Category Archives: Gigs

Koh Phangan to Langkawi DJ Cannonball Run

Late last year I was due for a visa run, and as luck would have it, one of Koh Phangan’s resident DJs had a gig coming up at a 5 Star Resort in one of my favourite islands – Langkawi.  One of the other DJs had pulled out as his passport was stuck at Koh Samui immigration department and did I want to come along for the ride, and maybe spin some tunes? Of course I said, so at 5am the next morning we were off.

Gumball Rally

We jumped into his 1970s Mazda Luce (a non rotary Mazda RX4 for you car nuts out there) and headed for the car ferry.  3 hours of talking shit and watching a Thai dude play with his monkey (literally) and we were on the mainland at Surat Thani. Our plan was to make it down to the border town of Satun before 4pm, park the car up, jump on a ferry to Langkawi and be at the resort in the evening.

CBA10

Getting Lost

Things didn’t quite go to plan. The roads turned to shit, with road works everywhere, we ended up having to detour, and well, that detour didn’t show up on google maps or the iphones GPS.  About 20 minutes into the detour we hit an army checkpoint full of bored soldiers carrying M-16s and probably wondering why two Farang’s were driving a 1970s Jap import at 150 kph down the highway without seat belts in a car full of DJ gear and heading straight into Muslim country (theres been an ongoing insurrection in the South for the last few years). After a bit of broken Thai and a few “Mai Dais” (Thai for “Can not”) we were sent back in the opposite direction to find another way South. After getting stuck on back roads behind people who clearly got their drivers licence on the back of a cereal box we were once again on our way South, at least thats what we thought.

CBA7

Breaking Down in Southern Thailand

I started to relax, and fell asleep, as you do on a massive road trip when you think all is well.  I woke to the feeling of the car shaking and a bit of swearing from our driver. Then I felt the car lose power.  Then it started to drift to the side of the road.  Then it stopped. We were in the middle of fucking nowhere, no one spoke english, we didn’t speak passable Thai, and our car was somewhere in the region of 40 years old and Japanese.

CAB8

We managed to get some lovely people from the local cafe (which was Muslim, they seemed a little confused when our pilot asked for beer) to arrange a mechanic to come and take a look at the car.  After an hour of waiting and learning some basic Thai (For instance, that Chang is the word for Elephant, while Chang is the word for Mechanic) our hero finally arrived.  He started to tear the car apart and in pigeon Tinglish proceeded to tell us there was a problem. We could only guess that he actually meant the alternator, but we left him to work in the vain hope that he’d get us back on the road. And hour later, he re appeared, started to put the car back together and it started, we still were none the wiser as to why it wasn’t working, but he wanted 1000 baht and we wanted to get back on the road, and it seemed like a fair trade.

Missing the Boat

We once again began our (delayed) journey to to the Thai port of Satun. We had a 5pm (we thought) deadline to meet, and dammit we were going to get there in time if it killed us, so onward we drove until we got to town and it started to piss down with rain. The entire town came to a stand still, the car obviously had no de-mister, and well, being an old car, the windows didn’t exactly close properly. The car started to fill up with rain, and we couldn’t see out the windows.

Ang Yees

I got onto my iPhone and searched for guesthouses realising that we weren’t going to make it in time (little did I know we’d actually missed the boat already, as the departure times we looked at were in Malaysia, rather that Thai time zones!).  We settled on Ang Yee’s guest house, a guest house dedicated to climbers who like to hit the mountains around Satun. The place is easily one of the nicest guest houses I’ve stayed in, and has a real Thai/Chinese vibe.  Most of the time we were looked after by one of the guests, who I can only guess has run out of money and is trapped in Thailand without a way home.  He lives in Satun as it gives him the ability to border run every two weeks at minimal cost, renewing his visa and helps out at the guest house to cover his expenses.  By this stage we were completely shattered, having dealt with getting lost on the highway, the car breaking down and missing our boat. We grabbed some beers and food, and then went to bed.

