As some of you may know, I recently spent six months traveling Asia. During that time, I also got to discover some of the local music scenes there, including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan, and came across some really good artists and venues. This post is supposed to wrap up some of the hidden gems I discovered and sum up my recommendations, in case you should ever find yourself on this part of the world.
It’s definitely easy to have a good time in Thailand. Tourism is wide-spread and wherever there are tourists there is also party. Most of it will fall under the category mainstream and not satisfy underground music lovers. However, I did find deep house and tech house to be quite popular in Thailand and it was often not far from all the other parties. For example Boom bar in Pai could have some solid tech/deep house DJs playing on their Friday nights. The best venue I came across was Warehouse on the island Koh Tao. They host weekly Sunday raves with talented local DJs and artists from all over the world. And I’ve also heard that the buzzing capital Bangkok has a range of good clubs that I haven’t checked out yet such as Mustache Bar.
– Pai: Boom Bar
– Bangkok: Mustache Bar (I did not check out this venue myself)
Vietnam was the first country I came across in Southeast-Asia that actually seemed to have a well-established underground music scene. Again, there are a lot of tourists in Vietnam that like to party, and if you’re lucky you will find some decent music among these mainstream parties. In the touristy city Hoi An I came across the nightclub Serendipity that hosts events a couple nights a week. Sure, it’s still more of a backpacker vibe than underground, but I was happy to finally find some decent music again. One venue I was very curious about but didn’t get to visit this time is The Observatory in Ho Chi Minh City. It hosts some pretty good DJs and I only heard good things about it. Savage in Hanoi is probably the most popular and best club in Vietnam for electronic music. They have a good line-up each week and I found that the whole set-up pretty much matches European standards.
– Ho Chi Minh City: The Observatory (I did not check out this venue myself)
– Hoi An: Serendipity
South Korea’s underground music scene was probably the one I was most curious about, since it is still in its early stages but is home to so many talented local artists already. This time, I only went out in the capital Seoul, but apparently also Busan and the other cities have some good venues. While there did not seem to be a big crowd for this kind of music yet, I found the quality in night clubs and music to be extremely high. Concrete Bar in Seoul is that perfect mix between a bar and a night club. It mainly hosts local DJs and just has a nice and cozy atmosphere — Not saying you can’t have a wild night there. If you like dark, atmospheric techno clubs and deep, hypnotic techno vurt is the right place for you. It brings notable techno names to Seoul each week but also has some incredibly talented resident DJs. Faust is possibly the underground club in town that attracts the biggest crowd with its line-up. It hosts famous names every weekend and is more on the commercial site, still I honestly had a great time there. Another venue that has sadly closed down already is ain. However, you should definitely keep an eye on its very talented resident DJs Eden Highway and HCY.
Japan’s music scene really impressed me. The quality in clubs is extremely high and their sound systems were generally by far the best in Asia. Plus, they seemed to have the biggest crowd. Especially in the capital Tokyo there is loads going on each weekend and you have a variety of clubs to chose from. The most popular one probably being Contact with its two big dance floors and a weekly line-up that attracts a huge crowd. If you prefer a more underground vibe, you should check out Vent. It’s a very hip place with a well-selected line-up and the crispest sound-system. In Osaka the scene is way smaller, but you can definitely have a good time there. Either at its biggest underground club Circus with a fun, welcoming crowd or at the Compufunk record store that turns into a club on the weekend. And apparently also the city Kyoto has a small scene itself.