Being no stranger to Asia’s club circuit, Sydney-based artist A Friend of Marcus recently went on a dreamy tour of Asia that started in mid-December and whirled into early days of January to kickstart his 2023 season with plenty of noise.
Beyond his entrenched history in club music around the world as a DJ, producer and booking agent, Tony Plowman aka A Friend of Marcus is a fervent gourmand, wine connoisseur (more specifically, a certified Sommelier) and avid writer.
In addition to having shared the stage with the likes of Solomun, Jamie Jones, Dixon, Sasha, Apparat, Guy Gerber, Scuba and Henry Saiz, his productions have found homes on some of the world’s leading electronic imprints including Renaissance, Last Night on Earth, Natura Sonoris, Blaufield, featured on two Balance Music compilations, regularly placing in the leading positions on Beatport charts. He was recently featured Christian Smith’s Tronic podcast, as well as 333 Sessions.
Dive in below to get a feel of what touring in Asia is like with A Friend of Marcus from journaling his extravagant and intriguing experiences for Mixmag Asia readers.
DAY 1 – 7 Bali, Indonesia
Being a DJ, producer and owner of TigerStyle touring for the past 18 years, I am no stranger to travel. However, since covid cut the earth from under us, the excitement of three weeks in Asia was higher than usual.
Dec 16 was the first date - Burning Beach festival in Nusa Dua, Bali and embarrassingly, this would be the first time I had set foot on The Island of the Gods for 30 years. Sadly, the gods were not smiling that day and when I arrived on site, it was much colder and wetter than imagined. The venue - Canna was impressive. A modern blend of sheer rock and opulent Mexican hacienda cascading from the cliff top to the ocean. I was the first international on the main stage alongside Anja Schneider, Nakadia and Dubfire, and after having to deal with some tour agent drama earlier that day, I could finally concentrate on my set. Unfortunately, the rains kept the crowd from joining so it was quieter than I’d hoped. Big tracks were Nick Morgan 'In your head' and Dusty Kid’s amazing remix of rave classic 'Brainticket' by Ramin.
The next night I was back, this time with the legend Danny Tenaglia and his right-hand man, Gui Ramos. DT offered a masterclass in DJ’ing, for me the best of the festival. The fireworks rang out the night, as we all scattered into the many afterparties populating the various areas of the expansive venue. I caught up with long time buddy (and now Mixmag Asia Director) Arun Ramanathan, up and coming Vietnamese DJ Ling:chi, and also spoke with famous actor Rio Dewanto about his venue Nebula in Jakarta.
The rest of the week was spent on somewhat of a club tour. With so much happening in Bali nowadays I made an effort to get to everywhere I could. In review, the most underwhelming - I won’t mention. The most confusing was Atlas, which was more theme park than club! The highlights included – Savaya, Ulu Cliffhouse, Finns, Mari Beach Club and Morabito - which took me by surprise. Not only was the beach location beautiful, their line ups intelligent and the sound system VOID Acoustics, but with previous owner - the famous designer, artist and art collector Pascal Morabito still living on site, the visit felt personal. Currently under renovation and properly launching later this year, the intriguing space will host 12 individual suites featuring the art of Pascal and his collection. Without a doubt, this will become a destination hotel.
After seven days I was done, I just cannot handle the traffic in Bali. I remember now why it's taken me 30 years to come back.
DAY 7 – 13 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The next stop was Kuala Lumpur, and after an incredible afternoon thunderstorm, I enjoyed the best (and first) hot stone massage I’ve ever had for the bargain price of AU$35 . I was later told by old friend, the scene was struggling as the Malaysian RM was down five to one on the U.S. Dollar. I listened as he spoke about the changing scene, unprovoked police raids and Nigerian mafia killings. Things are not easy for promoters in KL currently, but walking into The Iron Fairies, I felt at home.
After greeting local legend Alam, and feeling the persisting effects of a recently consumed durian (another first); I hit the decks. The room started to fill and built to a great vibe. The biggest tracks were 'Water' by Bicep featuring Ann Clara and Henri Bergman's 'The Reason'. I was just getting warmed up and had to finish but am very much looking forward to coming back. Hopefully the club is still around in the existing format.
The next few days were taken up with Xmas yum cha at Grand Imperial Sunway with an incredible London duck, shopping at the monstrous KLCC shopping centre at the bottom of the Petronas Towers, and running the gauntlet with hordes of very handsy monkeys at Batu Caves. The stay finished with a trip to Chinatown and eating claypot chicken and tilapia fish at Hong Kee. A must try for any food lover.
DAY 13 – 17 Phuket, Thailand
After a short flight I arrived in Phuket, and was soon enroute to Amanpuri, AMAN resorts Asian jewel. Amanpuri is not hard to describe. Put purely, it was paradise.
