Thursday, 11 February 2010

Khao Yai -- Big Mountain Music Festival

As I've repeatedly stated here in this blog, when you're a cutting-edge travel writer like me, nothing, nothing, escapes my incredible powers of observation. Nothing goes on in Amazing Thailand without me knowing about it ...

Something of a surprise, then, to be tootling along the road to looking for our hotel (The Greenery Resort Khao Yai ) and seeing some temporary directional signs to something called the Big Mountain Music Festival. Oh, that's interesting, I wonder when that's on?

'TONIGHT!' the receptionist informs us. 'Until 6am. And tomorrow night too.' Wow! So who's playing, just some local garage bands I suspect? 'No, sir, have Groove Riders, Bodyslam, Moderndog, The Richman Toy ...'

'Let's go, let's go!' my girlfriend excitedly urged. I'd heard a couple of those names, but was soon made to realise these are the biggest of the big names in Thai music, all under one roof. Well, under the stars actually.

The event, staged for the first time this year, was held at Bonanza, a massive tract of forested farm land where they didn't have to worry about the neighbours becuase there aren't any for miles around.

Little known fact # 446: Big Mountain Music Festival is named for Khao Yai (Thai for 'big mountain' or 'mountain big' if you want to be pedantic, which is the dominant geographical feature in the area.)

Khao Yai Bonanza offers a wonderful natural amphitheatre of grass, sloping down to where the main stage is set up. There are six stages in total, others offering different types of music such as ska and reggae (enormously popular here, and brilliantly infectious Thai music).

While those in the massive mosh pit go crazy, others sit on the periphery on hay bales, eating noodles, drinking beer (or any of the several whisky brands that have hospitality tents set up). In fact it is most civilised -- there is even a Jacob's Creek tent! And massive video screens mean you can see the on-stage action from anywhere.

Behind the main stage is a ferris wheel, indeed a full carnival set up with things like the motorcycle wall of death. This is cool ... I watch a young boy, no older than 12, stroll in, fire up his beat-up yellow bike, and whizz around up the wooden walls at break-neck speed (literally!) using no hands. And no helmet. In Australia the Occupational Health & Safety Nazis would be having the defibrillators applied to themselves. The insurance companies would be chomping on their cigars and ordering it to be shut down immediately. Wonderful fun! And of course there was food, food, food.

But back to the music. I fall in love with the suave brass-soaked and bass-heavy stylings of Groove Riders and have since sought out their CDs. Bodyslam are as professional a stadium rock outfit as I've ever seen in my life. The show churns on: hip-hop acts, raw rock, aging lotharios. And one called Big Ass. Jing jing!

One thing they seem to have in common is the ability to get the 30,000 -- yes, 30,000! --  crowd to sing along. I've never been to a concert where so many anthems are sung so passionately and heartfelt word-for-word by the crowd. And they are good-natured too. There is no sense of heavy security (certainly no gorrillas with earphones that characterise concerts in Australia for instance). There is no drunk and disorderly behaviour that I see, despite there being dozens of beer and spirit companies flogging their drinks.  It is just good fun. With bands and Dj's till six in the morning.

The promoters set out to achieve a Glastonbury-type atmosphere with Big Mountain Music Festival. They certainly achieve that, and there'll be many more eagerly anticipating next year's show.

So check back here for details next January becuase, as I said, nothing escapes my attention. If it's happening in Amazing Thailand I know about it. Well, apart from the odd little concert of 30,000 featuring the biggest names in the business that's on in the small town I just happen to be staying in during the same weekend ...

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