The Underground Rogue Show

16-03-13

IMG_4665-2.jpgWhat a night!
People poured into Backstage, clutching their bottles of Rogue Ale to witness four bands play their first show on The Underground stage.
Each band had their own ‘gimmick’ to go with their great original songs, that they had carefully crafted and served up for everyone’s enjoyment.
Thanks to The Underground team, you know I love you all.
Thanks to Sam for the awesome visuals which were manually created – no auto programming here at The Underground.
The audience were dancing, cheering and one of the friendliest crowds we’ve had.
Thanks to HKGFM for the cool tshirts & supporting The Underground. Thanks to Hop Leaf for the tasty Rogue Ales.
Thanks to the friendly staff at Backstage & Kei for doing a great job on the sound.
I’d just like to say, that if The Underground can get Hong Kong’s top cover band to come and play a setlist full of originals, I reckon we’re doing something right 🙂
love Chris B x

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Ned Noble

1. [Unnamed song #1]
2. School
3. The Pub Your Dad Ran
4. Epsilon
5. On My Mind
6. The First Song

Ned Noble rocked, simply put. And simple it was. Armed with bunch of Loops, a Roland Octopad and a guitar, they opened the first Rogue show (and hopefully not last) with aplomb. A healthy crowd had filled Backstage at this point and they were treated to an aural ecstasy of tunes.

Their first song “Unnamed Song #1” definitely had a early Gorrilaz feel to it, with their percussionist driving a great tom rhythm. Coupled by the new live video and light show on the back wall, we were treated to a sensory world that you don’t often get in the smaller HK venues. With sounds normally associated with MGMT and the last song, having a David Bowie “Let’s Dance” feel to it, people were moving and cheering along almost to Ned Noble’s will.

Backstage have done an excellent job of revamping their sound in the that few months, and this night is the best I’ve heard it. The octopad filled the room like the drummer had four hands and played to the loops like a robot with feeling. Kinda like a music version of Data from Star Trek. Their mix of heavy reverb, a bit of that 80s electronic feel definitely brings a new style of music you don’t often hear in Hong Kong.

They originally were going to be a one man show, but i’m glad it was a duo tonight. The percussionist added a whole new dimension that filled the room and made it a great way for everyone to get into the spirit of the night. After their set Chris B, announced there might be a name change down the road for Ned Noble, which begs the question if they’ll be forming a band. I think it could be really cool but, whether they do or not, I love the sound and they’re heading in an excellent direction. One that I do look forward to re-visiting. I’m a fan.

— Jon “The Riot” Lee

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Teenage Girls

1. Jamie
2. Stay Forever
3. Red Rover
4. Morning News
5. Cancer
6. Johnston
7. Let’s Be Friends

Teenage Girls were easily the most anticipated band of the night. Mostly cause people were wondering just what the hell was up and whether teenage girls were actually gonna show up. Well teenagers did show up, or it might be that i’m old and everyone looks like a teenager to me. Nevertheless they were worth the wait.

Their brand of raw, unpolished goodness, definitely had a bit of The Black Angels with some punk rock attitude thrown in. I have to be honest, I didn’t know what Indie lo-fi rock was, but once they started I almost wanted everything to sound like that. Their first song “Jamie”, had the feel of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” while their second was like Cowboy Junkies “Sweet Jane” on Red Bull.

Their front woman Elaine does her best to channel every female band leader there is and she does it to devastating effect. I could sense a bit of Cranberries, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and it just works!

Their songs flowed together like butter aside from the occasional words between songs it was just solid song after solid song. Their fourth song “Morning News” reminded me a bit of Creep by Radiohead and had an awesomely rocking outro.

Their final songs had some of that Pixies goodness thrown in for good measure and it was by far one of their most polished songs of the night. It was short sweet and got the biggest cheer of the night so far.

You could tell there was a little nervousness on the night, but I hope to see them again soon, they were awesome, and deserve to be playing regularly. It also gives me the wonderful excuse of getting to say “I’m gonna go and check out Teenage Girls tonight, anyone wanna come?”

