Maho Rasop Festival presented by Tawan Dang is the beginning of a new future for indie festivals in Thailand

Maho Rasop Festival presented by Tawan Dang is the beginning of a new future for indie festivals in Thailand

It’s been over 2 weeks since Maho Rasop and it’s still very firmly in my mind.

Thailand has many beautiful music festivals, some of which I have been to and some of which I have not. We have Big Mountain and Cat Expo, which give one the opportunity to sample massive sections of Thailand’s local music scene in one place, and there are countless other festivals that focus on a specific niche, with strong local indie, EDM and party options and standouts like Wonderfruit which are world class, but maybe more focused on lifestyle instead of music. Let’s be clear before we begin, Thailand is blessed with festivals.

There has been one area though that has been clearly lacking – and that is a regular, world class indie music festival, with a focus on bringing in top international indie acts. Now that might seem quite niche, or like something that isn’t that important to go without, but let’s give some context. Every year, Thai indie music fans attend countless local gigs and watch local talents, but when it comes to international acts, they have to go abroad to festivals like Singapore’s Laneway, Japan’s Fuji Rock, Hong Kong’s Cockenflap and Indonesia’s Good Vibes and We The Fest. Thailand simply hasn’t had an equal, until now.

If you’ve been to one of the above festivals, you’ll understand what Maho Rasop was like, but if you haven’t, the easiest way to describe it is that it’s like going to 20 gigs in one shot. For many, bands on the lineup like Slowdive, The Vaccines, Washed Out, Miami Horror and PREP, among others, are bands they have waited for a very long time to see, or that they were willing to travel abroad to see. To have these bands, and over a dozen others, available to see in 1 day is a truly special experience.

 

As one band would finish, the next would begin at another stage. It made for few sound clashes and ensured you could always continue on and watch something fresh. It was an interesting festival for me as I didn’t know that many of the bands and found it to be a true discovery process, roaming the space and being impressed by different bands, their sound, style and energy.

 

Billed the “first ever independent international music festival” in Bangkok, the event was organized in collaboration by Have You Heard?, Seen Scene Space and Fungjai, 3 of Thailand’s biggest indie organizers. To see these 3 companies come together is something I’m very proud of. I don’t know Seen Scene Space as well, but I know both HAVE YOU HEARD? and Fungjai well and I admire them for working together and that they were able to pull something of this scale off.

The organization was fantastic, with things starting off well and festival goers just missing a downpour, with sunny skies greeting the first bands. The schedule was set up very well, with bands rarely overlapping and I was quite impressed by how prompt everything was. As one band would finish, the next would begin at another stage. It made for few sound clashes and ensured you could always continue on and watch something fresh. It was an interesting festival for me as I didn’t know that many of the bands and found it to be a true discovery process, roaming the space and being impressed by different bands, their sound, style and energy.

It’s hard to recap the entire festival, but it’s easy to recap the bands and their standout moments, of which there were many. I unfortunately missed quite a few of the initial bands, coming in during Miami Horror’s performance, and it was hard to watch every set, with 3 stages and some shows simultaneous. But from other’s reports and my own experiences, I’ve gathered the gist of what happened throughout.

Chiangmai based Alternative Rock band Solitude Is Bliss had the difficult task of opening the festival in the heat, but pulled it off perfectly, getting their audience dancing and singing along. Next up, Bangkok based Gym and Swim and Yanin performed, Gym and Swim with a trademark performance full of bouncy energy, performing their tropical pop tracks and Yanin, who I think is at her very best right now, performing a great set in front of what is a growing fanbase that I was very sad to miss.

 

… Miami Horror … boy did they put on a show! They seemed intent to get the very most out of their set, with front man Josh Moriarty climbing up the side of the massive main stage and walking very precariously on the roof of it! It was the first international band of the evening, and it made it clear they were here with their A-game, truly rock and roll!

 

Next up were Australian Indie Funk band Miami Horror and boy did they put on a show! They seemed intent to get the very most out of their set, with front man Josh Moriarty climbing up the side of the massive main stage and walking very precariously on the roof of it! It was the first international band of the evening, and it made it clear they were here with their A-game, truly rock and roll!

Up next were Math Rock band Elephant Gym from Taiwan, who many of my friends said were their favorite of the night. They put on a masterclass act of sound, with the audience listening intently, tight with the stage. I then watched local act Temp. from the top of one of many lovely structures set up through the space, with this specific one in the middle giving a good view of the whole ground. Their lovely Thai pop songs drew a solid audience. Maybe a few guilty pleasures for some of the crowd? I then headed over to watch New York based Psychedelic Rock band Sunflower Bean, who played at the same time as Indie Rock act Rad Museum from Seoul. I felt that their performance was one of the best of the day, with band members Julia Cumming, Nick Kivlen and Jacob Faber absolutely murdering it, not letting their energy dip from a moment. Unfortunately the crowd was not as energetic, perhaps because beer just began being served at 5pm.

I headed over to see DEAN next, a contemporary R&B act from South Korea, with plenty of electronic and hip hop influences in his work. I must admit though I didn’t find him very indie, and I say that in a good way. You could tell that with his K-Pop feel and interactions there were many in the audience there on the day specifically to see him, and the crowd was in his spell. In any case, what a voice, and I liked that his songs seemed to portray modern interactions and relationships well.

Up next were local act Hariguem Zaboy and Washington DC based hip-hop act Oddisee with his band Good Company, playing simultaneously. I checked out Hariguem Zaboy first with a friend, and they put on a solid performance, just extremely dark, intense and scattered which many of their young fans clearly loved, rocking out with a similar intensity as lead singer At.