Crystal clear water, lapping at a white sand beach where the palm trees gently quiver to the whispers of the wind. This is a playground for the rich and famous. With rooms starting at US$2,000 per night in high season, and villas starting at god knows what, if you’re there, chances are you’re somebody (or in my case, friends with the G.M. and booked to play NYE.)
Later that night, I was invited to a villa party and amongst the 100 or so guests in attendance was the owner of a top European football club, the owner of a global liquor brand, a world-famous fashion designer, the chief editor for a global magazine and multiple billionaires from various backgrounds along with their friends and families. Everyone I spoke to was refreshingly friendly, interested and down to earth.
NYE was quite the spectacle, a ticketed event, exclusively for AMAN guests at US$ 2100 + tax per person. I was playing the afterparty with long-time Argentinean friend Kintar; who I've known for 20 years but had never met in person. The crowd was a mix of all ages, which made it difficult to please everyone, but the younger crowd got into it, especially to Rampa 'The Church' and Avnu 'Systematic'. Kintar took it home with a mix of afro and tribal sounds. At the end of the night I met the owner of AMAN - Vladislav Doronin (or “Mr. Chairman” as he's called) and thanked him for a great stay. We all wished each other the very best for 2023.
The next morning, my friend’s dog woke me up after three hours of sleep, (I think as punishment for getting a free ride) so I got up and made the most of my last day by water skiing and taking in the sun, all the while wishing I didn't have to leave.
DAY 18 - 20 Dubai, UAE
Touch down Dubai, but it wasn't long before I was back in the air, this time taking the fast way down via Skydive Dubai. Not my first skydive but my first in Dubai and one filled with anticipation. There was a slight haze in the clear blue sky but the white beaches, the palm Jumeriah and multiple new developments were clear to see.
The freefall was fast but the rush lasted the rest of the day as I checked out the Burj Khalifa, the Museum of the Future and stayed cool in the Dubai Mall indulging in Turkish sweets from Hafiz Mustafa (est. 1864.)
The next morning I took a Careem (UAE’s version of Uber) to Abu Dhabi and went to the Louvre. The juxtaposition of viewing timeless artefacts in one of the world’s most modern buildings was inspirational, especially as I had defied death the day before.
That night I had a show at Ikon at Club Blu Dubai. It was my first time playing in Dubai and after seeing the level of exuberant luxury in the city I wasn’t sure what to expect. The venue was more table club than dance floor, flashing lights, LED’s and choreographed dancers.
True to form, their hospitality didn’t disappoint, without prompt providing me a bottle of 2014 Cristal rather than the US$15 lukewarm bottle of prossecco I’m used to receiving. After an amazing warm up from Aaryon, I understood the vibe instantly and the show turned out great. I got a big reaction to Nandu’s reinterpretation of Marcan Liav 'Jeanne' and I couldn't resist playing Simple Symmetry’s remix of 'Bo Ni Ke' by Inigo Vontier getting everyone on their feet. Can’t wait to do it all again.
DAY 21 - 22 Phuket, Thailand
After two hours sleep I was back on the plane to Phuket, this time for Café del Mar. After almost being rained out in the side room last May, I was looking forward to playing in peak Summer on the main terrace, even more so since they had recently installed a new DJ booth and D&B sound system. Adding to that I was sharing the same monthly promo as Boys Noize, Marco Carola, Sven Väth and Stephan Bodzin, a true honour.
The crowd was a mix of Russian, Thai, French, Italian and Aussies, all up for it and I managed to push them from deep house through to deep techno. The big tracks were Adriatique’s remix of Rufus du Sol “On my knees” and Deetron’s super cool remix of Fabio Vanore & Bellville’s “Space Cowboys”. I finished with Moullinex & GPU Panic “Pacifico” and it was all smiles and hugs as the last show came to an end. A great tour over.
DAY 23 – 26 Bali
Even though my gigs were done, the work wasn't, and I headed back to Bali for Marco Carola’s show at Savaya. But before that could happen, Singapore Airlines happened to lose my luggage, meaning I had no clothes suitable for the hot and humid Bali weather. Saving me was the fact I’d booked a private villa with pool, but annoyingly none of the restaurants in the surrounding area were open when I arrived, so I ended up swimming in the nude and ate a block of chocolate for dinner. Luckily the walls were high.
The Carola show was pumping. Savaya was looking great, as was the crowd. Marco played a lighter sound than I expected but it suited the venue and the night. I caught up with many of the Bali crew I hadn’t seen in years, the Italian crew, and made some new friends too including Dave Whelan from Camelphat who commenting on the number of girls in the booth for Marco realised - “I’ve been doing it wrong all these years…”
Feeling tired, yet somewhat refreshed I looked forward to heading home, but also returning to all these people and places soon.
Follow A Friend of Marcus on Instagram here.