Wow! Our first Summer Festival! Thanks to all the wonderful bands that performed: Another Kitchen, Adrian Fu, David Boring, NinetyNine Floor, Jo! Fantasista, Peri M, Bamboo Star & Jatbunsing. And of course to our surprise guest Jun Kung who really did surprise the audience!! Attic is a fantastic venue and we can’t wait to host more festivals there in the future. Watching great Hong Kong bands whilst drinking cold Jack Daniels Cola and Singha Beer was the perfect summer evening – thanks to all our lovely sponsors of prizes: Sennheiser, Sideways, Hotel Icon and Parsons Music.
Hats off to our reviewers who took the time to write reviews of the bands. Biggest applause to The Underground team and interns who were there from beginning to end: Angus, Sophie, Kei, Jenna, Kate & Heidi.
love Chris B xx
哇！這是我們的第一個夏日音樂節！感謝所有送上精彩演出的樂隊：Another Kitchen, Adrian Fu, David Boring, NinetyNine Floor, Jo! Fantasista, Peri M, Bamboo Star 及一般性；當然還有我們的神秘嘉賓恭碩良為觀眾帶來驚喜！Attic是一個很好的表演埸地，我們希望可以在那裡舉辦更多音樂節！一邊觀賞香港出色的樂隊，一邊喝着冰凍的Jack Daniels可樂和Singha啤酒，絕對稱得上是最佳的夏日傍晚！多謝所有抽獎獎品的贊助商：Sennheiser, Sideways, 唯港薈及柏斯琴行；感激我們的評論家們花時間為所有樂隊寫評論；最後要為從頭到尾一直幫手的The Underground團隊及實習生鼓掌：
Angus, Sophie, Kei, Jenna, Kate 和 Heidi！
love Chris B xx
- That’s why I go away
- Play tonight
Someone has to kick the night off and we’re all grateful to Another Kitchen for jumping in. And they’re perfect for a summer evening in Ngau Tau Kok – jazzy, summery, fun and light industrial. Sorry I just mean light. But not in a superficial way – these guys are super professional: guitarist Charles’ PRS sounds fat and funky, Kit’s bass is slinky and cultured and wow, can petite singer Kimi sing. (That’s a rhetoric question, clearly she can). In fact she can more than sing, she really has a great voice, going from purr to scream in the space of a line.
Musically the band moves effortlessly between jazz-funk, fusion, rock and pop, with a smattering of blues and R&B thrown in for good measure. First track “示威” is a funky workout which ends with a gorgeous guitar/bass duet, with lines entwining like dancing pythons. If pythons danced that is. (Maybe they do, just not when David Attenborough’s watching?).
“That’s Why I Go Away” is another great number with more of a ballad feel, while “Play Tonight”, the last song of their set, is arguably their strongest – jazzy and energetic with lovely funky guitars and a bass solo which demonstrates Kit’s sublime skills.
The musicians are super talented, the songs are great and the overall vibe is fun. If we have to be critical we’d say that maybe they need to take a few more risks – after all there’s no shortage of talented bands mining pretty similar musical territory. But this kind of jazz/funk/pop AOR sound has always been popular in HK and I guess there’s a fairly unlimited market for it. Especially when it’s performed with the panache these guys exhibit, at least.
- Take Me To Church (Hozier)
This boy has serious talent. Channeling the power of Elton John, Billy Joel (a frequently covered personal favourite of his) and Rufus “Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk” Wainwright, Adrian gives this everything. No wonder he’s signed to Universal Music Hong Kong – not only does he have the chops, he’s got the songs and the delivery. Oh and the looks as well – he’s charmingly nerdy in his flat cap and white glasses.
And don’t let anyone tell you that piano can’t rock! Well, there’s no way you can really stop them saying it, as it’s impossible to guess what people are going to randomly say to you, but if they do say that, you can tell them how wrong they are. At times Adrian seems to transcend his piano, it’s such a huge noise he produces.
It’s hypnotic as well – all you can do is stand transfixed while he simultaneously charms and besieges you with his wonderful music. In several languages as well. It’s tricky enough to work out what he’s singing in English, but it’s totally mystifying in Cantonese and Mandarin. But who cares? He could be crooning the phone book, it doesn’t matter – once he hits you with that rich, sonorous voice you just start smiling and nodding vacuously, like a Castle Peak escapee on a musical mission.
