Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bangkok will rock, OK!


Bangkok is set to party again come February next year, hopefully without the armour.

TANKS rolled on the streets and rocked the Bangkok Rock Festival 2007.

That was one unreported casualty of Thailand’s bloodless coup that saw the fall of Thaksin Shinawatra’s Government on Sept 19, 2006.

As tanks rolled on the streets of Bangkok, concert promoter David McLean’s first thought was on the sponsors lined up for the rock festival scheduled in five months’ time.

“I knew as soon as the military coup happened that the head sponsor who is based in London or Hong Kong will switch on CNN and have second thoughts about writing a cheque to fund my event,” relates McLean, who is a Brit married to a Thai and lives in Bangkok.

His first act, however, was to go down to the store in his condominium to buy 10 bottles of water to make sure that he had plenty of water to drink.

A few weeks after the putsch, McLean cancelled the rock festival when the military-installed government announced it would ban alcohol advertising.

“One of our main sponsors was a big alcohol company and the announcement meant that it was not allowed to sponsor our event,” explains the co-founder of Riverman Music Group, the organiser of the Bangkok Rock Festival 2007.

Subsequently, the interim government reconsidered its plan to impose an alcohol advertising ban. But it was too late for McLean to reconsider his cancellation.

However, the rock festival will make a comeback in February 2008.

“We did it once,” said McLean, whose company booked the artists for the Bangkok 100 Rock Festival, a two-day festival which was the most ambitious international concert ever planned in Bangkok, attracting 42,000 local and international fans in February 2006.

“It was good, and we want to do it again,” he said, adding that the inaugural event featured Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Placebo, Snow Patrol and Maximo Park, among others.

Although post-coup uncertainty still hovers in Bangkok, McLean will soldier on with his rock festival.

“Ok, there could be security issues ... there could be political issues ... there could be all sorts of issues. But it is like that in any country. I had just been to Brazil (to promote a concert) and it is not exactly an easy place to live in. And, there are even bombs in London,” says the manager of alternative rock band Placebo.

His ambition for the Bangkok Rock Festival is to build it into the biggest rock event in Asia. “I don’t say that lightly, as there’s Fuji Rock, which is a huge event,” he says, referring to the annual rock festival held in Naeba, Japan.

Bangkok rocks. It’s a fantastic city for a rock festival, according to the 51-year-old Scot, whose one dream that he has not really realised – apart from playing for Scotland in the World Cup Finals and scoring a hatrick – is organising a rock festival.

“I couldn’t believe that there hadn’t been a rock festival in Bangkok,” he adds.

“The people, the atmosphere, the vibes here are so much more superior to that in other cities I’ve been to,” declares the Scot who has promoted some of the most well respected names in music, such as Nirvana, Green Day, Foo Fighter, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine and Pearl Jam.

The other attraction of Bangkok is its location. The city can draw people from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Europe. “There’s a real desire for people to come here,” he notes.

For Bangkok Rock Festival 2008, McLean is talking to about 60 international artistes. These will later be pruned to eight. Among the bands he is talking a bit more seriously to are Killers, My Chemical Romance, Evanescence, Artic Monkeys and Muse.

Come February 2008, Bangkok will rock and, hopefully, no tanks will roll.

(Published in The Star on May 12, 2007)