The Mixmag Asia guide to underground clubs in Bangkok
Tried, tested and true with a lot of heavy hangovers to prove it
If you’ve ever been to Bangkok or heard wild and raucous stories from someone who has, you’ll know how easy it is to go out for one drink and wake up two days later next to someone of questionable gender on seedy soi near Khao San Road. Even with things having calmed down in Thailand’s capital since the military took over 2014, Bangkok is still one of Asia’s top party destinations. It’s easy to end up on the wrong side of the tracks, however, but we promise there is a lot more to the city than bucket bars and EDM — there is house, there is disco, and there is lots and lots of techno — it’s just a little hard to find. Follow our little guide the next time you’re bound for Bangkok, and you’ll end up at the right kind of after-party.
For those looking for something industrial feeling but a little bit bougie, BEAM is Bangkok’s go-to for top tier house and techno DJs from Asia and beyond. The sound is ear-shifting with a thunderous sound system by VOID acoustics, minimal aesthetics and renowned programming that lead by music director Kritsada Vadeesirisak (also known as Marmosets). Fabric’s own Dave Parry was at the helm of the launch, and his touch is apparent throughout which makes for a properly immersive clubbing experience. That said, the Thong Lor club does have tables, fancy cocktails and an often hi-so crowd but they ted to mix and mingle well with the hardcore music aficionados. Over the years, BEAM has hosted acts like Tom Trago, M.A.N.D.Y, Eli & Fur, TOKiMONSTA, Soul Clap, Carl Craig, Marcel Dettman, and many more.
Studio Lam looks like a bar for audiophiles straight out of a Murakami novel. From its dimly lit interior, warm wooden walls and vintage record collection on display, it’s oozing with eccentric Japanese vibes throughout its ultra-small interior. There is no designated dance floor at Studio Lam; there is a however a very cool DJ booth and specially designed custom tube sound system, so what small space is available does turn into something lively. Parties regularly get so wild that they blow the roof (and speakers) off the place. Since the bar is part of the ZudRangMa Records family (it began as a radio podcast by the record store), most of the live music is adventurous and can span anything from Nigerian disco to vintage Cambodian rock all the way through to psychedelic blues. In fact, the bar solely exists to provide outside of the mainstream. Obviously, the staff and clientele boast a sophisticated musical style that you can learn something from. The cocktails are potent and made with over 30 different kinds of homemade ya dong, the beer interesting, the people eclectic, and the vibe bar none — altogether creating a kind of communal warmth in an intimate space that’s feels far away from Bangkok while being right along Sukhumvit.
When you first hear that your friends are headed to party in Lat Phrao, your first inclination could be to stay within the comfort of Sukhumvit. But Never Normal makes a strong case for making the journey worth it, night after night. Coming up in a post-pandemic landscape as a creative space for emerging artists, Never Normal is officially a four-story creative community space on Lad Phrao Soi 18 meant to connect music with art and culture, and inspire dialogues between creative identities in the film, music and photography spaces. It also has bold plans to become a production house and host workshops, activities and live concerts. But as with many creative spaces, after the sun goes down, the creatures of the night come out and command the dance floor. As such, Never Normal has become Bangkok's de facto spot for club nights centered around underground sounds and has been steadfast at luring anyone looking to escape the big club domination in the city's core. On most weekends, the programme features local collectives and up-and-coming independent acts, but occasionally we've seen some regional names show up on the bill like Indonesia's Jonathan Kusuma, Vietnam's Binh and India's Abhi Meer. Whatever the night, it promises something that's never normal—and we love that.
Stop into Shanghai in the 1930s where dim red lighting, retro-futuristic Chinese lanterns, cheongsam clad women and the occasional dwarf hurrying to the stage for a performance sets the mood for an atmosphere only found at this unabashedly theatrical venue. The bar and club is the brainchild of Ashely Sutton of Iron Fairies and Maggie Choo’s fame and boasts mezzanines, hidden backrooms and a dance floor that comes to life on the club’s pièce de résistance — a grand staircase. Best of all, instead of catering to an EDM cartel, the club has stellar music programmers at its helm and is a regular destination for acts like Sébastien Léger, Yokoo, Red Axes, Amine K, Technasia and more when in Asia.
Google Tropic City and you'll read about a lovely neon-soaked cocktail bar in the Charoenkrung neighborhood of Bangkok that reinterprets the rum-style tropics in a kitschy yet cool way. Sure, the cocktails are spectacular, but so are the parties—that's what you get when the bar's Swedish partners love breezy beats as much as they do booze. Ranking on both the World's 50 Best Bars and Asia's 50 Best Bars, if there were a similar list for clubs in Asia (but there isn't, phew), it would be right up there. On most Thursday and Friday nights, Tropic City welcomes a rotating cast of Thailand's top selectors playing anything from house, techno, breaks, boogie, funk and hip hop. But the space also lends a home to traveling acts from around Asia, most recently hosting a takeover by Seoul Community Radio and other artists from as far as China, Japan and the US. Go for a drink, stay for a dance, Tropic City is always a nice night out.
In its first incarnation,De Commune existed somewhere in the depths of Thong Lor in an abandoned room inside Liberty Plaza. The low-key venue came to life on the weekend when both bands and DJs took to the stage, before closing in 2020. Today the venue lives not far from the Democracy Monument and Khaosan Road, scaring off loyal Sukhumvitists but appealing more to musically-charged Thai youths and travellers, and remains committed to its music policy of underground techno, drum ’n’ bass and acoustic gigs like jazz.
The venue is described as a “come together” project by a passionate group of people from the underground. They shared similar interests in needing a space that doubles as a live house, art space and club with a caring quality for sound-system, lighting and visuals. While small, depending on the night, the venue is a worthy contender for a throwback to the old clubs of Bangkok's once-legendary nightlife and can offer anteing from pulsating techno and experimental electronic to drum ’n’ bass (and even the odd punk rock band). Scene stalwarts like NT66, Marmosets, Delorean, and Mendy Indigo can be found playing here, but so can international acts like Zinc.
This cosy vintage-style bar is a hipster magnet that churns out eclectic underground music in the regular in an excellent atmosphere. It’s super casual and low key with couches, a bar to sit at and musical accompaniment that will transport you to an era gone by. The bar is a hidden gem, and that always makes for a great low key night out — think Japanese beers and homemade plum wine coupled by an intelligent soundtrack. We’ve never heard of a “big” DJ playing here but you never really do when it comes to all the best audiophile bars in Japan, where 12x12 gets its inspiration from. And here’s a story we love to tell: we previously bid farewell to 12x12 but turns out its time had not yet come, and it was resurrected and saved, and thanks to some donors, the space was recently renovated, soundproofed and a new venue installed.
V12 by Onyx
Onyx is one of Bangkok's loudest clubs…if you like EDM (they just hosted Skrillex, Blasterjaxx and a slew of other chart-topping artists). But to cater to the city's rumbling appetite for a more underground sound, the club acquired neighboring V12, which now opens for special events. Upon opening in 2021, V12 was also the first club in Thailand to be powered by Funktion-One's state-of-the-art Dance Stack®. Because it opened during the pandemic, the club gave local acts a place to party but with Thailand's swift bounce back to clubland, V12 is now also one of the few spaces equipped to host bigger international acts. Recent billings include Richie Hawtin, Nakadia, Sven Väth, and many more.