The Zeppelin Café

Over the past few weeks, I found what I would consider to be the perfect hang-out bar: The Zeppelin Café in Phnom Penh. I heard about it from my guide book, which says this: “Who says vinyl is dead? It lives on here in Phnom Penh, thanks to the owner of this old-skool rock bar, who mans the turntables every night. Fun.”

It did sound fun. But I decided to do a little more research before heading over.

Lonely Planet ranks it #115 of #117 things to do in Phnom Penh and #558 of #579 things in do in Cambodia. Ouch. Of all the potential things to do in the entire country of Cambodia, apparently only 21 of them are worse than going to the Zeppelin Café. Now I was really intrigued. So a few of us decided to head over our second night in town, and well?

Well the place absolutely rocks. So we just kept going back.

You walk in, and the first thing you notice is the music playing out of some vintage speakers in the back. Anything ranging from classic rock, blues, jazz, metal, and a bit of punk. I don’t even listen to much metal or punk, but the selections were great, and fit the mood of the place perfectly.

Here’s a terrible photo:

It’s a small and narrow bar, with guitars hanging on the wall, Led Zeppelin pictures and posters everywhere, and whiskey shots sitting on shelves as tributes to fallen rock legends (e.g., Bonham). In the far back, June, the Taiwanese owner and DJ, chain smokes cigarettes in front of an entire wall of vinyl records. He sits behind a 3 foot brick wall, making it clear that he runs the DJ booth. He’s got two turntables (and a microphone) and a computer in front of him, and every day of the week he spends the entire night in his chair, carefully selecting the music. And he’s always open to requests as long as the requester puts a little thought into it (June’s face was priceless when a Finnish customer requested some disco).

This guy’s really into rock music. He even named his three kids after his favorite guitarists: Lemmy (Motorhead), Jimmy Page (Zeppelin), and Johnny Winter.

I’d like to be able to say I put in the effort to properly explore Phnom Penh’s nightlife. I didn’t. I checked out a couple other bars that were supposed to be good (they weren’t), and then spent every other free night at the Zeppelin Café. Usually I’d go with some members from my team here, but I was just as happy going alone and talking music with June.

He turned me onto Rory Gallagher and Heavy Trash, both of which I recommend:

Why isn’t there a single place like this in all of Boston?

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