On the fifth-story sundeck of The Quay Hotel, canopy-covered Moroccan lounge beds peer across the Tonle Sap River and to The Mekong River beyond. A cool breeze blows in from the water and washes over the bubbling black-stone hot tub.
When Phnom Penh’s DJ Marco first saw the place six months ago, he knew he had found the venue for a perfect sunset affair. So along with his cousin, another local spinster who goes by the name DJ Illest, the two approached Benjamin Le Grand, a manager at the hotel, and gave him the pitch.
“We talked to him about this idea,” Marco says, “and he was very excited.”
The idea, in a nutshell, is an early hours party, or a “before” party in Mediterranean club parlance — live deejays, fresh music and a trig venue, with free appetizers and the occasional drink special thrown in.
In a town where bars stay open till daybreak, Marco’s before party is the antithesis to the over-amped, all-night dance scene. The “7-Eleven” Party, as the name borrowed from the 24-hour convenience store implies, occupies the early hours. The music is ambient, not overpowering, and the whole evening works as a warm-up to the hours after midnight. The party starts at 7 p.m., and by 11:30 or so, the crowds have all filtered on to other venues.
“The rooftop is a very nice place,” Marco says. “It fits very much with our music.”
Born in Phnom Penh in 1970, Marco has spent most of the last 20 years in the South of France, where he also organized music events. He moved back to Phnom Penh six months ago, and he has been a fast student of the capital’s nightlife ever since.
Marco and Illest played their first “7-Eleven” party in July. Illest opened with a set of mellow, jazzy lounge. Marco closed with up-tempo electro and deep house.
“It was really successful,” Marco says. “We had a lot of people. The atmosphere was really fun and people really enjoyed it.”
The pair did another “7-Eleven” in August, and again the crowds turned out. The next party is Sept 17, and Marco and Illest are talking about doing them more often than monthly.
Marco stresses that he will keep “7-Eleven” a relaxed affair. He points out that mingling is every bit as important as the music.
“The main goal is for people to have a nice talk and enjoy music,” he says.
As for the dance clubs that go all night, Pontoon and The Riverhouse Lounge are still the standard-bearers. Both clubs regularly feature top-notch deejays from overseas.
Away from the uptown club scene, though still decidedly afterhours, the Street 51 strip offers mainstays such as The Zeppelin Café and Howie’s Bar. And, of course, the Heart of Darkness, where the dance floor is always packed.
“The Heart is the final destination for people who go out,” Marco says.
But up on the fifth floor, where Marco’s ambient house beats drift into the quiet, dark night, it’s not the destination that counts.
The next “7-Eleven” Party is Sept 17 from 7-11:30 p.m. at The Quay Hotel.