Nicholas Lhoyd: Founder of Phnom Penh Underground Nicholas Lhoyd, also known as DJ Sequence or just Lhoyd, is a drum and bass DJ who has been living in Phnom Penh for five years. Three years ago he set up Phnom Penh Underground – the city’s online hub for club lovers who want to listen to more than Justin Bieber on repeat. This week he took Harriet Fitch Little on an imaginary night on the town
First off is Che Culo. I’m a cheapskate, so I’d get there for 6pm because they’ve got a happy hour. It sounds poncy, but the cocktails there are amazing. Me and my girlfriend used to live above Nicko and Elena, who run the bar, and they’re so friendly. I know exactly when it opened – November 2014 – because my girlfriend, Jess, designed the logo. Nicko then went and got it tattooed on his arm at some dodgy $3 place. She’s done design for a lot of places here, but she’s never designed a tattoo before. Nicko looks a bit like Super Mario. He’s what they’d call in French le patron. He really adds his personality to the place.
On our imaginary tour, I’d head over to Oskar at about 8pm. It’s a good nightspot with mainly house DJs playing – people like Tim Coates, Nora Haidee and Vincent, who’s like me and only has one name. Phnom Penh is a really small city and you only need a few people to make things happen and get a good crowd. Tim Coates works hard to create a good atmosphere promoting Oskar’s. You need these key people like Nicko [at Che Culo] and Tim to make things happen. Oskar is the sister bar of a place in Bangkok and quite sophisticated. People always open places here thinking they’ll just do the same as they did in Bangkok or Singapore, but it’s difficult. It’s so different here because there isn’t really a Westernised middle class, in my view.
Surprising choice, but at midnight let’s park the tuk-tuk outside Pontoon on this whistle-stop tour. Not the main Pontoon, but Pontoon Pulse in the small room next door. It’s mainly one person doing the nights there – a guy called Alan Ritchie, who in the last couple of months has taken over promotion. It’s always been a lovely space, but he’s really revitalised the place. He’s getting good DJs in and international guests, mainly playing house music. The main bit of Pontoon is hip hop and R&B, really commercial. The definition of “underground”? Well, it’s pretty loaded and has different meanings depending on where you are. We use it in Phnom Penh to mean something non-commercial, which I would count Pontoon Pulse as.
Rooftop reggae bar
Now it’s about 2am, so let’s go to the Rooftop Reggae Bar. Not the bar on the sixth floor where they play reggae, but the roof, where it’s dance music. I just call it “the terrace”. That’s an amazing spot and really unique in the city. You’re right above Phnom Penh looking down on the lights of the city. Phnom Penh Underground do a monthly night there called High Rise, and there’s always crazy stuff going on. The last time we played there were fire dancers, and I did a video projection on the building next door. You might see 200 or 300 people there on a night, which is nothing in a major city, but in Phnom Penh it’s amazing. It’s all relative.
So now we want somewhere late night. Let’s get into the metaphorical tuk-tuk and go to Club Love. That’s open really late, and it’s a pretty wild place. It’s a big backpacker club, but when we do a night there we get a local following in as well. When I’m DJing there, I don’t look at the backpackers. I’m in a zone where they’re just misty shapes, and if they try and talk to me, I just pretend I’m French. They always ask for requests. Justin Bieber is popular at the minute. I’ll say “Yeah, in five minutes” and not play it. You
get loads of crappy requests. Some people ask if they can plug their phone in. It wouldn’t happen in Berlin.