The Brick Bar is certainly one of Khao San's most happening places. The focus here is on live ska and reggae, and the huge joint can hold 1200 people, which it often does. Despite being in the heart of Khao San Road, the Brick Bar gets lots of young Thais who come to party and dance the night away. 3 bands play each night between 8 and 130, with Teddy Ska being the current favorite and top draw. It gets hot and sweaty in here, but everyone is having a good time and this remains one of the most lively clubs and nightspots in all the area if not in Bangkok.
Recommended for Live Music because: For happening live music on lively Khao San Road, the Brick Bar gets thumping.
Dave's expert tip: Get here by 8 if you want a table and a good spot to dance in, this place gets packed, especially on weekends.
Over 25 years in the running, offering up the best jazz and blues in Bangkok, Saxophone is a happening pub frequented as much by Thais as by expatriates. The music is sizzling, with 3-4 different live bands each evening plus occasional visits by international artists, with several sets offered each night. The pub has a spacious and comfortable layout, within a short walk of the Victory Monument Skytrain Station, and has been voted as the Best Music Venue in Bangkok by several publications again and again. There are pool tables upstairs, excellent Thai food, and a wide array of cocktails and beers on tap.
Recommended for Live Music because: Saxophone has been churning out excellent live music for over 25 years and remains the best jazz and blues venue in Bangkok.
Dave's expert tip: Arrive early if you want a table downstairs near the band. Conversely, if you've come to talk, grab a table upstairs away from the rocking down below!
JAM calls itself an "Underground Music Venue, Emerging Arts Gallery & Cine Club," which pretty much hits the nail on the head for this unique creative space hidden in a small lane off of bustling Sathorn Road. From underground to grunge to psychedelic, just about every eclectic music form gets represented here, and on the nights when there are no live tunes, you can count on alternative indie film, art exhibitions, talks, and more, not to mention there are burgers, cocktails, and plenty of interesting characters around to keep you busy. If you want to meet independent artists, or are just looking for a down to earth, unpretentious night out, this is the bar for you.
Recommended for Live Music because: For Bangkok's most creative underground music and art space, you can't do better than JAM.
Dave's expert tip: Take the BTS to Surasak, from where it is a 5-minute walk down to Charoen Rat Road, where you turn left and then left again at the fork onto Charoen Rat 1.
As the name says, Apoteka seeks to emulate a 19th century apothecary, with plenty of old wood and brick and lots of potion looking glass bottles up on the shelves. The retro feel is in here, but the scene is very modern. Not only does the bar have some great signature cocktails and a wide variety of beer and wine to select from, but the happening bar on trendy Soi 11 is also home to some of Bangkok's best live music. The Keith Nolan Blues Band, one of Bangkok's finest blues outfits, are regulars, as is the popular Soi Dog Blues Band. If you appreciate good blues, this is the best you are going to find on this side of town. In a street that has become noted for its trance, DJ, and full on electro-style parties, Apoteka feels a bit more refined and elegant, and is an excellent choice for a night out.
Recommended for Live Music because: For outstanding live blues and jazz in a trendy neighborhood, you can't beat Apoteka
Dave's expert tip: From 530-830 they do a 99 baht happy hour here with house spirits and beers going for cheap. It's a bit far to walk here from Sukhumvit. Take the Sky Train to Nana, walk over to Soi 11, and grab a motorcycle taxi down the soi.
There aren't many places left in Bangkok these days playing live rock. Actually, there is only one! The Rock Pub bucks the Bangkok trend (electronica and house) and instead caters to rockers, with live heavy metal, grunge, and hard rock acts each night. A wide array of genres is covered, from death metal to classic rock to thrash, and the surroundings befit the black leather headbanging scene, as the place resembles a dungeon or cave. The best Thai guitarists still show up here; Olarn, Lam Morrison, and Pop the Sun, along with the occasional foreign outfit joining the rotating house bands, some of whom can cover classics note for note. If loud and heavy is your thing, don't miss a night here.
Recommended for Live Music because: There are almost no places left to see live rock in Bangkok, but The Rock Pub stays true to its roots, now over 25 years running.
Dave's expert tip: Shows here start very late, with the opening bands getting going around 10, and the headliner not coming out until midnight, so drink slowly and plan accordingly. The Rock Pub is in the building resembling a castle, right across from the Asia Hotel and Ratchathewi Skytrain station.
