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Rock Pop And 80s Synth: Thailand’s Amazing Indie Music Scene

Bangkok’s live music scene will strum the strings to your heart. Image courtesy of: DigitalVision/iStock/Getty Images Plus Collection/Getty Images.

Alternative rock can turn up in the most unlikely places in Bangkok. On a recent afternoon, Yellow Fang, an all-female, three-piece band, took the stage at the upscale mall emQuartier, luring the shoppers from designer boutiques to hear hook-laced original tunes against the dramatic backdrop of a 100-foot-high waterfall.

Yellow Fang is one of many local acts playing everything from catchy rock and ’80s pop to retro disco in venues ranging from shopping centers and community spaces to bars, clubs and lounges.

Here are a few hot spots to sample the local music scene:

Mall Music Sampler

The architecturally striking The Street Ratchada, another so-called “lifestyle mall” with shopping, dining and entertainment venues, also hosts regular performances. The mall’s offerings even include a three-day festival, 25 Hours, boasting a range of local acts, including Yellow Fang; melodic all-girl three-piece Jelly Rocket; Thailand’s flamboyant and gender-bent answer to the UK’s Placebo, Chanudom; and electronics-driven funky disco act Cyndi Seui.

Modern Pub Scene

Mamao Bar has become a prime destination for indie bands like Somkiat, a young Weezer-esque five-piece that crafts infectious head-bobbing confections, and Polycat, a trio hailing from Chiang Mai whose synth-drenched, catchy ditties and ballads seem to funnel directly from a 1980’s alternate universe Top 40 radio station — the group even made a cameo appearance in The Hangover 2 during the wedding scene. Following a recent makeover, Mamao Bar now sports a rustic concrete interior with street art flourishes, compact stage against a brick wall, a bar, pool table and a sprawling patio with plenty of tables, a grill and a full menu.

At Fatty’s Bar & Diner, a more scrappy burger and craft beer joint with a small corner stage, guitar-driven bands with a more aggressive sound rule. Keep an eye out for the Pixies-esque Hariguem Zaboy and heavy metal rockers Degaruda, while the annual Fatty’s Fest, held in late May, programs a spate of up-and-coming artists and favorites.

Viva Las Divas

Less raucous in its music lineup and massive by comparison, Sanam Pao’s Older leans more towards cocktails and whiskey, with a second seating level and an outdoor patio. Recent acts have included well-known indie performers Scrubb, Atom and Gene Kasidit. The latter previously served as front man of the popular electro-clash band Futon, went solo and changed gender to become a genre-bending electro pop diva. Her most recent single, “Shop At First Sight,” is like a Thai version of a Madonna tune.

Lounge Life

A relative newcomer to the scene is The Owl Society Whiskey Salon, a speakeasy-styled lounge located in the vibrant nightlife district Ekkamai, just four stops via BTS from Wireless Road’s Phloen Chit station. Here, you can listen to live jazz and soul acts Thursday through Sunday, while sipping concoctions, such as “Horned,” a blend of bourbon, homemade pear and rosemary puree and lemon.

Of course, if you prefer to chill to music in your hotel room or via a mobile phone, visit the store called Happening at Bangkok Art & Culture Center, aka BACC, where you can browse among a wide selection of Thai indie rock and pop CDs.

Ask for a listen to Casinotone, Squeez Animal or Wave And So or perhaps a newly discovered act — and you will soon be in-the-know about Bangkok’s ever-changing music scene.