Bangkok’s 5 best live music venues
Amid the booming electronic tunes and mediocre cover music so prevalent in Bangkok's nightlife, here are resident Manta Klangboonkrong's favorite venues to drown in some decent live music.
1. Saxophone Pub & Restaurant
For almost two decades, this spot has been a favorite among musicians and music lovers alike. It has long been a platform for new bands -- many of which scored their careers here, along with a fan base. The name might give the impression you’re going to get only jazz -- and actually that was the case until the last decade. But now, with 2-3 live bands each night, you get to hear live sets from either aspiring new groups or established professionals with anything from jazz, blues and reggae to mainstream hard rock. Thailand’s favorite ska group, T-Bone, performs here every Friday night. Check with the management for music of the night.
BTS: Victory Monument, open daily 6pm till 1am, www.saxophonepub.com
2. Adhere the 13th Blues Bar
This tiny bar offers Bangkok’s best blues act. With the repertoire including cover versions of songs by Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and the likes, the resident all-Thai band -- Bangkok Connection -- takes up the simple stage every night from 9:30pm till midnight. The band only has one guitarist (who’s also the owner of the bar), one bass player, a drum kit and occasionally a guest vocal. What makes it so cool is not only the music, but also the friendly vibes. Rare Thai songs are sometimes rendered here for a treat. Look out for surprise jam sessions on weekend nights.
Samsen Road, near Banglumpoo Bridge. Open daily from 7pm till midnight
3. Rock Pub
Rock pub is the only place in town that claims to play only rock and nothing else. Since its opening a little over a decade ago, this dungeon has hosted live sessions by many of Thailand’s legendary outifts –- Stone Metal Fire, Kaleidoscope, Lam Morrison and so forth. And even in their downtime, when Thai airwaves are heavily saturated by Korean pop and so-called modern rock, these groups still come here and make appearances to their loyal fans. Most nights you get mainstream rock, hard rock and heavy metal, but sometimes you can find yourself bobbing to grunge, garage rock, nu-metal, post-punk, rock and roll and even ska. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear some bands with their original songs in both Thai and English.
Hollywood Street Building, Phayathai Road. Open daily from 6pm till midnight, www.therockpub-bangkok.com
4. Overtone Music Cave
Originally this bar was meant to be a platform for music students and a venue for music workshops, but now it's become a hotspot for recording artists to perform. It is more like a mini-concert hall than a bar with live bands. The music varies from mainstream rock, punk, ska, vocal pop and jazz and sometimes they even have jam sessions between local artists and international acts, or between local indie bands of different music genres. Overtone is most lively on weekends. Cover charge inclusive of a drink applies. You have to be at least 20 to get in.
RCA, Rama IX Road. Open daily 9pm till 1am. www.overtone.tv
5. Vientiane Kitchen
This place is not a bar, but a Northeastern Thai and Laotian restaurant with great traditional live music and dance. Go for dinner -- the food’s good, too -- and catch the show that starts from 9pm nightly. The band consists of refined musicians that play traditional Northeastern Thai (Isaan) songs. They have two great singers and well-trained dancers. Their song list covers both traditional tunes as well as modern hits. The show combines live music with traditional dances and comedy sessions. The performers speak decent English so don’t worry that the jokes will be lost in translation.
Sukhumvit Road, soi 36. Open daily from 11am till midnight. www.vientiane-kitchen.com
About the author: Manta Klangboonkrong, 28, is originally from a small town in Northeastern Thailand and moved to Bangkok 12 years ago to study English literature. She likes going out and trying new things. She hates hangovers.
"I fell in love with Bangkok the first time I moved here," says Manta. "It caters to all, no matter how old you are, what sexual orientation you are, what interests you, what turns you on -- it's just a matter of time and a question of how eagerly you want to get to know Bangkok. I never get tired of this city, there are always people to meet and places to go. And it's much more fun if you're single."
Manta submitted this piece as part of CNNGo's CityPulse section. To find out what other stories we are looking for, go to our CityPulse page.