Michael’s Bar on Takuapa Rd, now renamed Michelangelo’s Bar, had something of a pre-COVID reputation for being moribund. All that has now changed under the new and dynamic management of my Hawaiian friend Don Mangiameli and his Thai partner Alice. I suggested to Don early on that a jazz and blues jam might work. Don is a drummer and he set up his drum kit at the back of the bar, bought a couple of amps and sold off the pool table to make space for live music. The Tuesday night jam was an early success and is attracting some fine musicians.
Don is now always busy booking acts to try to get live music of a good standard every night of the week. The house band Gypsy Sun plays blues and classic rock on Saturday nights, a hot act about which I wrote in June. Solo artists fill in the gaps in between bands and the Tuesday jam, bands such as the excellent Naughties and What’s Up bands. So this bar is no longer moribund; it’s on fire!
The intimate Bebop Jazz Bar just a few metres away is run by Boy Navio, a gifted virtuoso jazz guitarist. He set it up a few years ago and it has somehow managed to survive the COVID impact. Happily, it is now buzzing again with some stunningly good music played by class acts such as the Impromptu and Bebop bands. It’s perfect for a romantic night out, but make sure to book a table on the weekends when it’s busy.
Head north into Yaowarat Rd and you will hopefully find the Good Vibes Bar opposite Harmonics Music Shop. I say ‘hopefully’ as it could easily be missed, for it has no front… or roof for that matter! This is because the bar is in an empty five-metre-wide space between two existing buildings. I can recall when it was boarded up and full of trash and rubble, but now it’s packed with Thai youngsters having fun.
There is no electricity supply, so the bar relies on an extension cable to supply it from the next door shop. However, the shop shuts at 9:30pm, so the bar must then switch to battery power. At 11pm the recorded music ends and acoustic guitars are brought out for sing-a-longs. With furniture made out of driftwood and decorations from things found on the beach, this bar is Bohemian with a capital ‘B’!
Just up the road is the famous Rockin’ Angels Blues Bar run by Singaporean Patrick Chua to which I will dedicate a full article later. For now, I just want to say it’s open again every day except Mondays for live music with a three-piece band usually on Fridays and Saturdays. Music starts at 8pm.
To end your musical trip around the Old Town, take a five-minute walk along Thalang Rd to find the Beer Sound Bar on Phuket Rd which I hear now has a live band on the weekends. Head east another five minutes and on Montri Rd you will find the Old Town’s newest live music venue, the Midtown Jazz café run by Phuket’s jazz stalwart Jeffery Sevilla. It’s only been open a few weeks, so only has a jazz jam on Sunday nights for the time being. However, Jeffery confidently tells me he hopes to restart the annual Jazz Festival next April. Watch this space!
Expat Andy Tong Dee is a live music enthusiast and musician living in Phuket. Follow him on www.phuketmusicscene.com