The Thai Bee Gees At NCR

This was an event that held a lot of importance to the bar in question, New Country Road, which, like many other bars in and around the city of Pattaya in Thailand, is struggling to survive during low season. This year by all accounts, has been the worst yet and there seems little sign of improvement.

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But I helped my good friends and owners of the bar to promote the event and it paid dividends, as you will discover as you read on.

However, it was far from plain sailing. The threat of rain was always going to be a factor but thankfully Buddha was on our side. It was a lovely day as we built up for the arrival of the band from Bangkok.

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Then disaster. As the band did their sound check, the quality of the sound emitting to the area where the guests would hopefully be sitting, was dire to say the least.

All the noise was heading into the bar leaving an inaudible whimper coming from the front facing speakers. It sounded like you were listening to music coming from a bar 100 metres away, and there was little we could do.

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As Martin, the boss, looked stressed out, and no wonder; my head was buzzing, searching for solutions. It was then I decided to phone Phil, the manager of a rather excellent bar in Khao Noi, known as Murphy’s Irish Pub.

NCR had hired equipment from them previously for the Jerry Lee Carlson gig, a few months back.

But would they be able to help us out? Thankfully, Phil and owner Steve, were on hand to provide us with two much needed, quality speakers.

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But the problems were far from over, because we didn’t have the correct cables to connect the new additions to the sound system.

Disaster was again averted, thanks to a top man called Darren, who just happened to have the appropriate cables with him. And so, after a bit of jiggery-pokery, we were ready for action.

All we needed now was customers.

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We advertised the event as an eight o’clock kick-off but there was no one there. It looked like a month of advertising had been in vain.

Just when it looked like things were going to go pear-shaped, a party of six arrived. Then another group of eight appeared as the band sang their first song.

Within 20 minutes we had 60 – 80 people seated and for the first time in the evening but not the last, we ran out of seats. Martin and his partner oil, went on the search for more chairs and tables.

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Thirty minutes into the gig and we had around 100 people and again, more seating was required. Chairs and tables duly arrived from other venues, who kindly helped out.

I spoke to a number of people that I had never seen in Rompho before, to determine where they heard about the event. It seems that our many Facebook ads on a variety of events pages, had indeed paid off.

There is no doubt that Facebook advertising works.

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So with a packed house, the boys from Bangkok, began turning on the style. They played two hours of Bee Gees hits. Song after song, had the audience applauding.

There was a table near the front, with European girls enjoying the event and they contributed by treated us to some excellent dancing over the course of the evening.

Many of the visitors were from Thailand but we had a diverse crowd from further afield, in a truly multi-cultural turn out. Germany, Australia, China, Canada, America, France, the UK and people from many other nations were present.

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Pattaya’s number one dancer, John Farr arrived and as always, it was not long before he was strutting his stuff around the perimeter.

The band belted out the hits in that unmistakable falsetto and vibrato voices, accompanied by excellent harmonies, much to the crowds’ delight.

Jive Talkin’, Staying Alive, Massachusetts, which was requested at least TWICE by those in attendance, Run To Me, You Should Be Dancing, To Love Somebody, Words, I Started A Joke, which was another one requested twice as the hits were delivered in their own impeccable tribute to the Bee Gees.

They continued with songs such as How Deep Is Your Love, More Than A Woman, If I Can’t Have You, Alone, Night Fever, Grease, You Win Again and the classic Tragedy.

For their third set, as always, they finished with their variety section, which is not Bee Gees hits. Here they had the girls, and the odd guy, up dancing to the likes of YMCA and numerous other party songs. They threw in a number of rock ‘n’ roll tracks including Blue Suede Shoes, which again had people on their feet.

I am great believer in promoting live music and not a huge fan of karaoke type acts. There is nothing better than listening to a live act, who play their instruments, assuming they are talented musicians of course. However, there are times when rules are meant to be broken and this is one such occasion.

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The guys play keyboard and guitar but for them to produce the sound of the Bee Gees completely live, would mean performing with an orchestra and that is never going to happen in Pattaya. So yes, they utilise backing tracks but they do it so well. The real talent is their vocals for they sound identical to the brothers Gibb, whom they play tribute to.

After over three hours of entertainment, the band sat down with some of the guests and enjoyed a well deserved refreshment.

Would I go and see them again, having already enjoyed their performance twice? Abso-bloody-lutely.

Bangkok weekend anyone?

One comment spotted on New Country Road’s Facebook page in response to my offer of gratitude to the many people who assisted and took the time to come and enjoy the music, had me laughing or to use a word I particularly like “cachinnating”.

It came from Paul Bardsley. He said “A fantastic tribute band who could hit those “scrotum squeezing” high notes!

“A great evening at NCR! Thank you Martin, Oil and the staff!

Til next time………….”

The Blue Sky Band

I wasn’t planning on taking in two bands in one week, for after the Thai Bee Gees, I considered that anything else was going to be a bit of a let down. I mean no disrespect to other musicians in Pattaya but the Bee Gees blew me away and I considered that ample entertainment for this week.

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However, a good friend invited me his bar to listen to his resident band, with the promise that I would not be disappointed. As it was the same venue the Bee Gees performed at, I gave it due consideration and decided to take the camera out for trip to central Pattaya.

