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Music festival promises big stage, has even bigger hopes

Hypnotic Fist Technique, pictured performing at the Golden Street Festival, will be closing out the night with their performance.
Hypnotic Fist Technique, pictured performing at the Golden Street Festival, will be closing out the night with their performance. Steve Porte

Music festival promises big stage, has even bigger hopes

With a line-up of local and international artists, and a massive outdoor venue booked on Koh Pich, or Diamond Island, Saturday’s Diamond Moon Festival is aiming to showcase contemporary musical and artistic talents at a scale rarely seen in the Kingdom.

Punk rocker Vartey Ganiva at the Golden Street Festival.
Punk rocker Vartey Ganiva at the Golden Street Festival. Steve Porte

But the idea for the festival, which has 13 musical artists slated to perform from the early evening late into the night, was born from a simple gig one March night at Tusk, which drew the unfortunate attention of the police for being just a little too loud.

“At about 9 o’clock at night we were closed down because we were being too loud,” recalls Casey-Leä Campbell, the director of the festival. “So we decided let’s have a big party . . . with three bands and three DJs one night here, and then it just became a little bit bigger, and a little bit bigger.”

So Campbell, along with her friends Peter Downey, who manages the band Complicated Business, and band member Ronan Sheehan – who doubles as the festival’s music director – began reaching out to artists and planning the festival, which snowballed from a passing thought into a massive project.

“It’s something that came up very, very fast, it was something that came up on a whim, and the great thing about whims, is they tend to build into something great and awesome,” says Sheehan.

Fast-forward about eight months and the organisers have booked a 6,000-person “arena tent” outdoor venue with a 16-metre wide stage in the large lot in front of the Diamond Island Convention and Exhibition Center. They also arranged a 50-man security staff and brought in 30 portable toilets from Vietnam. (There wasn’t a supplier who could provide enough in Cambodia.)

The driving concept is to showcase local talent, as well as provide a platform for foreign acts, and for local Khmer and expat artists to play together.

“We basically went for artists who are doing their own music – that’s a big thing – not just doing the covers,” says Sheehan.

Mealea Lay, aka Miss Sarawan.
Mealea Lay, aka Miss Sarawan. Eliah Lillis

The line-up features an eclectic mix of artists, from the golden-age throwback stylings of Miss Sarawan, to the hip-hop lyrical assault of MC Lisha, to the feminist Khmer punk-rock of Vartey Ganiva.

Making their Asian debuts at the festival is French electro-pop artist Romea (Nadège Teri) and London-based duo Willy Wang and Dick Johnson (John Wild and Peter Pahor), who play acoustic rock mash-ups and composed a song for the festival titled Down in Phnom Penh.

Also in the mix is a “live-painting” show that starts at 5pm and will go on adjacent to the concert area featuring some of Phnom Penh’s most renowned urban artists: Theo Vallier, YSK Crew, Mate 2 and David Myers from the recently opened Kbach Gallery.

This way, Campbell says, festival-goers can admire the art if they want to take a break from the music, and as they go in and out of the concert area to get food and drink, which will be provided onsite by Tusk.

According to Campbell, over half of the tickets have already sold, and at $7 each, they cover the operational costs with additional proceeds pledged to the Cambodian Children’s Fund.

“I decided if I was going do it [a festival] it would benefit charity, so that’s when I reached out to Scott [Neeson] at the Cambodian Children’s Fund,” she says.

Artists from Kbach Gallery will live-paint.
Artists from Kbach Gallery will live-paint. Hong Menea

But the long game for Campbell, who has prior experience organising large events everywhere from Vegas to Papua New Guinea, is for Diamond Moon to just be the first of a recurring annual music festival that will help put Cambodia’s music scene on the map.

“This is our trial run. Next year we’ll be a little more organised and promote a little earlier and see if we can get in some bigger names from overseas as well, but we really are here to showcase the local music scene and show what they can do,” she says.

Diamond Moon Festival takes place on Saturday November 25 on Koh Pich from 4pm to 2am. Tickets can be purchased for $7 at Tusk House, The Stage Bar and Kbach Gallery or at the venue on the day of the festival. Proceeds go towards the Cambodian Children’s Fund. For more information, see: http://www.diamondmoonfestival.com/

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