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

Weekly Wrap - Week Commencing Thursday the 30th October 2014

Certain styles of music make me drink quicker. On a particularly frenetic night in Phnom Penh last weekend, I stood at the bar watching seven local rock bands perform short sets of songs in quick succession. The first band, Sexploited, set the tone of the night with ringing punk guitar chords and boisterous drums and bass. Then the singer came on. Laura Snook immediately commanded the attention of everyone in the crowded room, stalking around her stage and growling the lyrics to a track by Scottish punk band 'The Exploited'. By the time the second song had begun, the 'mosh pit' was populated with happy, bouncing revellers.

One-drink-per-band seemed like the proper rate of imbibement, but during the second band's set, things seemed to be moving on a little too quickly. Could we continue to sustain this level of rock'n'roll abandon? Dirty Jacks' frontman, Tin, was writhing around on the floor like Jim Morrison. When he starting throwing microphones across the stage, the sixteen-channel mixing desk tumbled from its perch and hit the ground with a bang. Incredibly, it continued to work perfectly while lying inverted on the stage. Someone handed me another margarita.

'Boom-Baar' - drummer extraordinaire. pic: Bleys Bolton
I think the turning point came when someone offered me a shot of 'whisky'. It didn't taste much like whisky but the label on the bottle said 'Mekhong'. I'm surprised that this stuff can be sold legally. Things got a little clouded after that. Five more bands played. They were all good. Though my faculties were impaired, a few lucid thoughts did flit briefly across my frontal lobe. It reflects well on the Phnom Penh music scene that seven bands as eclectic and rocking and diverse as these are all happening right now. It is puzzling, however, to think that there is currently no out-and-out hardcore rock venue in Cambodia. Where can these bands regularly play? Is there some underground basement venue I don't know about, where Cambodian bands like The Anti-Fate, Sliten6ix and Dirty Jacks are meeting up on weekends to put on shows?

Another thought was: I hope Boom-Baar is getting paid tonight. The well-loved Phnom Penh drummer doesn't seem to be able to say 'no' when someone asks him 'can you play in my band'. At the Sharky Bar Battle of The Bands, he played four different sets in four different groups in four different styles of music... and he pulled it off adroitly. One of the bands Boom played in, Splitter, deservedly took the winner's title and the cash. There would have been a 'stewards' inquiry' if Boom had not also picked up the individual award for best performer. One of the runners-up on the night, French hardcore band Sangvar Day, are currently putting the finishing touches to their debut EP release. Keep an eye on the pages of Leng Pleng for an in-depth review. You can see Boom-Baar behind 'the tubs' again this Saturday when he plays Sharky Bar with Oasis tribute band Mad-fer-it.

Cast and crew of Hanuman Spaceman. pic: David Rosenberger
The Cambodian Space Project have been ensconced in Kampot for the last couple of weeks, rehearsing with the cast and crew of Hanuman Spaceman. This brand-new musical work will receive its first ever performances this Friday and Saturday at Kampot Traditional Music School. I will let CSP's Julien Poulson describe the project in more detail:-

Hanuman Spaceman [HS] is devised as a shape-shifiting, mind bending fusion of sounds, cultures and story lines - all clashing and morphing. Essentially it's all about a monkey that stumbles across Soviet-era space-junk in the Cambodian countryside. He discovers the power of technology and suddenly jumps at the chance of being the first monkey on the moon. But alas, not all goes as planned. HS is a show that is somewhere between rock-opera and jungle cabaret and it's development is happening first in Cambodia at the Khmer Cultural Development Institute [KCDI], also known as Kampot Music School, where the HS team has been encamped for the past two weeks, developing the show from page to stage. 

It brings together Australian theatre production company Intimate Spectacle with: Brazilian director Carlos Gomes, The Cambodian Space Project, sound designer Rob O'Hara (Mute Speaker), puppet creator Tom Whittaker, Katharina Glynne (Lightbox Gallery), the teachers, students and community of Kampot Music School and a whole host of talented contributors based in Kampot. Needless to say, it's been a hive of activity with the building of rocket ships, space monsters, colourful props and costumes. A musical thick-shake of Khmer traditional, Cambo psych-rock, electro beats and, not least, the great Master Kong Nay - who even makes an appearance via satellite link to sing a foreboding tale for the eager young space tripper about the pitfalls of intergalactic travel. It's happening at KCDI on both Friday and Saturday nights - doors open 7pm, Hanuman comes alive at 8pm sharp. Entry by donation.”

Phil Javelle
A one-off gig will be taking place at Doors Phnom Penh on Saturday night when Phil Javelle and Joe Wrigley team up with violinist Graham Kemish and piano-accordionist/cor anglais player Peter Schwaderer (a cor anglais is an instrument similar to an oboe) for some 1940's and 1950's-style American swing and rock'n'roll music. Regular Jumping Jacks players Andy Potter and Aymen Ghali complete the sextet named Kapow! Hot String Band. You can also catch the Jumping Jacks at Sharky Bar on Friday night, before the band departs for some dates in Saigon next week.

Michelle Flemming will be playing her last gig in Cambodia for a while when she hits Wish You Were Here Guesthouse on Otres Beach 2 in Sihanoukville on Sunday evening. Michelle has a really great voice and a lot of stage presence. She doesn't need a band to be able to shine and usually just accompanies herself with some very understated acoustic guitar work. Sunday will be the last chance to hear her before she returns to Europe. 
Until next time, stay safe out there and... see you around the traps!



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