The band were called, as the title of this story suggests, “The Blue Sky Band”. I was introduced to them and sat and enjoyed a brief history of the group and its members from drummer Oy. At sixty-four, he is the elder statesman of the group but he does not look his age.

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He informed the band had been on the go for six months and where I could see them playing around the city of Pattaya. Oy lived in Switzerland for 24 years before returning to his native Thailand.

He introduced the other members as Lek on bass, Aon who plays lead guitar, Joe the keyboard specialist and the very talented vocalist, Jowel, who is the baby of the band.

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I took my seat in front of the stage area and waited on the music commencing.

Like many groups, they played three sets, the first one featuring songs that are designed to settle the audience down. They played hits from the likes of Chicago and Procol Harum before treating us to the Cars, Elton John and even the Bee Gees.

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They sounded good but they hadn’t really grabbed my attention. That was until Jowel sang Sam Brown’s “Stop”. It was then that I realised the evening was going to get better. She followed this up with a fantastic vocal on “Simply The Best” from Tina Turner and again, I was starting to accept that the hype honoured on them by my good friend Steve, could actually be justified.

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Occasionally Oy took the lead vocals as Jowel either went for a rest, played guitar or keyboard or wandered around the bar. He did a pretty good rendition of “Hello”, the classic from Lionel Richie. I was taken aback by his vocals, not something you often hear from the drummer of a band.

Jowel returned to front the group and sang a superb cover of a song, that at the time, I could not think who sang the original or even decide on the title. I had to ask the singer what the song was. It was Adele’s “Hello” which I thought was called “The Other Side”.

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We live and learn.

They completed the first set with astounding versions of “Purple Rain” and “Sweet Child Of Mine” by Prince and Guns ‘n’ Roses respectively. It was during these two songs that I realised how good the musicians in The Blue Sky Band were. The drums, lead guitar and keyboards shone through.

I had requested “Proud Mary”, one of my all time favourite Tina Turner songs and Jowel, true to her word, opened the second set with the song and nailed it. The drums on this one were top drawer it has to be said.

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They band were really coming to life and stepped it up a gear as they entertained us with a song I never expected from them – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The bass on this track pumped around the venue and the keyboards produced what sounded like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. What a treat we were having and the best was yet to come.

I should have known they would be a top band because they play in the Hard Rock Cafe, a venue that only use the cream of talent from the Philippines, Indonesia and occasionally, Thailand.

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The other thing that was evident, was their grasp of English during the vocals. Every word was pronounced as it should be, which is a failing on many local bands.

I always prefer live music over bands or artists that use backing tracks but there are some I make exceptions for, such as the aforementioned Bee Gees, who were a class act.

The Blue Sky Band however, were live and rocking the joint.

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Jowel continued to amaze us with her versions of Heart’s “Alone”, accompanied only by the sound of the piano.

Similarly Oy offered us his interpretation of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful To Me”. Aon exhibited his ability on the guitar as the five piece group played Toto’s “Hold The Line”.

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Then the real treat for me came with two back to back Queen hits “I Want To Break Free” and a spectacular version of “Somebody To Love”. The band were now well and truly alive and Jowel frolicked on the stage, goofing around with the band members. They were really enjoying this set.

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However, they attempted to cover Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares To You” which went pear shaped. They apologised and admitted they had never performed it before. Nevertheless, they came back to the song during the third set and did it justice.

It was during the third set that they played what I considered to be the best tune of the night. They had sang “First Cut Is The Deepest” in an acoustic style and “The House Of The Rising Sun” but when the played a very long intro to a Blondie track, I knew we were in for a treat.

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“Atomic” was just sublime. Jowel sang in the style of Debbie Harry but the band performed their own twist on the 1980 UK number one hit. Astonishingly, the recording just broke the top 40 in the USA back in the day.

With my evening complete, I packed up the camera and departed the Triangle Bar in the early hours. Three hours of wonderful music from a highly talented bunch of musicians, everyone of them a master of their trade.

It is baffling why talent of this nature is never seen around the globe or even further afield than Pattaya. In this case, it is Pattaya’s gain.

If you wish to see them, they play in the Triangle bar Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Variations of the band, under another name, play the Holiday Inn and The Hard Rock Cafe, although the line up is slightly different.

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The Thai Bee Gees

Music is a passion of mine and has been for many years. Alas it is only as a listener of quality songs over the decades as I never learned to play an instrument, and if I had my life over again, I would certainly pick up a guitar, drum sticks or keyboard and try and learn an instrument.

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For the moment, it will have to be the triangle, spoons or tambourine but there isn’t much demand for these skills.

However, what I lack in musical talent, I like to think I make up for with my trusty Nikon D750 and associated lenses and flash.

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Last night, I was accompanied by my hardware and a few friends and went to take in a gig featuring Bangkok band “The Thai Bee Gees”.

Now before I continue – there are numerous bands in Pattaya, who are Thai and musically they are extremely talented but when it comes to vocals, they struggling with English interpretations, especially when the letter “R” is used. Now I do not mean to be condescending or demeaning to anyone, for I know how difficult it is to learn to speak Thai but my point is, that the Thai bands are often let down when they commence singing.

