About once or twice a week, I get into a taxi and tell the driver the name of a certain club. And without fail, the answer is ‘Huh? Tee nai?’ I don’t blame the taxi drivers for not knowing it. It’s not like they read Thailand’s Vanity Fair, is it? They’re more likely to be browsing Thai Rath and finding out how their politicians are fucking up the country this week or which celebrity is ‘just friends’ with which other celebrity and/or business tycoon. Inevitably, this means the fare is unmetered because Bangkok taxi drivers fear the unknown. A trip from Sukhumvit to Sathorn holds untold horrors such as red lights and traffic jams. At this point I want to shout, “Of COURSE there’ll be fucking traffic jams!!! You’re a taxi driver in Bangkok!!! It’s an occupational hazard, you slack-jawed, puke-stain!!” Of course, I don’t shout anything of the sort because firstly I know rudeness doesn’t pay dividends in Bangkok and secondly I’m allergic to being cut in half by rice farmers wielding samurai swords. I nonchalantly say, “How much?” and then pay it, because however annoying Bangkok taxis are, they are ridiculously cheap. But before I get into a cab, I do something else. Something I rarely do for any other club… I check if there are any people there. I call up a DJ/Security/Manager that’s working that night and get the lowdown on numbers. No-one likes partying in a half empty club. And this particular club has a problem looking full.
It’s hard to identify the problem, but I suspect it’s a combination of lots of different things, which makes it that much harder to address. There’s no getting away from the fact that Kudeta is remote. You knew I was talking about Kudeta, right? Please. Don’t make me explain everything – I’m lazy enough as it is and I’m assuming any readers I might have are semi-smart. But being remote doesn’t necessarily mean a club will be a flop. Spicy and Swing have overcome remoteness with a combination of taxi drivers’ commissions and a policy of staying open when everywhere else has closed. I remember an Iranian guy getting his head blown off by a bouncer in Spicy earlier this year. I thought, “That’ll close them for a while…” But nope. They were still scraping the medulla oblongata off the ceiling when the music came back on. If a club isn’t located in a traditional, nightlife area, it’s got to offer the punters something different. Something they can’t get elsewhere. It might be a different kind of music, great drinks promotions, an amazing interior or Persian brain-decorated-ceilings. But it’s got to be different.
What it has to offer
Don’t get me wrong, Kudeta has something no other club in Bangkok has. It has space. Lots of space. And that might also be a problem. Kudeta is son-of-Bed-Supperclub. I know it’s not a legitimate son, but the pedigree of staff, management and DJs comes directly from Bed Supperclub. If Bed had 50 people in one room, it looked reasonably busy. When Kudeta has 50 people in, they have to communicate with Line. With its high ceilings and elongated shape, drinkers seem very far removed from dancers. There aren’t many clubs where the DJ can’t be seen by most of the customers. The DJs can be heard though. Of that, there’s no doubt. Kudeta has one of the most incredible sound systems in Bangkok. Probably the best. There’s a stack of speakers positioned around the DJ that blast out a wall of sound that throbs and pulses through patrons’ bodies like a five chili som tam. Sadly though, the music coming through this awesome sound system is the same that can be heard in any one of a dozen other clubs around Bangkok. Wait! I know. Thursday is house music night. And it’s slightly different to house music played in other clubs on house music night. However, I’m not convinced that many people follow music types to a club. The most consistently busy clubs don’t have different music genres on different nights… They play commercial, or house, or hip hop… And they play it every night. In my opinion, people go to a club because it ticks plenty of boxes; good sound, decent tracks, good service and value for money. And here’s another issue with Kudeta. The pricing. Johnny Dope doesn’t often notice the price of drinks. I usually pick up the bill at the end of the night when I can’t focus on the details that clearly anyway. But I can quite clearly remember the first bill I received at Kudeta. A slim, attractive hostess passed me a velour wallet and at first glance, I presumed she was passing me her phone number… There were that many digits, it looked like the budget deficit of a medium-sized developing country. A beer is reasonably priced. But a spirit or a glass of wine starts getting expensive. And then bottle service is double or even triple the cost in other clubs in Bangkok.
Is the service that much better? In a word, Yes. The staff is attentive and usually quick to sense when a glass is nearly empty. Compare that to the staff in other clubs who don’t have a basic grasp of English… or customer service… and many of whom lack opposable thumbs and the power of speech. It’s a pleasant surprise to meet service staff that remembers your name, your usual order and not to mention ex-girlfriends in front of your date. But is it worth three times as much as other places? In another word, No. Bangkok has a track record of showing no mercy to big name clubs. More than a decade ago, Ministry of Sound opened its doors to a less-than-warm welcome. Not particularly remote or expensive, it struggled to get a foothold. It stuck to its original business plan. And ultimately it failed. Kudeta has great potential. And opening a venue of this size outside of a recognized clubbing area takes nerve. But unless the club can offer a completely unique experience at a reasonable cost, I can’t see people trekking over to the other side of town. I really hope they’re planning something amazing as I write or I hope I’ve misread Bangkok’s clubbing public.