The crowd surges forward. The singer, a 40 something skinny white guy, screams into the microphone, which has been taped to the top of a camera stand. The room is so hot that water drops from the ceiling. The linoleum is coming off the floor in long torn rolls of dirty plastic. The drums thud like painful bowel movements, the guitars sing like angle-grinders. The entire room feeds back and one has the feeling of being inside the moving turbine of an airliner. But it’s not unpleasant. It´s punk rock. The only lights come from a projector and a bed side table lamp. The bar sells little other than beer. A man in front of me bumps into a fat woman who falls heavily. For a second it looks like she is going straight through the floor, but the building remains structurally intact, for now. A young muscular punk with a Mohawk and a T Shirt that reads ‘Teach your children to worship Satan’ is trying to hang sheets across the broken windows – the cops have already been around once tonight, complaining about the noise. The skinny old white guy starts screaming again. The crowd, unkempt, lost souls in need of a wash for the most part, pogo and dance, drink and scream like there’s no tomorrow.
New York? London? Paris? Berlin?
No, this is Bangkok, Thailand. Welcome to the Overstay, the city’ s dirtiest, skuzziest, most amateur music venue and hotel. It’s 3am on Saturday night and the no-name punk band clears the stage. The audience, young low budget wasters – hippies and crusties, punks, freeloaders and the confused – have trolled in from the near-by Khao San Road, Bangkok’s backpacker ghetto, bringing a few Thai night lights – rock chicks, tattooed hard men and other lonely souls with them. There’s one more band to play. Waiting for them is like waiting for the end of the world – everything at the Overstay is slightly apocalyptic, starting with the toilets and including all other aspects of this cheap flop house cum music venue.
In fact, the Overstay is so much more than a hotel, bar or club – in its short existence, the establishment has managed to ignite a shit storm of negative publicity on the Internet, garnering shocked reviews for its one-dollar rooms (free in low season) on Trip Advisor and many other hotel-booking pages. Reviewers gush forth hundreds of words, warning fellow travelers about the pitfalls of the Overstay – dirty, unsafe, noisy as hell, with the foreign owner allegedly enslaving those who can no longer pay into running errands. And yet, some of those very same reviewers stay four nights. Beats me.
Until recently, the Overstay had a much more traditional function. The building, located in Thonburi, east of the Chao Praya River, was a brothel. It’s said that two murders took place in there during its glory days. A resident ghost is rumored to haunt the building, but I never did venture into the toilets and hence missed him/her.
As the next and last band, The Klong Riders, get ready for their show, the audience, tanked on Leo and Chang, the cheapest beers available in Thailand and the only ones for sale at the Overstay, has a chance to meditate on a unique cultural gem – this, for better or worse – is Bangkok’s only squat. It is also the city’s only underground music venue of sorts. The Overstay has no air-con, no cocktails and no chattering ex-pats in ironed polo-shirts with dolled up bimbo secretaries in tow. There are no journalists here and even what you might call regular tourists are unlikely to be attracted by the decor and the ambience.
The Overstay is completely horrible and many voices on the Net demand the place is closed down. It is not safe. It is a shame to Thailand. It would be an embarrassment in any city, and this makes the Overstay vital in Thailand’s capital, an urban sprawl of eleven million people that boasts no alternative music venues. Virtually no rock bands play in this town and those who do are forever in search of clubs to play. Most night spots are either karaoke-hell meat markets, internationally themed pubs in the worst possible taste, or bright, cool and aspiring spaces for the aforementioned chattering classes. Youth rebellion and RocknRoll don’t quite fit into traditional Thai culture. That’s why there are thousands of disenfranchised kids out on the streets every night with nothing to do, smoking amphetamines and racing their souped-up bikes into early teenage graves (or urns, as local culture and faith prescribes). Unlike their adolescent equivalents elsewhere, these kids have no cultural outlet. And they don’t even have an Overstay, as that is dominated by foreigners.
The Klong Riders hit the stage. That´s a largely metaphorical statement, there is no stage as such. The band plugs in on the third floor and roars off, the crowd shakes and screams, they know they are getting their money’s worth – admission is only a dollar and a half. The singer, a tall skinny guy playing his pitch-black semi-acoustic like a machine gun, vomits up his soul and launches into a surf guitar instrumental loud enough to douse the local community in sonic napalm. Welcome to the Overstay. Check it out. Just don’t use the toilets.
8 thoughts on “The Overstay – Thailand´s Worst Hotel is a Gem! Just Don´t Sleep There.”
Yes, still there. And very active. http://www.theoverstay.com/
Is it still there?
I concur, surviving being a mohawked street beggar is an achievement. Having had this incredible experience in life will surely have prepared you for further and most remarkable adventures.
I was not “slagging off” The Standards music or their talent as musicians. I was only commenting on their choice to disregard the entire BKK underground music scene and make the arrogant and delusional claim in the BKK post interview that their band was the only band doing anything different” when in fact their sound is “standard”, pop-ish and rather mainstream in comparison to bands such as BTS, Klong Riders, Sonny Luxury and Bone Clone to mention just a few. Perhaps if The Standards would choose to join the scene they would find out that there is more to it then just them, learn from their community experience, grow as musicians and help the scene to be stronger. We all make mistakes and say things we later regret. I hope that in the future we will see more unity rather than elitism coming from them. After all if you want to be popular and liked start by being interested in others more than yourself no matter what sort of music you play or how good your band is.
Btw… Being a 12 year old, mohawked street beggar does not make anyone a punk rocker but it does show a complete lack of parental guidance and responsibility. I am glad you survived many do not.
i was at that gig what a fucken awesome night everything soaked in sweat.
klong riders rock………….. and i wondered who that hip hop dude was too funny , but dont slag off the standards they are indy brit pop that aint punk. i was beggin money in the kings road out side the chelsea drug store age 12 with a mohawk in 1982..
the over stay total madness love it.
This comment turned up on the image link to my Overstay story
By Joey Schaaf
Submitted on 2010/07/18 at 9:47am
I came in disguise as a hip-hop rapper stealing the microphone and fooling most of my friends that it wasn’t me, but there is no disguising “The Over-Stay”. This place is the dirtiest punk rock dive/hotel and down right friendliest culturally deviant, anti-establishment, cheapest place to experience what “underground music scene”really is. What would other hotel/bar owners say to the idea of pulling the mattresses out of the rooms and nailing them to the walls to block the noise so the neighbors wouldn’t call the police again for disturbing the peace at 2:00 am? This was my final show that I attended in Bangkok before leaving Thailand. The bands (Blood Thirst Spider, Bone Clone and Klong Riders) who are the core of the Bangkok underground music scene delivered honest and crowd pleasing music of a different soul, (Unlike POP_Scene/The Standards who have previously claimed in recent BBK Post music interviews to be the only band doing anything different in BBK). <– Don’t believe that hype in black and white. Burn your news paper and head down to the river where the real thing is happening at places like The Over Stay and Common Ground!
truly fantastic, the overstay. great article
Sounds as if I missed another good night out.