80s synth-pop rockers Jaworski 7 will play the FCC in Phnom Penh on September 28. The event starts at 9. Check out Jaworski 7 on Soundcloud.
80s synth-pop rockers Jaworski 7 will play the FCC in Phnom Penh on September 28. The event starts at 9. Check out Jaworski 7 on Soundcloud.
Because there’s no way to know what challenges the day ahead will bring, those at Cafe Fresco believe each morning might as well start with a cup of pure perfection.
“Cafe Fresco originated out of the need for a quality coffee shop in Phnom Penh,” says owner and founder Anthony Aldersons. “That’s the main message: contemporary design and absolutely great coffee. We’ve brought in Illy — an Italian gourmet coffee — and trainers from Thailand to come teach the art and science involved in making coffee. We’ve worked hard to make sure we have a world-class product.”
But Cafe Fresco, which opened its sleek glass doors in early November, is much more than just a coffee shop. It’s a futuristic eatery with a feel-good vibe; an efficient, fast-paced spaceship of a place that combines old-school delicatessen with an upscale urban environment. Cafe Fresco may well be the next step in the evolving culinary culture of Cambodia.
Alongside the dizzying array of coffee options, Fresco also offers a wide range of exciting cuisine, freshly baked pastries and wireless Internet access — all within a uniquely upscale ambiance. The ultra-modern decor features gleaming glass and chrome contrasted with polished wooden panels and luxurious, earth-toned leather furniture.
Head Chef Lucy Dengate, a 32-year-old Australian who designed the menu and trained the cooking staff, describes Fresco’s menu as a “light and different approach.”
“What it’s about is quick, fresh sandwiches,” Dengate says. “We want to get out fast food that looks good and is quick and easy to get.”
From carrot juice to chocolate cake, Cafe Fresco’s diverse menu promises something for every diner.
The health conscious will appreciate natural homemade yoghurt, fresh-squeezed juices and a mixed-up world of blended drinks: smoothies, frappes and lassies.
The more indulgent diner may be apt to sample the ever-revolving selection of pastries, cakes and cookies.
“There aren’t a lot of places where you can go to get a brownie or a piece of chocolate cake at any time of day,” says Dengate.
Gourmet sandwiches range from classics like the Reuben to irresistible fusion offerings such as the salmon gravalox and cream cheese panini or the tuna nicoise wrap complete with capers and egg.
For the creative-minded set, the option of creating a make-your-own sandwich from hard-to-find international ingredients is available.
“A main theme is that customers can create their own sandwich,” Dengate says. “It’s like in a deli where you can see all the ingredients in front of you, but these items, like the imported meats and cheese, are very unusual to find in Phnom Penh.”
Open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Cafe Fresco does breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“We’re the busiest between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.,” Dengate says. “Breakfast is usually pastries and yoghurts, lunch is a lot of sandwiches and salads, and dinner, so far, has been a relaxed, ‘snacky’ type of meals.”
Jody Bradshaw, a 33-year-old tourist from California, and his wife Michelle have started each of their five days in Phnom Penh at Cafe Fresco.
“We live in Sausalito — so we know about good coffee,” Bradshaw said recently above a frothy cup of Illy-brand coffee. “This is by the far the best cup we’ve had on our trip. This is close to our hotel and it’s clean and friendly. If it has everything we want, why should we go anywhere else?
This story was originally published in The Wires, January 2006.
I was just a lad, nearly twenty-two
Neither good nor bad, just a kid like you
And now I’m lost, too late to pray
Lord, I’ve paid the cost on the Lost Highway
So goes the song “Lost Highway,” made popular by the late country-and-western star Hank Williams. The name seems fitting for a classic rock band based in Sihanoukville, the beach-town escape at the end of Highway 4.
Named after the country’s former monarch, King Norodom Sihanouk, the seaside village sprung up in 1960 in a wave of post-colonial nationalism and pride. The feeling of change in the air in Cambodia at the time coincided with a growing sense in the West that more change was just around the corner. A few years later, a much larger quest for change culminated in a whole new generation of music that expressed a desire for a new and better world.