— Jon “The Riot” Lee

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League of Gentlemen

1. Charming Life
2. Love Falls
3. Julia
4. Dr. Fu Manchu
5. Sweet Honey
6. Outta My Head
7. Party Time Wasted [Encore]

The third band up was the evidently quite popular-with-the-crowd League of Gentlemen. They began with big and brash drums in Charming Life, and the gunshot rhythm was paired with a riff in the vein of Satisfaction, with a similar whiplash quality to the classic song. Indeed, there are several things that the band appears to do that gives them a very classic, late 60s British Invasion-like sound. The vocals have a nasal, slightly shouty quality, like a mix of Johnny Thunders and Julian Casablancas, more typical of punk than rock ‘n’ roll, which combines rather well with the other elements of the music. The one thing that stands out, however, is the aggressive, verbose and juicy-sounding lead guitars, which wind rev happily rev out in front of the music when given a chance. There’s a lot of Hendrix in this mix (including the ascending-descending tune from Hey Joe towards the end of Dr. Fu Manchu), clearly, but filtered through the garage revival sound; a mix of fast and delicate solos, yoyoing between sweet and playful tones, and choosing conciseness over elaboration by not being too long. Add to this the grandiose, Zeppelin sort of musical attitude, and it’s lively stuff. Julia was more like a 50s rock number, with some very sweet guitars indeed, almost South Asian in feel (to me), something like that of Bilal Maqsood of Strings. Party Time Wasted was much more poppy in feel, sounding almost like a Blondie cover of a Hendrix song, but with a funky Meters-esque vibe.

All of which is good, but the result is a bit predictable; certainly, it’s not a musician’s fault which era of music they’re born into, but it’s hard (if not impossible) not to view them through the lens of what has come before. The major issue I have with them is that it was the first time I’d heard them, but it almost felt like I’d heard some of the songs before. Don’t get me wrong, the individual components were quite uniform in their considerable quality, but when it came together it was quite radio-rock and formulaic (Sweet Honey and Outta My Head in particular)… In particular, I often felt that they would benefit by experimenting with their song structure a bit, as their set of talents would be apropos of such an endeavour. But, they definitely seem to know what they want to do, and if this night was any judge, they’re very good with getting crowds moving [not many bands have played encores at The Underground], and with such a combination the identity of sound tends to follow in due course. So far, they’re a solid band with some interesting tunes, and good candidates for growing into a highlight of the scene, so they’re to be looked out for.

— Shashwati Kala

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Don’t Panic

1. Blue Cars
2. Clothes
3. Climber
4. Gift
5. Best of You [Foo Fighters cover]
6. War Pigs [Black Sabbath cover]
7. Sympathy for the Devil [Rolling Stones cover]

Don’t Panic is a band I’ve been watching play almost ever since I was inducted into the local music scene (they’ve been around for MANY more years than that, though) and I’ve seen them many times over these years. So have many other regulars of the scene, who also have repeatedly watched them live numerous times, and there is good reason for this: they’re hard to get bored of. They’ve played religiously for hours a night, nearly every single week, to crowds of all sizes and natures, and I can swear that they’ve entertained all of them. However, a band made up of people as obviously skilled as them has had a set of original songs a long time coming, and this was, to my knowledge, one of the few times that they have focussed on playing their own songs, so I was a bit anxious and quite excited to hear what they’d sound like (though I had heard a couple of their songs at an earlier gig).

And they didn’t disappoint. Theirs is a heavy, slightly 80s metal feel to their songs, in terms of the chromaticity of the notes they use – they tend to use a similar chugging rhythm and bright notes to back up the two vocalists’ also-quite bright voices to create a rousing and energetic sound that’s engaging and immediately engaging. Now, I don’t think they make any bones about wanting to make the sort-of straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll that accommodates few pretensions, which many bands do – the difference here is that they know how to use their talents to do this well, which is hard to do in a style that’s so oversubscribed. There are fast and flashy solos and imposing drums, but they’re brought to the fore judiciously, making them interesting rather than wearing out their welcome. The singers’ voices work interestingly in alternation, with John having a more classic rock ‘n’ roll/metal voice, fond of the high notes like Rob Halford’s is, while Geoff’s is a more poppy, cleaner voice that brings out the slightly lower-pitched songs well. Blue Cars was a broody, dark number with some very intense solos, while Clothes was a more rock ballad-like, sounding a bit like the late-70s Kinks. Climber was reminiscent of early REM (including a not-entirely-unjustified whinge about the night’s drinks’ prices) and Gift was an ominous, shreddy yet full of feeling song, in which the guitars really stood out for having walked the line between those two aspects to near-perfection.

It wouldn’t have been a Don’t Panic set, though, if there weren’t a few covers, and the selection seemed to have been made to warm my own heart – Foo Fighters, Black Sabbath and Rolling Stones songs that are staples of their regular sets, and which they have refined their renditions of were made even more delightful by Chris B joining them on stage. Now, I never stopped to think what Sympathy for the Devil would sound like in a deep, woman’s voice, but as it turns out it’s pretty damn good. The twist given to the song was really neat, and with Don’t Panic’s general atmosphere of let’s-all-let-our-hair-down, we couldn’t have had a better way to close the show. The more substantial taste Don’t Panic gave of their original music was, predictably, enticing – now I can’t wait for the album.

— Shashwati Kala

poster by ANGUS LEUNG
photos © Copyright 2013 by ANGUS LEUNG

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