So Khmer New Year rolls around again, and slowly Phnom Penh flickers into street parties on every block, and then empties out as folk head for the provinces, the coast or Bangkok. I, for one, have always enjoyed the quietness of the city during New Year – and Pchum Bun – and increasingly the expat population seems to be happy to stick around.
Many restaurants and venues close, but there’s still a good weekend of entertainment to be had, and if you’re a little more footloose and fancy free than usual, you might be able to catch an act you’ve otherwise had to miss due to working-in-the-morning constraints and other lame excuses. There’s plenty to choose from, lots of reasons to get out and enjoy the long hot nights.
Perhaps the most fun might be had at Cloud, where they are planning their second annual Sangkran party, acknowledging the Buddhist New Year celebrated throughout South East Asia, where there will be the playing of the traditional New Year games and dances, food and a water fight, once a staple of the season and now banned on public streets in Phnom Penh.
Down at Farm to Table, Brin Wood and Cecile Lacharme return from Siem Reap with their duo Boogie Noir, a bristling mix of smacking Californian rock’n’roll and buzzing, swooping, muscular French cello – they certainly put on a show, this is no quiet background music. Unfortunately, it will be their last Phnom Penh performance before Cecile heads back to Europe at the end of the month. If you’re getting around after New Year, they have a few gigs in Kampot the following week, and then a handful more in Siem Reap.
Out at Alchemy, the delightful Miss Sarawan Trio will be performing their mix of Khmer favourites, originals and English language covers. Joshua Chiang, lead singer of the Boxchords, will step out to perform solo at Good Times Bar, with a liberal selection of his own songs. At The Vine on 172 St, Randy Cataluna keeps it mellow, while Hard Rock Café is hosting a Maroon 5 tribute night, and I’ll be playing solo at Botanico in the garden.
For a late night, Oscar’s on the Corner offers K’n’E, a young group of Khmer musicians playing a mix of Golden Era songs and bar band favourites.
And if you’re heading for Siem Reap, Hypnotic Fist Technique will be introducing the Hard Rock Café Angkor to their particular energetic brand of entertainment.
It’s a little quieter on Saturday, but Space Four Zero Wang Dang Doodle is celebrating Record Store Day with a party through the afternoon including in-store appearances, and in the evening Antonio Elchico makes his regular appearance at Good Times Bar, while Peter Doyle is on at Botanico. Later on there’s a jazz manouche night at Alchemy with the Hot Club de Phnom Penh, and K’n’E continues late at Oscar’s.
As the real part of the New Year kicks in, the longest running open mic in Phnom Penh, the Sunday Sundowner Sessions at Tacos Kokopelli will take place as usual through the late afternoon, then Ernie Buck and Antti Siitonen will be slugging it out at Hops in the evening with a mixture of Ernie’s originals and some of his obscure covers. Later the Sharky Bar open mic will be on as usual with Pavel Ramirez, and Scoddy & the Missed Calls will take over the stage at Oscar’s on the Corner for the usual rock’n’roll rubbish.
Monday night Pavel Ramirez will be at The Vine on 172 Street, the hardworking Ernie Buck is solo at Good Times Bar, and the fantastic Cambodia Country Band will cover their usual Monday night residency at Oscar’s on the Corner. And if you’re heading south, the Kampot Pond is holding their annual air guitar competition, where you can throw your hat in the ring to contest the perpetual trophy.
On Tuesday night the Sundance Inn and Saloon open mic welcomes all comers, and later at Oscar’s the Cham Ticks carry on their Tuesday residency. On Wednesday Blues Routes will be on at Bouchon, The Orient Express gets all exotic as usual at The Bodleian, and K’n’E keep it rocking at Oscar’s.
Finally, we get to Thursday, where you can catch the Uncomfortably White Brothers at Sundance Inn and Saloon, the brand new Good Times Bar open mic hosted by Jeffro Sills, and the Extraordinary Chambers at Oscar’s on the Corner.