It is for this reason, that many of the better bands feature Filipino or Indonesian singers to front them.

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This was not the case with the Thai Bee Gees, for this lot are top drawer. In fact, I would put them on a par with another amazing act and a great favourite of mine, Sweden’s “Jerry Lee Carlson”, who of course has played in Pattaya a few times and been the subject of my photography and blog on more than one occasion.

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Jerry is more flamboyant than the Thai Bee Gees. He has a huge stage presence and works his audience well as he sings the hits of Jerry Lee Lewis and other rock ‘n’ roll legends from days gone by.

The Bee Gees routine is 100% based on the vocals of the act they play tribute too. There are no gimmicks, no dancing, no fancy clothing or stage antics. They rely on the fact they sound like the Bee Gees to sell themselves and they do it very well indeed.

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They covered every Bee Gees song I could think of. In fact I got my iPhone out at one point and perused the trios hits over the decades, to see if they had missed any classics.

They had not!

The audience were given three sessions over a three hour period. They sang the early songs such as “I Started A Joke” which is one of my all time favourites. They did “Massachusetts”, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”, “Grease” and “I’ve Got To Get A Message To you”.

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The hits continued one after the other as the audience enjoyed the show from this talented group.

But it was the disco hits of the 1970s that really proved how good their harmonies were. “How Deep Is Your Love”, “More Than A Woman”, “Night Fever”, and “Staying Alive” had the Triangle Bar jumping.

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The floated back and forward to hits like “Run To Me”, “Words”, “You Win Again”, “You Should Be Dancing” and “To Love Somebody”.

For me, and for many others, the best came when the did a tremendous version of “Jive Talking” and followed that up superbly with “Tragedy”.

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Now there are many tribute acts around the world and I have seen a few but you will be hard pushed to find a show, which nails 80% of the songs covered, the way they did. I say 80% because like any other gig, there is always a song or two that you don’t know or possibly didn’t like. In this instance, there was maybe two I couldn’t claim to know.

Their third session was a variety of songs, showing how diverse they are. The covered the Eagles with “New Kid In Town and Hotel California” which of course most rock cover bands will do.

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Then they opened up with an excellent version of “Smooth” which was a hit for Santana of course. They sang three or maybe four catchy Thai songs, which had all the Thai ladies up dancing.

At my request, they finish with a couple of the disco hits as the guys happily repeated two of the earlier songs.

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Now, the group did use backing tracks. At the end of the day, there are only three of them and one only played the tambourine. The hits of the Bee Gees, frequently had orchestral backing, so they have little choice but use backing tracks.

I have no problem with this because their vocals and harmonies were simply sublime. One guy played keyboard and the other a guitar.

But I can assure you, they are not a karaoke band. The lads are extremely talented and entertaining.

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Steve Archer of the Triangle Bar is renowned for attracting some of the best acts to the venue. With Jerry Lee Carlson, The Bangkok Beatles and of course his regular nightly rock bands, the Triangle is one of the hot spots for music in Pattaya. The Thai Bee Gees graced the stage and hopefully will be back in Pattaya very soon.

Most local acts would kill to play at the Triangle for they always have a large audience. Yes there are numerous venues that supply a wonderful assortment of musical extravaganza; something for everyone you could say but there are few that come close to this venue.

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For those who like the Bee Gees and have not seen this tribute to the Brothers Gibb, I strongly suggest you do so. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

Soulmates

I was very much in demand at the weekend, which is never a bad thing. Nor is it something to complain about, for if you are being requested to attend certain events, they it suggests that I am doing something right.

Firstly a friend from Germany, Helmut, asked me to take some photos to assist in the promotion of his band and in particular, their new singer Maricel.

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It soon transpired that I would be participating with a band of maniacs, and I mean that in the kindest possible way.

I had met all of the band before apart from the new vocalist and my first impression was, she was very pretty and I may get some decent images. But I did not expect her to be so natural and fun in front of the camera.

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The images were to be taken at Dongtan Beach in Jomtien area of Pattaya and on location at the “Sand Bar By The Sea”. The light was fading fast, for in Thailand it gets dark from 19:00 and by 19:30 it was pitch black, apart from any ambient lighting from buildings.

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I hadn’t began taking the photos when the hilarity began. The top image is of Helmut and Maricel. The gentleman that he is, offered to carry the lady to the beach, because she couldn’t walk in her heels. It resulted in my first picture.

Next I snapped one of Maricel as she larked around, letting the sea breeze mess with her hair. She certainly enjoys being in front of the camera and was a dream to photograph.

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From there I took a couple of group shots before snapping head and shoulders photos of each member of the band, who are known as “Soulmates”.

All was going well despite the lack of light. I was using flash of course and it is well documented on my blog that I am not in favour of using what I believe is an offensive weapon but I am slowly beginning to make the best of any situation, where I have to use artificial lighting.

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My forte is of course studio work or in fact anything that involves pointing my camera at people and on this occasion, I had some excellent models to hone my skills on.

