Music with heart
91/1-2 Sri Poom Rd, across from Chang Phuek Gate on the inside of the moat
Northgate Jazz Co-Op is one of Chiang Mai’s premier venues for life music, and digging beneath its surface reveals a place rich in history crafted, above all, for the love of music.
Nearly seven years ago, saxophonist Opor approached percussionist Russell with an idea. “Let’s do it,” replied Russell, and, by sundown, the pair held the keys to the future Chiang Mai musical institution. The pair sought to create a place where they could stretch out musically, and seeing the two interact makes it clear why and how they’ve managed to create a bar with one of the best atmospheres in town. Their conversations are electrifying, frenzied, and yet always playful, much like the co-op they’ve co-founded.
Tuesday Jam nights at Northgate are wildly popular, with people often spilling into the street and sometimes even onto the moat walls to partake in music as unpredictable as the handful of travelling musicians that inevitably show up and join the ensemble. Jazz is merely the starting point, and over the years Northgate has hosted, for instance, Latin, punk rock and free jazz. The emphasis is always on creative music, and with two live bands a night, there’s definitely a slew of interesting musical proposals to explore, and an accompanying handful of interesting characters to strike up a conversation with. All in all, Northgate is an amazing nighttime option for those not always interested in fully abandoning their sobriety and dignity at Zoe in Yellow.
What’s most inspiring about the Northgate Jazz Co-op is all that lies slightly below the surface of lively crowds and freely flowing drinks (60 baht for a beer, 100+ for a glass of wine, 25 for a soda). Russell and Opor confess that founding a successful bar was not their aim. They’re involved with music rehabilitation at a hospital in Mae Rim and help support the Chiang Mai Community Library (keep an eye on their Facebook page for events linked with this project). Looking to the future, Opor and Russell told us that they envision a greater presence in the community, where Northgate functions as a non-profit organisation championing the healing power of music.
And while this depth is there, rich and intricate, nights at Northgate pass with ease. There’s nothing in Chiang Mai quite like the free-flowing vibe of Tuesday nights spent, chatting, listening, and maybe even dancing, to music made by an ever-changing crowd of strangers who turn friends in the passage of a couple beats.
By Claudia Sosa
Last updated on 27th December, 2013.