Our second Rustic event at Morrison’s and it went really great, totally because of the wonderful musicians who took part as well as the music-hungry audience who turned up. Big thanks to Sherman doing sound and to Prada on door duties. Thanks to Veronica & Chris for reviewing. Thanks to Angus for taking the cool pics. Thanks to Cordelia for the artwork. Big thanks to Aneesh and all at Morrisons! We love you too Jack Daniels! We’ll be back on 5th August with Rustic #3. 我們的第二次Rustic音樂會，地點在Morrison’s，整個活動非常成功。這有賴很精彩的樂手樂隊演出，和一眾對音樂很飢渴的觀眾。我要強烈感謝控制音響的Sherman和處理門票的Prada。另外，有謝Veronica和Chris為我們寫演出的報導，多謝Angus拍了很棒的照片，也謝Cordelia的海報設計，大大的感謝Aneesh和所有Morrisons員工！我們都愛你噢Jack Daniels。8月5號我們會回來，為你帶來Rustic #3。
4.Bad One For a Friend
6.You Won’t Be Down Forever
7.We’ll Both Look Back
Sporting a silvery-blue smoky eye look and ripped jeans, singer-songwriter Jules O’Brien took to the stage with her nylon guitar, amidst of a roomful of folk music enthusiasts. Within just two to three bars of her song, ‘In Between’, she has managed to not only capture our imagination with her hauntingly beautiful vocals, but also take us along on an emotional roller coaster ride. “Suddenly I’m shaking like a child/Breathing as the air is getting colder,” the heartfelt words in her lyrics and minor chord progressions made the intimate venue even more so than before.
I always thought that without the help of vocal effects or guitar pedals, acoustic sets would lack variation and sound repetitive after the first three songs. However, Jules proved me wrong with her impeccable percussive guitar techniques while performing her song ‘Paperwork’. In the blink of an eye, she turns her guitar into a drum set, sweeping us off our feet with those mind-blowing percussive beats.
Things could get a little messy when you try to fit a dozen words into just one bar. However, just like Ed Sheeran, Jules has found a way for it to work, and instead of being out of sync with the melodies, the tongue twisters in the verse create a forward momentum that help it gradually build up to a powerful chorus.
‘Bad One For A Friend’ was a personal favourite of mine, as it has a rather dark tone to it, and thus changing the dynamics of the whole set. Also, this song really brings out her sassiness and you can really see her coming out of her shell as she effortlessly brings the house down again.
After asking the sound engineer to turn up the reverb, she began serenading us with a beautiful ballad called ‘You Won’t Be Down’. Her penetrating and breathy vocals reverberated around the room, and surprisingly, the guitar strums were brought forward in the mix, which then creates a contrast between the two.
Her last song of the night, ‘We’ll Both Look Back’ could very well be interpreted as a love letter to Hong Kong or an anthem for all the youngsters here, in which she sings about how it feels to be in an all-consuming relationship as well as navigating through a megacity as a young adult.
Besides her mesmerising voice, I’m in awe of her high level of professionalism and the way she handled slip ups as well as tech issues such as audio feedback—she simply laughed it off as if nothing had happened and picked up where she left off without missing a beat.
– Veronica Lin
海島小輪 Sea Island & Ferry
1. 浮生變調 Adrift
2. 水面下生存 Living under water
3. 似水流年 (instrumental reinterpretation of 80s song by Anita mui)
4. 半空飛行 Low Flying
When I read 海島小輪 Sea Island & Ferry’s bio, I immediately knew I was going to be in a for a treat–the quartet is a Hong Kong-based "neoclassical ensemble", and was formed when Arnold Fung, a singer-songwriter-turned-pianist "gave up on words to tell his stories".
It’s easy to forget that I’m actually watching them perform at a music bar in Sheung Wan–the second I closed my eyes, I was teleported to a grand concert hall and listening to a piece by world-class musicians.
Nowadays, numerous musicians have chosen to leave school in order to "pursue a career in music"– some even claiming that majoring in music or getting proper training at music conservatories will kill their creativity. 海島小輪 Sea Island & Ferry clearly proves them wrong, as all of the members have a solid foundation in music, which enabled them to compose pieces with arrangements that are comparable to that of film scores.
Despite the fact that their playing styles are completely different from one another, somehow it just turns into this beautiful instrumental piece when it all comes together. But what really caught my eye (and ear) was the Xiao, (a Chinese flute that has more or less a similar tone to western concert flutes), played by KH Tang. When he started playing arpeggios towards the end of ‘Adrift’, their opening tune, I was instantly mesmerised by the ambiance that it has created and how it stood out from the rest. Also, the alternation between a higher and lower note as well as jazz saxophonist Timothy Wan’s silky and soulful base notes fit together perfectly, exuberating a sense of serenity and peace–both of which are nearly impossible to be found anywhere else in a mega city like Hong Kong.
