Underground 108

22-06-13

U108-43.JPGWhat an outstanding night with three amazing Hong Kong bands who performed & gave 200% to the crowd – thank you for your creativity & persistence! Thanks to the audience, the visuals from the Hong Kong Mapping group, Backstage for hosting this event and biggest thanks to The Underground team for consistently improving & making each show better than the last.
love Chris B xx

 

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Dark Himaya

1. Silent Protest
2. Bia
3. Distraction
4. Isadora
5. Personal Demon
6. Papercut in Your Eye

The night started off with Dark Himaya, returning to our stage after nearly two years, and what better way to kick off being on the gig market again by playing the Underground? Having released their album in March, they started off with a big lineup change, having the very popular Tetsuya joining them after their original drummer left earlier this year. I suppose it’s fitting that with them looking to move on (presumably) after getting their songs on their album, they choose a drummer with a noticeably contrasting style. With many more fills and a more driving and persistent style behind the drums, Dark Himaya sound invigorated. Even better, they’ve been changing up many aspects of their songs, such as adding elaborated intros to their songs, changing up some solo-ed bits, and generally adding new textures to their songs, which always makes for interesting listening.

The classic elements that made up their music are still pretty much intact, though; Ivy’s dominating vocals set against Aileen’s more placid ones, with very smooth, melodic, drawling bass. Bia and Papercut in Your Eye are a particularly good example of this, with the two vocal lines perfectly creating mood for the others to play on. The contrast between the vocals is as rich as ever, creating deep and layered atmosphere, the sort that can make you feel tingly and give you goosebumps. The faster (or so it sounded to me) execution of the songs in particular was a point of difference that made some songs noticably different; Isadora, for instance, was one in which Tetsuya’s more busy style of drums really shined. However, I do feel that Distraction went on a tad too long as I found it a little repetitive. The guitars have also gotten more adventurous over the years, with the simple metallic, solid sound exploring more gained and phased tones, against which the lovely keyboards sound even more pristine, as in Papercut in Your Eye and Isadora. All in all, a good way to start off the show.

— Shashwati Kala

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Shotgun Politics

1. Sunny
2. Chucks and Pearls
3. Hands
4. New Year’s Day
5. Break
6. Cathartic
7. Carry On
8. 852

The second band too were returning veterans playing with us after a long time, and just like Dark Himaya, they had made a series of changes to their set too. In a strangely similar parallel, Shotgun Politics too have added intros to their songs; evidently the idea was to play a nearly continuous set. It didn’t quite work out this night (considering the energy of their shows, I would think they’d need a little time to breathe after every song), but I’m sure they’ll figure it out eventually. Regardless, the intros they have crafted to each song add a nice taste of something slightly different before the actual song, which is a great approach, and also allows some of the more compulsive elements of playing an instrument to come out; from little wiggly bits on guitar to interesting drum vignettes. It’s a great idea and I’m interested to see how they’ll develop it.

The second most noticeable thing about them is that they now have another new guitarist, and they have surprisingly found another person whose soloing style is noticeably different from Timmy’s – Kid sounds like Niall with more gain and has a Noughties metal, chugging style to his playing, which complements Timmy’s well (again). If this is subconsciously done, their subconsciouses are very attentive.

They’ve also got a substantially different set from the one they played last time, and this is generally true of every time they have played, and they played quite a few new songs this night. However, the classic Shotgun Politics energy was there in spades. Right from the stop-start, jumpy rhythm contour of Sunny, making it sound much like an early Nirvana song, to when Dr. Eggs himself joined the merrymaking on stage for New Year’s Day, until the grand closing notes of the anthemic 852, it was just as intensely fun to watch as always.

Aside from having terrific musicians and live shows, they must be complimented on how far Timmy has come as a (mostly) lone vocalist. He’s become a fine singer, with a slightly edgy but melodic voice which suits their songs great, and he’s been able to develop its quality into a flair that really shines; this night, especially in the heavier Chucks and Pearls. Hands, their “dancey” song, showed off the more shimmering side of Kid’s soloing style, complementing Timmy’s very melodic pieces. Break started off quite mellow, and perhaps underscored their newer sound with a slower pace of words but fast-strummed notes, at a generally mid-tempo. Cathartic was composed by Kid, and it shows (I think) by having a more In Love & Pain-kind of sound. They closed off with their two more anthemic songs, and with some more of the classic SP madness on stage, got the whole crowd going. Not much more needs to be said about them, but I will say this – these guys are awesome.

— Shashwati Kala

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Les Gromechkos

1. Welcome to Gromechkos’ (a.k.a. Big Load)
2. Bretagne
3. La Gromechkienne
4. Cheung Chau Ergo Sum
5. Wanchai Cowboy
6. Toit émoi
7. Le Troubadour de la Ligne Rouge
8. Roll Pepette Roll
9. El Taximan de SheungWan
10. Le Cracheur de Flute de Sham Shui Po
11. Tai O Fish Market

Clad in old-school suspenders, fedora hats and crisp white shirts, the six very dapper men of Les Gromechkos took the Underground stage ready to deliver nothing less than an absolutely fun and explosive show. Though a look at their music description (ska rock gypsy punk and French musette) would make any show-goer wonder exactly what they were in for, the band’s intention was clear. “I want everybody to dance.”

Each song they played was infused with infectious rhythm that made it hard not to move along with the music. Making fun out of the absurdity of everyday situations, Les Gromechkos took the crowd on a crazy journey from Central Europe to Hong Kong, from the MTR’s red line and the streets of Sham Shui Po to the corners of Tai O and Wanchai.

The band was loaded with an inexhaustible supply of energy on Saturday night -you never knew what was up their sleeves until they busted out their next instrument. Lead singer SebW was a fireball of stage presence, sometimes swapping out singing to rap along with guitarist/accordion player NicoJ. Drummer SébCé played in killer style, whilst bassist Guewen doubled up as a flawless back-up singer with his fellow members.

Guitarist NicoG-A revealed a flute out of nowhere, and played some alluring melodies (even simultaneously beat-boxing during La Cracheur de Flute de Sham Shui Po!). Most impressive however, was keyboardist José who proved to be something of a quintuple threat! Apart from mastering his keys, he sang back-up, jammed on a tiny trumpet and was a real character amping up the crowd. If I’m not mistaken there was a harmonica in there too. Finally, he surprised the audience with a resonant baritone in Tai O Fish Market.

The best thing about seeing Les Gromechkos live is that you never know where they are going to take you next, but it’s one big dance party of a journey that you definitely want to be on.

— Natalia Bodomo

poster by ANGUS LEUNG
photos © Copyright 2013 by ANGUS LEUNG

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