Photos by MJ Klein & Hui-chen – Video by Hui-chen
This past Sunday, Hui-chen and I attended a SE Asian music festival called “Thai Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival and Philippine Karaoke Competition.”
Actually I did more than just attend, as I was invited to perform with one of the Thai bands. The reason that I did not tell anyone in advance about it was mainly because I did not want to detract from the Blues Bash that went on during the same weekend. Plus I didn’t know much about the festival until I got there, so I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything about it beforehand.
So, read on about Thai rock bands, Philippine traditional dancing, drinking, karaoke, bad weather, boats on the river, etc.! There are a ton of photos in this article!
Please note that all photos are geotagged where appropriate
These guys, mostly from my neighborhood, insisted that I play with them in their band. I must have given them a dozen reasons why an old man like me in his 50’s would not go over well playing with a bunch of 20-something young men. But there were insistent, saying that the only thing that mattered was one’s playing ability. Joking, I said “We should call the band ‘My Thai Sons‘” and we all had a good laugh about that! They had picked the name “Fong” (“wind” in Chinese) but I didn’t find that out until the day of the show! The weather that day was lousy, with very high winds, so I told them “Thanks for not calling the band ‘typhoon‘!”
This is one of those blowup thingies that are common in Taiwan. It’s the entrance to the Thai Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival and Philippine Karaoke Competition, which is what it says in Chinese. This took place behind the Tamshui MRT station, believe it or not.
This is the stage, which thankfully, was covered, but not protected from the winds at the sides. Notice the PA (speaker) cabinets: they are covered up because of the rain (did I say the weather sucked?).
Hui-chen and I went to eat and buy sunglasses. I’ll show you what we ate in a separate article but I must show you the sunglasses that she tried on!
The show was hosted in English, Chinese and Thai. Far too often I have attended international shows in Taiwan where only Taiwanese and Chinese were spoken. I thought the planning and execution of this show was exemplary.
First up in the karaoke competition was this Filipino gentleman, who appeared to be dressed for Mass rather than singing karaoke! When he first walked out on stage, everyone went “WHOA!” because he looked so serious.
While he was singing, I slipped out of the crowd and down to an area underneath a huge tree, where the Thai guys I were with had set up an area for drinking. On hand were Beck’s Dark, Sang Som Thai Rum (of course!) and Johnnie Walker (Black Label). After all, we had to keep warm! It was quite cold and nasty. It sure is nice living in a country with no discernible open container laws. We couldn’t enjoy ourselves like this in the US.
Several more female competitors take their shot at the prize money. Even though not visible in all the photos, they were all wearing numbers like at a bikini bar! The guy on the right, fiddling with equipment, is the lead singer of Fong. It’s almost time for Fong to go onstage!
I haven’t done a show like this since I closed my recording project nearly 10 years ago. It was good to get back onstage! The Thai people were very receptive, with many standing off to the side of the stage near me. They all wanted to shake my hand (difficult to do while trying to play!), and were giving me the “thumbs-up” sign. The young Thai men were right: it doesn’t matter how you look – it only matters how you play. Later, someone told me that having a foreigner playing in a Thai band gave them more of an international appearance. I hadn’t thought of that. We got an introduction from the Thai host (the female in black) and then we started our set of 5 tunes, all original.
Click on this link to let the video load while you read the rest of the article. Sorry, but video embed don’t seem to work so well on this blog.
Then this Thai gentlemen arrived on stage and sang Thai songs with recorded background music. I’ve seen this kind of show before and people love it. This day was no different – people got up out of their seats and danced in the drizzle.
Everyone was bundled up (except me, being from 42 degrees north latitude!). It’s too bad that day was so lousy. Of course the previous day was gorgeous. Nevertheless, the crowd really enjoyed themselves.
Notice the flowers in the singer’s hand. In Thai culture, if you like the performer, you give them flowers. When we were playing, so many flowers were given to the band that it actually disrupted the performance. I also want you to take notice of the NT$100 note in the singer’s left hand.
Here you see an audience member handing money to the singer. When Thai people appreciate you, they also will give you money as a token of their appreciation. While I was playing, someone tried to hand me a hundred too, but I just couldn’t accept it. Instead, I gave that person a wai to thank him for his very kind gesture.
More prize drawing. It was rather comical because by this time many of the people who had registered for the raffle had left due to the cold. When a number was drawn and read, the crowd impatiently said “no” to prompt the host to draw another number. It was cold and everyone wanted things to speed up! Finally the last winner almost lost his opportunity because the impatient crowd was calling for another number before he had a chance to cry out that he had won!
Next, was the awards part of the show, where the winners of the karaoke competition were given their prizes:
We listened to a few songs and decided that it was time to go eat! So, where did we go? Attention: 2 food photos ahead!
Hey wait, isn’t that the name of the band we just saw? Yup. The owners of the restaurant are related to the band and the band normally performs at the restaurant.
It’s a bit difficult to take non-flash photographs in the Blue Sky but it sure is a fun place with the blacklights and the dayglow paint. The Blue Sky also has a respectable book of English karaoke songs and multiple video monitors.
Now for the 2 food shots, which I’ve saved for last, in case one would like to bail out before looking at them:
This dish of course, is Thai seafood salad. It was every bit as good as it looks!
Outside of the famous Shao-hui’s in Hukou, I found the Blue Sky to have the most authentic Thai food flavor that I have yet tasted in Taiwan. The tom yum soup brought back a lot of memories of Thailand. Hui-chen and I can recommend the Blue Sky to those lover’s of Thai food who are disappointed by other places in Taipei. With the live band (the sound system is quite good) and the karaoke, complete with lots of English songs, makes the Blue Sky a place for a fun night out.
I have geotagged this article with the location of the Blue Sky restaurant, as measured with my personal GPS. You can view the location on our Geotagged Articles Map (the link is on the header). For convenince I am adding a browser enabled geotag for the Blue Sky here:
The Fong band and I will be doing more performances in the future. I’ll keep you posted.