Langkawi or Bust

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn, we prayed to the car gods that the Luce would start, turned the key and we were off to Satun Port.  We parked up in the carpark, got started at by the locals who were wondering who on earth these mad Farang were who’d turned up by car on the Thai/Malay border.  We went to the ticket office, and realised, that in our efforts to be early, we were in fact too early, and had to wait another two hours until the first boat left.  So we did.

We had our tickets, and were ready to leave, all that stood between us and the freedom of Malaysia as Immigration. So, we lined up, then we were moved to another line to let a Thai tour group through.  Then security made us move to let another bunch of Thais clear Immigration.  Then we queued up again, until we finally got to the front of the line and…

… The Immigration officer slammed the window in our face.  Our boat was literally minutes from leaving and we still hadn’t cleared Immigration, so off to the back of the original line we were in we went to start the process again.  Luckily this line flowed fairly fast and we had a friendly immigration officer this time around, our passports were stamped, and we made it onto the ferry to Malaysia.  Just.

Langkawi Boat

The boat was the typical Asian ferry, cheap, reasonable comfortable and a nice method of transport, except for the lunatics in control of the air conditioning.  It was 30 degrees outside, but we were stuck in an icebox shivering the whole way to Langkawi.

We made it to Malaysia at about 10am, and cleared Customs and Immigration in seconds.  Unlike Thailand, Malaysia gives you 90 days upon entry just for crossing the border, and didn’t seem to mind that we were carrying thousands of dollars worth of DJ equipment into the country.  In fact, the officers manning the Customs scanners weren’t even awake.  We pushed our way through the Taxi touts and were met by our limo driver, who unfortunately wasn’t driving a limo, and instead had a mini van.  Still he drove us across the Island for free (all costs were covered) and got us to the resort in one piece.

Cba at Meritus Pelangi Resort

We were due to DJ that night at Meritus Pelangi Resort’s (one of the higher end resorts on the island) beach bar Cba.  We had a stage and the typical army of sound techs who appeared never to have set up a DJ booth in their life.  After much discussion I was able to explain to them that putting a strobe light where the DJ monitors belong was probably a bad idea, and some form of rain cover would be handy considering the thousands of dollars worth of electronics that were exposed to the elements.  We’d been called in at 2pm to do a sound check, but as usual, nothing was ready until at least 6pm, so we went off to the restaurant to gorge ourself on free food, and back to the bar to drink as much expensive complimentary Belgian Beer (anything but Thai beer) as was humanly possible before anyone noticed.

CBA5

The Bomb Squad

We started to walk to the stage and noticed a bunch of cops and military types floating around the venue.  Now if I see cops around and I’m DJing in Thailand its time to keep a low profile, in Malaysia or at least Langkawi they at least seem to have a genuine interest in keeping you safe.

CBA4

It turns out that they were there due to a bomb threat.  These are fairly common on the island which is coping with being conservative and Muslim while dealing with an influx of secular tourists who wish to party. The official reason for the threat was that they were probably offended by party goers in skimpy clothes and the like drinking booze and partying on the beach, but I think it has more in common with the bomb threats you get at uni whenever theres an exam, they just didn’t want to go to work that day.  Everything was checked, they found the person who called it in, and it was a false alarm, so we got to partying.

I played a set of classic house and garage to warm up the crowd while Guy played more of a tech house set.  At its peak we had somewhere around 1000 people on the beach before we had to shut down at 1am.  We wanted to keep going, but due to cops being on site, everyone thought it was best to obey the local closing times.  We closed everything down while the crowd was yelling at us for one more track, to keep going etc and luckily had security to look after us.  I had a yarn with one of the cops who asked me an unexpected questions “Did I play paintball” – it turns out he recognised me from last years Paintball World Cup Asia on the island.  Apparently the ginger beard was memorable.