Although he only performed only three tracks: two originals (無非一聲掰拜, 路…一直都在) and a cover – an impassioned version of Hozier’s anthem against homophobia “Take Me To Church” – this felt very much like a ‘proper’ show, from a consummate showman – nice work Adrian!
1. Brian emo
4. Machine 2
5. Susie exciting
6. I can’t
7. Another soul
8. Suicide pop
It might have been something to do with the air con, but being part of a 20-something person semicircle with one leopard print wearing punker in the middle directly in front of David Boring, with their disjointed, haphazard, spastic noise-fuelled alternative brit-punk literally gave me chills. And I don’t mean that lightly. A not at all boring band, David Boring starts with the melancholic stare of teal-haired singer Laujan. Staring straight ahead with dark eyes set in her and a stone cold expression, I could have sworn she was staring right through me.
There’s a certain clique that David Boring appeal to. I’m no hipster, but I get it, too, since the bands I grew up around were alternative/indie/punk UK bands of the millennium. The kind of sound you hear when you’re angsty, angry at everything but still apathetic to do something, yet you feel a compulsion to lash out, giving up on all hope and letting yourself be battered by the noise and strangulation of harsh brit crunch sounds. Starting with “Brian Emo”, LauJan’s slightly British twanged voice (described as ‘leng mui voice’ by my friend) called out to the crowd, giving the set an air of gloomy teenage angst. Not wasting any time they immediately lead into “Machine#1”, a hit song they did an MV for last year, and probably their most well-known.
Honestly, I think there were too few people there to appreciate it, but at the same time I thought the lack of people (or the abundance of space) turned their set into something else – through the short, jerky “Loosefuck”, the driving “Machine 2”, and guitarist Cheng Yat Wa on the floor, bare-footed passionately strumming the hell out of “Susie Exciting”, the band turned their performance into something of an art exhibition. Yes, I’m not afraid of sounding pretentious, but I genuinely feel that was the case – Laujan’s hypnotizing movements and heart-wrenching shouts were a sight to behold, but you could see they were pouring their hearts into what the songs meant to them, which is something that matters to me the most when I see a band.
After the dangerous “I Can’t”, the set slowed down to “Another Soul”, a half instrumental, half spoken-word haunting epilogue that again, gave me chills. I’m not joking when I say that. The band heated things up again with their finishing wild song “Suicide Pop”, abruptly thanking the audience and leaving the stage promptly.
To me, David Boring’s set definitely stood out the most to me. Not just because they weren’t run of the mill Rock, user-friendly sounds, but also because they had so much fire in their performance, even if there weren’t that many people. I mentioned that the singer’s voice had a ‘leng mui’ (‘Teenage girl’) sound to it, but that’s precisely what I liked about them – the youthfulness, the energetic, the rashness, and the disparaging sounds clashing together to make you feel what they feel, so that someone standing in front of them may finally understand their passion. I think the Underground scene definitely needs to put more of these bands on because it’s so different, it will definitely put some colour into the scene. So if you’re looking for something different and not cookie cutter, go and look up David Boring. It’ll change you.
1. Orange vortex
3. Happy People
The Underground’s mixed-genre events are always great for discovering new music, but sometimes a band gets booked that makes you want to give Chris B a big fat smooch. Fourth on the bill, Ninetynine Floor’s set could have easily been lost and forgotten in the middle of a nine-act night – had it not been for a show that left punters’ mouths agape. The band’s sound broadly falls under the shoegaze genre, but the colossal soundscapes were more akin to Sigur Ros and God Is An Astronaut than Swervedriver.
Singer/guitarist Cher’s shy and unassuming demeanour translated into a captivatingly introverted delivery style. Standing stage-left, he seemed to want to conceal his role, letting bassist Monk absorb the room’s gaze – though every player’s performance was utterly memorable. Opener Orange Vortex was an atmospheric opener of echoes, sparse notes and unintelligibly soft vocals. Heavily distorted, feedback-laden chords were layered to create a drugged and dreamy duvet that tumbled comfortingly around the audience.
