Underground 92

22-01-10

Yeah yeah! What a great night we all had at ROCKSCHOOL with 4 bands showcasing for the first time at The Underground!! And having the ‘cream’ of Hong Kong joining them, I’m referring to The Sleeves of course 😉 Thanks to the audience who cheered and danced, thanks to the bands that gave their 200%, thanks to the venue and the great staff! Looking forward already to the next Friday night show here at ROCKSCHOOL!
love Chris B xx

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Bank Job

Setlist:

1. Straight Jacket

2. Newsbeat

3. Let it Go

4. Razor Dreams

5. Chilled Out People

6. Down in Mong Kok

7. Win and Yang

8. Hype

9. Grandma’s Chair (encore)

I’d ambled in at 9 to find these guys doing a soundcheck, and the tantalising prospect of the bottom-heavy (YAY!!) system blaring the melodic stylings of some very expensive equipment was immediately engaging. Later, when being introduced, we were all thrown the googly that apparently this was apparently their first outing together as band. They immediately proceeded to make that claim seem highly dubious by launching into Straight Jacket, beginning with the sax, proceeding to launch into a chordy, mellow, groove-based set, with overtones of funk, and even some shades of calypso. Some influences were evident, as there were some Hendrix-esque melodies, especially in the opening to Let it Go, pleasantly reminiscent of his “Hey Joe”.

Razor Dreams saw keyboardist Anita joining on vocals, and the contrast created by her throaty voice and lead singer Jason’s bluesy croon was effective, but at points seemed a tad under-developed (can’t really blame them, though). Down in MK had, cleverly, one guitar strummed with only upstrokes, and the other only down, simultaneously, profiting from their Les Pauls’ wont to just sing when plugged in to some good amps. The very funky closer, Hype, was capped by the (startlingly) undramatic throwing of seemingly pristine white undies on stage, followed the band’s (highly deserved) recall onto stage for their encore. They were a success musically, a tight live act (especially for a debuting band), and really set the tone for the crowd that night.
Shashwati

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Revenge

Setlist:

1. Sweet Revenge

2. Jedi on the Run

3. Heart on Fire

4. Endless Shame

5. Back in Black (AC/DC cover)

6. Sweet Child of Mine

Looking very much like seasoned vets of rock, Revenge began their set with some major tremolo from guitarist Andy Cheng. Not wasting any time, they launched into the pacy, punchy Sweet Revenge. There was one minor detractor that surfaced during the song, though – singer Donny’s voice was somewhat buried by the thick bass; a real pity in light of that fact that he has the classic rock vocalist pipes, in the vein of Ronnie James Dio and Bon Scott (very fittingly, he had on an AC/DC tee.) Their next song saw some remarkable displays of left-hand shred-sterity by Andy, replete with fretting from both sides of the neck and some cool pentatonic licks, making him reminiscent (musically and visually) of the great Paul Gilbert. The crowd’s reaction was enthusiastic, and there was quite some rockin’ and tappin’ along in time.

Unlike most bands of their ilk, however, these guys did not fall into the trap of being one-trick ponies by displaying impressive versatility in their following songs, with some jazzy bass runs, walking basslines and spider picking thrown in. Following this minor departure, though, they went back to flaunt their chops at pure hard rock, with two of the most accurate versions of two of the most hackneyed rock standards. To their immense credit, they made the songs still seem fresh, and the changed-up solos were admirable (and the fact that both the aforementioned bands had twin-guitars!). They finished up with bassist Mark’s parting shot about the Sleeves being “a bunch of loonies”, and the Dirty Deed was Done (but not quite Dirt Cheap).
Shashwati

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The Sleeves

Setlist:

1. Sex Museum

2. Weekend

3. The Killer

4. Stockholm

5. Totalitarian Love Song

6. Space Dogs

7. Mirror

The “loonies” proceeded to take the stage, but like some of the best acts they made you wait (okay, that was mainly because they had some technical difficulties, but they didn’t seem too cut up about it, so…) When they began playing, the numerous Stooges comparisons I’d read in relation to them seemed to be appropriate – there was a fuzz aplenty (Big Muff was king), akin to the late, great Mr. Ron Asheton. But dare I say, they bear an even closer (much less obvious) kinship with the New York Dolls of yore. The dynamic between the two axmen was reminiscent of that between Syl Sylvain and Johnny Thunders on stage (it also helped that Special K’s guitar sounded remarkably like Thunders’…oh, and that he was wearing what seemed to be a black skirt. Very fetching.)