I learned a lot about the usage of flash from a fellow photographer living in Pattaya by the name of Marcus. He showed me the error of my ways and I feel that my photography has benefited from him taking the time to assist me. Just shows that we never stop learning.

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Based on that, I play around with settings when working with my Nikon SB700 flash. Sometimes I like to capture the ambient lighting, which is what I was failing miserably at before my meeting with Marcus.

However, sometimes I like to keep the background as dark as possible. This is by design as I believe that a plain background, can often emphasise the subject, in the case the model.

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Now time was tight as I had agreed to take images at a gig in central Pattaya at the Triangle Bar, where a top tribute band were performing. The band in question was the Thai Bee Gees. They commenced their performance at 21:00 and I wanted to be there early to get a front seat.

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My next post will be based on the Thai Bee Gees event.

This meant I could not hang around to listen to the new vocalist, but I did hear her first song and was very impressed.

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So I will make a point of going to see them for an evening in the very near future.

Helmet seems to have a knack of discovering wonderful female vocalists and it would be fair to say, he usually has the best in the city of Pattaya, and Maricel fits the bill perfectly.

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For those of you who haven’t seen Soulmates, you should make an effort and take in one of their gigs. Their selection of music often starts of slow and relaxed in their first set and builds up to a crescendo of top quality guitar, keyboards, bass and drums from the band and there are three top class vocalist to entertain you.

Their style is a mixture of blues, rock and soul but let me tell you – if you are a fan of lead guitar solos, you must go see this band.

Many thanks to the guys and doll for inviting me along to do these photos. Hopefully there will be many more as we go forward.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven In Pattaya

What a fantastic couple of weeks I have enjoyed as far as music is concerned. Firstly, I went to see Helmut and Friends at the wonderful Hemmingways in Jomtien, where the band blew me away, with some amazing cover versions of soul, blues and rock tunes.

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Helmut is a guitar maestro and handles everything from Mark Knopfler to Gary Moore. In fact, the whole band are superb and if you haven’t seen them and you are in the Pattaya area, head along to Hemmingways on a Thursday evening from 20:00 and observe an awesome band in action.

The food in the bar is rather tasty too, I hasten to add.

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However, this post is about a certain Jerry Lee Carlson from Sweden and Håkan Nelson, from the same country. The pair played four gigs in Pattaya and I was fortunate to see two of them.

Initially I ventured out to The Triangle in central Pattaya, where a large crowd gathered to enjoy the show and secondly at New Country Road Bar (NCR) in Rompho, which is located in the Rompho Complex in Jomtien area of the city.

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Many people said the event would never work in Rompho but my friend Martin asked me to promote it for him and I did just that. Firstly with posters and flyers then numerous videos supplied by Sweden’s number one rock ‘n’ roll star, Jerry.

Jerry has played all over the world, including tours of Europe with his legends show, featuring tributes to Elvis, Roy Orbison and of course Jerry Lee Lewis.

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He has recorded a number of albums, appeared on TV and radio and is simply, one of the best entertainers you will ever see.

A lot of planning and preparation went into the NCR event, hours of hard work, hiring equipment, tables, covers in case it rained, food and so much more. Was it worth it?

Damned right it was.

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NCR attracted 102 people seated, plus 16 inside the venue and approximately 40 bystanders, who watched from the sidelines, due to either a lack of seating or they were enjoying the event from another bar.

Jerry kicked off the show as always with thundering rock ‘n’ roll classics from his hero Jerry Lee Lewis. He sang the hits of Elvis, Fats Domino, Hank Williams and even did a rendition of a Robbie Williams hit, just to show his versatility.

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Rock, country, blues and boogie woogie tunes all blasted out from the venue. Håkan Nelson on drums was his usually faultless self ashe followed Jerry’s left hand to keep the tempo going.

People came from other bands to watch the gig. Local media in the form of Pattaya People were present to record video material, which will air shortly. Love Pattaya were represented too and kindly supplied the bar staffs shirts.

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Bar owners came from pubs in Pattaya and Rompho to enjoy a fantastic show.  Many people came to Rompho for the first time and hopefully they will return with other new faces for future events.

Jerry sang “Great Balls Of Fire”, “Whole Lotta Shaking”, “High School Confidential”, Hound Dog”, Bonnie B”, ” Mean Woman Blues”, “Lewis Boogie” and many more classics from the golden era of music.

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If ever there was a man born to entertain, Jerry Carlson is that man. He is a genius on a keyboard/piano and sounds identical to a certain Mr. Lewis, when the legend was in his prime.

He also does a great impression of Andy Kaufman’s fictional character Latka Gravas from the hit US sitcom “Taxi”.

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Jerry also impressed with a version of “Take Me Home Country Roads” with a “NEW” added into the lyrics, just for the bar. He sang ” Blueberry Hill” replacing Blueberry with Phratamnak to give the song a local feel about it. Phratamnak Hill is a popular area in Pattaya with tourists.

Yours truly even acted as compere for the night, introducing Jerry and Håkan. Not something that was planned, I can assure you but it’s amazing what you can be persuaded to do following a few Smirnoff Midnight’s.

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Jerry did three sets and even came back for an encore or two once he had washed the sweat from his face because it was incredible hot on Saturday evening.

