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Jai Thep Festival Post-Mortem

“Finally, a real festival in Thailand,” was the phrase floating around Jai Thep Festival as the three day event began in the foothills of Chiang Mai’s mountains. As streams of eager faces passed through the gates on Friday afternoon, the sun began to set between two peaks casting warm and welcoming rays across the festival. The main stage geared up and relaxed music began to play as the first live bands began strumming their guitars, while people set up tents, applied some make up and refilled their re-usable cups at the bar.

This was the start of Jai Thep Festival, Chiang Mai’s first three-day festival and, we think, one of Thailand’s best festivals to date. Inspired by behemoths such as Glastonbury and Coachella, the event was described by the organisers as a festival of music, art, magic and love. Camping was encouraged and most revellers stayed for the full three days just as intended. Although being the third Jai Thep event, it was the first time it lasted longer than one day – and for first time festival organisers, the results were superb.

The festival was attended by over 3,000 people, both Thai and foreign, and apart from hosting some amazing bands and DJs playing across multiple stages, the event was also home to hundreds of sculptures, paintings, artistic and creative workshops – with each zone becoming its own immersive art experience.

Four Stages

This year saw the event more than double, and span three days from four different stages. Like any good festival, the Main Stage hosted an eclectic range of musicians and bands from both Thailand and the international scene. Local favourites such as Dead as Disco and Jai Yen worked up the crowd before headliners Sirajah Rockers, Madboy Mink and Solitude is Bliss played the night out. With the late addition of the Jim Thompson Molam Bus, the main stage handed off several sets to the bus’ stage where live molam was blasted out across the site by Apichat Pakwan, Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band, and local Chiang Mai Dj Sankasi.

Jim Thompson Molam Bus

The Karma Stage and Synergy Stages were both dedicated to electronic music, with a wide variety of DJs blasting all forms of genres from deep house to drum’n’bass and psytrance. While the sun was high in the sky, the dance floors became dusty with the shuffling feet of people grooving to some electro-chill before heading off into the jungle to find more upbeat tempos. Names such as Alex Cruz, Suwana, Crussen, DJ Overstay and We Are Nuts brought crowds to the Karma Stage before both local and international DJs such as 1200 Micrograms, Skynet, DJ Jeremy, Puretek, and Oliver Osborne took the night away. Even event organiser Tom, AKA DJ I Lost my Keys, found time in his busy schedule to make several appearances over the three days.

Sadly, due to Thailand’s alcohol and entertainment laws, all but one stage had to close around midnight. For many this could be seen as a big turn off – a festival is, after all, supposed to be a three day non-stop party – however with the addition of the Chill Out Stage that continued until sunrise, people’s thirst for an all-nighter was adequately quenched. Although a lot calmer after midnight passed, local and international DJs served up a range of chillout and electronic music to see through the morning next door to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and café that was open the entire time.

Synergy at sundown

Food and Drink

Food was slightly limited at times, with large queues forming at the coffee joints and vegan breakfast bars in the morning, but on the whole it was enough to happily feed everyone who was there. From chicken wings to brownies, Burmese soups and Thai classics to kebabs and burgers – there was something for everyone. Hat’s off to the Chiang Mai Smokehouse for being absolute troopers and staying open for the entire duration of the festival, serving up bacon butties and freshly grilled hotdogs 24-7.

The event was partially sponsored by Leo and Moose Cider, so there were ample stations where people could fill their cup at a very reasonable price. For those looking for something a bit more powerful, the Jai Thep bars served up a rage of mixed drinks and cocktails in their own Jai Thep tin mug.

As the festival was located at Lanna Rock Garden, along the road towards Samoeng just south of Chiang Mai in the Hang Dong area, there were also options for people to pop out and grab some food at many of the local eateries with views of the local mountainscape if they so desired.

Art and Culture

As mentioned above, Jai Thai was always more than just a music festival. With art, magic and love as their other three main components, the organisers did an impressive job at decking out the event with amazing sculptures, flags, canvases and much more. Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, the festival utilised these areas to become hubs of creativity – with an exciting amount of workshops and performances throughout the event.

Workshops included classical Indian dance, sound circles, dream catcher making, reiki, body mapping, holistic hip hop, hula hooping, flip book drawing, African drumming, kirtan, tarot reading, belly dance and even laughter yoga. There was also a living room styled spoken word tent where a collection of poets, inspirational speakers, experts and artists shared their stories, opinions and words of wisdom with the engrossed crowds.

Walking around the festival, people would stumble upon impromptu 80s flash mobs, skateboarding competitions, interactive art exhibitions and interpretive dances that on occasion would involve rock music and lots or red paint.

Jai Thep Festival was also family friendly, with a specific kid’s zone open all day with toys and activities, along with dedicated workshops and performances for children. The day offered fun for all ages, with inflatable unicorns floating on the small stream that cut into the festival site where people were bathing, meditating, playing and dancing in the water. At no point did we notice any unruly drunks, or violence at the festival, something the organisers put down to the warm and loving atmosphere that was created by all the happy festival goers and staff members who were dedicated to making the festival great.

Thumbs up from Citylife

All in all, this festival was a great success. Citylife has followed many events that come and go in Chiang Mai but we can genuinely say that this one was something special. We hope that Jai Thep Festival will succeed and grow for years to come, and if you want to support them in anyway, please don’t hesitate to reach out. The entire local community, both Thai and English, have been yearning for something of this scale and calibre for decades and now we have it. Sure, Thailand has a number of other well-known and professionally managed festivals but none are quite like Jai Thep. It’s rustic, it’s not pretentious, it’s reasonably priced and in a few years we may even dare to describe it as a mini-Glastonbury if they continue on this path! Saying that, this was their first year so there were several teething problems we think deserve a mention – the toilets were limited, certain spirits ran out, there were not enough water points – but these problems, there was nothing that could not be overcome with a little ingenuity. Jai Thep also proved that festivals are not just for 20-somethings looking for a bender, but all types of people from all walks of life and all ages. Both Thai’s and foreigners soaked up the good vibes and were keen to get involved with anything and everything on offer.

If you missed it this year then make sure to keep February 2019 open so when they announce the official date you can get time off work, book your flights and buy yourself a new tent. This year saw massive growth from the years before, and no-doubt the next year will be even bigger and even more magical. 

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