Set in a three story shophouse over on Suan Plu off of Sathorn Road, which seems to be Bangkok's most up and coming new drinking spot, Smalls is the brainchild of David Jacobson, the nightclub whiz who started the famed Q Bar in Bangkok several decades ago. The decor is decidedly Parisienne, and the mesmerizing signature cocktail list is enhanced by a large selection of absinthe drinks, with a traditional absinthe spigot sitting on top of the bar counter. It's also well worth coming here on Wednesday night for the music, as there is some great live jazz here, featuring the picking prowess of Dan Phillips and his quartet, who play every week, and the bar also has plenty of special nights, like Vietnamese pho served on Sundays and buy one get one drinks for members of the hospitality industry on Mondays.
Recommended for Live Music because: For hot live jazz in an intimate environment, try Smalls
Dave's expert tip: Suan Phlu lies just off of Sathorn Road. Nearest public transport is the MRT Lumpini metro station, but probably easier to just jump in a taxi.
Housed in a small shophouse at the edge of Chinatown, Soulbar continues the trend of funky and cool bars that are springing up in an area formerly full of crumbling old buildings. While most of the bars around here focus on drinks and atmosphere, Soulbar just sticks to great music and dancing. While the place is far too small for the crowds they draw in, with customers often dancing and drinking out on the sidewalk out front, it's nevertheless a great hangout place with a very friendly vibe. There are live soul and funk bands led by the neo soul band Supergoods, and there are jazz and Latin nights as well. The talent level here is excellent, the drinks are good, and it is a really fun venue.
Recommended for Live Music because: For an intimate bar with superb soul sounds, Soulbar is a one and only affair.
Dave's expert tip: The bar is about equidistant from the Marine Department ferry pier, Hualamphong MRT station, and Saphan Taksin BTS. You'll still need to take a taxi the extra distance, or else do a 10-15 minute walk. Note that they are closed on Mondays.
Fatty's is a real institution in Bangkok. A one of a kind complete hole in the wall dive bar that happens to serve some of the city's best burgers along with its cheapest drinks at the same time as standing for the best venue for live indie music in town. Weekends see the place packed out, as some of Bangkok's top indie bands rock the neighbourhood, while weekdays offer open mike nights on Tuesdays, along with game nights or other happenings. The burgers here are legendary, the bartender serves the cheapest craft beer and cocktails you will find in the city, and the vibe here is completely unpretentious, earthy, and fun, although it is most definitely not centrally located.
Recommended for Live Music because: For unpretentious great live indie music, you can't top Fatty's.
Dave's expert tip: Easiest way to get here is to take the MRT to Phra Ram 9 station and then walk 10 minutes west on Din Daeng. Otherwise take a taxi and call the bar for directions.
This bar is a great introduction to the Thai alternative or underground music scene. Owned by a DJ who ran the creative ZudRangMa Records, the dimly lit bar is home to a mix of live sets and DJ tunes, along with some superb homemade herbal Thai white spirits, known as ya dong. You get groups here like the Paradise Bangkok Molam Band, who play traditional Thai music from the countryside that they fuse with modern beats, and an ongoing lineup of reggae, funk, and ska bands; pretty much anything creative and removed from the normal Bangkok electronica/house sound. Bohemian Bangkokians with a penchant for Caribbean and African sounds gravitate here, and the upscale ya dong puts it in a league of its own.
Recommended for Live Music because: For creative and alternative beats, plus homemade herbal spirits, Studio Lam is a unique choice.
Dave's expert tip: Take the BTS to Thonglor and walk over a few blocks to Sukhumvit Soi 51.
You might not have a seat or even be standing outside, but it's still worth the trek over to Banglamphu to check out this Bangkok institution. This little hole in the wall has been going strong for decades. Despite being as big as a shoe closet and a bit out of the way, locals pack the joint every night for Bangkok's best live jazz and blues, with the house band playing BB King, Louis Armstrong, and John Lee Hooker to the appreciative crowd. Describing Adhere as a honky tonk dive bar isn't too far off, and everyone who shows up has fun. If you bring along an instrument, you will inevitably be invited up to jam and the vibe here is an easy going one, where Thais and foreigners mix happily.
Recommended for Live Music because: Adhere the 13th has the best live and local jamming in Bangkok, with plenty of great local talent to go along with the unpretentious atmosphere.
Dave's expert tip: To get here you need to get to Khao San Road, walk to the end to Chakrapong Road, then head north up over the Samsen Canal, where you will find tiny Adhere on the left.