Like many others, I felt disappointed when the show came to its conclusion. The guys had entertained us for a couple of hours but I would have happily listened for another two hours.

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I love rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly, especially when it is produced to this standard. But all good things have to come to an end – till next time that is. Jerry and Håkan’s return cannot come fast enough and rumours are rife that they may return as a trio. I hope so!!

Next up NCR have Rock ‘n’ Roll Stephanie, who will feature at Martin’s birthday party. Steph, like me, is Scottish and does a fair bit of hip shakin’ during her act.

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If that event proves successful it will pave the way for further live music events at NCR, which can only help to attract visitors to the area, which in turn will benefit the many other bars and restaurants in the complex.

I happen to know a few great singers and bands in the UK, who if they ever fancied a busman’s holiday to Pattaya, could be catered for.

Ziggi – your audience awaits you 🙂

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Helmut & Friends At Hemmingways

I have visited Hemmingways a few times for food but I have never ventured into the bar/restaurant on a Thursday. This is when they have their live music nights, which features a band known as Helmut and Friends.

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Manager Mark, had previously invited me to come along on a Thursday evening but time had always been an issue for me. However, when assisting with a promotional project for a good friend, who just happened to want to see the group, it was a sealed deal.

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But there was something else to factor into the equation.

Pranom’s mother was visiting from Roi Et and I wanted to take her to a pleasant eating establishment, where I knew the food would be of an exceptional standard and the surroundings would match the quality of the cuisine.

So with these two details taken into consideration, it had to be Hemmingways.

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As always we were greeted by one of their friendly staff as we entered the bar. A smile and a warm welcome are not unusual in Thailand but the employees here are top drawer.

The band had set up but were 30 minutes away from commencing their show. So we took the opportunity to order our food and a drink.

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I have to confess that the staff at Hemmingways are exceptional, as mentioned above.

They look after you from the minute you walk in the door. They all speak very good English, which is a huge bonus, even though I was with two Thai ladies.

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The food as always was tasty and well presented with large portions. The ladies enjoyed a Thai offering from the extensive menu and I went for a burger that was put together following  my instructions.

I was armed with my camera, for I had agreed with the bar that I would take a few images for the venue and the band.

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Having never heard Helmut and Friends play previously, I was keen to perceive what they had to offer. I had listened to mixed reviews but 90% of the people I spoke to, rated them very highly.

They would not disappoint.

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I had a twenty minute chat with Helmut before they commenced playing and discovered that they often performed as a five-piece outfit, fronted by Filipino singer Jovy Del Rosario, who by all accounts is a fantastic vocalist.

Alas, on Thursday, there were playing as a four-piece band and one wondered if it was going to be a second rate show. But they were far from that!

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They began with a number of slow songs, mainly, I would imagine, because people were still enjoying Hemmingways’ cuisine. Songs such as “My Girl” provided light entertainment, whilst the diners enjoyed their food.

The band sprung to life during their second set of the evening with an absolutely brilliant version of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, done in their own impeccable style. The vocals on the song from Jayson Camilo were astonishing.

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They continued with well known hits such as “Africa” and “Down Under” and even had the audacity to cover Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summer Time”, which again was flawless.

During many of their songs, the band can be observed sharing jokes and generally having a great time, which often had the audience laughing along with them.

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Helmut is a huge Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits fan and let us see just how good a guitarist he is with a variety of amazing solos.

Anyone who can replicate, Knopfler on “Sultans of Swing” has to be a genius on a guitar and the song suited his vocals to a T, to quote an old idiom.

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This was jaw dropping stuff from Helmut and appreciated by those in the bar.

Then to show us their true versatility, they sang an uptempo version of Dean Martin’s “Volare” and and worked a treat. Vocals being from Jayson once more.

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In their third set they did many rock ‘n’ roll songs from the likes of Chuck Berry before displaying their versatility with Stevie Wonder classics and “Get Down On It” from the disco era. The bass playing on the Kool and the Gang hit from Jeckson Echavez was exceptional.

Drummer Marvin Javier, provided the beat and held the band together as they played hit after hit, from almost every genre of music you can imagine. The keyboard skills from Jayson and lead guitar solos from Helmut, truly are world class.

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Add into the equation, the amount of fun the band have as they play for you, and you really do have a fantastic ensemble for parties, night clubs or any other event you care to name.

Hemmingways have secured Helmut and Friends every Thursday from 20:00 and I would highly recommend, popping along to see them play. The venue is a high class establishment, spacious, air conditioned, free Wi-Fi and offers a huge selection of draught beers, wines and spirits.

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And in between the group’s sets, you can enjoy watching sport on one of their many televisions, strategically placed around the venue. They even have a beer garden, should you care to sit outside.

I would like to give a mention to the staff who work at Hemmingways. Rarely will you meet a nicer group of people, who treat their customers with the utmost respect.

From the minute you enter the premises, to the moment you leave, the crew at Hemmingways ensure you want for nothing.

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If you haven’t been there – it is well worth making the effort, whether it is for live music, excellent food or to view a sporting event on TV, Hemmingways is deserved of a visit.

