Underground 59

17-05-08

Wow! A really busy night at The Underground! Thanks to Modern Children & Poubelle International for launching their debut performance at The Underground – hard to believe it was your first show for both bands! Thanks to SkinDeep & Velvette Vendetta bringing their awesome live stage shows back to The Underground – check out those facial expressions! All of you in the audience were so supportive and really appreciate these bands & their efforts to entertain & please! And speaking of the audience, YOU are a HUGE part of HK’s growing live music scene – the bands need you! May we see more & more bands in HK and more & more people attending all the various live music events happening in town!
love Chris B xx
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Modern Children

Modern Children are a band of five young people, Hin on Drums (that’s the easy part), Sai Ho on violin, programming and rainbow bells, and then three guys Chih, Kenneth and Jimmy on all the guitars and other stuff. Their live show will guarantee to catch your attention. First, each guitarist plays the bass guitar role in at least one song, so you can’t define a bass guitarist in this band. Second, on changing instruments they also switch positions, or hit a xylophone. Finally, Sai Ho, who is the violinist (no two guys play the violin, thank God), who also handles a Mac, occasionally runs over to the Rainbow bells. They would have a problem with a smaller stage.
But their songs are well crafted, and they are not just there to play with a lot of musical instruments for your entertainment. Songs are long and tight, and since I just mentioned there are a variety of instruments on the stage (did I mention the accordion?) they would have the gusto to fill any part of a song with any sound. Obviously, the sound does not have to be synthesized (but then they also have the mother of all synthesizers: a computer, which from time to time pumps out rhythm tracks). As such, melodic songs are layered with very textured violin and percussions (no shortage of that), and bass runs would not necessarily be simple because the bass player has the mentality of a guitarist. Along the same vein, I heard one of the most satisfying rhythm guitar playing from a local band, the kind that goes on and on and on and you just doesn’t mind if it never ends.
This was their debut gig, and their bios described them as playing different kinds of music, including post-rock, psychedelic, electronic, indie pop, post-punk. But I think that’s a bit too ambitious. In a way, I believe Modern Children is strictly indie-pop. The songs do not really go so rock that you would start wishing they swing their hair (no long hair in this troup). Essentially, each song has a sort of pop lining to make its complexity less of an obstacle to mainstream success.
In fact, one of my first remarks from the evening is that, “This is a young band looking for a grand sound (or maybe with a grand sound), a sound that definitely need a full scale light show.” Secretly, I think they would sound and look better in a stadium.
Bun Ng

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Velvette Vendetta

I must state my interest first.
I have been a huge Velvette Vendetta fan for more than six months, which is only 1/3 of their total life-span. I checked my iTunes the other days, and the play count of the Velvette Vendetta songs has reached 70. I would imagine you would not have listened to Plug-in Baby as many times (come to think of it, some of you would). So if they run in the next election, I would vote them. Obviously. That’s why when Chris B jokingly reminded me, when I arrived for the evening, that I was there to write reviews, I caught both the meaning that I was to NOT drink so much, and to NOT be biased. At least not so much.
And they were exceptionally tight from the onset. It was unfair because I knew the songs so well I knew the drummer Andre played the hi-hat lead-in for one more bar, and I knew all the progressions of the songs. I knew how many of the songs have been committed to tape, so I was twice as excited because I was being a fan as well.
Jacky, the lead vocalist, is easily the most handsome man among Hong Kong bands (sexy as well, but not to me). Jacky has a voice that he stretched from angry, low, melodic to high pitch. You might say that’s what any good singer usually has. But you have to reach a certain quality to remotely claim you have the style of Queen or Muse. Even Muse described their own style as Queen, and since some local reviewers have associated Velvette Vendetta with Muse, it has to work that way. Unsurprisingly, Jacky’s writing and singing have fully exploited his singing range.
The guitar column of Velvette Vendetta is composed of Jacky, David (on Gibson Les Paul Gold Top) and Ken on bass. While Ken holds up the rhythm section with Andre, Jacky and David are the blasting force in their songs. If you’ve read their bios, you would know these three guys met in a discussion over unusual guitar pedals. In some songs, you will hear the two guitars battling with their guitar effects; in fact, their dedication to guitar effects is definitely no less than that of many shoegazing bands.
Finally, and I would have to apologize to him one day for putting him in last: Traven, the new keyboard player to Velvette Vendetta in 2008. Jacky’s songs have been written with synth parts, and previously they were not fulfilled. Now the gothic/stadium rock sound is complete. My understanding is Velvette Vendetta will be published in an Underground compilation CD (I know both the band and Underground so well I’m afraid I cannot pretend I don’t know). But it’s the live show that counts! And if you would care to mingle with the band, you would find out that before they were published, they have started collecting fans.
And they were giving out souvenir calendars, too. Have you got one?
Bun Ng

