In 2006 I was living and working in Bangkok, Thailand. What a time to be there – Oasis, still a band, played the city. I had seen them once before, the previous year, July 2005 at the City of Manchester stadium. That was as crazy as you’d expect. Not just a homecoming gig, but at the home of Manchester City. The madness of the crowd made it one of the most memorable gigs for me.
Seeing Oasis, along with the legend that is Ian Brown, and other bands at an outdoors Bangkok festival, I always expected a different vibe. I knew the tropical climate and the buzz of Southeast Asia would give the event a unique atmosphere, but I never considered how blown away I would be by the evening.
I left the festival knowing it was something special, and now, when I look back on it, I realise how lucky I was to be there. Oasis may yet reform – Liam doesn’t stop dropping hints on Twitter – but I am not sure a night in Bangkok with Oasis and Ian Brown will ever be replicated.
The week after the festival, I wrote the following, published on the online Khao San Road travel mag. My 2006 self has made me cringe in parts, but I have kept it totally unedited.
I began at Chatuchak market where tropical rain storms had killed the electricity, so in the dark humidity, I mingled with the tourists and locals, in search of a cheap pair of closed toe shoes, required to prevent getting my feet squashed.
I finally found a small, cramped stall selling 190 Baht fake ‘converse
all-stars’, so I quickly snapped up a pair of size nines. Then with a flash, the electricity came back on and, in the haze and humidity, I remembered where I was going that night.
In a well lit internet café in the backpacker district of Bangkok, I realized that the concert was starting in half an hour, and I was far from the venue. With this, I ran off to see my girlfriend to give her a big kiss, then jumped on a bus to Chatuchak, where I changed to a taxi to Muang Thong Thani. It took a while to find the venue as the sleepy driver of the worn-out cab did not know about it.
He dropped me off on a big intersection and I could clearly hear the sound of a foreigner on a huge bass ridden PA system, so following my ears, crossing some busy three-laned roads with motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and a lot of pick-up trucks, I found myself at the perimeter fence of what appeared to be a huge area of concrete, like a big car-park. It was here that I believed I would see some very exciting bands that night.
The sound to my ears, I decided, was a band I did not know, called Deus. Anyhow, they provided me with a useful direction with which to follow. The perimeter fence was very long, but very low, and if I didn’t already have a ticket, I would have considered jumping it. Looking up and around, I could see giant elevated roads, lit up in every direction, where non-ticket holders who didn’t want to risk jumping the fence, could have stationed themselves with a bottle of Samsong, and had a very acceptable night.
I found the entrance and traded in my voucher for a small ugly teddy bear, and what looked like a backstage pass but turned out to be a band info leaflet that I could hang around my neck, so I could act like I had a backstage pass. Trouble was, in every direction I looked, other people had them on. I then walked in, with the hope that they wouldn’t find my disposable camera, then happy that they didn’t find my disposable camera, and was confronted by a series of stalls selling spicy Thai food, fried chicken feet, and Coca-Cola. Puzzled, I then remembered that I was in Thailand, and was then equally puzzled by the lack of alcohol on sale.
It was then that the image of the local men stood outside the perimeter fence with 7-Eleven bags full of beer, and the desperate looking foreigners standing on the inside with parched looks on their tanned faces, hit me. They had run out of beer! I didn’t mind missing the Thai bands, but I was hoping for a beer to cool me down during the heat of ‘Turn up the Sun’.
So subtly turning back on myself, I walked to the perimeter fence, and negotiated a can of Leo Beer for 40 Baht. I screwed up two 20 Baht notes into some sort of torpedo that would hopefully get across the buffer zone, and threw them with perfect precision, to the Thai guy, who in return hurled the can at me, which I caught with both hands. Cracking it open, I overheard rumours that Ian Brown was appearing next, so I casually strolled towards the gated off stage area.
Now for 3000 Baht, I would be very fortunate to get a front section standing ticket to see three amazing bands in the UK, so it seemed like a ‘must have’, therefore I had to have it. This crossed my mind when downing my can to get into the ‘can-free’ audience. Not only was the audience supposed to be ‘can-free, but also ‘camera-free’, so with my disposable camera tucked neatly in my back pocket, I confidently shifted through security to the back of a small sectioned off area. This was the ‘expensive’ ticket zone, and I felt like I’d got an absolute bargain.
Confronted by 300 sweaty people in front of me, and 10 cameras behind me, I felt like I had arrived. It all made sense. They, like me, were here to experience the sound of some musical legends.
A bit of waiting gave way to a familiar looking figure in a pink shell-suit.
Yes, the Ian Brown himself! Wasn’t he hot in that attire? I would be, but then again, I’m not Ian Brown, am I? I’ve never fronted a band called The Stone Roses, have I?
