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

Gig Guide - Starting Thursday the 14th of March, 2013

This weeks gig-guide wrap has been written by the unapologeticly Punk manager of one of Phnom Penh's best known rock & roll venue's - Dave Punk from Sharkys.

Rock & Roll Cambodia - A Brief History of the Evolution of Expat Rock & Roll Music in Cambodia

By Dave Punk, Music Manager, Sharky Bar

Sharky Bar opened its doors way back in 1995 and was labeled one of Indo-China's biggest rock & roll bars and the first expat rock bar in Cambodia. Eighteen years on and Sharkys still leads the way as the rock music pioneers, and of all things rock & roll in Cambodia. That this successful idea of providing regular live music to the expat populace has since been copied in many bars and clubs in and around the Phnom Penh area, is testimony to the foresight of its larger than life owner Big Mike.   

Ex-Hells Angel, ex-bartender and Assistant Music Manager of the legendary CBGB's and  the glamorous Max’s Kansas City in New York City, and nowadays long time principal owner of Sharky Bar, Big Mike is big. Big in real life and also in his future musical vision for Phnom Penh.

Early Days – First Wave of Bands (was there a first wave?)

"In the early days of the 1990’s, there were hardly any bands to book." says Mike. "There were the occasional Filipino bands which would come to Cambodia looking for work at the larger hotels or which were booked for a major party event. It was tough times if any foreign bands wanted to make any money, for sure. Slowly but surely, around the year 2000, foreigners started coming to teach English. They were musicians at home and would come to Sharkys to listen to classic, alternative, and heavy rock music on the Video DJ. They would then get together, get drunk and begin to form bands so they could jam together."

“One band that I hired to play for a weekend came from Bangkok in the year 2000. The band comprised of three Russians and one Thai musician – all the Russians on lead guitar, bass, and rhythm guitar and the Thai on drums.  Their English was so terrible that they had to hire a translator to accompany them. They could say 'How much?', 'No.', 'Yes.', 'Thanks.' and 'I am thirsty'. Their music repertoire consisted of exactly 100 cover rock classics. Strangely enough, when they played, they were able to sing 'Proud Mary' EXACTLY in the same southern drawl as John and Tom Fogarty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Likewise with 'Satisfaction' they would sing it in the accent of old Liverpool English. As soon as they got off stage, they reverted back to saying 'Da' and 'Nyet'...and that was it !! Crazy stuff to see. It was enough to drive you to drink !!”

"We were limited as to which bands could play. Even if they could play just a little  we would still book them. Man, some of those early acts were quite appalling. We were so starved for music that we hired them anyway and helped to coach them over their many rough and off beat cadences, harmonies, tones, and chords!  “
Second  Wave  

Mike continues, “After the first wave of Russian and Filipino rock bands came wave two - the French bands. They were led by Bob Passion and Jean-Philippe Petesch and his Khmer wife, Nalen.  J.P. formed the School of Rock to teach local Khmer and French kids how to play rock music.  Since we had such a hard time in getting foreign rock bands to play in Cambodia, we felt that we would form a partnership with the School of Rock to provide a venue for the rock school students to play live. Some of the bands created then were J.P. and the Nurses, Thom Thom, Bob P. and the Cockroaches. We then had a small stable of rock bands that we were able to draw upon for our customers.  The School of Rock introduced brass instruments to their rock bands and the rock music became elevated to a higher level. The customers at Sharkys loved what they heard.”

Then along came the Mekong Pirates who consisted of anywhere from 8 to 15 expat French teachers with a common passion for rock music. They were definitely a party band and introduced a big sound to the Cambodian bars.”

Third Wave

“Slowly came the third wave of rock bands as the buzz started going around Asia that Phnom Penh was getting to be a new hotbed of rock & roll music - just fertile enough to be interesting as long as you didn’t need to make the BIG BUCKS !! Bum ‘N Draze a punk band from Finland, The Hellhounds (local Australian and U.S. expats), Route 66 (local U.S. expats), the Curtis King Band (U.S./Vietnam), the Stiff Little Punks (British expats – with Dave Punk and Ian R Anderson as the founders of this group) – all pioneers in wave three.”

