While the owners of Harmonica and Cosmic Cafe vow to return in new locations, no specific dates have been set. In the meantime, you can find us here, enjoying a drink and some exciting sounds.
When not one but two Bangkok live music institutions closed down in July, the future looked grim for local gig-goers. But stepping in to fill the void left by the dearly departed Cosmic Cafe and Harmonica have been a slew of new music-focused venues and the reawakening of some old favorites (Play Yard by Studio Bar, Rockademy, Fatty’s Bar and Diner and Jam chief among them), not to mention some very hard-working and underappreciated promoters (Popscene, in particular, we tip our hat to you). You could say the local indie scene has never been more vibrant, while—as this weekend alone attests—the international touring acts so diverse. Here, we round up the impending gigs, coolest new venues and rising record labels that have us excited about live music in Bangkok.
See also: Three new Thai music collectives we love
Crowd: Music-as-art purveyors
Sound: Or is it Noise?
This small performance space in Phra Nakhon has been holding shows off and on for the past year, but has really come into its own in the past few months. This is not your ordinary Bangkok bar and these are not your ordinary Bangkok sounds, not when Pok and June’s Stylish Nonsense are one of the more straightforward acts. Head here for Norwegian noise and Dutch free jazz, plus some of Bangkok’s more forward-thinking bands like Cut the Crab and White Noise. On Oct 3, it will host an international live looping festival. Details TBA.
19 Prachathipatai Rd., Phra Nakhon, 02-629-3376. ow.ly/AXZ3H
Crowd: Salt and pepper shakers
Sound: Jazz and blues
Smalls is run by David Jacobson, the founder of Q Bar and a bit of a nightlife legend. Away from Soi 11, you can now find him in the burgeoning Suan Phlu neighborhood, a short walk from another BK favorite Junker and Bar. Order some green fairy (from B350-700) and take in the Thursday blues band or Friday jazz act.
186/3 Suan Phlu Soi 1., 081-819-6808. ow.ly/AXZ1l
Crowd: Crusty rockers, international school kids and everything in between
Sound: A genre-hopping mixtape
Wine Bibber pulls one of the most diverse crowds in town. A far cry from its dingy original incarnation in Thonglor, this sleek, multi-floored bar sits somewhere between the much-missed Sonic Ekkamai and Grease (Sukhumvit Soi 49). On the ground-floor you get nightly gigs from bands of leather-clad old rockers. The real fun starts upstairs with the dance floor that numerous party collectives call home: Popscene brought in Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, Spoiled Rotten threw an Uncooked Rice party and Dope as Funk continually pull a crowd. Maybe it’s the decently priced buckets, the LED dance floor, or just the eclectic event list, but you can expect a sizeable gathering any given weekend.
Ekkamai Soi 2, 02-714-0709. BTS Ekkamai. www.fb.com/WineBibberSangriaBangkok
Crowd: Cool dads and their offspring
Sound: 60s-90s classic rock
Originally situated on the second floor of The Walk community mall in Kaset-Nawamintra, The Cavern Club has just reopened as a proper standalone bar and restaurant right near Parking Toys. Live bands perform nightly with the focus on rock classics of bygone eras. Elvis and The Beatles tributes aside, we’re fans of the Wednesday night house band, Isn’t, who used to count Asanee and Wasan Chotikul as members. A proper back-to-basics rock club.
270 KM 111, Prasertmanukij Rd., 093-526-7879. Open daily 5pm-1am. www.fb.com/thecavernclubbangkok
Crowd: Crate-diggers and Maft Sai clones
Sound: Global soundsystem
Not content with unearthing mo lam and luk thung gems with Zudrangma Records and Paradise Bangkok nights, DJ Maft Sai has just opened a bar on happening Sukhumvit Soi 51 promising to pair global grooves with quality drinks. Named after one of Maft Sai’s radio podcasts, the venue’s focus is unsurprisingly on nightly adventurous DJ sets and live music. The décor is basic but clearly put together with a designer’s eye, with dark-but-warm lighting adding to a very after-hours vibe: think Bar 23 or Wong’s, only tidied up and with a more stylish clientele. In one corner of the room sit turntables and, the star of the place, a specially designed custom tube sound system. Behind the bar you may see familiar faces from Cosmic Cafe and Moose.
Sukhumvit Soi 51. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-1am. BTS Thong Lo. www.fb.com/studiolambangkok
Crowd: Familiar performers from Rehab RCA
Sound: Live soul and funk
Opened last month, Soulbar is a bit like the new Adhere 13th, the long-standing blues club in Phra Athit. Tucked in a small shophouse down on Charoenkrung Road, not far from Chinatown, the venue has been renovated in a simple loft-like style with a lot of empty space, putting the focus squarely on the live bands. With its easy-going vibe, we’re sure Soulbar will soon become one of the hottest live music spots in town.
945 Charoenkrung Rd., 095-521-1541. www.fb.com/livesoulbarbangkok
Crowd: Harmonica’s broken hearts
Sound: Indie rock
This vinyl store, run by a group of college friends who draw inspiration from early-2000s Brit-rock, is situated in the busy Black Amber building (home to the barbershop of the same name and craft studio Smitheries). The store has been anointed by Put Suksriwan, former owner of Harmonica, as one of the best new places to catch small local indie gigs—and small is the operative word. About 40 brave souls can cram into the tiny space, making it an ideal stomping ground for upcoming solo artists or bands with minimalist set-ups.
4/F, Black Amber Building (behind Kiatnakin Bank), between Thonglor Soi 5-7. www.fb.com/1979vinyl