“The music of the 60’s was inspired by the times,” says veteran drummer Tom LaCroix, a.k.a Tommy Nick, one of Lost Highway’s founding members. “There was a lot of optimism and people really believed they could change the world.”
Born in Boston in 1951, Nick grew up listening to The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. He moved to the Bay Area in the mid 1980s and more recently to the coastal town of Sihanoukville.
A career musician, Nick is now a growing force behind Cambodia’s nascent live music scene. He’s played with the Lazy Jazz Drunks, Shangri La Band, El Dealbreakers and Those Guys. And in addition to Lost Highway, he’s also working on a “sideline” project called BluesBerry Jam.
Like most local-area bands, Lost Highway has seen half a dozen lineups since splintering from yet another band, Route 66, about a year-and-a-half ago. While transient expat lifestyles can prove to be a challenge to a band’s stability, they can also be a boon, Nick says.
“There have been so many different players,” he says. “It’s really been an honor to have played with so many talented people. Chris and Dave are the latest and, I must say, the band has never been tighter.”
In addition to Nick on drums, Lost Highway’s current lineup includes “Smokin'” Kenny Smith and Chris Kebeck on guitars and Dave Zdrilluk on bass.
Smith is the band’s second founding member, and Kebeck and Zdrilluk are Lost Highway’s most recent additions.
Like everyone in the band, Kebeck’s career dates back decades, and his resume includes stints with some genuine five-star acts. Kebeck recorded with Tim Dawe, an original member of Iron Butterfly, on Frank Zappa’s Straight Records label in the late 1960s. And in his forty-five years of professional experience — recording, performing and producing — he’s worked with the likes of Hoyt Axton, Three Dog Night, and The Righteous Brothers.
Before Kebeck’s arrival, Nick and Smith experimented with harmonica and keyboard players, but the pair found they preferred the stripped-down guitar sound. “We seem to work best as a two-guitar band,” Nick says.
Fans certainly agree. And as a result, Lost Highway has been making the road trip from the coast to the capital with growing regularity.
“Playing in Cambodia is an adventure. It can go either way, but it’s always raw and in the moment and cool — and that’s what makes it exciting,” Nick says. “There’s an artistic freedom here that’s very fresh.”
Lost Highway will play The FCC Phnom Penh on Sept. 11.
When it comes to finding great food in Southeast Asia, there’s very little room for disappointment. Some say Thailand’s cuisine is worth the trip alone; Vietnamese pho is staying put in our nation’s culinary heart; Singaporean, Malaysian, and Laotian foods all get their fare share of the international food spotlight. But there is one country’s cuisine that has been left out of the conversation for too long: Cambodian.
Having just come back from Siem Reap myself, I turned to fellow travel writers and friends to see if my findings (that Cambodian food far surpassed Thai on my trip) were the exception or the rule. As it turns out, I am not alone; everyone that took my rudimentary survey agreed that Cambodian cuisine is the most underrated in Southeast Asia. I’m just here to bust the secret wide open
Readying once again for an international jaunt, the Cambodian Space Project will play one final gig at The FCC Phnom Penh on September 7 before rocketing south for an extended road trip of parts down under.
The band recently spent five weeks in Detroit, Michigan, in the United States, recording new tracks with vaunted Motown musician and producer Dennis Coffey as well as veteran Detroit rocker Jim Diamond. The new cuts will appear on the band’s next album, currently titled Elephant Coffey. CSP will unveil several of the new tracks Saturday night.
Working with Diamond was terrific, said CSP guitar man Julien Poulson, and the group recorded “some really great, primitive sounding stuff.”
The sessions went so well that CSP is trying to engage the Detroit sax-man on a longer-term basis.
“Jim is great,” Poulson said. “He even joined us on bass for our NYC shows and we’re trying to lure him out to Cambodia.”
After the FCC date, Poulson and his project will fly to Australia, where the band is scheduled to play The Concert for Cambodia at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney at the end of September. From there it’s over to Indonesia for the Ubud Writers Festival in October, and then further south for a multi-date tour in Tasmania, including a show in, what else, an abandoned space station.