 

What followed was one of the best musical experiences I have ever had! It’s hard to put into words what Oddisee’s set was like, but it literally just ripped me out of reality and took me to a very different place … From the very first song I heard I was locked in. They took the audience from zero to one hundred intensity like THAT, and by the time they were a few tracks in everyone was jumping, everyone was dancing, everyone was in the moment.

 

But while I was watching I couldn’t help hear Oddisee’s performance, and quickly headed over to their stage. What followed was one of the best musical experiences I have ever had! It’s hard to put into words what Oddisee’s set was like, but it literally just ripped me out of reality and took me to a very different place. I’ve never heard someone rap like lead singer Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, I’ve never seen an act connect with a crowd that mostly didn’t know them like they did, I’ve never seen musicians convey complex yet important messages the way they did. From the very first song I heard I was locked in. They took the audience from zero to one hundred intensity like THAT, and by the time they were a few tracks in everyone was jumping, everyone was dancing, everyone was in the moment. I literally just held onto the front railing and danced with every moment of every song, and this to a band I have never even heard of before! You could tell it wasn’t just special for the audience, but for the band as well, who seemed touched by the response, promising they would return and saluting the crowd. No one wanted it to end and when it did people just stood around in shock of what had just happened, talking to those next to them about how epic it had been. It’s just something that is going to stay with me very clearly for a very long time.

The thing for me is that, while that was the big moment of the evening for me, I saw other’s experiencing moments of similar intensity at other performances. This was a night with something special for everyone.

American Chillwave act Washed Up were next, with the most dance-worthy set of the evening in my opinion. Their immersive electronic tracks coupled with fantastic visuals drew the crowd in and got everyone moving. Thai rave / electronic band S.O.L.E. were up next and put on a great show, joined on stage by some top talents from various Thai indie bands, their show ending in a brilliant mosh pit which I got right in the middle of!

Then, one of the highlights of the evening for many, Slowdive, considered one of the founders of the dream pop and shoegaze movement, performed at the main stage. It was a dreamy, poignant performance and I enjoyed seeing the complete joy on fans faces all around me, a childhood dream come true to see this band perform in Bangkok for the first time. Overlapping this performance was Japanese indie band Lucie, Too who charmed their crowd with a great set.

 

The thing for me is that, while that was the big moment of the evening for me, I saw other’s experiencing moments of similar intensity at other performances. This was a night with something special for everyone.

 

Finally it was time for the final 3 bands of the night, spread out over the all 3 stages. Australian Alternative/ Indie-rock band Vacations were up first and rocked the smaller Serng-Swing stage, beckoning the audience to get involved. With their set I felt like they were the sort of band that Thai indie bands currently are, excited when they’re on tour, experiencing things for the first time, and I loved the energy. Then UK Rock band The Vaccines and London local indie band PREP were up simultaneously. A band many audiences members had grown up listening to, The Vaccines put on one of the performances of the night, every song as dynamic and energetic as the last, getting the crowd singing along and jumping. PREP apparently also had a great performance, enjoying the moment and enjoying being in Thailand again, familiar with the audience and each other. The performances were paused for a moment by a royal motorcade, which was confusing at first, but rather humorous once the news spread to the crowd why the bands had had to wait to continue.

There were so many good moments and I truly found it the sort of festival that was very much worth the entrance fee. If one act wasn’t for you, another 5 would be. The energy from the crowd was generally good too, with plenty of groups fully enjoying performances, dancing and sharing memories with both friends and strangers.

 

In some ways, I feel this isn’t really an event review of Maho Rasop, but a summary of what I feel it means to Thailand’s indie music scene. With the next edition already set for next year with dates confirmed, ultimately what Maho Rasop will become is a standard. The next wave of indie talent here get to see a full-fledged, international indie festival right in the center of Bangkok. They get to see what that’s like, they get to dream – and trust me, those dreams are important.

 

In some ways, I feel this isn’t really an event review of Maho Rasop, but a summary of what I feel it means to Thailand’s indie music scene. With the next edition already set for next year with dates confirmed, ultimately what Maho Rasop will become is a standard. The next wave of indie talent here get to see a full-fledged, international indie festival right in the center of Bangkok. They get to see what that’s like, they get to dream – and trust me, those dreams are important. In the same way that Phum Viphurit has proven that a Thai talent can be a worldwide star, do a world tour and be loved by massive audiences for his very own indie tracks, Maho Rasop will show new talents what it’s like to headline a festival, what it’s like to create moments that stand out as unique and unforgettable even when surrounded by dozens of other top acts. It sets a benchmark for what to shoot for as an indie musician.

There are benefits for the casual concert goer and indie music lover as well. This won’t be the first festival of this nature, there will be many more, with Mangosteen Music Festival very well the next to come that is somewhat similar, with Kodaline, Phum Viphurit and Polycat already announced and more to come. Whatever the future holds, I will look back at this first edition of Maho Rasop as a turning point.

But more special than all of this, Maho Rasop proves the importance and dare I say advantage of working together. For Fungjai, HAVE YOU HEARD? and Seen Scene Space to come together, combine their teams, contacts and abilities and create this festival, it’s just unheard of. Being an indie musician or organizer is hard. It’s hard to stand out, to carve out your corner in the industry and it’s easy to get frustrated and not want to collaborate, to share – but Maho Rasop proves it’s worth it to put aside any differences there may be for a common good. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters?

 

Words by Abner Olivieri, photo credit Maho Rasop Festival

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