Meet the promoters staging Bangkok’s best alternative music gigs, and find out where top live bands play on the regular
So far, 2017 has been an amazing year for live indie music in Bangkok. Thanks to new concert organizers and live music venues, we’ve welcomed bands from Honne to Cigarettes after Sex, many of which have sold out within the hour—giving mainstream counterparts a run for their money. So why now and where is the indie concert scene headed? Here, we talk to three local organizers to get their insights:
 

Piyapong “Py” Muenprasertdee, co-founder of Fungjai

Sarun "Top" Pinayrat came up with Fungjai in 2014 when he felt a Spotify-shaped hole in the Thai music scene. In league
with Piyapong “Py” Muenprasertdee, the pair have constantly organized gigs and talks from names like Chanon Yodhong (art
director of Genie Records at GMM Grammy) and Torpong Chantabubpha from pop band Scrubb. His latest project, "Malama Collective," helps fund local musicians.
 

How did your company form and what does it want to achieve?

Py: Fungjai was founded by Sarun “Top” Pinyarat [co-founder and art director at Fuum Studio in early 2014 before I joined him in mid-2014. Top lived overseas before and has always been a fan of indie music. As an intern at the software company creating electronic press kits for artists in Boston before moving back to Bangkok. I got to learn a lot about their indie music scene culture, and how they had so many meet-ups, blogs and samenars — all things that Thailand didn’t have.

What are the main factors contributing to the rise of indie music in Bangkok?

Py: 1) Social awareness via education, networking and connections; 2) An economy that will enable musicians to survive and get income from making music; and 3) Support from the government, which can be quite difficult since the government isn’t always accessible.

What are the main struggles indie concert organizers face?

Py: The most difficult thing is money: even if the show is sold out, the organizer will just break even or lose a bit of profit, which is why we need sponsors. Sponsors are not easy to get if you’re a no-name or someone completely new to the scene with no
success stories.

What do you hope to see BKK’s indie music scene achieve in the future?

Py: I want foreigners to see Thailand as a music destination like Austin, Melbourne or Liverpool.

Can you give us a hint on which bands you want/hope to bring to BKK in the near future?

Py: None.

Why do international bands tend to“skip” Bangkok and just visit neighbouring countries?

Py: Maybe because of our history. Organizers have tried to bring international bands over and couldn’t sell enough tickets, so they get scared of bringing someone over.


Kiratra “Ki” Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn, founder of “Have You Heard?”

Former member of the pop duo Niece and daughter of veteran rocker Keo Carabao, Kiratra teamed up with the lead vocalist of local indie band Yellow Fang, Pimporn Metchanun, and their mutual friend Koramit Vajrasthira in 2011 to found Have You Heard? Since then, they've grown it into Bangkok's most well-respected indie concert promoter, bringing in names including The Radio Dept, Phoenix and Blood Orange.
 

How did your company form and what does it want to achieve?

It was formed out of our passion for live music. Back then, there was no promoter in Thailand who brought in bands that we wanted to see, so we decided to start bringing them in ourselves. Recently, indie music in Bangkok has boomed.

What do you think are the main factors contributing to the rise of indie music in Bangkok?

It’s easier for people to discover music now. With the advent of Apple music and You-Tube, more and more people can find artists who are similar to their favorite bands. Another reason is simply a change in culture. The new generation really likes going to concerts.

What are the main struggles that indie concert organizers in Bangkok face?

The unstable political situation and the lack of decent venues.

What do you hope to see BKK’s indie music scene achieve in the future?

I hope to see it keep growing so that Bangkok becomes a “must-stop” for every band when they come to Asia.

Tell us how you choose which bands to bring in?

Before it was our friends or our own preferences, but now we try to get something for everyone and every generation.


Kawee “May” Soontornwan, founderof “Medium Rare”

Kawee “May” Soontornwan’s Medium Rare project made Live RCA one of Bangkok’s top venues for live music thanks to acts like Crystal Castles, FKJ, Lucy Rose and Ryan Hemsworth. Sadly it’ll be closing at the end of this month, but that won’t stop May from searching for other venues to host international bands that he selects for being indie, but not so underground the Thai market hasn’t heard of them—hence the name, Medium Rare.
 
Credit: Just Like Yesterday

How did your company form and what are the main things it wants to achieve?

May: My partner worked at Live RCA, where the original promoter only focused on electronic music DJs. I had experience in organizing small live music events, so I took over that job.

What are the main struggles indie concert organizers face?

May: Sometimes when I bring a relatively rare artist over, the audience is not very open-minded. When they don’t know the artist, they won’t consider checking the new music out.

What do you hope to see BKK’s indie music scene achieve in the future?

May: If you look at the indie music scene around Southeast Asia, other countries’ artists are trying to push their music into the international market. We should try to push our indie music out too. The indie musicians do have their international followers, but they are very niche. I used to follow the local indie scene but now I’m grown up and feel like I can’t get my head around it. The music is not internationally focused. Of course there are some bands who have played overseas but they just tour and are not
right for the market.

Are you implying that the local indie musicians need to adjust their style to fit in the international market?

May: Yes, I am.

But surely as artists they should stay true to their sound rather than just do what they think is commercial?

May: I think it’s important that what you love also makes you money and you can survive on it. Otherwise, the lack of income will catch up with you. You’ll be forced to do something else and give up on your dreams.

Can you give us a hint which bands you hope to bring to BKK in the near future?

May: We are in the middle of dealing with one band who are touring around here in August. And maybe another artist who has already been to Bangkok but is coming back again to do something special.

