LA/Khmer band Dengue Fever is headed back to Temple Town, playing a sellout gig at FCC Angkor on June 1. This will be the second time the band has visited, following a packed concert at the former Hotel de la Paix in November 2011.
The Siem Reap gig is part of a tour that came about thanks to the inaugural Memory International Film Heritage Festival slated for Phnom Penh from June 1-9 – festival organisers invited the band to play in the capital.
In Siem Reap, expats and Khmers have been queuing up to buy tickets, and FCC general manager Douglas Moe expects Saturday to be a sellout success. He said he is expecting to sell 400 tickets and as of Tuesday over 250 tickets had been sold. “We will also have some special drinks with cheaper prices,” he added, “And finger food stands will be laid out on the corner for late evening bites.”
The concert will take place in a specially-built marquee in the FCC garden to accommodate the large audience, and in case of rain.
The band is also pleased to be performing in Siem Reap. Bassist Senon Williams said, “We are really happy and very excited to see that we have a reach that extends beyond Phnom Penh. On our last tour we had a great show in Siem Reap. We are fired up to see that the interest is still there and we plan to reward those who come with a fantastic night.”
Siem Reap has always held special significance for Dengue Fever. It was on the road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh that founder member and keyboardist Ethan Holtzman first heard the strains of 1960s Cambodian rock ‘n’ roll music playing on the radio, back in 1997. His travelling companion, meanwhile, was huddled in the front seat suffering from a bout of dengue fever. This eight-hour road-trip both generated a love of Cambodian pop and inspired Holtzman to eventually start the band in 2001.
Holtzman described this experience to More than Music website in June 2011.
“I was riding in the back of a pick-up truck,” he said. “It was a long dirt road and all the bridges had been blown up from war. I sat scrunched up in a little ball with thirty something villagers, some of them holding their carsick babies, others grasping on to their rooster in this rusty old truck with bald tyres. The driver drove fast. My friend was in the front of the truck, sick with dengue fever. Every time I poked my head in to see how he felt, I caught sound of the driver’s cassette tape that was looped for the eight hour drive to the capital. The sounds were amazing and I asked him to write down the artists so I could purchase some of them from the local market.”
Arriving back in Los Angeles six months later, armed with a suitcase full of Cambodian cassettes, Holtzman founded the band with his brother Zac on lead guitar, saxophonist David Ralicke, drummer Paul Smith and bassist Senon Williams. Singer Chhom Nimol from Battambang was discovered performing in a club in ‘Little Phnom Penh’ in Long Beach, California and completed the outfit.