So, we piled into a card and off we went in search of an after party.  We were of course by this stage wildly drunk.   We turned up at some dive reggae bar playing atrocious hip hop at the time and plugged in while someone trainwrecked tunes in virtual DJ.  It turns out that despite us telling everyone to come to the after party, noone knew where it was, and couldn’t be bothered, and as quickly as we turned up we were gone, and off to the organisers choice of bar, Sun Bar.

Sun Bar

This place was a shithole.  The second we got in my partner in crime started dropping the C bomb everywhere, and we got foul looks from the 100 plus Bangladeshi migrant workers who were desperately try pick up anything remotely female with a pulse (at last count there might have been three women in the bar).  Once again we thought discretion was the better part of valour, and exited the building, but not without me accidentally knocking some drunk malay mafioso type dude onto the ground when opening the heavy front door.

The Aftermath

We woke up in the five star hotel room to a basket full of fruit, complementary booze and nuts, that and a massive hangover.  The day was spent getting lost while driving around the Island before giving up and going back to the hotel room.  To quote Guy “If you’ve seen one fucking South East Asian island you’ve seen them fucking all”.  The rest of the day was spent watching a pirated copy of Hangover III on the big screen, before once again making the most of the complementary food and bar tab.

CBA3

The next day we were back on the ferry, into Thailand with a freshly renewed 15 day stamp (I didn’t have a visa at the time as I was waiting for the paperwork for my Non-B visa and work permit to get processed) and praying that the car would start.  The car gods favoured us once again and we were on the road.  Luckily the trip was less eventful, possible thanks to the numerous flower garlands we hung on the rear view mirror for luck, and we made it to Surat Thani in one piece.  We drove the car back onto the ferry and three hours later we were once again back home in Koh Phangan.

CBA2

The Definitive Koh Phangan Party Guide – From Someone Who Lived There

Koh Phangan in Thailand is one of the party capitals of the world, most famous for its Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Beach, attracting between 5,000 partygoers in the low season and upwards of 50,000 partiers in the new year period.

There are plenty of guides to Koh Phangan’s various parties in guide books, but these are generally out of date, or written by someone who visited briefly – this is my no bullshit guide,  written by someone who has actually lived, partied and DJed there.

There is however much more to the party scene than just one night, and one party location, and for those who are looking for something a bit more interesting, there are plenty of parties to go around.

While the “sound” of the island is generally considered  to be house from Tech to Deep and Progressive  (With foreign resident DJs such as Graham Gold, Rob Gritton, Jourdan Bourdes, Darragh Casey, Inlighten,  Absolud spinning different variants), you can find everything from techno, drum and bass, and garage to psy trance if you know where to look.

Note: I’m a bass music head, but enjoy my house, garage, dubstep & drum and bass, I’m definitely NOT a trance fan, so my opinions and recommendations reflect this.  If you are a fan of germans with dreadlocks and unwashed hippies taking acid and listing to psy-trance, you’ll probably have a different opinion to me.

Mickey Finn

Full Moon Period:

Full moon period is generally considered to be the 5 days before and 5 days after the full moon party. Generally hotels, guesthouses and hostels require a minimum of a 5 night stay during this period, and there is plenty to do while you are on the Island. While the Full Moon party is in Haad Rin, you will also find that there are more big fesitval type parties in this period closer to Baan Tai region than the more popular and expensive Haad Rin.

Full Moon Party (Full Moon Every Month):
The original full moon party started some time around 1985, and the stories will change depending on who you talk to, supposedly with around 30-50 party goers there are thousands who insist they were present! Nowadays its a multi stage party on the “main” beach of Haad Rin at the southern tip of the Island. I’m not really a big fan of it, and tend to avoid it considering there are way better parties on the island – but hey, its what Phangan is famous for, and no guide would be complete without it. 

