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Garage Fest: Cambodia’s mini SXSW Festival

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The creative genius behind the festival, Julien Poulson. Supplied

As the weekend approaches, so does Garage Fest, a three-day music festival that sets focus on the underground music scene. Conquering four different stages across town, it features a handful of local and international acts. Good Times2 speaks to Julien Poulson, founder of local psychedelic rock group Cambodian Space Project (CSP) who is also the creative genius behind this festival, which he personally calls Cambodia’s mini South by South West (SXSW) Festival.

Garage Fest will be everything you expect it to be – an explosive celebration of the underground garage sounds brought by musicians from around the region. According to Mr Poulson, Cambodia has produced some great rock’n’roll artists and this festival, in a way, is meant to pay homage to them.

“Basically the underground scene of garage, punk and otherworldly rock’n’roll is alive and well. What makes Garage Fest unique is that it brings all this together in Cambodia and celebrates Cambodia’s own incredible heritage – some of the best garage rock’n’roll ever made – so it’s a nod to this distinctly local flavour,” he told Good Times2.

Amazing line-up to cook up a storm in Phnom Penh. Supplied

Speaking of local flavour, Julien’s band CSP Mothership will be opening Garage Fest by taking the stage at Villa Grange on Friday night (Nov 15). This, he said, is to commemorate the legacy of CSP’s late frontwoman, the one and only Kak Channthy.

“It is coincidently the 2nd anniversary since Channthy and CSP played the opening night at the same venue so it’s important to remember and acknowledge Channthy’s incredible legacy.

“She essentially kick-started the whole revival of Cambodian rock’n’roll and took it to the world. Now the music world’s coming here and the line-up presents acts from Shanghai to London, Hong Kong to Australia and of course, Cambodia,” he said.

Garage Fest will be headlined by Cambodia’s own CSP Mothership, alongside Mothflesh (Malaysia), HK Sideburns (Hong Kong), Round Eye (Shanghai), Space Party (Australia), Captain Future & the Jams (UK), Brin The Devil, Geography of the Moon (UK) and Ballychunder (Hong Kong), among others.

CSP Mothership to headline Friday night’s show at Villa Grange. Supplied

“I’m really looking forward to a huge long weekend of music and it’s all pretty awesome stuff, just great that all artists flying in have been so cool and supportive of our work here in Cambodia.

“I can’t wait to see Ballychunder from Hong Kong, Round Eye from Shanghai and, while it’s not my go-to genre, the awesome Mothflesh up from Malaysia to give us a taste their blend of groove and death metal.

“I’m also thrilled to have a couple of UK-based members of the CSP Mothership coming in to join us. Brian “Tolly” Tolworthy was CSP bassist on a whole swag of CSP shows in the UK and music producer, guitar slinger Captain Future a.k.a Alex McGowan owns Space Eko studios in London and has been working with us on posthumous CSP recordings,” he said.

The festival will be spread across three days at four different stages: Villa Grange on Friday night, Wang Dang Doodle on Saturday noon, The Hangout on Saturday night and the last leg of the gig will take place at Sundance on Sunday night.

“There was no real plan (on spreading out the festival), but we are just working with venues that are equally supportive and open to our ideas.

“We also like the format of festivals that happen over a few days and lots of venues so it is kind of like a mini South By South West (SXSW) – the Austin music festival that takes over the city and is famous for showcasing bands from around the globe,” he added.

Mr Poulson said Garage Fest also aims at gathering all underground music lovers from across the globe, while bringing in some international influence to the local scene. Regardless, he said Cambodia already has a good set of diverse crowd who are open to many kinds of sounds.

“Garage Fest certainly isn’t meant to be big, I think it’s a mistake to think things are gonna be ‘bigger than Angkor Wat’ however, it is a small, groovy and decidedly underground festival made-in-Cambodia and that’s pretty cool,” he said.

Aside from that, Garage Fest also acts as one of the fundraising platforms to bring Cambodian Women of Song – a series of programmes including concerts, talks and workshops tailored especially for Cambodian women – to the stage at upcoming Kampot Readers & Writers Festival.

“Any funds raised help to bring Cambodian Women of Song to the stage in Kampot – a new venue we’re building on Trey Koh (Fish Island) and with that step, perhaps we’ll take it all the way to Carnegie Hall! No harm in dreaming.

“Already, we’ve received some great support but it’s got a long way to go and it takes a whole community of backers to make these kinds of arts and culture projects happen. This can be a long, slow process but I’m confident we’ll get there because it’s a great project and an essential music story that must be told,” he said.

Grab your tickets to Garage Fest and get ready for an epic weekend filled with explosive music and raw talents. For full line-up and more information, log on to

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