This amazing musical event was held at the newly renovated Backstage and The Underground was delighted to again be part of Social Media Week Hong Kong. We lined up some of the savviest, most socially-connected AND talented bands in Hong Kong to perform and gave the audience free rein to tweet, weibo and whatever during the show! Big thanks to the three bands, HKGFM.net and the wonderful cheering audience and special big thanks to Backstage and it’s wonderful staff and soundmen. Lastly, to The Underground team – thank you so so much!
Chris B x
1. Brothers & Sisters
2. Restless Soul
3. My Girl
4. Let the Peace Bells Chime
5. Let it Be
Quasar, a light rock band fronted by Sanjeev Gurung who, as I understand, is a bit of a pop personality in his native Nepal. Over the years, I’ve seen its members come and go, I’ve even seen Sanjeev going solo on a few occasions in the past, but what I saw tonight was not anything I’ve come across previously. The lineup had Sanjeev on an acoustic guitar and vocal, and the inimitable Koya Hizakazu, their drummer, switching between an electric upright and cajón.
Often when a rock band plays acoustic, they simply do exactly the same thing but with different instruments and that approach rarely works. Quasar’s music is usually described by me as being melodic and pretty intense (more on account of Sanjeev’s voice rather than because of the volume or rhythm per se), but on this occasion, kicking off the set with Brothers & Sisters with Koya on the upright, gave the song an air of chilled out jazz not out of place in a speakeasy. That was followed by a more upbeat Restless Soul with Koya on the cajon. The rest of the set was essentially backed up by either of the upright and the cajon. The more subdued setting definitely worked well with Quasar’s music and Sanjeev’s voice was as magnetic as ever.
Knowing the bands’s regular bass player to be a superb upright player, I hope Quasar would consider doing more of this type of sets, perhaps with brushes on drums. All in all, a solid, throughly enjoyable set.
1. Chinese Families
2. Believe & Become
3. See Through You
After a long period of being away from The Underground, that involved hiatuses, regroupings, solo projects and a second EP, local indie mainstays Hungry Ghosts finally returned to our stage to immerse people in their music. And I use ‘immerse’ wisely, I feel, because to watch them live is to be thrown into a rich and powerful ambience, an atmosphere laden with theatrical, meteoric yet soothing guitar effects, a lightly funky bass sound thick as jelly and distinctive, and remarkably dynamic percussion. The force of their music is palpable, and yet it is one achieved without over-reliance on distortion or gain (an altogether overused ploy), manic drum work (as is this) or wanky shredding (and this). What you have instead is a delicately created canvas of sound, filled in with judicious and subtle use of effects that craft the relatively minimalistic notes played into sparkling shape. Lesser bands would have come off as too cute, precocious or just reaching beyond their collective talents; what this group is, however, is an immensely capable group of people who are as good composers as they are musicians.
Indeed, I have had a personal fondness for the group, since they were the very first I had the good fortune of watching live in HK, at Girls with Guitars #1. So blown away was I by the obvious quality of the songs and performance, that I have been hopelessly addicted to the local music scene since then. And there is good reason for this – Hungry Ghosts represent that best ilk of indie bands that have more talent than talk, an inescapable sincerity in their sound, and something genuinely interesting to say, much like Pavement. There is also a palpable math-rock element to their sound, but that, to me, is far less close to an accurate description of their overall sound than a blanket description of the general tones the two guitarists tend towards using. Their compositions better resemble those of early R.E.M., with their chugging rhythms, and small but deft touches of guitar textures.
They started off by bringing back a personal favourite, Chinese Families, and the familiar vocal dynamic between Luke and Tiffany slotted in perfectly, with Luke’s overpowering, almost droning voice being held up by Tiffany’s sweeter croon. It was immediately obvious just how much of the lifting was being done by the drums – much reminiscent of Barrett Martin from Skin Yard, especially with an identifiable tom technique. See Through You, a newer song, started off with a jazzy fake-out, and was probably the best demonstration of the newer sound of the Hungry Ghosts – alternation between chugging and stretchy rhythms and increased vocal contribution from Tiffany (an excellent trend). The energy was upped with the almost headbangable Survival, and ended with the poppy-yet-plodding glory of Stay. A welcome return to the Underground by a terrific band on great form – watch out for these guys.
— Shashwati Kala
6. When You Close Your Eyes
7. Just Say I Love You
The night’s final act was the rather unusually-named Psyc’Lover. Not only that, but they also looked very different from the ultra-casual ways that the other acts looked – but band members with their hair dyed red and one blonde whose hairdo looked like it was welded in place will do that. Their sound, however, was not really in line with their striking appearances, since they have a polished pop sound, surprisingly (and somewhat anachronistically) heavy on the New Romantics-like keyboards. Generally upbeat, and rare dissonant compositions aside, they sound like a contemporary take on disco. There were touches that were reminiscent of Chris Stein (Blondie), particularly in 樂園. Add to that a singer who can sing melodic pop quite solidly, and a definite composer’s ear for catchy arrangements, and you have a band that is good at entertaining people. These guys go slightly further and even add into the mix the ability to play some light glam-ish metal (一息猶 could almost have been a ballad), and the rather glam-esque tendency to focus on the band being slick, and they become even better at entertaining the average crowd. However, as is the nature of these things, their polish, by the same token, sacrifices the band’s edge. There is not one hair out of place (literally and figuratively speaking), and that is somewhat dissatisfying to someone like me. The mellifluousness of the composition also means that they are safe and generally somewhat tepid.
However, if one prefers the uber-pop ability to focus on agreeability of sound, or is a light listener of music, these guys are definitely worth checking out.. Their stage presence was comfortable and assured, and they were a tight unit, of which the rather faster Just Say I Love You was a good example. The singer, unlike many we have seen at The Underground, does actually sing within his range, and this is not inconsiderable, and the quality of his voice is above average. The drummer was impressive throughout, trying out different styles while still making the regular rock drums feel exciting. These guys have figured out what they want to play, and they play it well – they certainly did on the night.
However, if one prefers the uber-pop ability to focus on agreeability of sound, or is a light listener of music, these guys are definitely worth checking out.
— Shashwati Kala
poster by Jesseca Dollano
photos © Copyright 2012 by ANGUS LEUNG