"Living Under Water was inspired by a conversation I had with a Japanese colleague who’s transgender," says Arnold. The tempo changed frequently throughout the whole piece, almost as if they’ve turned all of his emotional turmoil as well as a nagging sense of pain, frustration and uncertainty into melodies.
Put simply, there probably aren’t any bands out there quite like 海島小輪 Sea Island & Ferry. Their music really is the perfect example of the cultural diversity here in Hong Kong.
– Veronica Lin
1. Such A Short Time
2. Dressed Up In Disguise
4. Just Any Night
5. Swimming Out To Sea
6. So Long, So Long
Main support for Rustic #2 was New Age Folk duo Huckleberry Friend – self-described as two drifters who formed in early 2017.
Opener ‘Such A Short Time’ begins with soft picking and subtle trills on acoustic guitar by Swedish-born Charlie, before warmly whispering the lyrics “You plant your seed with mine”. The mellow feel is indicative of Bombay Bicycle Club’s Flaws album, before Simon enters with a falsetto harmony line off the microphone for extra subtlety. The song naturally builds and the acoustic open chords gradually become more brash.
‘Dressed Up In Disguise’ sees Charlie move to electric guitar, and Simon pick up acoustic duties. Again, the overall sound is warm, but this time, more upbeat, verging on Amy Macdonald territory. Whilst Simon’s melody glides effortlessly over the simple chord progression, Charlie offers a heavy vibrato solo to give a western country vibe, and more notably, some unexpected vocal bass ba’s in the choruses.
“This restless fear is getting old” cuts through on ‘Wrong’, where single strum chords give way to longing vocals. Charlie’s echo-laden guitar adds to the dreamy vibe, marrying with the smooth vocal melodies once more.
‘Just Any Night’ is a little more urgent, with country picking and hammer-ons, and a long instrumental outro, which allows Charlie to really show his guitar skills, with heavy use of string bends and the overall tone being more distinctive.
‘Swimming Out To Sea’ seems the most folk-tinged, with gentle picking, low “hmms” and smooth octave vocals to give an Eagle-Eyed Cherry edge, before Charlie rips in with another solo, this time with more grit and distortion than any of the previous songs.
The duo closed their impressive set with ‘So Long, So Long’ – a clear attempt at a crowd sing-along, with the vocals being as bold as ever from Simon, backed up by Charlie’s “ahhs” in the choruses to make it their most succinct folk pop tune.
In between songs, the pair had the audience in the palm of their hands with quick-witted jokes which only added to their personalities, and provided the perfect balance to the introverted and reflective lyrics that ran throughout their songs.
– Chris Gillett
Tango & Snatch
2. When She Comes
4. Only For Tonight
5. Convo Stalls
8. I Tried & I Failed
9. Save The Whales
Normally a three-piece, local Folkabilly band Tango & Snatch headlined the second Rustic night at Morrisons Café as a duo.
‘Haunted’ kicked off proceedings with singer Zaid Samman playing a simple shuffle chord progression and delivering his emotionally raw Americana vocal over the dampened snare of Joe Hastings’ country beat, adding an element of Mumford and Sons to the mix.
‘When She Comes’ channelled the rockabilly skiffle of Johnny Cash with a more accented beat in the choruses, as well as soaring harmonies by Hastings, before the repeated refrain “I keep on breathing for you” brings the song to a close.
‘Lullaby’ feels reminiscent of early Maccabees with Samman’s scratchy bar chords, whilst his emotionally wrought vocal has a similar impassioned plea to John Frusciante’s solo work. Hastings, meanwhile, employs the same country style roll.
‘Only For Tonight’ pushes the aggressive envelope a little further to give a bit of grit to the country feel, before Hastings and Samman are battling towards the end to see who can shout the loudest.
From this point on, the set becomes very rhythmically stagnant, with the same country beat driving at approximately the same tempo from Convo Stalls to closer Save The Whales. Samman’s strumming patterns also start to become predictable and tiresome too, with each song merging into one overall sound. Although Samman delivers every word with intensely raw emotion, and Hastings throws in plenty of “woahs” and tight harmonies for good measure, it becomes nearly impossible to differentiate the tracks from one another.
Despite their shortcomings, and being a member down, Tango & Snatch delivered a powerful and punchy enough set to end proceedings on another successful night of rustic music.
– Chris Gillett
Photos by Angus Leung.
Poster by Cordelia Ngai.