The party costs 100 baht which is payable at the entrance to the beach and
Stages, Bars & Clubs on the night include:
Tommy Resort: Trance and House music with resident DJs Graham Gold and DJ Mackie Rose, this is one of the most popular stages during Full Moon Party.
Paradise Bungalows: Advertised as the original home of the Full Moon Party, you’ll mostly hear Thai DJs & progressive house here, with the odd guest international DJ around high season.
Sunrise Bar: One of the better stages, plays mainly jump up drum and bass, with some great residents & guests over the new years period.  DJs looking to play, remember to bring some fresh vinyl as a present for the owners.
Fu Bar: Up the soi from Zoom, this is one of the best places on Haad Rin.  Playing House & occasionally Drum & Bass with resident DJs Hawie, Guy Fidelity
Mellow Mountain:  Known for its special shakes (make sure you finish them before you leave), this is one of the better bars on the beach, you’ll find it by turning left at Tommy Resort and going to the very end of the beach and up the mountain. DJs include Aaron Fevah and regular international guests. Recommended if you want to enjoy Full Moon Party on the beach but escape the crowds.
Cactus Bar: Straight up commercial music for the Full Moon Party crowd.
Sandcastle Club: This is a new club in the Haad Rin area, who hold parties all the time.  Its the cleanest venue I’ve seen, with good management and slightly more expensive drinks.  They have a good selection of local resident expat DJs such as Benoit C & guests on rotation playing deep and tech house.  Its also a great place to chill out during the day. 

Backyard After Party (Day After Full Moon):
If you are still going from the night before, the place to continue is the legendary Backyard after party.  Playing house and techno for the stamina crew its generally a free party, but be prepared to pay a nominal entrance fee (up to 100 baht) during high season.  Residents include Thai Dj’s – DJ A and DJ Boyonic, who is widely considered to be one of the best warm up DJs on the Island. 

Sramonara Waterfall Party (2 Days Before Full Moon):
Held at the Sramonara Waterfall in the jungle area of Ban Kai, the party covers a wide range of musical styles from house, electro, breakbeat, and trance. The party is promoted by the Bancha Family & Dj PHB while residents include Dj Bank, Jourdan Bordes, Lin Htut Zaw and Thai-Fi. The venue has recently been upgraded to include a natural swimming pool, comfy chill-out zone, a brand new pumping sound system, all fully under cover dance floor. Apparently they make some rather interesting fruit shakes. 

Jungle Experience (1 & 4 Days Before Full Moon):
Located in the Jungles of Baan Tai, Jungle Experience is one of the better parties on Koh Phangan. It hosts a variety of Koh Phangan’s (and occasional guest appearances from Bangkok and International guests) underground house and techno DJs in environmentally friendly and sustainable surroundings. These guys do a great job of sound and light, have proper security and run a professional party. Residents include Darragh Casey & Jourdan Bourdes. You’ll often find warmup pool parties at venues such as Beach Village and Fu Bar, and cheap taxis can be booked on site.
MUST ATTEND

Beach & Beyond/Ku Club/Beach Village (Dates Vary):
Located on the Ban Tai beachfront, the party (Formerly Rhythm & Sands) and venue has been host to a wide range of big name international DJs and producers such as The Freestylers, Friction, Netsky, Goldie, DJ Fresh and tends to host a mixture of house music and drum & bass. This was my main stomping grounds and favourite places to DJ when living and visiting the island. The venue includes a purpose built nightclub, Ku Club, a beachfront Tiki bar and swimming pool with regular pool parties and a massive main stage and sound system.
RECOMMENDED

Voodoo (3 Days Before Full Moon):
Promoted by the same team behind Loi Lay, Voodoo is a new party on Koh Phangan, that kicked off in September 2013, with residents Darragh Casey & Inlighten. The party features a massive sound system and is once again in the Jungles of Baan Tai. Guest DJs have included Ibiza resident Marco Loco
RECOMMENDED

Pirates Bar (3 Days Before & 2 Days After Full Moon):
A little bit out of the way in Sri Thanu, Pirates is one of those parties that I always meant to attend but never end up making it out.  Pushing a bit darker vibes of proper techno, its not for the Full Moon Party crowd, but instead proper party goers.  Moonset parties are generally three days before and two days after Full Moon, but keep an eye out in local 7/11s for the paper flyers with dates and lineups. Residents include Peter G & Snoopiod
RECOMMENDED (If you like Techno)

Drop In Club Resort:

A foam/pool party that is advertised all over the island during full moon time.  One for the gap year, fluro wearing full moon crowd.