Now, despite there not being their usual hoi polloi, it would be an understatement to say that they really got the crowd going. Certainly, the singer’s willingness to don the undies (which had been through a torrid time, being buffeted around constantly on and off stage), and dancing in the crowd to face the band, and get the audience singing along, helped their cause. By the 3rd song’s end Special K was persuaded to take off his t-shirt, revealing the “skirt” to be a black dress (not exactly Audrey Hepburn, but not far from it either). There were jungle beats scattered around in some songs, with some remarkably versatile moods to each song reminiscent of Mink DeVille at their peak. Stockholm in particular, had an anthemic chorus (with shades of The Ramones’ Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World.) We were treated to Space Dogs, apparently written the previous night, followed by the closer, Mirror, sung by their (very good indeed) second voice, and all too soon, it was over.

Shashwati

 

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Live Fast Die!

Setlist:

1. New One

2. Nation

3. Get Out

4. Acetone

5. Skate Song

6. Extra Life

7. Brains

8. Not Tonight

The Sleeves’ set had left me wondering how anyone could possibly not follow their set and bomb. Unjustified, though, these apprehensions were proven from the moment I heard Live Fast Die! tuning up. Like any good punk/hardcore band they displayed that schadenfreude for the audience’s eardrums, with the bass dangerously close to ripping them open. I was further reassured when they began playing their “first” song (cue: wall of sound of simply acerbic punk), to promptly stop a few second in and get the order of their setlist clear. Yup, like the Misfits and the Ramones and D.O.A., their set began in a fittingly punk fashion. The few headbangers in the crowd were extricated, and there was some banging worthy of metal arena gigs. (A small group even began to mosh, officially stamping the band’s success.)

We were informed, some way in, that the drummer was unwell that night and it was their guitarist playing for them. That seemed very difficult to swallow, as the drums that night were very much in the Chuck Biscuits/Bill Stevenson vein; blindingly fast, deafening and aggro-filled. The caustic, no-nonsense music fell neatly between punk and hardcore (sometimes at odds with each other) with perfection, and the guitar leads were remarkably reminiscent of Rich Kids on LSD, a compliment of the highest order. So, even though the singer’s belt had Johnny Thunders’ low-life slogan of “Born to Lose” on it, these guys certainly did not.
Shashwati

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Staway

Setlist:

1. Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order cover)

2. Not Pain Enough

3. Uncertainty

4. Nobody Hurt, Nobody Die

5. Ep Impression

I feel compelled to admit that, generally, any band that describes themselves as “emo” usually attracts my ire (for falling to this hideous misnomer). However, Staway was a far cry from the typical whingeing, faux-melancholic bands that usually crowd into this pigeonhole. With sounds that were definitely more in the style of post-grunge modern rock, they were significantly younger than all the other bands. And although this translated into their overall sound being still mildly derivative, they have the chops to overcome this. Beginning with their modern twist of New Order’s B.L.T., they sounded like the early Lostprophets, with melodic yet short solo lines, and an anchoring bass.

The singer’s presence was quite impressive, and her melodic voice worked very well to round out their sound, especially where the higher register of frequencies was concerned. The “emo-ness”, if any, was in the mood of the lyrics, whose subject matter was mostly concerned with emotional dealings and the machinations of the mind, as evidenced in their songs’ pointed names. Singer Zoe Wong described their set closer (which was in Cantonese) as being about “getting through from sad times to happier ones”, and that this was typical of their subject matter. The heavier, slower tunes were a good chaser to Live Fast Die’s set, and was an effective closer to the night, leaving everyone there with only one more mission – to herd to the bar.
Shashwati

photos © Copyright 2010 by ANGUS LEUNG
Poster by Ross S. Seizure

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