The Cambodian Space Project, Saturday Sept 7, 9 p.m.
Fodor’s Travel Intelligence says that one of the “cons” with the FCC Angkor is that the hotel is “not within walking distance to town.”
That seems a odd complaint. “Town,” presumably, is the Old Market area, which is like a 6-minute walk away.
There’s also this peculiar line: “The hotel is far from the noise of the city.” Siem Reap is a lot of things, but noisy isn’t really one of them. Between the two comments, you can’t help but wonder if they have confused the FCC Angkor with some place else.
Please note, The Knockouts have been rescheduled from July 27 to Aug 3.
Unofficial music lore puts responsibility for tribute bands on Australia. A million miles from nowhere, the great outback was too remote to attract big British or American acts, so she was forced to make her own copies.
Aussiebands.com lists no fewer than 70 tribute groups, from the awful — Bjorn Again, ABBA — to the obvious — ACCA/DACCA, ACDC — to the dreadful –The Absolute Kylie show, Kylie Minogue.
But as proud as Australia might be of her tribute bands, the real history of the genre starts elsewhere. If any one person can lay claim to sparking the movement, that would be Tupelo, Mississippi’s Elvis Aaron Presley, who had impersonators almost from day one. If any one band can lay claim, that’s The Beatles, whose tribute act The Buggs released their first and only album, The Beetle Beat, in 1964.
Until the late 1990s, however, tribute acts remained largely under the radar, little more than novelty knock-offs of the real thing. Then sometime around the turn of the century, tribute bands evolved into a viable genre of their own.
For Las Vegas native Kace King, a punk-rocker in his youth and now the lead singer for The Knockouts, a Social Distortion tribute band, the transition was driven largely by necessity.
“Fast forward from my punk rock band days to trying to make money, because local bands don’t usually make money,” King recounts of his days in Pimp and Never Was, both successful Las Vegas punk acts. “We did play Hard Rock, we did play Mandalay Bay, we did play big venues back then, but it was really difficult to make ends meet as a local band.”
The older King got, the more necessary things like food and shelter became, and questions about the obvious became harder to ignore. “A lot of the local bands were starting to see that ‘Hey, we can’t make money.’ How do we make money as a band?”
In Las Vegas at least, the answer was clear, if not entirely satisfying. “You jump into the casinos — but you can’t play your own music, because people don’t want to hear it. So what was happening was, people were transitioning into tribute bands, and this was the start of the tribute band movement that you see in Vegas every single day.”
All of sudden, paying the bills wasn’t nearly so difficult. “I jumped into an 80s cover band called Loveshack. You play Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights, and you would make good money, that was thing.”
But while the job paid well, it wasn’t entirely satisfying. “I always wanted to put together a tribute band to Social D because I just love the band. And I didn’t care if I made money or not. So that’s what I did on the side to have fun.”
That was 12 years ago, and in fits and starts, The Knockouts have been playing together ever since. They play The FCC Phnom Penh on Aug 3.
W hen the crisp white sails of the Santa Maria unfurled in the Spanish port of Palos on 3 August 1492, few could have anticipated the cultural shockwaves that would encircle the globe as a result of its impending voyage. The course was set west-south-west, and Christopher Columbus – who pompously referred to himself throughout his journals as ‘the Admiral’ – had been charged to steer his flagship over the waves to Asia, where riches of gold, pearl and spice awaited.
On 12 October that same year, allowing the Admiral to escape mutiny only by the narrowest of margins, land was finally spotted – albeit not the intended destination – and Columbus, accompanied by the captains of the Nina and the Pinta, waded ashore an island in the Bahamas known locally as Guanahani. The New World had officially been discovered.
Except it wasn’t entirely new. By the time the Americas were ‘discovered’ by history’s most controversial explorer, they were already home to millions of people, along with fully functioning cities, orchards, canals and causeways. “They brought balls of spun cotton and parrots and javelins and other little things that it would be tiresome to write down, and they gave everything for anything that was given to them,” Columbus wrote of the native Americans shortly after his first encounter. “I was attentive and laboured to find out if there was any gold.”