Helmut and Friends were: Helmut Schachtner on vocals and guitar from Germany, Jayson Camilo, keyboard and vocals, Marvin Javier on Drums, Jeckson Echavez on bass,  all from the Philippines.

Missing was Jovy Del Roasario, whom I will make a point of going to see very soon. When someone tells you that “she will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up”, you have to take notice.

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By the way, the Hemmingways staff are a fun loving bunch too, happy to get involved with the photography.

Thanks to the band and to the management and staff. See you all soon I hope.

 

 

 

 

Brian Thomas And The Power

Anyone who knows me, will be well aware that I have a great love of music, especially live music. When it is done well that is.

Since arriving in Thailand, good music has been lacking in my life. There has been exceptions of course such as the fantastic “Jerry Lee Carlson” from Sweden but generally speaking, there isn’t much on offer here.

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Yes there are some excellent Thai bands but they are usually let down by the vocals and again, I will emphasise, there are exceptions to this rule.

Rules of course are meant to be broken.

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I have heard a couple of groups who impressed. One from Jakarta at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pattaya and another at The Corner House in Jomtien, this time from the Philippines.

But overall I haven’t been overwhelmed by the what has been on offer in Pattaya.

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Yes there are fantastic singers in the city but many rely on backing tracks and for me, this does not constitute live music. The karaoke styled singers are fine for background music or light entertainment but they cannot be taken seriously unless they play “live” with a band and without backing tracks.

Some are actually very good, for again, there are always exceptions to the rule but generally speaking, it has to be live for me.

I will take a moment to say that I know of at least two singers, who could play on any stage. They have the talent for sure but lack ambition or drive to take that vital step. I won’t put names to them, for that would be wrong of me – but I really wish they would take a chance and develop the talents they obviously have.

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I would kill to see certain entertainers here in Pattaya.

Some of the rockabilly or country bands I saw in Scotland or even a few of the many rock bands I took photos of across the UK in the year leading up to my departure from Scotland. I can always dream I suppose.

Busman’s holiday perhaps for singers/groups maybe?

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Anyway, I diversify.

A friend I met at a gig, contacted me and asked me to attend one his shows – I agreed but with trepidation.

Sure I knew he was an excellent drummer for I witnessed his ability when he performed with Jerry Lee Carlson but I knew nothing of the others he was performing with under the banner of “Brian Thomas and the Power”.

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As always I arrived early at the venue, which I knew well. In fact it was one of the first, if not “the” first bar I drank in when I arrived in Pattaya in April 2016.

Back then, every bar was new to me and I was keen to explore but I returned to the Lion Pub frequently in my first three months in Thailand, mainly for food.

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The Lion Pub is a large spacious venue, filled with high tables and stools, numerous TVs,  a couple of pool tables and a stage.

It is an excellent bar that also serves wonderful food and prides itself on its coverage of all sporting events.

If it is on, just ask at the bar and it will appear on one of the many TVs.

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However, I had never attended a music night at the Lion Pub, so not only was the band unknown to me but I didn’t know what to expect from the sound and lighting on the night either.

The latter of course being important to me as I was armed with my Nikon D750.

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The warm up for the band seemed to be prolonged and at times I considered vocalist Brian to be either a perfectionist or somewhat pedantic as he strived for a polished sound before commencing the show,

I guess a bit of both but as I was soon to discover, it was worth the wait.

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The band play a mixture of rock and soul music but they do lean heavily towards soul, even when performing rock classics. Not that they do any songs in their repertoire an injustice. Far from it, in fact.

They have an original feel about their sound that gives a uniqueness to the songs they deliver.

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Brian is an excellent vocalist. Being from New York, there is no requirement for him to put on a fake “American” accent. It comes natural.

He reminded me at times of another American singer, Huey Lewis. I am not sure if he will enjoy that comparison or not. Time will tell 🙂

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Brian is an accomplished guitar player covering both rhythm and lead variations, again with a soul music style about his play.

The bass guitarist Scott, provided the beat along with Håkan on drums and to be honest, when you added in the saxophone played by Noi, the sound was phenomenal, even before any vocals were applied.

It was evident that I was in the company of a proficient set of musicians.

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The band played a variety of well known tunes that had the audience’s feet tapping from the start.

But more was to follow when seventy-three year old John, arrived and gave the evening another dimension and the dance floor a purpose.

John loves to dance, especially to rock ‘n’ roll, which the band duly provided.

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Once John was on the floor, the ladies soon joined him much to the enjoyment of those in attendance.

Back to the band. They covered many famous and well known songs, from Motown and other soul and rock sources. INXS, The Blues Brothers, Chuck Berry, Johnny Otis, Johnny Kid and the Pirates, the Temptations, Rufus Thomas to name but a few of the artists covered by Brian and the the guys.

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The spectators were invited to join in during audience participation slots. Yes the old “na na na na na” permits everyone to take part, irrespective of what language you speak.

Overall, I was impressed by Brian and the Power and would happily venture out to see them again. I would recommend them to anyone who loves live music.

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I am always seeking good music shows, so if you know of any – get in touch. Pattaya only for obvious reasons, unless someone fancies taking me on a musical adventure 🙂

Looking Back On The Things I Did

I have been feeling a bit nostalgic today so I thought I would write something around the pictures I have taken over the years.