Next it was time to tuck everybody in, and what better way to do it than with Evey’s lulling arpeggios – even the band members closed their eyes. Not far into the slumber, the song suddenly awoke to the sound of crashing drumming recalling Smashing Pumpkins’ melancholy era. The audio from the V-meets-Evey scene from V For Vendetta added a theatrical touch to the song, which continued in an meditative, progressive vein as guitarist Chan’s tremolo chords sounded out.
Owing to the roughly 40 effects pedals on stage, the band was able to conjure a vast range of moods. Happy People – at points like Radiohead’s Pyramid Song in a major key – toyed with the emotions: Envy Corps-style bittersweet melodies stemmed into sombrely slurred sorrowful singing, as if the song was some kind of elegy to loss. Drummer Kiu made his job look effortless, imparting loose beats and whispering cymbals.
Wallowing in a deep pool of thought, Cigarette was a calm yet tragic, anaemic yet impassioned finale. Cher’s voice fluttered like a skeleton leaf on the wind, gasping Jonsi-esque lyrics into a lonesome, desolate soundscape. From start to finish – with four perfect songs – Ninetynine Floor’s whole set was like being rocked gently in the midst of grief. Like Explosions In The Sky’s Birth and Death of the Day, when the tremolo tidal wave broke, it was transcendent.
– El Jay
1. There’s No Saviour
3. Sunny Day
When Shotgun Politics pulled out of The Underground Summer Festival (drummer Freddy Gunn broke his arm), there was a palpable nervousness. No one wants to be “the replacement act”, but, as always on a tight-knit scene, bands rallied to make sure there wouldn’t be a gaping hole in the bill where the highly-anticipated party rockers once were. Without the arguably most prominent band on the line-up (before Jun Kung was revealed, anyway), festivalgoers may have feared a night devoid of the band’s signature, high-energy pop punk.
There was no need to worry: handpicked by Shotgun, Jo! Fantasista not only met the brief but surpassed it, with a fun and lively three-song slot. From the emo alternative guitar and “I don’t give a fuck” lyrics of first song There’s No Saviour, to the straight-shooting punk of BFF, the band channelled the pop sentimentality and open-diary lyrics of everyone’s favourite noughties rock bands, like Paramore and Blink 182.
Charismatic front man Matthew was determined to give the crowd a good time, jumping around, shouting lyrics and unleashing a satisfying wail during BFF. Last song Sunny Day blended his wildcat snarls with guitarists E and Mike’s noisy, angsty slew, and drummer Jun’s crashing cymbals. If Jo!’s set sounded fairly generic, it was most likely because they didn’t really have the space or time to really show what they could do. But they got a busy room smiling and bopping, as they fearlessly leapt in to fill Shotgun’s sizeable boots and saved the day.
– El Jay
Jun Kung 恭碩良
2. Help Is On The Way
3. Whatcha Gonna Do?
4. Sun Shines Down
As rumours swirled about the identity of Chris B’s “surprise act”, it was unclear whether a truly famous artist would be unveiled at the last moment. No one should have doubted for a second The Underground’s power to pull a cracker out of the bag. Jun Kung entered the room to the fullest room of the night, as every other band on the bill assembled to catch the former Canto-pop star’s electric under-the-radar set.
Kung has long shaken off the squeaky-clean pop of his youth, favouring a whisky-soaked blues sound that worked beautifully in such an intimate venue. From opener Sailing, Kung’s gritty baritone melted into Rayvaughn Covington’s fudgy slap-bass sloop, before the singer battled personal demons in the soul-oozing, reggae-tinged Help Is On The Way.
In a break between songs, Kung thanked The Underground profusely, describing the experience as “a real privilege”. The whole band looked overjoyed to be there, and they earned a rapturous reception. Derrick Sepnio’s bluesy guitar licks squealed Hendrix attitude on Sun Shines Down, a sun-soaked, surf shack track. “Light me up another bowl”, sang Kung, echoed by Covington’s sonorous backing vocals. Drummer Padget Nanton was magnetic throughout; his stick twirls and funk flourishes gave his pristine time-keeping an effortlessly cool character.
Grimy blues closer D.O.B (Dirty Old Bastard) crowned an immaculately-executed rock show, with the elephantine stomp of pudgy bass waddling alongside twanging hobo guitar. Kung is a big name and formidable talent, who pulled off a tight performance with his dazzling band. But that doesn’t mean other festival acts were dwarfed. In a night full of high quality sets and exceptional stagecraft, all musicians stood shoulder-to-shoulder to deliver an unforgettable collective extravaganza.
