Farewell to Equinox – by Scott Bywater

Leng Pleng was sad to note the closure of Equinox prior to Khmer New Year, 2015. Scott Bywater wrote us a heartfelt note about the legendary Phnom Penh music venue.

To write about a favourite
bar – even a popular one – is quite a personal act. It’s hard
to be objective, because most of the hard facts simply aren’t about
what it is that is created, and what it is that either exists or
ceases to exist. The fixtures and fittings are stripped away, the
rosters and the procedures and the finances evaporate, and what is
left is memory, emotions, anecdotes, bonds. Experiences, as I wrote
somewhere else, are the only things we truly own. 

early Los Poporks gig at Equinox – pic: youtube
I met Equinox over five years
ago. I can’t be sure, but I think the very first time was the
bar’s fourth birthday party, on the
15th
January 2010, when one of the crazy chaotic-first-month versions of
the Cambodian
Space Project played
. The late lamented Los
Poporks
played first. In those days the stage spilled out onto the street,
and the audience blocked the traffic. It was thought of as a “French
place”. There was a tiny bar upstairs where somehow social swing
dancing was held every Thursday on a dance floor with all the space
of a tuk-tuk.
Swing Dancing at Equinox – pic: Trip Advisor
Something of a boom in the
expat music scene started that year, with many bands and venues
rising and falling, and Equinox caught the wave and occasionally
surfed in advance of it. Sound-proofing was developed to overcome
neighbour problems. Walls were removed, and the stage pushed back –
twice – to make a dance floor on which the swing dancers could
properly twist and strut, that could be packed solid by the likes of
Durian
and Grass
Snake
Union,
culminating in the world domination policy of Dub
Addiction.
Many a Space Project tour was bookended by farewell and welcome back
shows.

All things must pass, and in
some ways it is more surprising that such a place as Equinox was able
to survive so long in the face of such changes in the Phnom Penh
social, cultural, economic environment. Audiences change, scenes
morph, even as we rage against the dying of the light.

We – the audiences, the
musicians – will remember the accumulated beats and squeals and
howls that the walls and floors absorbed, the sweat and the spillages
and the shouts, hoots, and hollering, Marco’s enduring passion for
the music, Anthony’s dedication to constant improvement and
improvised maintenance, the staff who smiled and laughed and
remembered what we ordered.  

I remember the night the
Cambodian
Space
Project
broke the electricity system, Los
Poporks
doing a mindblowing medley of Take Five and Whole Lotta Love, the
night of Los
Cambodian
Space
Pirates.
I remember Chhan
Dina’s first
exhibition. I remember WASH
and Scoddy
& the Quality
Drops
(both
versions) and the mighty Moi
Tiet
and the
intimate Expresso
Thmei
. I remember
TJ’s
farewell gig with Grass
Snake
Union,
after which I wrote these words: 


 
Adios

when
the sweat has chilled,
and
the applause evaporated,
the
salty tang of the memories remain,
stained
into the lives of those for whom
it
meant something.

moment
upon moment,
what
more can we ask?

rock
me, mamma, moi tiet, moi tiet,
until
only
the
echoes
remain

SCOTT BYWATER

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