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I began my life in photography way back in the days of film with a Praktica camera but alas I have no images from those days. They were tough on the old wallet, as mistakes cost you dearly with processing costs.

I progressed to digital photography with a Sony Mavica around 1998. The camera was shockingly bad, using the old 3.5″ floppy discs to store images on. From there I moved to a Kodak that was a huge improvement as far as image quality was concerned.

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By now I was beginning to enjoy my photography, so I purchased a Panasonic Lumix G1 with a 200mm zoom lens. It used the Micro Four Thirds system, was light and easy to use.

I was asked to do some pictures at football matches shortly after buying the Lumix. The camera was ideal for the task, until the light was poor or it was raining, which was frequent in Scotland. So a new camera was acquired in the form of a Nikon D90, which was soon replaced by the excellent D7000. I used the latter for two years before progressing to a full frame Nikon D600, D610 and finally, at the time of writing a D750. I still own a D610 but it is in Scotland awaiting shipment to Thailand.

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The first image on this post was taken with my Nikon D90 with an 18-200mm zoom lens. I was thrilled with it at the time, despite still learning how to use the camera.

I had worked on various websites as a photographer before being asked to work for the Scottish Womens Football Association. The next image was taken at Aberdeen when the Scottish ladies played host to Cameroon, on a wet and cold, wintry day. There was as much excitement in the large crowd as there was on the field of play.

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Over a period of six years, I covered hundreds, if not thousands of matches for men, women and children’s games before I finally had the opportunity to go into a studio with models.

My inaugural shoot was in Glasgow with brother and sister Tunde and Eno and despite having no knowledge of studio lighting and no assistance from the studio owner, I managed to obtain a number of decent photos. The couple can be seen in photo three.

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I was hooked. I had found an area of photography that I simply had to explore more. I loved working in a studio environment and the truth be told, it is probably the only reason I would consider returning home. I miss taking models into one of the many studios I used but in Thailand, I have yet to discover a setup that compares with what I am accustomed to.

Actually I have yet to find a studio for hire!

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I continued working at football matches but every free moment I had, I would find myself arranging studio shoots with a variety of models, covering diverse themes from Marilyn Monroe to rock chicks or glamour shoots to horror. I would point my camera at anything that I found interesting or different.

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Then one day, I was invited to a music event. A concert featuring numerous bands. Nervously I arrived at the venue, not knowing if I could capture the night’s entertainment or if it would be a complete disaster. Thankfully it proved to be another stepping stone for me, for the night was a success.

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Again, I was addicted to this new form of camera work. I did gig after gig, touring the UK, working at prestigious venues such as the O2 concert halls around England and Scotland. I also photographed an all girl punk band in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, famous for hosting “Strictly Come Dancing” these days.

Despite the travelling time, spending many nights in hotels, I was in my element.

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Not only was I getting “Access All Areas” passes to gigs but I was getting up close and personal with the bands. I was “on stage” with the groups, capturing the drummers at close range.

I met the odd famous person and many new friends, a number of which I am still in touch with today.

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Not only did I have the opportunity to work with some wonderful acts, I also took them into studios or on location, so I guess I must have been doing something right.

There were also downsides to working with music acts. Many thought that cameras grew on trees or Nikon just presented you with £20,000 worth of equipment for free. To say they were reluctant to put their hands in their pockets would be an understatement. Some people still believe that photographers should work for free.

Alas this is not the case. If you have a burst pipe, you expect to pay the plumber – right? The acts get paid, and so should the photographer.

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There were a lot of people who understand that your equipment costs money and has to be kept up to date and were happy to pay for my services.

So where I am now? Well I am currently living in Thailand and loving life but not working with the camera at least once or twice per week, irritates me.

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I have of course been out and taken many images in my time here but my objective is to return to some form of full time employment within the world of photography. It may not be here in Thailand but it needs to happen, for I have a yearning deep inside me to take photos.

Maybe I will find the cash to invest in a Nikon D800 and D5000, my dream cameras.

One day!

 

 

 

 

Everyone Loves A Party

Since arriving in Pattaya, Thailand in April 2016, I have enjoyed many wonderful parties, typically in the area known as Rompho. My latest venture into the nightlife of Pattaya was no exception.

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Rompho is a complex of bars and other small businesses all set in one location. It is said that there are fifty bars within the complex but if I am honest, I have frequented around a dozen or so.

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I have my favourites that I used to visit often but since moving to a new condo, three kilometres away from Rompho, I am not seen just as often as I would like to be.

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But every so often, I do return, mainly to see friends or maybe I am passing by whilst out on one of my 10 kilometre walks in the sun and I pop in. I always get my haircut at one of the barbers in Rompho, just so I can say “hello” to people I know.

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Recently I was invited to a double birthday party, although it may have been my camera that was asked for more than me 🙂

Never one to turn down a good party (within reason), I packed my bag with my Nikon D750, my SB700 flash unit and a couple of lenses and set out to do what I enjoy most. Getting drunk! No – seriously – taking photos.

