Searching for the Brown Note up and down the busy tourist strips of Ko Samui’s Chaweng beach was a challenge. Every bar and club has an open air live band set up for what are usually bad cover bands; and late into the evening they are all competing for your ears with the place next door and the ever present roving vans, pumping out adrenalin charged soundtracks spruiking the latest Muay Thai fight or the thrills of indoor skydiving; all screaming out from massive speaker systems.
Every now and then though, something does catch the ear and for me it was the strains of Bohemian Rhapsody coming from Palms Bar and Grill expertly performed by Joker Parade, four Thai lads with a straight up line up of drums, bass, guitar, keys and vocals. They played with passion and subtlety, cranking through songs with ease to please their crowd without overplaying.
These guys have managed to get a bit of a following as the hottest band on the island with repeat visits night after night from short stay tourist fans rolling in, greeting the band like old friends.
All four are all skilled musicians appealing to the wider tourist crowd playing live with a massive repertoire, like a jukebox in a band, to keep the crowd drinking at the venue. There is no set list, they rely on what the crowd wants to hear on the night; the only structure to the 3 hour set is that they generally start with a bit of softer rock and progressively organise heavier requests towards the end of the night until they turn into a demonic, screaming, heavy metal band – which, it seems, is what they really want to do.
What starts off as a night with Elvis Presley can end up with some screaming Rage Against the Machine, AC/DC, Led Zepplin, Metallica and Motorhead – but every night is different.
Drums thunder through the songs with expert use of a double kick – but only when needed; bass provides a growl and really lights up towards the end of the night. The guitarist, cranks out riffs with a laconic saunter thought the crowd, cigarette hanging from his mouth like it belonged there for ever, in true Keith Richards style. Keys are animated, set up on a horizontal lazy Susan of a stand for some Jerry Lee Lewis antics. This is all topped off by vocals that would make Robert Plant and Brian Johnson jealous as he belts out the metal like he was weaned on it. See what I mean here.
On an island where there are more bum notes than Brown Notes, Joker Parade made a valiant effort at reaching for that Brown Note; and by the end of the night there were a few tourists running for the loo.