A fun and funky atmosphere greets you at Brown Sugar. (Photo: Courtesy of Brown Sugar)
With a thriving indie scene and an enduring passion for jazz, Bangkok offers plenty of places for lovers of live music to get their groove on. Whether you’re craving soul, funk, jazz or that old-time rock ‘n’ roll, the following bars can help you get your fix as you seek the best things to do in Bangkok.
Just steps from the backpacker mecca of Khao San Road, Phra Athit Road offers a decidedly more local scene. In lieu of reggae bars hawking watery buckets of vodka–Red Bull, you’ll find Thai hipsters and a laid-back, creative crowd.
Jazz Happens, a chilled-out joint where musicians of all generations come to jam, couldn’t be any cozier. Friday and Saturday nights tend to pack in a crowd, but the vibe is welcoming, and the music more than merits the slight squeeze.
Smooth, sultry jazz is the reason Bangkokians have been flocking to this institution’s various incarnations since 1985. The crooners at Brown Sugar are still some of the best in town, and the atmosphere is fun and funky.
1979 Vinyl and Unknown Pleasures
By daytime, this popular spot in Thonglor is an unassuming record shop with a collection of vinyl that spans the decades. By nighttime, however, 1979 Vinyl and Unknown Pleasures transforms into one of the hippest concert spaces in town. Some of Thailand’s top indie stars first belt out their hits here before they make it big.
The room’s tiny size never seems to stop the crowds from pouring in and boogying the night away. The fact that it’s part of a complex that also houses Black Amber Barbershop, a tattoo parlor and a whiskey bar, only ups the cool factor.
Thundering funk and soul bands pack this tiny Chinatown watering hole every weekend. The consistently excellent lineup and lack of a cover make SoulBar so popular that its parties often spill into the street.
Fortunately, no one seems to mind. Instead, revelers simply grab their beers and carry on dancing to the beat in one of Bangkok’s biggest recurring impromptu block parties.
Despite its out-of-the-way location near Victory Monument, Saxophone is one of the city’s most beloved spots for live tunes. Musicians play everything from jazz and funk to swing and acoustic guitar tunes, depending on the night.
In stark contrast to some of the city’s snobbier newcomers, this friendly dive sports the same unpretentious atmosphere as it had when it opened in 1987. Come for a quick drink and end up spending the night with a group of like-minded music lovers.
Brush past the sleazy-looking neon sign for what appears to be a Chinese restaurant and step into this subterranean den staffed by bombshells in Suzy Wong–style wigs and slinky qipaos. The ladies at Maggie Choo’s pout, pose, play cards or fan themselves while draped across the piano.
The entertainment varies — Sunday’s drag night is legendary — but often includes international jazz musicians.
The Iron Fairies
Once housed in a closet-sized shophouse in Thonglor, this steampunk-inspired speakeasy now resides in decidedly more spacious, but still atmospheric, digs. Glittering bottles of “fairy dust” and miniature sprites made of cast iron decorate the dimly lit space.
Live musicians rock the bar at The Iron Fairies every night of the week. While you listen, be sure to check out inventive cocktails like Smoke in a Bottle #1, an elixir of blueberry-infused vodka with elderflower, sage, cassis and cocoa presented in a bottle that would look right at home in Hogwarts.