So, having just arrived back from Bangkok, after a quick trip to see some of the live music venues and acts they have around those parts, it’s safe to say the Phnom Penh music scene is in rude health, by comparison! Obviously, there are a lot more places to try to fill with top drawer acts in the ‘City of Angels’ than there are here, but that just goes to show what a distilled batch of talent we have in this lively city! The smorgasbord of class on offer to you in Phnom Penh this week, Dear Reader, is embarrassingly rich.
Firstly, a mention must go to the single launch this Saturday of The Goldilocks Zone’s ‘Last Scream’ from their forthcoming new long player. The guys are planning to rock your little socks off at the pearler of a new music venue LF Social Club, with support from the always captivating Vartey Ganiva Band and Hits From The Bongs – with a cheeky pre-show dinner time acoustic set in the garden by Morgane & Jeff. Tell your Mamma you’ll be late home!
Whether it’s the hotly anticipated return of RJ Marshall at the superb Good Times Bar on Sunday, a first-time-in-town performance from Morgane & Jeff at Farm To Table, or the raucous, booty-shaking back-to-back weekend bills of Brian Wood (Friday) and The 99 Boyz (Saturday) at Duplex… you are always spoiled for choice in this city of almost two million souls. Morgane & Jeff are a travelling duo currently on a short tour of Cambodia, bringing an exquisite take on acoustic Americana to a venue near you. Richard ‘RJ’ Marshall is a UK-born singer-songwriter with the kind of husky, road-worn voice that can tell a thousand late-night tales. RJ is a veteran of the Phnom Penh scene and was a curator of and a mentor to emerging talents at his former establishment, the legendary Showbox.
Whilst Bangkok has over five times the amount of inhabitants and certainly more venues, performers and options on which to vote with your dancing feet, there didn’t seem (in this writer’s humble opinion) to be anywhere near as much cohesion. Which made me think of other notable music producing cities… Phnom Penh, with its many talented photographers, musicians, painters, poets and more; people of all ages and backgrounds sharing skills and knowledge; has laid out a framework on which to hang all kinds of creative endeavours. Like an 80s/90s Seattle of South-East Asia.
It’s not about one city being better than the other; trying to compare apples with oranges. More an illustration of how different the environment for nurturing talent can be, in a more condensed petri dish. Particles form, adhere, coalesce, intertwine, co-depend, and mutually benefit, on a multilateral basis. Per capita, the level of quality music on offer in this old city means you can’t go wrong; there’s always something for everyone on offer. Not only that, but the support network for both new and well-known artists is incredibly strong. There is a crossover within fan bases and a cross pollination of bands, that serves to spur all performers on. To push their boundaries beyond what they may otherwise do within a small isolated niche carved from a bigger starting block. And that must surely be the whole point of live performance- to cultivate a collective experience only accessible in that particular space and time.
As a patron/consumer/arbiter/barometer of the performing arts as you are, Dear Reader, your very presence at these live events is what makes it art. Otherwise it would be mere folly. I have a feeling in my loins that this high season will be the hottest yet- and I’m not referring to the creeping climatic changes the world is currently experiencing!
We are truly fortunate to be here at this moment, but as Seneca once said, “what fortune has made yours is not your own”. What is your own, Dear Reader, are the feelings and experiences we all share when we come together to create something bigger than all of us. When we cooperate and collaborate, we become greater than the sum of our parts. No longer a delineation of audience and performer. There is a third entity born from that union. So, this guest writer is looking forward to see what the future holds for this vibrant, ever-evolving place we all call home…
…Oh, and I suppose I should take the liberty of mentioning that I’m playing tonight at Bona’s Pub, plus tomorrow at Tacos Kokopelli and then at Good Times Bar straight after, so you can catch me somewhere, if you should feel so inclined.