Home to around 10 million souls Bangkok is one of the most eclectic and vibrant cities on the planet. Therefore, it is not surprising that this wild diversity can be readily applied to a musical climate that caters to all tastes whether they veer towards either the underground or the ultra-commercial. While it is impossible to summarize all the options on offer, these selections all have our seal of approval.
The Vinyl Connection
Located on Sukhumvit Soi 51, one of Bangkok’s most vibrant enclaves, ZudRangMa Records is a prime spot for vinyl junkies. Although it stocks a decent range of contemporary and vintage indie, soul and dance records, the store’s specialty is retro Thai sounds. In fact, owner Nat Siangsukon has done much to revitalise old-school Thai music through his Paradise Bangkok club nights and his band the Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band. Check out the excellent compilations on the shop’s own imprint. At Broadway Record Store in Charoenkrung the baptism is somewhat bumpier. Shelves bulge with records decorated garishly with Thai script and some choice 1970s fashions and haircuts. It is not what you would call user-friendly, but with friendly owner Chokchai Laphasakul on hand to offer advice, it’s a fun place to take a few stabs in the dark with the exotic platters on display. In addition to local sounds is a decent selection of western records.
An Outlet for Indie Kids
Backpacker hub Khao San Road has got a new lease of life recently with young Thai party animals attracted to its selection of lively bars. Many of the venues are interchangeable. Not so Mischa Cheap, which is one of the hippest spots in the area for a music-orientated hangout. The brainchild of indie party organizer Dudesweet, the bar hosts an eclectic range of events spanning everything from movie screenings to full-on party blowouts. On quieter evenings, the playlist can veers from left-field heroes Radiohead and David Bowie to gay icons like Britney Spears.
Beam Me Up
Until recently, Bangkok was overserved with nightclubs, but underserved with ones that bothered playing anything other than commercial hits and run-of-the-mill dance music. For lovers of credible house and techno, the only show in town was the venerable club, Glow, which is still going strong after 13 sweat-soaked years. It got some support at the start of 2016 with the opening of Beam, which specializes in EDM and other underground sounds. Everything about the venue screams class, from the minimal, warehouse-style vibe to Asia’s first “body kinetic” dance floor that shakes vibrations into dancers’ feet.
A Shot of Blues
Sometimes a music venue is elevated as much by its atmosphere as the bands who play there. That’s not entirely the case with Adhere the 13th, as the blues performers who strut their stuff at one of Bangkok’s longest running venues are generally excellent. It’s just enhanced by the potent drinks, friendly welcome and eclectic crowd within this hole-in-the-wall gem. Expect plenty of authenticity and nightly performances from a range of decent solo acts and bands.
All that Jazz
Smalls would be one of the best bars in Bangkok – even if it wasn’t for its refined musical policy. Harnessing a retro aesthetic that puts its somewhere between a Parisian bistro and a smoky jazz club this broad church of a bar somehow manages to foster wild abandon while maintaining a dimly lit air of convivial cool. Resident jazz combos provide live music several nights a week, while some of the city’s top DJs take over the decks at the weekend to supply a soundtrack that veers from mellow beats to all-time classics. Other great options for hip-swinging sounds in Bangkok include the Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, The Crimson Room, and venerable hangout Saxophone.