Jai Thep Festival 2018: Chiang Mai’s First Three Day Art, Music, Magic and Love Fest
“When we told the owners of The Workend Cafe at the Grand Canyon that we wanted to put a DJ stage on the artificial beach back in 2016, they told us we were crazy,” said Tom Fannypinchin, Jai Thep festival’s event director. “By the day of the event we were expecting around 200 people, but over 700 turned up and we had to send people away. It was at that moment I knew that we were doing something right.”
From that day, Tom and a bunch of friends have worked tirelessly to create a unique annual festival here in Chiang Mai. Now about to enter its third year, Jai Thep art and music festival will be stretching to three full days and expanding to feature bands from across the world, amazing art instillations, fascinating workshops for adults and children, and a genuine festival vibe inspired by some of the world’s greatest festivals.
“This year the festival will go from Friday to Sunday,” said Tom as we sat down with a very English cup of tea at his teahouse. “We are expecting four or five thousand people, if all goes to plan!” Tom and I hail from the same part of England, which also happens to be the home to what we both agree are proper festivals: Glastonbury, Beautiful Days and Sunrise Celebration. Flags on poles are a must and beer tents a many. Dressing up is encouraged but dressing down (and taking off) is also accepted. “There are many inspirations from such events,” continued Tom. “We love the freedom that festivals bring and felt that Thailand was missing that, especially in Chiang Mai.”
This year Jai Thep will more than double in size as it moves to a new location, the Lanna Rock Garden in Hang Dong. Homegrown as well as bands from across the globe are flying in to play on the main Jai Thep Stage, such as Stylish Nonsense and Srirajah Rockers from Thailand and the Bronx’s beloved hip hop artist Kenda Rae. A separate Synergy Stage morphs modern underground electronic music with the hippy free flow vibes of nature in a secluded area covered with trees. Artists from Europe, such as Broken Note (UK) and We Are Nuts! (GER) have been confirmed with many more to follow.
While the main Jai Thep Stage won’t be open around the clock, there will be at least one area which will be. “It was important to us to keep the night alive at our festival, despite the authorities’ issues with anything past midnight,” said Tom. “We have made a compromise this year and separated one area that is fully 24-hours and will be playing chillout techno and trance music non-stop for the duration.” This Chill Out Stage will also be home to all-night cafes and restaurants for those early hour binge eaters.
Given its all weekend set-up, it’s not surprising to see more family friendly activities throughout the day. Workshops include yoga, reiki, drumming, taro and even a cacao ceremony. Kids have an entire zone dedicated to fun, magic, circus skills, storytelling and castle building. The Home Stage will be bringing spoken work, poetry, storytelling and theatrical performances all day long, where people can sit on a sofa or a dilapidated ottoman and listen in the cool winter sun.
It is this type of stage that gets me excited. Sure, I love the live music and the parties at night but it is the daytime exploration that really makes a festival a festival. From my personal experience, most ‘festivals’ this side of the world are closed events until early afternoon, leaving you craving a coffee, sandwich or beer until the doors open but with Jai Thep we are going back to roots. It will be a living, breathing mini-city, streets artistically lined with giant Dali elephants and gaping goose heads.
“This year the festival will also be 100% waste free,” added Tom. “We are banning all single use plastic cups, there will be no straws, and people are encouraged to bring their own reusable bottles. There will be no water for sale, just free water points across the site that you can fill up at 24-hours a day. All food and drink containers are fully biodegradable.”
Tickets are available at www.jaithepfestival.com or from Ugos, Freebird, Overstand, London Tearooms, Babylon and ticketmelon.com. As a keen festival goer in my youth, I highly recommend going for the full three days, and to camp on site, however one and two day tickets are available too. There is parking and a shuttle bus for people wanting to head back into the city, but camping is free (unless you buy a tent on their website) so why not make the most of it. There are toilets and showers on site so you can feel clean and fresh as the morning dew evaporates and you head back out, suited and booted for another crazy day at the festival of art, music, magic and love.
Don’t Miss: Dead as Disco
Dead as Disco is Chiang Mai’s first ever turbo-charged funk and roll band. Pulling crowds wherever they play, Dead as Disco are a fairly new band which are now playing big gigs from Jai Thep festival to concerts across the country. They were even featured as the closing band at our very own Citylife Garden Fair this past November, and got the crowd so riled up and begging for more, the encores went on and on. Ray Gun Matthews, the front man of the band and fellow Jai Thep organiser, along with his friends and band members Josh (guitar), Alex (bass), Frank (drums) and Rees (trombone) founded the band together in time to play at the first ever Jai Thep festival.
“Jai Thep was actually our very first gig,” said Ray as we set up a photo shoot in an out of bounds location in a local shopping mall. “The crowd was so into us we knew we had something special and wanted to continue it.”
The other band members chipped in explaining how Chiang Mai had seen a period of stagnation in the music scene and they wanted to help bring the scene back to life. Jai Thep was the perfect platform and Dead as Disco was born. “We were going to be an acoustic funk band called Sex Kitten but we decided to go full band when we got that festival gig.”
Dead as Disco has gone from strength to strength, playing all kinds of gigs across Thailand and overseas. Inferno, Shambala in Your Heart, and even the Vietnamese Festival Quest, have had the pleasure of Dead as Disco, and we are already begging them to come back to our Citylife Garden Fair next year.
“The great thing about Chiang Mai is that it’s super creative,” said Ray. “It attracts similar sorts of people, especially those looking for good music. Chiang Mai has always found it hard to pin down original music but in the last year or so, with the rise of a number of venues that are opening their doors to original music, the scene is experiencing a bit of a boom.”
Although these music venues are frequented predominantly by foreigners, Thais are also beginning to spy out more original events. “Chiang Mai is growing up and we feel awesome to be a part of that,” said the band almost in unison. “All we want to do is play great music to an amazing crowd and have a good time. That’s all that matters to us!” smiled Ray.
“Our following is outstanding,” said Ray explaining that when they hold a gig and their fan base comes out in full, the party is always rocking. “We write and play our own songs so we know people like us because of our music. The Edge has really helped in getting us known, and I swear that it is the most premier music venue in all of Chiang Mai for live, original music and performances on a daily basis.”
Although their YouTube page is only just up and running, you can hear Dead as Disco’s music on their Facebook Page. This year’s Jai Thep will see Dead as Disco performing, and Ray who is part of the crew, will be managing the Home Stage, the only stage to exclusively offer theatrical and spoken word performances.