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Poubelle International


Wow, what’s it with the names? I never appreciated the name of the previous band because even if I’ve introduced them to a typical Chinese friend, he would hesitate in pronouncing it. I think you know what I’m getting at.
Does it mean Poubelle International caters for the English-speaking audiences? Three gweiloes; nothing is more obvious. But the key thing is, P.I. music has its roots in the 60s 70s garage rock. I have a feeling this is definitely not your local favourite sound. If you had surveyed the most common band shows in Hong Kong, you would have concluded Hong Kong gig-goers want Brit-pop and Metal. I think that’s why something as great as The David Bowie Knives is still not getting so much attention, whilst Audiotraffic is king. Now, I certainly think Audiotraffic deserves to be king, but ?
Back to the P.I., by the time they were on, the floor was packed. Whether it was because it was Poubelle International’s first gig, or because someone is indeed nervous, the guitar loudness was quite out-of-control. But in all due respect, the songs had a very good balance in sound because you could get to appreciate guitar, bass and drums all sharing the stage. As I mentioned before, the sounds have a very garage feel, and uplifting bordering on pub rock. I am very partial to this kind of sound. Having said that, I keep thinking to myself they are full of album tracks, if you know what I mean.
I would think they love to play in front of us. “1” is the guitarist, “2” is the drummer, “3” is the bass player. If someone cares so much that they would clarify that for me, I think they care. Check the photos.
Bun Ng

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Helium3 (formerly named “SkinDeep”)

Skindeep seem to be the most professional group of musicians for the evening. Their songs have a very clean catchiness in them. Inside the Cavern, they created a roaring sound with two guitarists, and with powerful drumming. But if reduced to carefully mastered and balanced sound, they would fit FM radio very well, and I wouldn’t be surprise they would find chart success easily.
Of course, with the FM association, I can’t deny that their songs are rich and catchy. Quite frankly, singer Nick Flavell’s voice and singing style strongly reminded me of Midnight Oil. “Come Undone”, their most catchy tune, is in my humble opinion text-book FM pop, top 40 material. I wonder if an alternative band appreciates that. But I guarantee you that once you’ve heard that song two times and you would have the chorus in your head.
Well, pop quality also has its shortcoming in a gig situation. Not long after Skindeep took the stage, strangely, people were leaving the floor. And afterwards, many gweilos, in particular, were talking to one another. Such lack of respect, I must say, irks me to no end. I think it’s seriously rude to just talk and talk away in a gig because this turns the perfectly rocking band into a lounge act. Besides, if the talking was so great, wasn’t it perfectly obvious that the place was VERY LOUD?
In addition, the portion of the show was accompanied by a video show by “the pink rubber lady”. Multimedia experience is normally a great thing, but the two screens in Cavern were away from the band, instead of right behind, so it was distracting rather than enhancing. No offence to the video artist, but I had no capability to pay attention to the video.
Skindeep described themselves as Britpop. I find little of that. This is rather illuminating about roots, they sound instantaneously Aussie. I think that’s what home does to you.
Bun Ng

Above photos © Copyright 2008 by Yan
Poster by Sheli

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