tip of the hat to some of the venues around town that support live music.

Memphis Pub, Mel and Bona have given a bunch of us space to play there and have also organized benefit shows and other awesome events. There is still live music there most nights during the week.

Paddy Rice - perhaps the longest running open mic and the first place I was able to play at in Cambodia. I have always had fun at Paddy Rice.

Sharky’s Bar - live music every weekend and Dave and the guys have hosted some amazing show’s over these past couple years. Checking out Penhstock is a must!

Bodhi Villa in Kampot - Hugh Munroe is a huge supporter of live music and the crowd’s are always ready to dance.

The Terrace - has been hosting regular jams on the weekend and has been a place where young musicians (both expats and locals) have build friendships and perhaps signal future collaborations. Hosted by the ever talented Euan Gray.

The Sundance Saloon is a great place for singer-songwriters at the open mic hosted by songsmith Richard Marshall.

New venues like The Opera Café, Doors Restaurant, The Village and Showbox are vastly different spaces and fill their own niche while providing the framework to continue foster a diverse music scene in Phnom Penh.

There have been just too many fun musical acts to chronicle in one weekly email. The good news is many of the musicians I wanted to talk more about are still active today and playing over the coming weeks! How lucky are we?! There are new musicians moving into town, new bands are forming, young Cambodians are forming their own bands and getting gigs…check out the Underdogs every Wednesday at the Doors for a prime example.

Before heading on to this this week’s gig guide I want to share with you something that Sébastian Adnot told me once. He has only one rule when it comes to playing with other musicians and I think encapsulates the Phnom Penh music scene quite nicely.

Séb’s rule was told to me like this: “I don’t care about skill and experience of a musician. If I cannot give you a hug after we play, then we don’t play.”

There have been no shortage of post gig hugs over these couple years.

Gig Guide Wrap:
If you became bored and skipped down to check out the gig guide…make sure you check out Seb’s rule just a few centimeters above these words.

Just have a look at the list of upcoming live music. There is something for everyone! This speaks to the amazing community we have here in Cambodia. I’m gonna miss all y’all.

Tonight (Thursday March 7)
At The Village, The Rhiannon Johnson Quartet. (Rhiannon (of course), Greg, Stephane and Barry, will be entertaining the patrons with a unique blend of smooth soul and funky jazz. Get into the groove from 8:30PM. Have you heard Rhiannon sing? No!? You are missing out my friend. Missing. Out.

Friday March 8th: 
Grass Snake Union will be getting things going early, 7pm to be exact. We are doing it old style, gathering around a single microphone harkening back to the roots of Bluegrass. Get your Friday started at Le Jardin with us, this will my (TJ’s) 2nd to last gig with the guys. As an added bonus, come and learn about the harrowing tales from last weekend’s trip to Kampot.

Durian is playing a double header both Friday and Saturday night at Equinox. Friday will be a dance extravaganza with new songs a guest percussionist and plenty to get sweaty about. Saturday they are planning on getting intense featuring some new tunes that highlight Rhiannon's voice and a collaboration with local spoken work sensation Kosal Khiev. Get stanky.

Scoddy and the Quality Drops & Friends and Passerby – Friday night. Scott Bywater’s project will take over the Opera Café for a jam that will go well into the night. Scoddy always hosts a fun evening, do yourself a favor. Check it out. Opera Café is cool too, really cool!

Saturday March 9th:
The Fumes are doing a fundraiser on a boat! On a mutha*uckin’ boat, yo! Just north of Titanic Restaurant…get there by 4:15pm, $5 cover, cheap drinks, and sunset jams from The Fumes. Seriously, what else do you need?! That’s right, NOTHING! Get on the boat!

All proceeds will go to Tabitha (not my neighbor Tabitha, but the NGO), a locally based organization striving to give rural Cambodians pathways to improving their own qualities of life (see http://www.tabitha-cambodia.org/ for more details).

Durian…again (see above). Had enough of these guys? No. Never.

The ever danceable Irish traditional band Kheltica will be entertaining at the Memphis from 10pm. Maybe you will even see Kheltica uber-fan Dan Riegler in attendance. If you’re lucky.

Splitter will be splittin’ ya mind into hemispheres with original, hard driving tunes at the Showbox from 8pm.

Sunday March 10th: 
Sunday Sundowner Sessions with Scoddy at Rubies Wine Bar from 4pm

This event is growing by the week. It is casual, relaxed and truly amazing people entertain you. Scoddy is the shepherd of this flock, join the herd.

