This week’s wrap by guest writer Greg Beshers provides a personal take on the Phnom Penh music scene. Enjoy!
It’s been said that after someone had an interaction with Frank Sinatra, that 3 minutes later, Frank had probably forgotten about it for the rest of his life, but that the other person would remember it forever. That they had, as hundreds of others before them, experienced an unexpected moment between darkness and dawn, they had a scene with Sinatra (paraphrased from Esquire magazine article).
I feel Phnom Penh is like that as well. While the city makes an indelible mark upon our collective psyches and imprints a certain rhythm in our lives the way few cities of the world do, 3 minutes after we’re gone, it’s totally forgotten about us. We were a blip on its radar, not the other way around. It’s not because the city is uncaring or unloving, but it’s simply the fact that this city is its own entity, a living breathing thing that’s focused on evolving and surviving. It’s a lot like New York City, a place I lived off and on for 14 years, in that way. It has that special quality to it that you can’t quite describe to someone, but you know it when you feel it.
All of this has been on my mind during the first Pchum Ben I’ve spent here in Cambodia. The holiday snuck up on me so I didn’t know much about it and wasn’t sure what to expect. Having 5 days off is unheard of in the U.S. You only get that between Christmas and New Year, everything else is 3 days max. So to say that I was pleasantly surprised but woefully underprepared would be an understatement. Things closed, the streets got empty, less and less people were around, less and less traffic (and therefore tuk tuks). In my new neighborhood of Toul Kork it was eerily quiet. I wandered around near-empty streets, I waited for tuk tuks, I looked for my regular local haunts to be alive, but almost all were closed. It reminded me of how New York empties out on summer weekends or over major holidays. The city gets a new rhythm to it, a new feel that’s not so frantic, it’s downtempo and more easy going. There’s a collective sigh of relief. That’s what I’ve seen of Pchum Ben so far. Everyone’s gone to the provinces to visit family while the rest of us try and enjoy the silence. As my friend and musical compatriot Scott Bywater once wrote about Phnom Penh during Pchum Ben, “It’s a town that’s leaving town.”
There’s always fantastic music happening here every week. We are truly lucky for the talent that is in this town right now (I say that as a complete newcomer). Don’t take it for granted and think you can catch an act next week because as we all know, sometimes next week doesn’t come. So get out there and listen to some music. Beyond the weekly gigs, which I encourage everyone to take a look at, there’s a few special things going on.
First we have the Reggae Redemption happening at Duplex on Saturday Oct 13. It features veteran scenesters Randy, Antti and Danzo. If you go to the same venue on Friday you can see the inimitable Mirasol Aguila doing her Mira Soul Duo with Larry Martinez. On Friday at Botanico, Scott Bywater’s new duo, Mainstreet, that features moi, will play from 7-9:30.
Also this Saturday, Oct 13th, over near Bassac Lane on street 308, Phnom Penh’s newest music venue, LF Social, is having a very special celebration. Much like their previous Amy Winehouse night, which was a smashing success, they are throwing a party in honour of what would have been John Lennon’s 78th birthday. The house band for the night features Phnom Penh stalwarts Scott Bywater, Joe Wrigley, James Speck, Charles Villar and myself, with additional special guests Marianna Hensley and Ariane Parkes. Covers range from the Beatles (of course), to some of his more obscure solo work. There are even a few on the playlist that I haven’t heard in a very long time. Come and enjoy an evening celebrating the life and music of John Lennon.
Elsewhere around town, Farm to Table hosts the Thea Jazz trio on Friday Oct 12th, while Good Times Bar has Mr. Ernie Buck on the same night. I encourage everyone to look through the complete listings because I am positive you can find something that tickles your whiskers music wise. I hope everyone had a great Pchum Ben wherever you spent it. So welcome back and let’s all get back into the rhythm that is Phnom Penh.
Whatever you’re up to over the next few days, stay safe out there and… see you around the traps!
CLICK HERE FOR LATEST GIGS