Mixing it up in Bangkok – the Arts Scene is Alive and Well

by Robin Westley Martin

“Live Lounge BKK has been up and running now for about 16 months, and is starting to become known amongst the eclectic community of musicians, artists, poets, dance troupes, comedians, writers, and journalists – from Bangkok and beyond.”

When I used to live or travel in the UK and Europe I was always out and about – I get a buzz from meeting people – in London I visited Ladbroke Grove; in Paris, the left bank of the Seine; in what was then Czechoslovakia, the Charles Bridge; and in Berlin the Schwartze (Black) Café. These were all places where musicians, poets, artists, street performers, writers, and journalists all used to hang out, and they were the spawning grounds for acts that later became famous around the world, in their respective genres.

Every large city around the globe had similar enclaves that drew creative people towards them, and Bangkok was no exception. When I arrived in the city a good few years ago the place in question was the Rain Dogs Café, named after an album by American singer/songwriter Tom Waits. One of the founders was Cartoon, an accomplished Thai artist and musician, who had many other friends in the music and writing community, and it became a popular hangout for the creative types of the city, both Thai and foreign.

lead guitarist

But sadly, a few people who had been involved in the place from the start left the city, and it closed down a few years ago, leaving a vacuum. But now the vacuum has been filled, thanks to a new arts-dedicated venue in Bangkok, Live Lounge. Two young guys, friends since their schooldays, hailing from Britain’s Northeast, Max Rapkin and Davey Charlton, had noticed that there was a large space on Sukhumvit Soi 13, right in the middle of the city, that was not being utilised. They had a dream…

and they thought that this space would be the perfect place for somewhere to showcase the underground culture in Bangkok. They asked the owners of the space (The Sportsman Bar and Restaurant) if they could take it over and develop it into a venue that would showcase Bangkok’s vibrant arts scene. The owners were (and are) supportive of their vision, and Live Lounge BKK was born.

Live Lounge BKK has been up and running now for about 16 months, and is starting to become known amongst the eclectic community of musicians, artists, poets, dance troupes, comedians, writers, and journalists – from Bangkok and beyond. When they first opened up for business they put on a mini variety show featuring live music and comedy. The programme of events has developed well since the early days, and continues to do so, presently featuring music from solo and group performers, comedy stand-ups, dance, art exhibitions, poetry, urban beats, and DJ’s, such as Bangkok favourite Rory Breaker-Morant.

Max and Davey said that they aim to be a home for the artistic community in Bangkok, envisaging Live Lounge as Bangkok’s go to place for live performance, and to foster not only one, but the whole genre of artistic expressionism. It has been from the beginning – and always will be – a hub for creative development.

“The ultimate goal of Max and Davey is to facilitate and nurture the arts scene in Bangkok”

The tailor made events you can see at Live Lounge are designed to encourage artists and performers to be innovative, and help them to showcase their talents and skills by connecting to a wider audience. As a venue, Live Lounge BKK would like to collaborate with other spots in the city that share their love of the arts – the ultimate goal of Max and Davey is to facilitate and nurture the arts scene in Bangkok. Very soon it will be opening for 5 days a week, from Mondays to Fridays; there will be something for everyone, and a 7 day programme should be online by the end of the year.

Check this out… join the crowd of Live Lounge friends on Mondays to drink craft beer and listen to house band ‘The Stars of Bizzare’, or even join in and jam with them – you will be made welcome. Tuesdays is for movie lovers, featuring film screenings and post￾movie discussions focusing on cult and independent cinema. Wednesdays is ‘fun’ day – a weekly open-mic comedy gig, which will occasionally host international stars.

crowd

Thursdays features the well￾established poetry and spoken word happening. ‘Lyrical Lunacy’, ably hosted by Pablo Leroy Jenkonius, whilst Fridays are most often dedicated to live music, with events produced in house such as ‘Freshly Squeezed Sounds’ and ‘Spotlight’. This is the day to see the city’s up and coming solo or group performers, where you can expect to listen to new bands every session – recent acts have been the urban folk of Nathan Lynch, the poignant love ballads of John Lindsay, the superb Czech/Thai duo Bang Sue Electrix, or the jazz-fusion of Jinda John, all the way to the rock vibes of Gold Wolf. Fridays are also occasionally used for collaborating with other live music venues in the city to put on shows with some of their own performers.

I count myself lucky to have become a Live Lounge ‘friend’ quite early on, and have enjoyed some memorable nights there, including shows from international acts such as the Anglo-German band Das Fluff, or the rap set by New Yorker Fabian Farbeon Saucedo. I am still astounded when I think back to the exquisite performance of self-penned poetry and dance, set to haunting music, by the elegant (and beautiful) Aarti Saikia. Catch her next performance if you possibly can.

The increasingly popular Freshly Squeezed Sounds, showcasing four different groups or solo artists, is more often than not presented by MC and performer Danny Taro, who always does a great job of connecting with his audience. Max and Davey (who’s performer moniker is Charlie Banks) are the consummate hosts… go only once or twice and they will remember you on your return. Live Lounge BKK is on the right track – buy a ticket, and join them on their journey!

dancer

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