Soundtrack In The City

Bear with me a moment, for I am about to go all SITC on yo’ asses. Forgive me as I release my inner Carrie Bradshaw…

carrie loves vogue

…the trite wally.

Ahem (I would be delighted if you would indulge me by reading this in your mind’s ear with a whimsical American accent – most obliged):

‘That night, I arrived at the address in my little black dress, giddy and dizzy and nearly tripping over with nerves in my brand new ‘only-for-special-dates’ Jimmy Choos. And there he was; as tall and dark and mysterious as I remembered. Our eyes met and we walked towards each other as if in slow motion and I could almost hear the soaring violins. I flashed him my trademark wonky smile and flipped my hair like a dorky adolescent hoping he would be charmed by my quirkiness (always in the desperate hope that I do not end up alone). ‘You’re gonna love this place,’ he said and led me to the door of an impossibly elegant and utterly exclusive bistro. Through the window, candles flickered on intimate tables, couples leaned conspiratorially towards each other over red tablecloths, talking with their hands and clinking glasses of deep red wine or snuggled up side by side in sumptuous velvet booths, giggling and whispering in each other’s ears over boeuf bourguignon. It looked like something out of a movie… or Europe!

The Maitre D opened the door with a practised flourished and we were hit by the delicious smell of coq au vin mingled with Galois cigarettes and, at the very same time, a terrible realisation. Behind the mahogany bar, an incongruously large stereo stack mercilessly blasted pounding trance music. And I suddenly understood, the candles were flickering because of the throbbing bass and the couples were gesticulating so dramatically not because of their continental heritage, but because they were struggling to make themselves heard.

And it got me to thinking, are we all just struggling to make ourselves heard over the music?’ 


Preposterous, right?  Well, ^THIS^ silly little foray into the mind of Manhattan’s Manolo moron is, of course, utter fabrication; but the problem itself is one that is endemic in Bangkok. Allow me to furnish you with some examples and perhaps we can discern why…

Bombay Blues on Thong Lor Soi 10 is a wonderland. Kick off your shoes at the door and enter a Bedouin camp right in the city. All around, people are sitting, nay, reclining on floor cushions, playing Jenga and sharing morsels of fragrant Indian curry. The walls are hung with chiffon drapes and the low tables have holes in the middle for the beaded hookah pipes which come with a pot of liquid soap so that the air is filled with smoky bubbles lazily blown through fat straws. And what fills the ears of the patrons of this magical oasis? Maybe some plinky sitar music? Some world rhythms? Even some reggae or psychedelic rock? Nope. The DJ never wavers from his litany of brain rattling electronic dance music, played at an indescribably high volume.

On meeting some friends for dinner in Cocowalk in Ratchatewi, we found our favoured spot was full, so we opted for the charmingly named ‘Le Frenchy Restaurant’ – having an actual French among our number. Spindly tables were set inside and out on a carpet of plastic grass and the place was festooned with fairy-lit flowers and jungley plants – like a chintzy mad-hatter’s tea party in a garden centre. As we perused the culturally schizophrenic menu, we gently bopped to a spot of harmless French hip hop – fine. When the food arrived, however, things took a musical turn into the realms of screamy thrash metal played so loud as to put us off our escargots and som tam.

And I couldn’t for the life of me work out the reason.  Until…

I found myself in Oskar Bistro on Sukhumvit Soi 11 which boasts both an extensive (and quite delicious) food menu and absolutely NO dance floor. Yet, they insist on playing deep house at an ear splitting volume. One can no more dance than keep one’s noodles on one’s fork for the table-shaking bass, much less hold a conversation. And that’s when I understood. It’s all a sneaky money-making scheme by the shadowy, titular overlord:

drink up, eat up, less talking more spending

Ahah! Eureka! But wait…

Wine Connection used to do this legendary mid-week deal. Bosses, take heed, if your workforce habitually cleared out of the office at 5pm on the dot of a Wednesday it is because they were racing to Rain Hill to nab a ticket and a jealously coveted table at which to enjoy three hours of free flow wine and tapas. That’s right, all the quiche, parma ham and sun dried tomatoes a person can cram into their face between 5.30 and 8.30pm, accompanied by all the colours of the wine-bow for a mere THB 330 (about six English pounds). The only thing to mar this truly beautiful experience was an utterly baffling playlist. Every week without fail, we were treated to dance remixes of Carly Rae Jepson, Chris Brown and Rihanna and a LOT of unidentifiable tracks with Pitbull and J-Lo on them. I very often felt the urge to initiate a Zumba flash-mob… but usually overcame the impulse by sloshing more rosé down my t-shirt. Perhaps the smart arses among you will posit that this is in fact a wholly fitting  soundtrack for such an occasion and crowd and to that i say (through a mouthful of calamari)…

shut up

In this case of prix fixe,  no extra profit can be gained from the playing of wildly ill-fitting music. And so, I remain at a loss. Can anyone help me solve the mystery of the musical madness of Bangkok’s bars?



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