An Unlikely Way to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: An All-Night Thai Benefit Concert

When I was home last winter one thing I was a bit desperate for was some live music. Having gone to school in Charlottesville– an awesome town for music with a variety of happenin’ (albeit, seemingly-ever-changing… RIP Satellite Ballroom) venues– I was a bit spoiled when it came to watching live shows, whether it was a friend’s band playing a weekly free show at a bar, or some big names coming through JPJ (our affectionate name for John Paul Jones Arena, the “new”–in my day– basketball arena) or Charlottesville Pavilion. Proximity to DC and Richmond didn’t hurt in that regard.

In China, of course, there were the clubs, which often hosted flamboyant über-kitsch boy-band-esque troupes performing synchronized dance numbers; or scantily-clad, 6-inch-heel-wearing ladies mixing up L’s and R’s in English songs. Sometimes there were life-sized Garfields and Mad Hatters wandering around. It was entertaining, for sure, but not the kind of fist-pumping, losing yourself in the music experience I’d grown so used to.

Admittedly, in the four months I was home I was only able to catch two live acts (Chromeo; and Bright Eyes with Cursive, if you were wondering) not including the steady stream of weekend entertainment coming through the pub where I worked. But it did the trick, and left me wondering if I’d be left with another treble-clef-shaped hole in my heart upon my return to Asia.

For awhile said treble-clef was definitely forming. Then we made friends with a guy who managed and performed at one of our former haunts (before it shut down), and he’s introduced us to a few nearby places where you can find fun live music every night of the week (often featuring him). But it still lacks the atmosphere and electricity generally found in a proper concert environment.

Then Bodyslam happened. A real concert! Crowds! Hype! Colored lights! Middle and ring fingers pinned down by thumbs while pointers and pinkies go wild! And you may remember in the Bodyslam post I referenced Job2Do as Thailand’s “reggae darlings,” and said I wouldn’t mind checking them out sometime.

Well, ask and ye shall receive! When we went to Tonsai a few weeks ago we became friendly with Deat (Di-art?), one of the Thai staff at Chill Out Bar. He was happy to help us practice our Thai and in general we enjoyed each others’ company. We insisted he come visit in Thung Song one day and we exchanged numbers, though I must say I didn’t really expect much to come of it. A few days (a week?) later we got a call from him– with the message that Job2Do were coming to Hat Yai, his hometown, on the 17th of March and that we should go together. He’d come to Thung Song the 16th, we’d go visit his family the next morning, and then head to the show. In the words of an old British man we happened to observe once vacationing in the UK– God, why not?!

Deat arrived Friday on no sleep, having worked the Half Moon Party at Chill Out Bar the night before. So when we went to grab dinner (and catch the nightly band) at the nearby Mai Tong restaurant, he made use of my bicycle in order to dip out early and get some sleep. I’m really only sharing this to give context for these pictures that prove, yet again, that Jack was right and it is a boys’ bike.

Saturday it was up early to catch the minibus to Hat Yai. Before I knew it I was wedged between Deat and Wayne on the motorbike his brother left for him at the station, careening into the Thai countryside just outside of Hat Yai in the hot March sun (that might not mean much to you North Americans, but the March sun in Thailand is hot). We enjoyed our afternoon in Deat’s little town, full of inquisitive children and neighbors and aunts wanting to catch a glimpse of two of the first farang to find themselves in the town. Of course, after speaking two words of Thai most of them found it fit to fly into intricate stories completely in their southern Thai dialect (of which we understand not a word), which made for lots of deceitful nodding and grinning on our part, but it was nice to be so welcomed.

shot taken at the minibus station in thung song. this unknowingly set a theme of sorts for my weekend photography.

deat's house and his 'pool house' where he resides when he's home.

At some point sleeping arrangements were brought up. We thought the plan had been to camp at the concert-grounds, proper festival-style. But Deat asked if we’d rather camp there or just come back home when it finishes. Which of course begged the question… “Well when is it going to finish?”
“Oh, maybe only 6 in the morning. I think have many, many band.”
“6 in the morning?! When does Job2Do play?”
“Oh, I think only 3 in the morning.”

Turns out it was a huge benefit concert featuring a number of Thailand’s biggest bands. Presumably because it’s so hot during the day (not at all because they have very strange planning tactics in Thailand) they made it an all-night affair rather than an all-day one. So we had a delicious dinner of Tom Yum Talay, crabs, and noodle salad at Deat’s house with his friends, and set out to the venue around 7 pm.

advertisement for the show.

ready for a fun-filled evening!

When we arrived it was time to set up “camp,” even if it was uncertain whether the tents would get much use (spoiler alert: they didn’t). Unfortunately we found we were among the late-comers, and all the prime tent positions seemed to be taken. We assumed there was no way that huge crowd (10,000 strong, at least, we heard) could last the whole night, and that surely all those families with babies would be freeing up some space later in the evening. So we settled for a rocky patch right near the front, intending to seize an opportune moment to relocate the tents when possible.

excellent ground for sleeping on.

wayne/deat:1 o/arm:0

the show opened with some traditional dancing.

big crowd (that nice patch of grass was soon covered by the sleeping bag we thankfully brought-- would have been an uncomfortable 11 hours otherwise!). also my camera doesn't take the best night shots so i've edited these to look as best i could. some ended up with almost a new-age pointillism look, i think. see:

no thai to-do is complete without a fireworks show.

Deat had told us he was friends with the drummer and bassist of Job2Do and we were hoping to maybe meet them at some point. This didn’t happen (though when they took the stage Deat was helping set up their equipment), but we were graced with the presence of Rasta Zam for the near entirety of the show. Partially because he was sleeping diagonally across our sleeping bag the whole time, but he was cool to hang out with while he was awake. Tried to charge me 20 baht for a photo (presumably jokingly) but it didn’t take long to bargain him down.

some more 'artsy' (read: poorly exposed) photos of people going crazy. i believe this was when some band was covering, 'it's my life' by bon jovi.

somehow a southsider found his way to the show! goooo white sox!

told you 'sleeping people' would be a theme for this post.

one of the most entertaining bands taking the stage. meatloaf lookalike?

with a swinging brass section.

love the triple spoon in the back.

the guy in the white cowboy hat headed up the first band to play. claimed to have built this bike himself.

finally! at closer to 4 in the morning, job2do takes the stage.

job2do and someone waving a thailand flag.

(i have video of this song but it’s bad quality and only part of the song and i’m too lazy to upload. BUT it’s their signature song and you can imagine the crowd went wiiiild!)

As with the Bodyslam concert there was no booze allowed– to be brought in or bought there at the venue, allegedly to prevent fighting– which was probably a good thing because I doubt I would have made it to sunrise if I’d been drinking. And no, the hoards never died down so our tent remained defiantly situated and unused in its rocky ground. When the crowd cleared off our sleeping bag from time to time I’d lay down my weary head, but for the most part I rallied! And what a beautiful sight the sunrise was.

one last picture of a sleeping person.

found a nice seat on top of the septic truck.

And just like that, it was time to go. Unsure of how quickly 11 hours had slipped by, and feeling that the whole night had been a bit surreal, it was back onto the motorbike to finally get a few hours’ sleep at Deat’s before heading home

An excellent and very unique weekend (did I mention that a full night of some of Thailand’s hottest bands cost 200 baht– $6.67? And that unlike at American venues they didn’t triple the price of all the goods to be bought there?). Thanks so much to Deat for organizing it!