So there he was, and he did a very interesting dance that got the crowd going. He was complete with a suitably large ego that said he once fronted a
band called The Stone Roses, and he even did some of the songs. ‘Waterfall’ and ‘She Bangs the Drums’, made familiar listening and sprung up a few goose-bumps.
Then I remembered what was to come. Were Franz Ferdinand really going to come on next? Or was this a dream? Then Oasis? This had the makings of a strange and surreal dream, but it was not.
I pinched myself and was not complaining when I found myself still at the
gig. Ian Brown finished with a Bob Marley cover, and then gave way to some roadies who changed the equipment, and sound-checked for the 21st Century Pulp.
Now I never got the opportunity to see Pulp live, but I guess they would
have been good. But seeing Franz Ferdinand swept Pulp from my mind. By the time they’d come on, I’d intercepted a spot halfway to the front barrier, about fifteen metres way, which was perfect.
The madness was perfect. The crowd was wild. It seemed to be a good mix of nationalities, including a significant English crowd. Now, I’m not sure what it is about Oasis gigs, but wherever in the world they play, I reckon they will always attract at least a handful of mad English nutters, who look like they want to nick your mobile phone and punch you in the face, but are in fact pleasant when in such neutral ground as an Oasis gig.
Anyway, sorry to digress; Franz Ferdinand blew everyone away. NME were right in naming them as ‘The Best Live Act 2006’. They played a set of mainly songs off the second album, and a good deal from the first, including ‘The Dark of the Matinee’, ‘Michael’, and ‘Take Me Out’, to which the eager crowd went crazy for.
It was getting very hot in the crowd; the heat of such headliners coupled with the heat of the Tropics surely made this the hottest gig of the year. I knew I was loosing a lot of water, and not wishing to lose my place in the crowd, that was going to be how it stayed until I was ready to go home.
The almighty Franz gave way to a stage crew who bundled away the instruments and amps, and wheeled out the gear for the one and only Oasis. I used this opportunity to squeeze further through the sweaty crowd and got myself a position near the centre about eight metres from the front.
Being so close to the front, it was easy to forget how many people were behind me, and made me feel like I was at a small gig in a village green. A tropical village green. But turning around, I was soon reminded, when confronted with thousands of pairs of watchful eyes.
Oasis finally strolled on casually, as if they were late for a science class in school, and didn’t give a [email protected]*k. ‘Turn up the Sun’ came first, blasting us all away, and, although I’m not that small (5’ 10”), I realized that I had to be very well footed in my spot if I was to stay upright. The 190 Baht was money well spent.
Liam, not long into the set, looked very pissed off, and shouted some obscenities across stage. He was not happy about something. Maybe the heat pissed him off, or was it the jetlag? I’m not sure, I was just happy to be close enough to the stage to notice.
Many great songs followed, mainly from ‘Don’t Believe the Truth’ and ‘Definitely Maybe’. Tempers were fraying in the heat of the gig, and a fight broke out in front of me, which, like a stone dropping into a shallow puddle, cleared an instant gap in the crowd.
A few shouts of ‘chill out’ and ‘peace’, and with some help from some others, the scuffle ended. I used the opportunity to infiltrate the gap and got myself about two metres from the front. This was awesome. The atmosphere was full of excitement, madness, and a love for the music. It was also a bit tense, as more scuffles threatened to break out, including one between Liam, and a cocky audience member.
Oasis did an encore, and even dedicated ‘Rock and Roll Star’ to Ian Brown, which was very fitting. When they beat out the Who cover, ‘My Generation’ at the end, I wanted to go crazy but all my energy had gone and I was about to drop from dehydration. I could only look on with a big smile on my tired yet happy face.
At the end, Liam walked in the safety areas by the crowd, and I got a close
glimpse of the Mancunian in his tracksuit. He must also have been very warm. Didn’t he know Bangkok was hot?
I stayed for a good fifteen minutes after nearly all the crowd had left in
my section, and realized just how small the section now looked. I asked someone very familiar looking for his backstage pass, as he went towards backstage, but he just laughed and said ‘tomorrow’. He looked and sounded like a record company executive, but I’m sure I’d seen him on TV. (No it wasn’t Simon Cowell).
After deciding that I wasn’t going to meet any of the bands, I left the section, feeling very lucky to have been so close to the music. Downing a 10 Baht fizzy lime drink, I wondered past the stalls selling maggots and cockroaches, onto the mass of concrete, known as a Bangkok intersection, searching for a way of getting back to my room. Apparently ten thousand others were too!
I broke away from the main crowd, convinced I was lost, but then in my tired yet content state, I climbed into a shared mosquito ridden sauna of a minivan taxi, heading south near to where I was staying. Now that’s just rock ‘n roll.