Outside of Full Moon:

Theres still plenty going on outside of the full moon period, from regular weekly club nights to massive monthly parties. This time of the month is a haven for the Psytrance fans, or if you venture off the beaten path, true music fans…  Minimum stays tend to be non-existent or shorter during this time, so expect smaller, more intimate crowds and cheaper accommodation.

Nakadia R&S

Half Moon Party (One Week Before & One Week After Full Moon):
Popular with those who either a) didn’t plan their travel and missed the full moon or b) Psy Trance its the little brother of the full moon.   Easy to spot due to the yellow and black signs all over the Island.  It isn’t cheap (500 Baht, including drink) but caters to the hippie crowd who enjoy their 150 BPM repetitive stuff.  They have recently started a second stage catering to the house and techno crowd. Turn right at the Baan Tai 7/11 and follow the noise and dreadlocked fisherman pant wearing germans. 

Black Moon Culture:
Another Trance party in Baan Tai, this one is held at Mac’s bay and is produced by Magic Phangan productions.  Black Moon Culture has a fully covered and open area, an artspace and UV painted walls. Starts early and goes late.  Another one that isn’t cheap (600 baht including drink) its still popular with the Germans & Hippies.  Residents include Jo Moontribe, Sabaii, Lueng, Jonnie, Oliver & Ping. 

Shiva Moon:
This one doesn’t tend to get advertised until a day or two before the party, and is another Trance party catering to the hippie crowd.  Held at Mac’s bay this one is a little cheaper than the other parties and will set you back 300 Baht including your first drink.  Residents include Venus Vibes and Jo Moontribe. 

Baan Sabai After Party:
The after party for the hippies that haven’t finished after the previous three trance gigs, its once again at Mac’s bay in Baan Tai and is free entry.   Features residents from the other trance parties on the island. 

Loi Lay Floating Party:
My personal favourite club night, Loi Lay is a great party with a more mature crowd.  You won’t see idiots in fluro singlets and shorts here.  Lots of long termers and DJs attend the weekly crowd, playing a great mix of deep and tech house, with some classics thrown in for good measure.  Just to make things interesting the whole club is on a floating pontoon that is moved to different places in the Baan Tai lagoon depending on season.  Look out for the burning beer bottles on the side of the road for the location, and expect to pay around 100 baht entry fee. Residents include Darragh Casey & Guests.
MUST ATTEND

Merkaba Beach Club:
One of the nicest clubs on the Island, but one of the hardest to get to due to its location on the corner coming over the mountain into Haad Rin, and down a very long flight of stairs to get to the beach.  This place is absolutely amazing, beautiful pool, insane tiger mouth DJ booth and huge dance floor.  Because its a bit harder to get to it doesn’t tend to attract much of the Full Moon Crowd, and has more of an up for it crew.  I only made it to one party as it was closed during most of the low season, but I understand its back up and running again.  Residents include Graham Gold and guests.
RECOMMENDED

Oasis (Thursdays):
A reasonably new weekly club night, Oasis has weekly house on the main road in Baan Tai.  Its a great new club, with decent lineups, a nice bar and lots of locals, theres a pool out back as well. Entry is free.  Residents include Rob Gritton & Rory Gallagher with regular visiting guests. 