Why do international bands tend to “skip” Bangkok and just visit neighboring countries?

May: It’s business. Some festivals have a deal with the artists where they are not allowed to play at any nearby countries, because the festival organizers are trying to draw audiences from those countries to their festival. However, in general, our country doesn’t have a big enough scene that would allow us to feel confident we’d sell enough tickets no matter who is playing.

Tell us how you choose your bands?

May: I usually choose a band that is currently touring around Thailand because that increases the chance of booking them. After that, we think of bands who are touring around the region, and we decide which band to book based on the fanbase in Thailand.


What's next in 2017?

SPLASHH

The indie rock group based in London and New York bring their unique blend of grunge, garage, experimental synth and electronica sound to Bangkok, including performances of hits like “All I Wanna Do” and “Waiting a Lifeline.”
Jul 14, Live RCA, Rama 9 Rd. B900 from Eventpop.me
 

PHOENIX

The French indie-rock band, best known for a sound that traverses synth-pop, alternative rock and new wave, makes their Bangkok debut to perform tracks from their latest album “Ti Amo.”
Aug 17. Moonstar Studio 8, Ladphrao Soi 80. B2500-3000 from haveyouheard.live
 

OH WONDER

The British electro-pop duo perform their hits “Without You,” “Drive” and “Livewire” in an intimate setting.
Aug 1, 7pm. Do Not Disturb (behind Nunglen and Escobar), Ekkamai Soi 5/1, 094-474-9266. B2,000 from Thaiticketmajor
 

LANY

Catch live performances of global hits like “ILYSB,” “Hot Lights” and “Omg” when this three-piece American alternative rock band stop by Bangkok for the first time.
Aug 2, 7pm. Do Not Disturb (behind Nunglen and Escobar), Ekkamai Soi 5/1, 094-474-9266. B2,000 from Thaiticketmajor

Places to get your live indie fix in Bangkok

PLAY YARD BY STUDIO BAR

This Lad Phrao Soi 8 live music venue comes with a homey bar and restaurant, and promises high-quality live indie
music with a different theme each night.
Lad Phrao Soi 8, 081-173-3616, 085-146-8017, 086-866-8869. Open daily 6pm-12:30am
 

PARKING TOYS

It might be on the outskirts of Bangkok, but Parking Toys is well worth the taxi, thanks to its nightly lineup of great live
music ranging from electronic to rockabilly and jazz. And you don’t have to worry about dressing up, because no one here really cares.
17/22 Ram Indra Soi 14, 02-907-2228. Open daily 6pm-2am
 

BLACK CABIN NEW!

Bangkok’s latest hidden bar is tucked inside the meat-centric restaurant Wild & Co. Here, the partner-owners from Loy Shy music bar in Ratchathewi promise live jazz, soul, blues and electro, along with vinyl-heavy DJ sets.
Wild & Co., 33/1 Soi Farm Wattana, Rama 4 Rd., 087-999-9948. Open Tue-Sun 5:30pm-1am
 

SOY SAUCE FACTORY

Downstairs operates like a bar, pouring basic but stiff drinks in a very barebones environment—open plan, concrete floor, industrial lighting. It’s also a space for live bands from time to time, while the upstairs space regularly hosts exhibitions.
11/1 Charoen Krung Soi 24, 061-835-6824. Open Mon-Sat 10am-7pm
 
Credit: www.facebook.com/fattysbardiner/

FATTY’S BAR AND DINER

Situated in a grungy shophouse out in the Rama 9 badlands, this venue notonly hosts regular live music, it also serves one of the best burgers in the city and a lot of craft beer.
598/66 Asoke Din Daeng Rd., 081-438 7221, 02-245-2965. Open Tue-Sun 11am-midnight
 
Credit: www.facebook.com/brownstonestudio/

BROWNSTONE

This hip space out in On Nut does anything related to art: gigs, exhibitions, film screenings. Your band can even book it as a rehearsal studio.
1395 Sukhumvit Soi 77, 085-483-7675. Open daily 1pm-1am

Bars and Nightclubs playing alternative soundtracks

STUDIO LAM

This space brings DJs spinning mo lam, luk thung, African music and other global beats on vinyl. It makes for a good night out when paired with their high-quality ya dong (moonshine).
Sukhumvit Soi 51, 02-261-6661. Open Tue-Sun 6pm- 2am
 

JAM

Jam is a hip urban refuge in an unlikely residential setting. This small venue brings diverseDJs, two friendly dogs and a lot of quirksto Bangkok’s indie music community. Hostslive music from time to time but mostly features DJs.
41 Charoen Rat Soi 1, 083-5451-833. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight

12X12

Hidden down a secluded soi off Thonglor, this bar is basically a Japanese hipster’s wet dream—super-cool without even trying. Duck inside the low door frame and you’ll be greeted by a soundtrack of achingly hip world music.
810/22 Sukhumvit 55 Soi Thararom 2, 094-260-4713, Open Tue-Sat 8pm-2am
 

WHITELINE

Located on the corner of Silom Soi 8, this six-story building comprises a first floor dedicated to a grungy art space and chilled-out DJs, while the Safe Room on the second floor is reserved for some serious dancing.
Silom Soi 8, 087-061-1117. Open Thu-Sun 7pm-midnight

BLAQ LYTE NEW!

Hidden on the second floor of BadMotel, this venue focuses on underground modern hiphop
music. The young owner also donates some of the bar’s profits to a foundation for orphans that he founded himself.
2/F, 331/4-5 Sukhumvit 55 Rd., 02-712-7288. Open daily 5pm-1am