Thursday, May 15, 2008

Live Music On Patpong : More Of The Same?

If as my Fuhrer suggests there is a plot to make the gogo bars of Patpong redundant by swamping the notorious acreage with live music venues instead, then the master plan is doomed to failure I’m afraid.
It’s true that there we now have the Muzzik Café, Radio City, the recently-added Twilo and the King’s Garden all offering live bands, but they are, it has to be said, very sad versions of the real thing. Live music should at the every least be LIVE as in ALIVE, to get the punters a-movin and a-groovin’, but the way things are now, you will need truck loads of speed or other uppers to get the thin crowds off their arses in the four venues we visited.

Let me qualify that sweeping indictment with the news that I too am a musician, so I am careful with any criticism when it comes to the output of the Brotherhood of Groove Merchants of which I am one. And to be fair, I am really having it out with the venues here rather than with the bands in Patpong, some of whom were actually not that bad.

But that’s the point – ‘not that bad’ doesn’t cut it at all!

We are talking about live entertainment in one of the most visited and most famous streets for entertainment in the world, and the bands should be nothing less than awesome and blinding and unmatched in Asia at the very least!

You can find any of the offending bars within walking distance of each other on Patpong 1 and they are all actually near neighbours with three of them at least owned and operated by the same company.

As you come down Patpong on your right you will see the latest addition to Susu’s empire – the rather oddly named Twilo Bar. It is a rather plastic looking, though comfortable and spacious enough bar with a broad stage and some very good sound equipment. Like one of the other three venues under the same management – Radio City – there is no music here until 10 pm which strikes me as kinda odd since the street is heaving with people from 7 pm. But Twilo was new and pretty and dead when we arrived at 9:30 pm. And of course, it was totally devoid of any custom too.

So we left and headed for Muzzik Café just a short block away on the same side of the street and there the seven-piece band ‘Geb And I’ were pounding out reggae, rock and pop hits to the satisfaction of a few customers at least. And very good this band was too, if not the best in town.

The Muzzik Café opened at the tail end of last century and has not changed a centimeter since. Here’s what one friend said about the place: “A different kind of venue…like a poor-man’s Hard Rock Cafe, it features deafening live bands, London prices and clingy freelancers.” Nor will you be impressed by the sand coloured, fibreglass and wrought iron interior with its corny detail, but it’s all very inoffensive and reasonably comfortable if you are just out to impress your recently-acquired partner from a nearby gogo bar. Two drinks will cost you three hundred baht and if you are enjoying your girl and the music you won’t care. You can sit outside, inside or at the bars facing into and out of the main room, and it packs in about 200 punters by the end of a busy night. But me and My Girl were on a mission, so drinks tucked away, we headed for the King’s Bar, literally around the corner on Patpong 2. Busy with music from nine, this place is staffed to handle hundreds although it may be a little over the top as the palce is not designed to hold hundreds. The King Band were in full swing when we arrived with Scorpion and tunes and more of the same culled from the charts of the past. Musical, tight and predictable but the two dozen or so punters already there were enjoying it and the place gets very busy the later it gets. However I can not prove how busy it was as the staff stopped me from taking pictures so we finished our Heinekens and left – me in a huff. And no comment.

So that left Radio City back towards the main drag on the right hand side going out towards Silom. There things were now underway but music here only started at 10 pm and the President Band were in full swing as we ordered our beers, roasted cashew nuts, chicken wings and spicy squid salad.

This is the first band I ever saw at Radio City as much as eight or nine years ago, and yes they still play much of the same material. Their Carlos Santana look-a-like guitarist plays great covers of Santana classics, they still do Deep Purple’s Smoke On the Water and throw in The Stones, Neil Young, Scorpions and of course The Eagles, and you know there will no musical surprises here. But that’s maybe what tourist-driven venues are expected to deliver. Competent bands playing predictable favourites well. I mean they cause no pain and I have to class it as harmless fun. The place was filling up as they got going and by eleven the Elvis impersonator was on and driving the international contingent of pissheads crazy.

Need I say more? We left soon after he got started at 11:30 pm and apparently he gets the boot when Tom Jones arrives at a half hour past midnight. So there is a god!

That meant we had to pass the Twilo Bar again on the way out of Patpong, so we stopped in for a beer to check out the band now on stage – complete with sequencer. Yes, and suddenly we had tunes from JLO, Puff Daddy, Eminem and others from the hip hop/rap scene from a very tight band of farang and Thai musicians known as The Chronics –and the manager insisted that was their name! The place was still empty as perhaps it just looks too nightclubbish for the girly part of town, but I dare say it filled up towards 2 am. It’s a youngsters’ hang out and the bar girls will love it as they can dance to all the latest hits too if they can persuade some punter to buy them out.

Its either that or head upstairs at Radio City where the Lucifer’s Disco is still going great guns and very well it should because it still looks great, has great music and there is room to dance and hang out too. Though it has to be said it is not the biggest disco in town.
Live Music On Patpong : More Of The Same?

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