Underground 104

01-09-12

IMG_7243.JPGOH YEAH! What an amazing evening everyone had on this special night. We had F.B.I. playing their final show, and their fans came out in full force; ReOrientate – great to see them on a stage big enough for all that action; thank you to Charles J Tan for flying in and including HK as part of his world tour; new band Black Coffee stirred up the action and sweet Savannah Betts was the best opener we’ve had in a long time. Thank you to the Hard Rock and their wonderful staff for making this show run so smoothly especially when we got into full capacity!
Thank you to the bands for giving their 200%, huge thanks of course to The Underground team members and to all our media partners and to our digital radio supporters HKGFM.net. Thanks most of all to the live music supporters/fans who make the shows so enjoyable for the musicians.
love Chris B xx

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Savannah Betts

1. The Perfect Storm

2. Restart

3. Ghost

4. Lost at Sea

5. Hunt the Wolves

Although Savannah has played The Underground in the past, I think she is still quite an inexperienced performer, so it must have been quite a daunting prospect for her to open to such a big crowd, alone on a big stage. Much to her credit, after some initial hesitations, she rose up to the challenge and won over the crowd. Obviously to achieve that you have to give the audience what they want – her music is folky and poppy, a little on the melancholic side but yet by no means slow, and somehow reminded me of that long line of female Celtic singer-songwriters such as Mary Black and Loreena McKennitt (ok she’s Canadian but if you know her music you’ll know what I mean). Savannah has a strong, expressive voice and a good range, and the ease with which she changed from her chest voice to her head register was absolutely delightful to watch. As I listened to her set, I kept thinking how her music would really take off if augmented by further instruments (e.g. a bit of the ReOrientate clapping/cajon treatment in the first song): this is by no means a criticism; on the contrary it is a testament to how interesting I find her music.

If Savannah were a “YouTube” musician, she would be one of those capable of landing a recording contract from a bedroom performance of a well known cover. As she returns to her studies, I hope she continue to make music, both to amuse herself as well as to entertain others.

— Thlayli


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Charles J Tan (Australia 澳洲)

1. Fell in Love2. Personal Anthem3. Feels Better Now4. True Colours (Cindi Lauper cover)5. Almost Sunday

Charles is a Asian-Australian artist who is travelling through Hong Kong and entertained the audience with a set of acoustic pop music. Kicking off with a light-hearted number reminiscent of the 59th Street Bridge Song, it was a good start to the set, not being too downbeat to lose the audience nor too energetic which would be hard to keep up. The 2nd song, however, Charles went full steam with the energetic Personal Anthem which definitely caught the audience’s attention. What followed was a change of instrument to a ukelele, and while doing so, he spoke of his thoughts when he saw the slope leading up to the Hard Rock with all his gear on him, then proceeded to entertain the crowd with the charming (as ukelele songs tend to be) Feels Better Now, which I thought was a nice touch. A couple of songs later and the set ended with Almost Sunday which was all about going home, again, nice touch for an artist on the road.
Stylistically Charles is a bit of a melting pot – I had a couple of people telling me on the night that they thought he was the Asian version of Tracy Chapman, which, while I wouldn’t disagree, there were so many more, other than the aforementioned Simon & Garfunkel, there were definitely traces of Jack Johnson/Josh Kelly about the music. Charles was clearly a seasoned performer – confident on stage, with a well thought out set and did a great job in engaging what started as a less than lukewarm crowd.

— Thlayli

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Black Coffee

1. Hoah

2. Utopia

3, Sparkle

4. Manchester

5. Faith

6. Michelle

7. Honey Bomb

Some bands, for some reasons best known to them, do not like classifying their musical style, which I guess is fine but not particularly helpful to potential listeners. Black Coffee proudly calls itself a Brit pop/rock band and boy, there is no question about it. While “Brit pop/rock” is a very loose classification, but a listener is left in no doubt that this band is heavily influenced by the music from that little town next to the great city of Liverpool, namely, Manchester, specifically bands like the Stone Roses and Oasis (one of their songs is even named after that town), but without the excesses of the commercially obligatory soft ballads. 25 minutes of full on, unapologetic distortion.
The band has only been playing together for about 6 months, but what they do, they do well – it just seems to come so naturally to them, with the lead singer, Mario, having a voice that is particularly suited this style of music. Although musically there are no surprises, they provide great entertainment, regardless of whether you are a fan of the sound from that little town next to Liverpool.

— Thlayli

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ReOrientate

1. ReOrientate

2. Uskudara

3. Laung Gavacha

4. Listen (to Each Other)

5. The Cuckoo

6. Wiggle

7. Aaja Nachle

8. The Power of One

ReOrientate is no stranger to me, having seen them on more than a few occasions, and stands out musically compared to pretty much all the other bands which have played the Underground, for the group would not be out of place playing in the auditorium of the City Hall during the Hong Kong Arts Festival. The music/set could only be described as “world fusion”, being more or less equally Flamenco and Sindhi oriented with a sprinkling of Chinese influence, played out on instruments ranging from ancient China to modern Cupertino, with a Flamenco dancer to boot! The set started with a short seductive Spanish number, which left the audience, who probably was not expecting anything like it, completely gobsmacked – you could see the look of intense focus on their faces., and continued with a set of which completely mesmerised the entire Hard Rock from start to finish.
I do not, as a rule, talk about the instruments of a group, however, I will make an exception on this occasion, since the mixture is a key to making ReOrientate such a delightful act, and clearly a lot of thoughts has gone into achieving that sound. An erhu, a guzheng, a flamenco guitar, and percussion playing against backup tracks, add a vocalist with a phenomenal voice, accompanied by the dancing and clapping of a Flamenco dancer, gave rise to a performance that led the audience by the nose from start to finish.

— Thlayli

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F.B.I.

1. The Masquerade

2. Sinorita

3. Loneliness

4. Gonna Make Love

5. Jasmine Revolution

6. Hey

7. FU

8. FBI Rap

9. Man Love

A well known band in Hong Kong, FBI plays their 8th Underground at the Hard Rock and probably for the last time as the lead singer will be leaving Hong Kong soon. The band is a 4 piece heavy rock band famed for its high energy live performances. The band’s music is largely based around a tight and busy rhythm section of drum and bass, with the guitar providing an overlay of hooks throughout the song, with a generous does of slap bass here and there. As always, the band drove the crowd wild with its infectious energy, starting off with a couple of their well known “in your face” songs, Masquerade and Siñorita, then a couple of slow ones to give everyone a chance to catch their breath, before proceeding at a breakneck speed, ending with Man Love as an encore, which was pretty much the first song they wrote together as a band which completely brought the house down.

Having followed the band more or less from the start, I have seen F.B.I. grow as a band, their music changed and rearranged, but one thing that has been consistent throughout, is that they never fail to rock the house whenever they play. I wish Cain the best wherever life takes him and look forward to seeing what the rest of the boys will get up to post F.B.I.

— Thlayli

poster by Jesseca Dollano

photos © Copyright 2012 by ANGUS LEUNG

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