PENHSTOCK (aka the Woodstock of Cambodia) is the turning point of the Rock Music Scene  

However, if you ask Big Mike when or what was the turning point for this thriving new Phnom Penh music scene - unashamedly he will state “Penhstock”. His brainchild of course!  

 "We started with six bands over a 3 day weekend in 2009. With a lot of ingenuity and creativity we were able to splinter these 6 bands to create 9 different rock sounds and therefore 9 different bands. We then called it Penhstock - which is based upon Woodstock's legendary musical festival of 1969 in New York. We wanted to showcase the very best in local musical talent. We tried like hell to get more talent in but there was none to be had. Three bands in one night was practically unheard of as recently as 2009 believe it or not.”. Big Mike is also a veteran of the legendary Woodstock Festival as a fan.  

"We opened with the Finnish heavy rock merchants Bum N Draze. They smashed up a couple of TV sets with baseball bats - and then played a manic version of Black Sabbath's Paranoid with Iommi's signature guitar lick played on trumpet!"  

"J.P. & The Nurses followed, as did Phnom Penh's very own original French Punk rocker legend Bob Passion."  

"The Stiff Little Punks made their debut, fronted by the enigmatic Ian Rowlett Anderson on vocals singing a mixture of classic English and U.S. punk rock. Dave Punk (Sharky’s current Music Manager) was on guitar, but they had no bass or drummer. Instead they used a drum machine with just two speeds - fast and extra fast! The musicians in the audience were appalled. The rest of us thoroughly entertained!"

"Then Jimmy Baeck, Ken White, Steve Goodman, Scott Bywater and Dan Ögren  formed The Hellhounds, and Smoking' Kenny Smith's Lost Highway (formerly Route 66) completed the line-up.  I truly believe that Penhstock was the early catalyst seed that helped spread the buzz around Asia and helped set the musical ball rolling in Phnom Penh.”  

Penhstock is now a three-day annual music festival and last year’s Penhstock III featured over thirty bands from around the Asian region. Quite a turnaround considering its humble beginnings.

Slow Evolution 

From the near disaster of Leonard Cohen's booking to the more successful Ronan Keating concert at the Olympic Stadium as well as last year's Dengue Fever concert at Koh Pich to the highly successful and wildly popular Cambodian Space Project playing at various local clubs and festivals around the world. International Artists like these, along with  … And You Will Know Us The By The Trail Of Dead, Niki Buzz and the Midnight Gypsies and Didier Wampas and Bangkok Jam are just a few that have recently plied the musical boards of Sharkys' flourishing music scene.

Big Mike adds "If you had said to me 18 years ago that the likes of Matthias Wagner (The Phnom Penh Hippie Orchestra), Jonas Hastings and Kristen Rassmussen (Little Duke and the Mekong Blues Messengers), Chris Kebeck and Smokin' Kenny Smith (Sugar Daddy), Conrad Keeley (Trail Of Dead) and the GTS Jazz Club would be playing in and around Phnom Penh on a regular basis then you could have knocked me over with a mortar round! It goes without saying that all of these are musicians wouldn't be out of place playing any bar or club in the world – that is they are world class."

Some more expat rock bands that have recently made a name for themselves at Sharkys – a few of them have gone, unfortunately, but here are the more noteworthy ones:  

The Lazy Drunks, the Electric Yard Dogs (Vietnam), Cartoon Emo (disbanded), the Ukes of Hazard (re-formed), the Kampot Playboys, the Kampot Peppers, the Teaner Terners (disbanded), Splitter (re-forming), The Fumes, Tango & Snatch, Two Shots and a Chaser, Jaworski 7, Oscar’s Band, Shambolic 69, the Happy Lucky Love You Long Time Band (ex-Phnom Penh resident Davis Zunk), Soren Borch and Dudley Do-Rights, Martin and The Choppers, Squishy, the Herding Cats are just to mention a few of the more prominent ones that have played at Sharkys.

Also noteworthy are the number of tribute bands which have sprung up: Rock & Roll High School Ramones, Muscle of Love (Alice Cooper), Stoned Again (Rolling Stones), Station to Station (David Bowie).