Among the ‘other little things’ developed by these indigenous folk of the Americas was their own musical heritage. In Mayan culture, simple drums and flutes were a staple of most households, from tortoiseshell maracas to ocarinas crafted from bone. In return, the Spanish explorers brought language – and it was language that would ultimately alter the course of Latin music forever.
Drawing on rich musical traditions from both the European and Arab worlds, the explorers introduced, among other things, string instruments. They also introduced African slaves who, in turn, brought the rousing African beats that have since shaped everything from salsa to merengue.
But while Columbus may have failed in his mission to reach Asian shores, the Latin music traditions that evolved in the post-Admiral Americas are finally succeeding. Among their most notable frontiersmen are Luna Negra (Black Moon), a product of Cuba circa 1999. The band’s poetic flourishes and musical “stroll through the Caribbean, alternating Cuban son with Dominican merengue, the Guaracha with Bradley and Brazilian Batucada” won swift and widespread acclaim, and by 2005 they’d landed in China for the start of a two-year tour.
“The concept of ‘Latin music’ covers a tremendous wealth, influence and originality adopted between the discoverers and clearly perfected by the natives of each region,” says Luna Negra keyboardist Yunichi Acosta Hernández. “Undoubtedly, this style is one of the richest musical worldwide. In its general form, Latin music reflects both the music and dances of the world: hispano America. You cannot fail to mention in Latin music, los Latinos! That perfectly reflects their idiosyncrasies. That spontaneous joy they exude through the pores, and the constant desire to spend a very good time [and] to share with the world his eternal carnival.”
Since 2010, Luna Negra have been resident at the Saigon Saigon Bar atop the famed Caravelle Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (once home to Warapo, another of Cuba’s most famous musical sons and a regular here at The FCC in Phnom Penh). Inspiration, say the band, includes Grammy award-winning Colombian singer and composer Carlos Vives, along with Dominican singer/sosngwriter Juan Luis Guerra, who at last count had sold more than 30 million albums. And critics have called Luna Negra’s work ‘a new twist on the classic Cuban sound': expect soul-stirring electric violin, trademark Latin rhythms and emotive lyrics.
For a band that plays 60s-era Khmer wedding hits, The Cambodia Space Project makes for a peculiar flag-bearer for avant garde Cambodian rock. But the tripped-out psychedelia that defined the country’s golden era of music — when superstars such as Pan Ron and Ros Sereysothea ruled the air waves — is proving nearly as popular today as it was during King Sihanouk’s Sangkum Reastr Niyum.
The band recently turned three, and with each passing year, their popularity — both at home and abroad — continues to soar.
The band recently collaborated with Australian rock veteran Paul Kelly on a song called The Boat (see the vid: https://vimeo.com/44296680). It “was written in response to the asylum seeker debate in Australia (and everywhere) and is a really extraordinary piece of music,” said Julien Poulson, the Tasmanian guitar player who started the group together with Kak Chanthy in December 2009, adding that “it’s become a favorite in our set.”
Currently in the middle of a torrid road schedule – Spain, Finland, France, Singapore — CSP will return home for a few days later this month – playing a gig at the FCC Phnom Penh on the 22nd and then head to the United States to begin recording their next album.
“It’s going to be recorded at Kid Rock’s studio in Detroit and will be produced by Motown legend Dennis Coffey — the man who put psychedelica into bands like The Temptations, and who single-handedly invented the Blaxploitation soundtrack with Black Belt Jones,” said Poulson. “[Coffey] is presently back in the limelight with Searching For Sugarman; Coffey produced Sixto Rodriguez’ first LP Cold Fact.”
No ever dreamed, much less planned for, things to go this far. “We really never expected to do more than a couple of gigs in Phnom Penh,” Poulson said. In fact, the Tasmanian guitar player never envisioned The Cambodian Space Project becoming a band at all.
