The “Not the New Years Eve party

During the day after the New Years Eve show we had a few hours to see some of the city. Once you get past the culture shock of rubbish in the streets and being pestered every 5 steps for “Tuk Tuk Sir?”, Phnom Penh is really quite beautiful; the architecture is amazing and you can see how this could once have been a wonder of the world. A few of us went to the Russian markets to snap some bargains (I don’t know why they‘re called that; there were no Russians. Not even anyone from Uzbekistan, as far as I could tell!). Lots of copies of movies, software, jewellery, clothes, tools; just about everything. And quite claustrophobic, too.

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After the excitement and effort put into the New Years Eve show, we were all a bit flat the following night for the “Not the New Years Eve” party. We turned up at 8pm for a 9pm start, as usual, and I found out that we were to play 3 shorter sets as there were noise restrictions on the club past 11pm.

Playing less songs would normally mean an easier night of it, but we still needed to play all our originals and still needed to have a flow for the show. So I descended into reorganization mode once again and came up with a set list I thought would work without completely pulling the rug from under the brass section (as they would have to reorganize their sheets).  Sharky once again put on a grand spread in the band room of rolls, ribs, nachos and Jack Daniels. What more could you want?

We launched into the show, and after last night it was more like work than a party. Nevertheless we had fun and made it through, knowing that tomorrow we had a day off, before jumping on the bus back to Ho Chi Minh City on the 4th.

It had been a hard few days practicing and playing, and we were all a bit bushed, so it was smiles all around when we took advantage of hte jack’s and food and said our goodnights. On the way out, Mike says “See you tomorrow night for the Jam night, fellers!”

Wait. What?

Gigging!

New Years Eve came around so quickly, and after a days rest from the practice sessions, we were all raring to go. We arrived at Sharky’s bar in Phnom Penh about 8pm for a 9pm start and saw that the set times had changed from what I’d assumed. Instead of 3×45 minute sets as assumed, we had: 9:15-10pm
10:15-11pm
11:30-11:50pm, and then
12:10-12:40am.

This caused some frenzied activity on my part – a set of music isn’t just thrown together, you craft it to give it a flow where it dips and rises throughout the show, to help build and maintain involvement from the audience. I typically approach it from a set-by-set perspective, and having the third “money shot” set split in two was hard to re-order. The problem with re-ordering songs is that all the players need to know in advance what songs are coming up so they can prepare for it. This is especially true for the brass section who play off charts (instead of playing by memory, or lack thereof, like the rest of us). Their charts are in set list order in those little plastic sleeves in a book, sometimes spanning several pages, and so changing the order affects them the most. I also had to consult with them to make sure I didn’t put two ‘killer’ songs next to each other. The boys work really hard on a few of the songs and after a hard blow, they sometimes need a breather while we play something simpler.
The third set was re-arranged and approved, and then it was time to hit the stage! We got a huge introduction from Big Mike at Sharkey’s and launched into “Southern Delta”.

The whole night went over really well, and I was very impressed with the whole band; there were a few mistakes which could have ended in train wrecks , but through good communication and a bit of marshalling from “The General” (Sneaky Pete) at the back, we recovered well. As you add more people to a band, the likelihood of a train wreck increases. With this 7-piece lineup, it really was a testament to the skill and communication of all that this didn’t occur.

The night ended for us quite soon after we finished playing, as Kayla wasn’t feeling well and we had to get her back to the guest house. Luckily, we got her back about an hour before the night-long vomiting started. Poor bugger. Needless to say we were all washed out the following day. She slept all day, I took it easy but had to go and do sound check and prepare for the “Not the New Years Eve” show.

Down to work

Following the bus trip from HCMC to Phnom Penh, we settled in for two days of practice before the first gig. Leading up to the tour, I’d arranged a practice every few weeks with John and Walter after work which typically went for maybe 3 hours. As we only had two days of practice with the whole band, we had to cram in as much as possible, which meant 7 hours of full on singing for two days straight. After the first night, most of the boys went out for a “jam night” at the Memphis pub. I would have gone but I know this tour is going to take a lot out of me, and so hung back. My hanging back with Kayla also meant Karen could go out, so she joined the rest of the guys. From all reports it was a great night.

So the next morning brought a couple of sore heads to the practice room for another 7 hour session. We covered everything and had half a day to work on show format. Patrick was very focused on nailing the songs marked for the album, whereas I was more concerned with getting the structure right for the live shows. This caused a little conflict, but Patrick and I tend to bump heads occasionally anyway; it’s nothing personal, we just have two differing approaches on how to do things. The band would be a whole lot poorer without his passion. Peter, as always, came in as the peacemaker and we sorted it out, covering both sides in the remaining half day.

That night we did some filming for one of the clips,  which involved hiring 3 Tuk Tuks for an hour and driving around the streets of Phnom Penh just filming everything. After that we headed up to Sharky Bar for a drink (in full band dress) where we were actually recognized by a few patrons (plus the local ‘professional’ ladies in the bar) from last year. You know you’re on the way to rock stardom when the pro’s recognize you!