Underground 97

22-05-10

Wooooooohoooooo! I really, really, REALLY had a great time this evening. I was in the mood for great music from great bands and I was delighted by all the bands. We really do have a lot of talent in Hong Kong. We also have people masquerading to be members of SCMP to try and get free entry – come on guys, support the bands and support what we are doing. Thank you so much to The Melting Pot, Zane, Asahi, BC Mag and most of all thank you to the audience! The bands and I salute you all for coming to be entertained by live music :)
love Chris B xx

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Milkteeth

Setlist:

1. Shea Heights

2. Hobbes

3. I’ve Made Up My Mind

4. Still Don’t Know

5. Statue Song

6. Stay Home

7. Play Fair

8. Funny Games

9. Edging

The night began with Milkteeth’s singer Joey having to be scouted for, somewhat, as they took the stage for what was apparently their 3rd show this week, which was the reason for their “gettin’ a little tired.” Any fatigue, however, didn’t make its way into the music, because their set sounded light and fresh, just the way folk-influenced music is supposed to sound. Something common to most songs was their somewhat nondescript (not in a bad way) openings – you’d have to listen carefully for the guitars, which began with no indication, soon to be counterpointed by bursts of sweet violin. It topped off their songs’ inherent sweetness and flowing nature with some unpredictable charm.

The percussion was frantic yet unobtrusive on most songs, and provided a rousing feeling to Shea Heights, with its hooky vocals and call-response vocals. The vocals were intriguing – they were nasal in tone, but the attitude was more punky, which cut the syrupy sound just right. The lyrics were largely perfectly metered, as in Hobbes (which, we were informed, was written about the comic-book character and not the philosopher), which worked well with their simple melodies. The breezy I’ve Made Up My Mind saw exchanging of melodies, between vocals and violin, but they could afford to speed it up a bit, I think. Statue Song saw an escalation into double time, reminding me somewhat of semi-classical (Indian) music played on guitars (also a testament to the complexity of rhythm that folk calls for). It wasn’t all feel-good songs, though – Stay Home and Funny Games provided some appropriate weight to their set, being more brooding songs. Perhaps their most complete song, though, was Edging – the song had a lot of depth to its tune, and it epitomised their sound – violin shooting through a wall of guitar, while the percussion holds up the debris, wallpapered by edgy vocals. The almost sociopathic message of leaving your parents was well-disguised by the twisting violin, and the song ended as abruptly as it began, closing their set on a high.

Personally, I’d like to hear these guys recorded – it’d be interesting to note how they use their sound in the studio. But, that’s for another time…
Shashwati

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Cicadas

Setlist:

1. Shine a Light

2. Sleepers Awake

3. Rollercoaster Ride

4. Hide My Dreams

5. Bacchus

6. Shankill Brothers (Decemberists cover)

7. Soldier Jane

8. Caliban

The somewhat daunting-looking Cicadas took the stage next, just as the last strains of Jilted John’s epic Gordon is a Moron died out. They began right away with the bittersweet Shine a Light (which you’d know is a newer song, if you’ve been doing your Underground reading), which opened with its mild, lullaby-esque calm, and moved into a bubbling, swirling, heavy-ass acoustic portion. The vocal duties were exchanged regularly between singer-guitarists Marcus and Kieran. This worked well, as they have the classic contrasting voices – Marcus’ deep, weighty voice set against Kieran’s higher, earthier pipes – the archetypal sea-against-the-sky-horizon vocals (as I like to call them) , allowing them to play off each other in terms of feel and texture. This was, happily, something they use in various settings across their songs. The sweet soulfulness of the harmonica added a lot of feeling and did wonders for creating atmosphere, which they ably changed from song to song.

Sleepers Awake began almost like Ballroom Blitz, but morphed into a Dylan-esque number with some cool drum arrangements. One of my personal favourites was Rollercoaster Ride, with its cynical take on various aspects of life suitably affirmed in the chord progression, which left you with a feeling of being unresolved and doubtful, and further heightened by the harmy. They certainly were very popular with the crowd, with people all around tapping feet and moving in time to the songs. This went for many of their songs, but Bacchus in particular could easily have been a cool soundtrack to a Lee Marvin film, as it strayed into cowboy territory, while being suitably intense to live up to its name (Bacchus being the Roman god of wine). The Decemberists’ cover had people singing along, as did the long, winding bassline that began Caliban. It was this epic-feeling song that ended their set, re-conjuring images of westerns, with requisite menace, (but without the annoying whistling), culminating in resounding applause and even whistles from the crowd, as they moved off stage.
– Shashwati

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Brothers of Roadkill

Setlist:

1. I Believe

2. There’s a Time

3. Tits

4. This is Me

5. If

6. Not Meant to Be

7. Sweet Child of Mine (partial Guns ‘n’ Roses cover)

8. Hanging Around the Clouds

9. Questions & Doubts

Think of a rock band with a piano for a melodic lead instrument instead of a guitar, having a singer with an excellent voice, and some bits of funk and old rock ‘n’ roll, among many other nuances, thrown in by the rhythm section. This very crudely describes what the Brothers of Roadkill sound like. Resting on singer Adrian’s remarkable vocals, supported capably by a highly versatile drummer and very smooth bassist, their songs range from Bo Diddley-esque little ditties to ballads, making their set a very rounded one. There’s tonnes of soul in their sound, and you don’t miss a guitar in the mix because their songs just aren’t composed that way. The eccentricity added by a set of keys is something unique to their sound, and is very fun to listen to. Indeed, it was so much fun that they had surprise help from soundman Zane coming in with the tambourine and bells at multiple times.

They began their set with the dramatic, eerie I Believe, atmospheric and ballad-like, with its sadness being enhanced by the military-style drums. Some songs had the bass playing bits that would normally have been played on guitar, like Not Meant to Be, giving the whole thing a fresh twist. A highlight of their set was their reworking of GnR’s Sweet Child of Mine – it used a couple of the verses and the main riff (played on bass, of course) but they added their own feel to it, replete with their own lyrics and melody, gradually moving into the original song. Everything they did was with tremendous enthusiasm, which was thoroughly reciprocated by the crowd, who even coaxed them into doing an encore. A final love song graced us with the gentlest of basslines, which dissolved away in a couple of minutes to end their set.
– Shashwati

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Poubelle International

Setlist:

1. Ambassador

2. The Chase

3. The Red Light

4. The Sell Out

5. I.T.B.N.B.

6. The Battle of Trafalgar Square

7. The Suits

A late replacement for tDBK, Poubelle certainly added much merrymaking to the night, as expected. In their 1-2-3 tees, and fresh after an afternoon playing at the H&M store, these guys did not miss a beat when it came to entertaining. Their lone guitar was plenty to assault the ears of the crowd with, its sound being reinforced by a Tube Screamer (among others), making it sound just heavenly. With their clever and catchy adaptation of the Johnny Ramone school of guitar-playing to their more quirky Noughties rock tendencies, theirs is a deceptively simple sound. In terms of stage presence, these guys don’t even have to try – they exude energy at every moment through their set and are always an interesting to watch playing. Clearly, everyone present agreed with me, because the revellers were really living up to that title during their set (it was suddenly difficult to take notes, so engrossed were people in their dancing).

The set began to the petulant sounds of Ambassador, with singer Ben’s yelled vocals a little reminiscent of Eugene Hutz from Gogol Bordello (wait a sec – he has the same moustache too!) The bass was quite immense throughout, and more than supported the rollicking drumwork. The Red Light was a shuffling, dancy number with a teasing melody and spoken word bits too, while The Sell Out had a hook in every line and very hummable vocals (and a video released later the next week too). They were joined by Zane on sax for I.T.B.N.B., and the song accommodated his smooth stylings in its lively folds excellently. The following songs were as insolent and full of attitude as any others, especially The Battle…,which features something of a lyrical tantrum. But, they don’t have a rep for being a terrific live act for nothing, now, do they? They only thing that surprised me was that there weren’t more people singing along- that’d be really fun to see (not to mention only fair, seeing the amount of energy and effort these guys put into performing).
– Shashwati

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Lemon Baby

Setlist:

1. Sunshine

2. Bicycle

3. Dark Clouds

4. Everything

5. Bad Boy

By this time the place was considerably drained in Poubelle’s aftermath; but those remaining were in various states of pleasant inebriation, which explained the catcalls and hoots that greeted her (…yeah, right.) They may have been more suited to performing in the order originally planned, but it was not to be. Their set was composed of a number of pop-rock songs, with the backing band throwing in signs of a bunch of other influences as well. Singer Victoria did her best to take control of the stage, but it must be said, her singing was far from the quality of the guitars, which deflated her personal act a little. Still, full marks to her for her gusto. There were a lot of ska-derived feel to the songs, especially that of Sunshine and Dark Clouds. The vocals were bouncy and energetic, though they could use a bit more force to them. Everything was the vocal high-point, with the song’s range and milder feel being more appropriate for Victoria’s voice, this being highlighted in the vocal patterns towards the end of the song. There were even shades of Shakira that could be heard on Bad Boy – this was one number that the audience got into as well, bouncing along with the beat. As a nice change of pace, its solo had more of a metal feel, and the vocals worked well with the smooth bassline as well. Eventually, in a flourish of guitar, drums, voice and dance, the set ended to ample cheering – though I think they would’ve gotten more had they come on before Poubelle. Still, they added more fun to what was an immensely enjoyable night, and it would be a while before fatigue (and possible hangovers) would take effect, so it worked out to be pretty much all good.
– Shashwati

photos © Copyright 2010 by ANGUS LEUNG

poster by ANGUS LEUNG

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