“When we formed,” he explained, “we really formed as a collective, not as a band. The joke about the name is that, in Cambodia, there are many projects. Everyone’s got a project. If you don’t have one when you arrive, you have to find one fast. Well, we’re the Cambodian Space Project, and we’ll get a bunch of transient musicians together and a make it like a collective.”
From those unpretentious beginnings, CSP has evolved from little more than a musical sideline into a slickly polished wayback machine driving headlong into Cambodia’s golden musical past. And as the band has matured, more and more people outside the Kingdom are finding them harder and harder to ignore.
Such turn of events still evokes disbelief in Poulson. “It’s ridiculous,” he said. “I’m still laughing about it.”
For front-woman Kak Chanthy, born to the sun-baked flatlands of Prey Veng province in 1980, the road to almost famous has been slightly less sublime.
The daughter of a tank driver, she spent the first ten years of life bouncing from province to province, battlefield to battlefield, with her father’s military unit. At 18, she moved to Phnom Penh looking for work and a better life.
She took jobs doing domestic work and selling juice, and eventually ended up singing karaoke in a dingy nightspot where one of the older girls tried to sell her into prostitution.
“I was young,” she said. “They wanted to sell me for $500. I cried so much. I thought they were going to kill me.”
She started singing in restaurants after that, and spent a couple of years working in a travelling band. But life on the road was hard, and by 2009 the soldier’s daughter from Prey Veng had seen enough.
“It was very hard work for small money, maybe $15 per day,” she said. “I was not happy. I wanted to changed jobs. After five years of singing, I was very tired.”
Chanty gave up the band and returned to Phnom Penh, where a friend landed her a job as a cocktail waitress in a corner joint on Street 51 called The Black Cat.
But the music wouldn’t stay away. The lounge hosted weekly jam sessions, and not a week after starting did some guitar player sit down with a laptop full of 60s Cambodian music – Ros Sereysothea, Pan Ron and all of Chanty’s favorites. “I thought, ‘What’s this barang doing with these old Khmer songs?'”
They told him she was a singer, and that she could do every Pan Ron song ever written. A bit skeptically, Poulson invited Chanthy to Meta house, where he played guitar and she sang. Even though that first session wasn’t great, “I immediately thought she had something,” he said.
They corralled a few other musicians together and played The Alley Cat, then La Croisette. One gig turned to three, and then a trip to Hong Kong, where a local label invited them to make a 7-inch vinyl picture disk.
It was the beginning of yet more road trips – Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, the USA – a life Chanthy was sure she had given up. And for these shows, she wasn’t just travelling long hours. She was landing in strange countries with funny languages, bad weather and worse food. Her drummer Bong Sak couldn’t take it and quit.
“Not easy, rock ‘n’ roll,” she concluded.
Yet for all the difficulties, Chanthy was evolving as a song-writer, and her experiences on the road contributed immensely to her music. The band encouraged her writing, and she got to play with other musicians from around the world. Plus, the overseas gigs tended to pay a bit better than wedding parties in Battamabang.
“Before I always worried,” she said. “Now, I don’t need to worry anymore.”
FCC’s Legendary Beer of the month for January: Cooper’s Brewery Sparkling Ale from Australia! Stop in & try this fine Aussie brew, with a sparkling fizz, today! Only $5.50 per 375ml bottle. It’s available now at both FCC Angkor and FCC Phnom Penh.
Exploring the adventurous capital of Cambodia over three days.
A simple, one-day escape designed for luxury.
Body scrub and full body oil massage.
A body scrub and full body massage featuring hot stones for energy and relaxation.
Special offers and more from FCC Hotel in Phnom Penh
Save up to 50% off standard room rates.
The FCC Romantic Temples package is a re-energizing 3-day affair designed for couples.
The FCC Temple Adventure tour offers you the best highlights that Siem Reap has to offer while giving you the flexibility to venture off the beaten path.
Tour the temples of Angkor in FCC style. Stay three nights or more and receive a complimentary 1-hour Spiritual Massage.