– El Jay
3. 1. X.2012
Had it not been for the genre details on the flyer, nothing about Peri M’s name would have given away the kind of music they play. Like the only other hard rock band on the bill, Bamboo Star, the local five-piece vamp up their genre to caricature levels, employing dark themes and gothic overtones. The band delves deep into the annals of heavy metal and exhumes a sound that tips its hat to the likes of Kind Diamond, Mercyful Fate and Black Sabbath, but is also indebted to the contemporary theatrical romance of HIM, Ghost and Evanescence.
Lead singer Aeolus was both delicate and fearsome, her crystal clear voice alternating between soft canto-pop songstress and soaring rock frontwoman. Eunice’s keyboard gave the songs an eerie aesthetic; from the spiralling, celestial synths of opener 太平盛世 to the haunting organ intro to 本我. Kai on guitar proved himself to be stunningly skilled, producing enough variation in tone with his Kemper Profiler to make it sound like there were multiple guitarists on stage. Meanwhile, Turn B’s devilish Sabbath bass clongs gave the performance an unshakeably sinister edge.
1.X.2012 turned full-on gothic wedding with ascending soprano vocals and an irresistibly grandiose marriage of grand piano twinkling with robust guitar chords. Like Opeth’s Beneath The Mire, 花無我 began with high, compressed strumming before showing its teeth with heavier distortion, straight-from-the-crypt organ and a bass-heavy metal breakdown. But 城邦故事 was a different kettle of fish, closing the show with distinctively positive ambiance involving cheery vocals and sunny guitar that sounded like the theme tune to a daytime TV drama. An effortless segway into a summer of live shows for this talented rock outfit.
– El Jay
LUCKY DRAW for SENNHEISER HEADPHONES
LUCKY DRAW for PARSONS GIFT VOUCHERS
1. Ready to Roll
2. Don’t Turn Around
3. Electric Love
4. Bad Romance (cover)
5. Breaking Limits
Hard Rock heroes Bamboo Star makes an appearance at the Underground Summer Festival at the Attic in Kwun Tong – a venue that I’ve not heard of before, but seemed pretty cool. Some tables and chairs to chill out on at the back accompanied a nice open space in front of the stage; the venue was a clean space for the band to rile up the audience. The crowd of 20 strong hard rock fans were riled up and ready for Bamboo Star, starting their set with “Ready to Roll”, their American style blend of straight up hard rock blasted into the audience. The crowd was soon moving to “Don’t Turn Around”, a song that got heads banging and people jumping about, giving the audience a good dose of breakdown action. After a bit of banter from frontman Wolf Red, “Electric Love” came into play and again barraged the crowd with good old American style hard rock riffs. Next, their cover of “Bad Romance” got people singing along, whilst their ending song “Breaking Limits” gave the audience a hair metal finish.
Wolf has some very great showmanship on stage, mustering crowd reactions where he can and baring his teeth into the audience as he works those golden pipes of his. Diving to and fro on stage, Bamboo Star never fails to bring a hard rocking to whatever venue they play.
The night was nearing to a close, and frankly, people were getting tired. That didn’t stop nu-metallers一般性 from giving it all they’ve got though. Opening with an atmospheric instrumental intro, 一般性 gave the audience the notion to start rocking along to記事, a heavy song with weighty riffs. 離開我 was next, again driving the audience and getting some people off their feet and warming up in the cold atmosphere. 訊號 was next, the song opening with some haunting guitar tones and Phrygian sounding chords, before ripping into a meaty chorus riff. The band followed with勇氣, a pretty sing-along-y song with a weird, creepy vocal hook in the verse, before giving a hard scream in the chorus. After a good blistering of路是絕無僅有, the band finished with一點一點, a korn-esque sounding track, and splitting screams from frontman敬程.
Although there weren’t many people left (understandably, since some had been standing since 6), 一般性 still managed to get all 20 people off their feet and rocking along into the night. The festival ended with Chris B thanking them for staying until the end, and a few more raffle draws were announced.
The Underground Summer Festival came to a successful close. A quite eventful night, with a good amount of people meandering in and out, and some very quality acts bought out by Chris. Well done The Underground!
Photos by Angus Leung.
Poster by Jenna Ho.