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When I arrived I was delighted to see that the band were one that had appeared at the venue before, the location being, the Corner House Bar in Rompho. Despite having photographed the band previously, I still don’t know if they have a name. They certainly didn’t the first time I saw them. But when you are adept with your instruments and fronted by a talented vocalist, it doesn’t matter what you call the band!

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It was the lead guitarist who attracted my attention. The man was made for the camera. He has one of those lived in faces that every photographer hopes to stumbleupon. AND he is willing to pose as he plays, acting up for the big shot. My opening image features this man, and once again, I apologise for not knowing his name. Next time I will ask.

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The party, as always at the Corner House, was a huge success and my role was to capture as many of the guests on camera as possible.

The celebrations were for Stuart, the gaffer and his friend Chris from Luton, who were both honouring each other’s birthdays. Why we celebrate being a year older is beyond me. I would rather rejoice if they discovered a way to become a year younger!!!

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My second image is one of my favourites, for there is nothing more rewarding than photographing good looking people. I captured this lovely couple as they entered the bar.

Next up is a man with a face that you cannot forget. His beard is distinguished and the extraordinary ponytail, if that is what it’s called, is an eyecatcher.

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The bar staff in most bars in Pattaya are worth concentrating on. This image of the dark haired beauty, is the Corner House’s cashier – Bee.

Then we have the girl in the green dress, who was sat opposite me and my girlfriend, Nom. But I bet she regrets sitting at the photographer’s table, for when I got bored, my attention switched to her. She was a star it has to be said, posing like a true model but unfortunately I missed most of her ingenuity whilst striking a pose and she wasn’t one for repeat performances. However, the photos of her that were taken when she forgot about my presence, provided some fun shots.

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Then we have birthday boy Chris and one of his friends from England. Two very nice guys. Chris, went to the trouble of buying every lady in the bar a flower from one of the many flower sellers, who come round Rompho. The girl with the roses must have thought it was Christmas.

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A Scottish friend and rock ‘n’ roll singer appears next. Stephanie was there for various reasons but one was the hope of getting the opportunity to belt out a few songs. She gave us three renditions of Chuck Berry classics to mark the passing of the rock ‘n’ roll legend. Steph is well known around Pattaya, often seen singing in a variety of bars. This time however, she performed with a very good band, and was awesome. Not that she is bad without the band of course. Best get that in before I get thumped!

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I have included one of that man again, the lead guitarist but this time with an artistic approach. I set the camera to F2.8 and got close up, zoomed in, so that I achieved a depth of field that blurred the closest point of his guitar. The focal point being his plectrum.

Now the gentleman who looks like he is crooning his way through a Frank Sinatra song or belting out a power ballad, is actually singing “Happy Birthday” to Stuart and Chris. In another life, he could be a soul singer, at least for photographic purposes. I love this image.

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The presentation of the birthday cake to Stuart from his lovely partner and soon to be wife, Petch. I have much to thank Stuart for but that is something I won’t go into here, suffice to say that I am honoured to be associated with him.

The two beautiful girls are again anonymous, for either I cannot recall their names or I forgot to ask. Well I was drinking copious amounts of Vodka at the time. But they take a lovely photo and that is all that matters to me.

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Another good man, playing pool. Steve, who asked for an action shot of himself, which may not be the best term to use in the city of sin, as described in certain newspapers.

What’s going on over there then? The boys from Luton seem interested in something but I have no idea what caught their attention. I am also at a loss as to what is going on behind them 🙂

I will leave you with another image of a man that I could photograph all day or night in this instance. Again the aperture on the camera is set to blur anything close or in the background as I focused in his face.

Many thanks to Stuart for the invitation to his party. May there be many more.

The whole collection can be found by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Steph Recordings

A good friend of mine from Scotland but currently living in Pattaya, Thailand, recently went into the recording studio to produce a new tune for her many fans.

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Stephanie Quinn has been rocking around Thailand and beyond for a number of years and has in fact numerous recordings to her credit.

Steph is also a trained nurse and school teacher so has many strings to her bow.

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I photographed her at a bar in Pattaya a few months back and I am delighted to say that Steph was pretty happy with the results.

We met up recently at the Crew Bar and Cloud9 Bar in Pattaya’s Soi Buakhao area for a chat. When she informed me of her new venture into the studio, I thought I would offer her some publicity.

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Stephanie recently appeared on Sky TV (UK) and can often be heard on Rockabilly Radio, which is a popular Internet radio station for Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rockabilly fans, which runs 24 hours per day.

Want to hear Steph’s latest recording Red Alert? Simply click here to listen to her latest release.

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Red Alert was written by Steve and Heather Taylor and recorded at Oceanwave Studios in Thailand. It will be available from Amazon, Spotify, Itunes and Nimbit.

Watch Steph on the Janey Kirk TV Show (SKY TV). Click to view.

Steph is a huge fan of 1980s star Shakin’ Stevens and covers many of his and other rock ‘n’ roll legends music. Listen to her tribute to Shaky. Click here.

If you wish to hire Rock ‘n’ Roll Stephanie you can contact her via her Facebook Page here.

If you love rock ‘n’ roll music and want to keep it alive, please share this post.

Keep Music Live.

PS: The beers are on you Steph 🙂