The Cambodian Head Bangers Society gained popularity among younger expat and Khmer rockers with bands such as Sliten6IX and Anti-Fate leading the way. Other notables bands have disbanded or disappeared and include Pilgrim, Astranova, Animation, and Cartoon Emo.

Rise of the Expat Music Venue

It’s stunning that so many local expat bars and restaurants now offer live rock music in an ever increasing competitive environment. This means a newly found freedom for the formerly struggling local rock bands. They now have a choice on where to play their guitar licks, and to blow their horns, and bang their percussion. To sum it up, Big Mike is committed, like many other pub and club owners in this city in promoting all types of music for the benefit of everyone in the music loving community.

The last word goes to the big man himself. "All of this excellent music in town. Who’d have thought all of this possible in 1995 when mortar rounds, machine guns, arms dealers, mercenaries, and NATO soldiers were raining all over Phnom Penh ? Think of Apocalypse Now with the Rolling Stones music in the background ! Everything to me looks very musically rosy now ……for sure… . Rock & Roll Cambodia. What more could you possibly want?"

Latest Gigs

Thursday 14-Mar-2013
  • 7:30 PM ~ Scott Bywater at The Baitong Restaurant & Bar
  • 7:30 PM ~ Adda Angel and Ono at The Village
  • 9:00 PM ~ Ritchy & Phil at The Doors
  • 9:00 PM ~ DJ Sam Day and VJ SHifty at MetaHouse
Friday 15-Mar-2013
  • 8:00 PM ~ Fraser Jackson and Monique de Margerie at MetaHouse
  • 8:30 PM ~ Lady and the Tramp at The Village
  • 9:00 PM ~ The Grass Snake Union at Equinox
  • 9:00 PM ~ Jaworski 7, Varaman, Sangvar Day and Transformer at Sharkys
  • 9:00 PM ~ DJ Tenisons at Nova
  • 9:00 PM ~ VJ Sckouty, DJ Tonle Dub and Amplifire at MetaHouse
  • 10:00 PM ~ DJ Gang and DJ Rob Little at Pontoon
Saturday 16-Mar-2013
  • 5:30 PM ~ Batucada Bloco Malagasy * at Le Jardin
  • 8:30 PM ~ Luna Negra at The FCC Phnom Penh
  • 9:00 PM ~ Kok Thlok and Damage at Equinox
  • 9:00 PM ~ The Kampot Peppers at Sharkys
  • 10:00 PM ~ Tango & Snatch at The Memphis Pub
  • 10:00 PM ~ DJ Blue at Pontoon
  • 1:00 AM ~ Akil the MC *, DJ Illest, Hydrophonics, and DJ Tech 12 at Pontoon
Sunday 17-Mar-2013
  • 4:00 PM ~ The Lazy Drunks and Kheltica at Paddy Rice
  • 4:30 PM ~ RJ Marshall, Ziad Samman, Kate Liana, and Sophie Rose Lewis at Rubies Wine Bar
  • 6:00 PM ~ Batucada Bloco Malagasy * at MetaHouse
  • 7:00 PM ~ The Kampot Playboys at The Blissful Guesthouse in Kampot
Monday 18-Mar-2013
  • 8:00 PM ~ Gordon Webster *, Euan Gray, Sebastien Adnot, Greg Lavander and Kae "Sylvie" Lhassan at The Village
Coming Up
  • Dr. Eggs * at Equinox 
  • Dub Addiction at The FCC Phnom Penh 
  • Durian Funk Band at The FCC Phnom Penh 
  • Scott Allan Knost * at Molly Malones in Siem Reap 
  • 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 
  • Ringtail and Ringtail at The Cavern , The Cavern 
  • Kheltica at The FCC Phnom Penh 
  • 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 
  • RJ Marshall and Joe Wrigley * at Equinox 
  • Tiny Toones at Equinox 
  • Dr. Wah Wah, Warren Daly, Shine On and Dina Chhan at MetaHouse , MetaHouse 
  • DJ Tonle Dub, DJ Sequence and DJ Kaotek at MetaHouse 

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