The quiet courtyard outside of Entertainment Project is full of dappled sunlight and people taking selfies with the shops that line the little alleyway. Sitting down here is a brief moment of respite for Pimporn Metchanun, who’s always busy working on one of her many musical projects. Listing them all can be difficult, but she’s a record store owner, festival organizer, DJ, and guitar player. The Entertainment Project shop is a physical embodiment of all of that, a real and permanent space that ties it all together. It’s a record store with a bar and cafe where people can meet in person to talk about the music they love or dance to it—and buy it. The space itself evades exact definition and at night it becomes a middle ground between night club and listening bar. Upstairs, of course, is the new studio for Bangkok Community Radio, adding to the closely planned variety of the little community the alleyway has become.
Metchanun takes this approach of community building and bridging scenes to her role organizing Bangkok’s Maho Rasop festival. It’s similarly amorphous, mixing underground electronic music with independent rock and rap, all lined up in the same place. “Usually festivals are split, but a lot of people like live music and electronic music,” she says. “It’s leftfield on both sides though. We hope to connect people through different parts of music they might not be familiar with.” She understands that it can be intimidating looking at such a big lineup, packed with many smaller names that people might not recognize, but views it as an opportunity for partygoers to experience new things.
Of course, Metchanun doesn’t do any of this alone. Her main partner is her sister and they have a promotional agency called HAVE YOU HEARD? They also run the online and physical record stores together. HYH is one of three companies organizing Maho Rahsop, and the other two are Fungjai and Seen Scene Space.
Metchanun was born into a musical family and took lessons early on, but she didn’t start playing live shows until after graduating from university. Her band Yellow Fang dropped their debut album in 2010 at the tail end of the record store era. “There were four or five independent record stores in Siam Square plus a Tower Records when I was growing up,” she says. But when they released their album only DJ Siam was left, which was a kiosk right in the middle of the square. This was after its prime and it shut down soon after, but she recalls it fondly. “We did an album signing event there. It was a lot of fun, being able to talk with fans and meet new people.”
There’s been a whole generation in Bangkok that’s grown up without the record store experience, but now it’s becoming popular again. A lot of customers, especially younger kids, buy vinyl as a souvenir and to support their favorite artists, not to listen to it. It’s become similar to merch, like a t-shirt or poster. “Very young people are fascinated by the analog format,” Metchanun laughs warmly. “Some know absolutely nothing about it. They have lots of questions, like, ‘What is this??'” But there are also a lot of fans who collect them to play, a trend that really exploded during the pandemic. Metchanun actually ventured into vinyl sales because they had no live acts to promote during the height of COVID, so they set up an online shop. The physical shop opened last year.
Now that people are able to go out again, Maho Rasop is back in full swing and even larger than before. It was relaunched last year and featured Thailand’s first-ever Boiler Room set. With each year, they learn and improve. (For example, this year’s Boiler Room stage will be tucked around a corner and farther away from the other stages so the bass doesn’t interfere with them.) Something always goes wrong, and that’s a part of organizing festivals—especially when it’s right in the middle of bustling Bangkok. One year an international guest artist was arrested and needed to be bailed out the night before their set. The weather is always a hurdle, especially with climate change making it increasingly hard to predict. And once they had to stop a headliner mid-performance for 30 minutes because the royal family was traveling nearby. “You have to keep your sights on the goal because it’s easy to drift due to all of the hurdles that come up,” she says. “But we’re committed to doing something unique in the heart of the city.”
“There are many subcultures right now, and many new faces creating different things,” Metchanun says of Bangkok specifically and Southeast Asia more generally. “We pay close attention to who’s active and who’s next, not just who’s the biggest. We want to bring people from all sides together.” She says they made an effort to be inclusive with their lineup, especially with the Boiler Room stage. “There are so many layers and scenes with different musical preferences in the underground club scene. I tried to include a bit of everything for this stage, not just cater to one group or party. We’re telling a story about what’s going on in the scene here and this offers an international platform to do so.”