Guys Bar (Friday Nights):
This party is legendary around the world, only accessible by boat from Haad Rin, this party goes all night long, and has a very interesting menu.  A must attend for serious party goers, but definitely not for newbies or tourists who don’t know how to behave.  Make sure you take cash as there aren’t any ATMs around.  House and techno till the early morning, you’ll see lots of long term residents, island hippies and people from all over the world.
RECOMMENDED 

Eden (Saturday & Tuesdays):
For those who haven’t stopped partying from the night before, the Eden after party continues where you left off.  With a similar vibe and culture to Guys bar (and some similar resident DJs) this party is again only accessible by boat, and for the serious party goers who know how to enjoy themselves and behave. 
RECOMMENDED 

Fu Bar (Monday Sessions):
With regular free parties every week, Fu Bar is one of the few places on Haad Rin I’ll voluntarily go to.  Its a great little bar, currently run by a kiwi (Richard) with a decent sound system, safe drinks, good food and of course great resident DJs such as Guy Fidelity.  Music ranges from house to garage to drum & bass.
RECOMMENDED

Staying Safe:

Motorbikes & Driving:

Koh Phangan is pretty notorious for the motorbike accidents (and deaths) involving locals and tourists, as well as a combination of alcohol, drugs, inexperience, steep hills and speed. Taxis are generally no more than 100 baht per person each way ($3-4) and are generally a safer way to get to a party. Its simply not worth risking your life driving to a party at night, while you might be an amazing driver, the person driving 50kph drunk on the wrong side of the road in your way might not. Helmets are also a legal requirement, and while you might not see many people wearing them, they could save your life.

Drugs & Alcohol:
The island is also well known for its reputation of drug fuelled hedonism,  though due to an increased police presence and influx of tourists has calmed down a lot nowadays. Drugs are illegal in Thailand and can carry strong penalties, you do NOT want to be caught with them in Thailand. A quick google will fill you in on the likelihood of getting in trouble. There are plenty of undercover police on patrol at parties, and even rumours of drug dealers who report their customers to the local cops – to stay safe, don’t touch substances as a tourist. 

If you do insist on partaking in naughty treats make sure you get the advice of a long term local foreign resident, and not a fisherman pants wearing tourist – they know the safest places to enjoy oneself on the island.

Avoid drinking the cheap buckets and instead stick to bottled, sealed drinks. There have been countless stories of drink spiking or alcohol related incidents, usually involving cheap or fake alcohol, or white spirits which can be incredibly dangerous. Again, its not worth risking your life for the sake of 100 baht.

Booking the first flights.. Auckland, NZ -> Ljubjlana, Slovenia

Well the last few days have been pretty intense, spending them in the hospital with a family emergency, not that that is looking ok, I’m booking my first flights.

Last year I went to Croatia for Outlook Festival and have wanted to go back this year, purchasing earlybird tickets way back in December.  Mainly due to timing I haven’t been able to secure flights that are cheap enough to make it, but there is a silver lineup – this year is the inaugural Dimensions Festival, on week later in the same venue, with what I consider to be a better lineup.

After a bit of emailing back and forwards to Leeds Tickets, I’ve found I can transfer my tickets for only 5 quid. So, step one of my trip is looking like this, nice and easy to book as well with Expedia:

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Auckland -> Sydney -> Singapore -> Frankfurt -> Ljubjlana, approximately 32 hours of travel by plane, and 19,000 KM, which is probably making it the longest non stop flight out of any of the attendees at Dimensions. Follow that up with a 3 hour bus ride from Ljublana -> Pula and its going to be a *very* long day.  Hopefully I catch some sleep on the plane.

It will however be all worth it when I get to take part in this

Fingers crossed I can get some sort of press pass this year, to really share the trip with people.

And even better, there is a paintball club located at Fort Punta Cristo as well, so I get to still play paintball while travelling.

I’m planning on staying in the Balkans for a few weeks, maybe just under a month, before flying to Bangkok Thailand for some R&R, followed by Langkawi Island in Malaysia in November for the World Cup Asia.  The big question is, do I try and make it to Paris in October for the final (& Biggest) Millenium Series event for the year?

Costs so far:

  • Outlook Ticket 130 GBP
  • Changing outlook ticket to Dimensions Festival 5 GBP
  • Bus Ljublana -> Pula 29 GBP
  • Airfares AKL->Ljublana $1774.75 NZD