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From esoteric vinyl emporiums to clubs and live venues serving up everything from house to heavy metal, there’s no lack of musical virtue in Bangkok
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 sterling selections all have our seal of approval.
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.
You’d be forgiven for walking past 23 Bar and Gallery without noticing it during the day. The shophouse on the hip Soi Nana strip in the old city is a tiny space that only really comes alive at night, when it’s Anglophile owner cranks up an indie music-centric playlist that takes in classics by Joy Division, The Smiths, Pulp, Blur and other Britpop alumni. Indeed, the venue is a replacement for legendary dive Bar 23, one of the city’s best places for good times and solid music. So, although we are aware that the music can be predictable, a friendly vibe and generous house pours make it worth repeat visits.
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 finally got some support at the start of 2016 with the opening of Beam, which specialises 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.
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.
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 that 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.