For those who know Hong Kong it has always been more of a movie town than a music town and live music tolerated to a degree by the authorities and ignored by the masses is confined to a small number of venues in the city.
Many Hong Kong gig goers remember one famous stadium concert where the organizers handed everybody a single glove to wear so as to deaden the sound of applause and not upset complaining residents…yes it’s true!
The former British colony has always had its Filipino covers and bar bands playing the watering holes of Wanchai and Lang Kwai Fong, its Canto pop soap idols and “glamour” night clubs to cater for the champagne set. But what of its alternative underground scene?
To make it easy here’s a quick guide to what’s happening at the moment.
There is a huge emo/rock thing still happening here…all very lightweight and more than dull so hopefully our limited selection below will do.
DP are a hairy rock duo who take the best of Black Sabbath, early ZZ Top and Motorhead and then deafen you with a proto metal garage rock sound. By far Hong Kong’s best live band and we prefer them over the likes of the Black Keys.
S.T. is by far Hong Kong’s most proactive and interesting electronic musician. Classically trained he’s exciting to listen to and also to watch. Live he manhandles a selection of midi instruments that look as though they don’t have long to live. Somehow he manages to mix up the live feel of Girltalk with the studio virtuosity of Dj Shadow and Aphex Twin. Stand still in Mongkok (the most densely populated part of Hong Kong and the planet), close your eyes and that’s what S.T. sounds like to us.
My Little Airport – sadly now based in Beijing but they rate a mention because they are the only band we’ve ever heard that sounds like Belle & Sebastian but pack a bite sharper than the Clash’s first LP. Twee punk? It never existed before these guys but it does now. The only openly political band I know of in the region…but not in a way that authorities will ever understand. In 2030 these guys will be re-issue heroes in China.
Volt In Music – imagine if Air’s second album sounded like what the first one promised. Chris and Karmen of Volt In Music produce beautifully full lush electronic music and love their theramin. There’s no harking back and no faux classical references, a trap that many Asia-based electronic musicians fall into. Visuals are absolutely integral to their live show. Love this band.
Note: 12” coming soon on Metal Postcard Records!
The Yours – The bad boys of Hong Kong rock…or so they think. Actually they’ve become a bit polished for us lately but still great entertainment live. Last time we caught them live they looked like a bunch of young Asian Alan Bates (a la Lady Chatterley’s Lover) fronted by a Cantonese Lux Interior pounding out a noise that sits somewhere between My Bloody Valentine and a general mishmash of post-punk influences. They do love to smash their gear up on stage which always adds a bit more to the mix.
Labels / record stores & people you should know
Harbour Records – My Little Airport & others released on this label based in Kowloon.
Lona Records – headed up by Alok who loves to release “very” experimental local, mainland Chinese and international sounds.
White Noise Music – Gary Leong is the owner of Hong Kong’s only independent record store tucked away on the first floor in a Causeway Bay Side Street. If you want Asian underground sounds and willfully obscure releases from around the world, he’s your man. That is if you can actually get hold of him…a very mysterious man indeed!
Justin Sweeting – our local indie music hero. The man who’s bringing us The Flaming Lips next month (this is big news for HK). He’s also brought over Secret Machines, Dengue Fever, British Sea Power and others. The only promoter currently doing this in HK. See this article about Justin on the CNN Go website.
Indie & alt club nights
A few years ago it was just endless nights of the lowest common denominator Ibiza euro house trash at glam nightclubs…things have improved somewhat over the last year.
Songs For Children – indie, indie and more indie
Supersonic – indie & English rock
KongKrete Bass – drum and bass, dubstep and more bass
Push – techy house stuff
Yumla – a bar/club that probably has the best and most underground dance music policy in town. Based in Central they are very influenced by the Berlin minimal sound although we notice that they are widening their music policy during the week. They also feature new and young local dj’s – most of the other clubs don’t bother and roll out the same old hacks week in week out. The place has a nice vibe and there aren’t endless suits shouting at each other and showing off by buying overpriced champagne.
Hidden Agenda – home to HK’s hardcore scene
Rockschool, Grappas and Hang Out