I guess sometimes the city has to hold its breath. Waiting for something... mass demonstrations, the end of the rainy season, the start of the tourist season... but the music continues. It never ends. Maybe we’re still waiting for the unresolved situation to resolve itself, and for our venues to fill up a little with the tourists that we love to moan about. But without those tourists we wouldn’t have much of a music scene. Down on the corner of Street 51 and 172, the tourists are still here but yes, it’s quieter than it has been.
Slur Bar still manages to pack ‘em in alright. Its location very near Pontoon, Golden Sorya and The Heart of Darkness ensures a steady stream of white males and ladies of questionable repute, mixed together with lots of backpackers, expats and music-lovers. Just the way Jack likes it – a shifting swirl of humanity that can be boisterous and noisy but is always interesting and often surprising. Taking the stage here on a weekend is not for the faint-hearted, as bands have to prove themselves above the din of a noisy bar, and try and grab the attention of itinerant drinkers moving swiftly through a Friday or Saturday night.
Those pausing at Slur this weekend will find some new acts and a Phnom Penh favourite. Proceedings kick-off on Thursday with the city's latest Jazz outfit, Little Jack Fruit. The energy switches up a gear on Friday night with Joe Wrigley & The Jumping Jacks (what is it with all these Jacks???), who attempt the unlikely combination of Rockabilly plus Khmer vocals with the help of special guest Mealea Lay.
Finally on Sunday you can be at Slur for the return of Station to Station, a project born from a shared love of The Thin White Duke, David Bowie. All of this weekend's acts and their listeners will benefit from some serious work that the guys at Slur have carried out to improve the sound of the PA. It can be challenging to make a live band sound good in a room full of concrete and reflective surfaces, but the venue has improved things by stuffing the inside of the stage with sandbags and installing some acoustic foam on the walls.
Meanwhile, Anthony at Equinox is still raving about his new 32-channel mixing desk, and you can watch him twiddling his knobs this weekend when he does sound for The Fumes on Friday night and Jaworski 7 on Saturday night.
Jack’s alternative Saturday night choice is Swagger at Meta House. The night is presented by Phnom-Penh based record label, Invisible Agent. The label is focussed on music styles such as Electro, Ambient, Techno and Breakbeat, and is headed by Warren Daly, whom you may have seen recently as part of the WASH performance collective. Warren is DJ-ing on Saturday, along with Salmon Allstar and many others. You can also see some live painting from local artists Dina Chhan and Adrianna Snochowska. Any creative enterprise trying to do something alternative in Phnom Penh has to get the thumbs up from me.
While things may be a little quieter on the music scene this week, the city confirms itself as a destination for visiting international performers such as Steve Murray from the UK, who takes to the stage at Sharky Bar on Friday night. Saturday sees Malaysian heroes Hydra visit The Village for some bombastic and slick South-East Asian pop-rock.
Away from the capital, Spaceship CSP will be landing in Battambang and Siem Reap this weekend. Here Be Dragons is a new venue in Battambang that will host The Cambodian Space Project on Friday, before the band head down the National Highway to Siem Reap, where they dock at The Laundry to bring the house down and bring August to a close with their mind-boggling psychedelic crossover.Lots of music to look forward to in September, as new arrivals and old acquaintances combine to produce new sounds. The Village will be hosting what is quickly shaping up to be the gig of the year on Thursday 5th September, the Leng Pleng Mix to be hosted by Princess Soma Norodom and to feature some truly great Cambodian musicians from eras past and present. You are probably already familiar with greats such as Sinn Sisamouth and Soreysothea, but have you listened to the amazing Dra Kha Band? Check out the link below, and also be advised that Leng Pleng Special Operations are dispatching a team to Mondulkiri Province this week to locate Blind Nyel, the virtuoso Bunong guitarist keeping a unique music tradition alive. Below is the video document of what happened when Srey Channthy and Julien Poulson visited his home.