Upcoming Gigs:
Amanda Bloom will be playing original songs at The Village on Wednesday March 13. She will be accompanied by the talented Tara Mar on Cello and Michelle Bowen on Bassoon. What’s that you say? Cello and Bassoon?! Get out! That’s insane (and supremely awesome)! Amanda is also an accomplished pianist and she writes cool tunes that go really well with cello and bassoon. Bassoon is fun to say and to write. I don’t do it nearly as often as I should. Neither do you. Bassoon.

Latest Gigs

Thursday 7-Mar-2013
  • 7:00 PM ~ Unwrap! The Bambu Stretch Project at The 1961 in Siem Reap
  • 8:30 PM ~ Rhiannon Johnson, Barry Speirs, Greg Lavander and Stephane Routier at The Village
  • 9:00 PM ~ Ringtail at The Cavern
  • 9:00 PM ~ X-Pat Sound System at MetaHouse
  • 9:00 PM ~ DJ Rob Bianchetti and DJ Rob Venables at Pontoon
Friday 8-Mar-2013
  • 7:00 PM ~ The Grass Snake Union at Le Jardin
  • 7:00 PM ~ Lee Bong Gyo * at The Botanic Cafe
  • 7:00 PM ~ Kok Thlok at The French Cultural Center of Siem Reap in Siem Reap
  • 9:00 PM ~ Sugar Daddy at Sharkys
  • 9:00 PM ~ Count Us In and Sam Rocker at The Show Box
  • 9:00 PM ~ Dr. Wah Wah and DJ Moodydann at MetaHouse
  • 9:00 PM ~ Durian Funk Band at Equinox
  • 9:00 PM ~ DJ Susu Dam and DJ Andy Freak at The RiverHouse Lounge
  • 9:00 PM ~ Lady and the Tramp at The Village
  • 9:00 PM ~ Ringtail at The Cavern
  • 9:00 PM ~ Jaworski 7 at Paddy Rice
  • 9:30 PM ~ Scoddy and the Quality Drops at Opera Cafe
  • 10:00 PM ~ Rob Little and DJ Gang at Pontoon
  • 11:00 PM ~ DJ Chase and DJ Island at The X-Bar in Siem Reap
Saturday 9-Mar-2013
  • 2:00 PM ~ DJ Bubble and DJ Tom Tom at The Downtown Hostel in Siem Reap
  • 4:00 PM ~ The Fumes at A Boat on the Mekong River
  • 8:00 PM ~ Sliten6ix, Splitter, Tango & Snatch and No Forever at The Show Box
  • 8:30 PM ~ Kok Thlok at The Laundry Music Bar in Siem Reap
  • 9:00 PM ~ Durian Funk Band at Equinox
  • 9:00 PM ~ The Lazy Drunks at Sharkys
  • 10:00 PM ~ DJ Illest and DJ Bree at Pontoon
  • 10:00 PM ~ Kheltica at The Memphis Pub
  • 10:00 PM ~ The Kimchi Collective and DJ Albie Samreth at MetaHouse
  • 11:00 PM ~ DJ Edwardowski and DJ Sakura Boom at The X-Bar in Siem Reap
Tuesday 12-Mar-2013
  • 8:00 PM ~ Ringtail at The Riverside Bistro
Wednesday 13-Mar-2013
  • 8:30 PM ~ Amanda Bloom, Tara Mar and Michele Bowen at The Village
Coming Up
  • The Grass Snake Union at Equinox 
  • Dr. Eggs * at Equinox 
  • Dub Addiction at The FCC Phnom Penh 
  • Luna Negra at The FCC Phnom Penh 
  • Durian Funk Band at The FCC Phnom Penh 
  • Scott Allan Knost * at Molly Malones in Siem Reap 
  • Euan Gray, Sebastien Adnot, Greg Lavander, Gordon Webster * and Kae "Sylvie" Lhassan at The Village 
  • The Cambodian Space Project at Equinox 
  • The Fumes, Kheltica, Pou Klaing, Diego "El Gipsy" Dimarqués, Euan Gray, Kok Thlok, Batucada Bloco Malagasy * , Nen Tum and The Mayors of Simpleton at The Mith Samlanh Center 
  • RNA + Friends at Paddy Rice 
  • Kheltica at Paddy Rice , The FCC Phnom Penh 
  • Tango & Snatch at The Memphis Pub 
  • Joe Wrigley * at The Memphis Pub 
  • The Anti-Fate at The Show Box 
  • Rhiannon Johnson, Barry Speirs, Greg Lavander and Stephane Routier at The Village 
  • Two Shots and a Chaser at Sharkys 
  • Tango & Snatch and Dr. Eggs * at Sharkys 
  • Tiny Toones at Equinox 
  • DJ Illest, Hydrophonics, DJ Tech 12 and Akil the MC * at Pontoon 
  • Dr. Wah Wah, Warren Daly, Shine On and Dina Chhan at MetaHouse 

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