Bangkok Bands at Jai Thep: Roman Anton Rock the Main Stage

Write your material, practice and play out. That’s how you get to Jai Thep. If you saw Tiny Giant and The Low Down this year, you would know what I am talking about.

BKK OX went on a journey to the Jai Thep festival, Chiang Mai and hung out with Bangkok rock band Roman Anton as they took to the Main Stage for the second year running. We give you the Main Stage lowdown at Lanna Rock Garden, through the eyes of the performer/novelist/artist, Roman Anton.

All paths at Jai Thep eventually lead to the iconic Main Stage, at this unique, magical festival. As you enter the gates you are greeted by the kind, smiling Kava boys, oozing good vibes, who beckon you into their Kava tent. Then comes the Home Stage, home of epic spoken word and musical fusions. On your left, an array of smaller areas, with organic food stalls, wellness tents, and kids’ play zones.

The booming sound of the techno castle is omnipresent in the air. On the right side of the path, an irresistible river runs through Lanna Rock Garden, which has its own stage and an atmosphere of pure flow, as people connect spiritually with the river and its calming powers.

As you progress down the path, surrounded by beauty and happiness, mountains and the burning sun, the Main Stage sits imperiously on its own, a magnificent feat of creativity and craftsmanship. “The Green Man” is an amalgamation of mythological creatures blended into one monumental stage presence, and it was under his watchful eyes that Roman Anton opened the Main Stage on Saturday 1st February.

I would describe Hong Dong, Chiang Mai as a spiritual area.  Lanna Rocks, the location of the festival, is at the center.  It’s spiritual and wild at the same time. And since the air gets cool at night, it’s unique to Thailand in a lot of ways.

Roman Anton

Roman Anton comprise of Roman on guitar, Frank on the bass, and Shogo on the drums. They perform regularly in Bangkok at Queen Bee, every Sunday, and practice prolifically. They have eight recorded albums of original music, all with their own unique themes and artwork, created by Roman.

The Main Stage, a truly astounding creation by Holland and his team, is also a major production effort. The results are a spellbinding stage with thunderous sound, that echoes through the mountains. There also were numerous hiccups which RA had to ride before and during the show. RA rode these bumps like pros, perhaps a result of many road trips together and playing live so regularly. They’re battle tested.

This year was even more organized than last year. Tighter security and cleaner, clearer back stage and on stage area.  The sound was great and the equipment was nice to work with. Some of the same soundmen were there from last year so we had an easy set up.

Roman Anton

RA delivered a smooth, tight set without any apparent on-stage issues, until the stage manager came on and asked them to finish their set three songs early. Running behind schedule was a prominent theme at the Main Stage that Saturday and other bands were getting the same treatment. Bangkok bands would be wise to prepare for these unexpected moments, and to fight for their songs on that stage, as RA did.

Any time you play live on a stage, there are other people around you with jobs to do.  Managers, owners, cleaners, sound tech, other musicians. It’s important to recognize that everyone is working towards the same goal. Everyone has a job to do so compassion and patience are required in these situations, particularly on a big stage. The Jai Thep crew really get this.

Roman Anton

RA took a film team with them to Jai Thep, and no matter what your budget is for the trip, it would seem a missed opportunity not to have a person dedicated to filming your performance. This kind of content has huge residual benefits when you’re growing a fan base, applying for festivals, gigs, and of course, it carries sentimental value.

At the Lanna Rocks location, it’s really pristine and fresh.  There’s a real spiritual vibe.  I’ve felt that freshness before in the boundary waters of Minnesota, near Big Sur in California, in Northern Scotland, up by John O’Groats and in Sedona, Arizona.  Rugged and peaceful with clear icons that really draw you in with their beauty.   

Roman Anton

RA bid farewell to Jai Thep for the second year running, and emerged from the stage upbeat, yet with some lessons learned, more experience gained. They were able to overcome all on-stage issues, but one particular event resonated with Roman as we spoke after the show.

I know this is a small thing, but never rush the sound check if you have a choice.  Rath, our tech guy, properly mic’d our cowbell set this year, but we didn’t sound check it properly. It came out too soft during the set.  I’ve been waiting to play this here for several months now, to introduce the song to a larger crowd. For the band, it’s always a galvanizing moment when Shogo hits those cowbells. You can’t hear them on the video either. Big loss for the performance, and a good lesson for this show. Otherwise, we were really pleased with the day.

Roman Anton
Photo by James Lavorato

The daytime vibe at the Main Stage on Saturday afternoon was magic. It was a quiet coming together of musical souls, including the band, the whole production team and festival revelers. The atmosphere was relaxed, joyful and pure. Children played, a man juggled, a woman hula hooped, a frisbee was tossed around the crowd. Connection was happening, people connecting with each other, connecting with the surroundings, the river, the mountains. All the while nature intertwined with the resounding sounds on the Main Stage, and the Green Man looked on peacefully.

Roman’s tips for bands aspiring to perform on the Main Stage at Jai Thep:

  • Write good songs
  • Get your best set together and put it out there
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Play live often
  • Build your tribe
  • Keep Applying

Roman’s tips for bands performing on the Main Stage at Jai Thep:

  • Be compassionate and patient with other workers/bands
  • Sound check thoroughly

Check out Roman’s creations at http://www.romananton.com

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