A single lamp hangs over a drummer, bathing him in warm light. It sways back and forth, illuminating a colourful red backdrop. A sizable group of people spill out into the street. Some dance while others silently observe. A contagious feeling spreads quickly among the onlookers. They laugh and smile, eyes twinkling and feet tapping. Hard-hitting beats rise above the blend of sounds, driving forward the groove. A saxophonist takes the lead. The surrounding crowd cheers wildly as the melody builds. The notes soar upward, reaching greater and greater heights. People lean in closer, nodding their heads. The saxophonist abruptly slows down, his rhythm inching to a mere crawl. The drummer taps the hi-hat lightly, occasionally rattling speedily across the snare drum. The other instruments rise upward, reaching into the night sky. The melody peaks at the absolute apex of sound. The drummer suddenly slams the cymbals with full force. Final guitar notes buzz for a short a while, and then fizz out. Everyone cheers wildly. The night has finally ended at The North Gate Jazz Co-Op, one of the best live music venues in Chiang Mai.
The North Gate Jazz Co-Op is truly a memorable spot. This venue has both indoor and outdoor seating. A small indoor balcony offers places to sit right above the stage. From this balcony people can get a nice view of the band directly below. Two large doors open the bar up to the outside, so the music echoes out into the street. It’s quite an intimate bar, but that is part of what makes it so appealing. The band plays directly in front of the crowd. This allows people to get up close to the musicians, and easily see the ensuing action. In front of the venue is the old city wall, which is beautifully lit up at night. Certain small design touches inside this bar, such as the colourful stage backdrop and swaying overhead light, give the venue a lot of character. The third floor also has a small bar and a balcony. Nice leather couches adorn this space. From the upper balcony there is a wonderful view of the wall and moat below, and the bustling nighttime streets.
The music at The North Gate Jazz Co-Op is consistently amazing. Jazz is sometimes unfortunately labeled as “background music,” and the music at this venue is anything but that. Just like the musicians that play at Boy Blues Bar, the bands here are incredibly skilled. If you want to experience squealing guitar solos, smooth saxophone grooves and intricate drum fills than this is the place to go. The musicians’ insane skill is made evident by the large crowd of people that usually form outside of the venue. The music starts around 8pm and goes nonstop until midnight. Many people stay the majority of the night, enjoying their drinks and mingling in the street. “In a normal night three bands play at North Gate,” explains Paul, a Chiang Mai local. Over the course of the week though, a host of differing bands take the stage. “The North Gate has different bands every night. Altogether eleven bands play on a weekly basis,” says Paul. The North Gate Jazz Co-Op is famous for its jam night, which is on Tuesday nights. During this lively occasion anybody can come up and play the instruments. Talented individuals hop up on stage, showing off their intricate guitar and drumming skills. “The jam night is somewhat famous internationally. People have heard about it around the world. There are even people who come to Chiang Mai just for the jam night,” explains Paul.
Next time you’re looking for a fun night out, be sure to drop by The North Gate Jazz Co-Op. Grab a drink, mingle in the street, and absorb the soulful music, as relaxing melodies echo gently up into the night sky.
North Gate Jazz Co-op: Location
Open 7pm – midnight