Threesomes

21-10-17

UDG00112.JPG We had so much fun at our Threesomes event at Morrison Cafe & Bar in Sheung Wan. Thanks sooooo much to the performers for really entertaining the audience with their music and their banter! Big thanks to Sherman for managing the sound. Huge thanks to Leon for taking the photos. Thanks to ALL our amazing reviewers for taking the time to watch, listen and write about the performers. Thanks to Susanna on door duties Thanks to Aneesh and all at Morrisons, see you all next month for London Calling!
我們在上環Morrison Cafe & Bar主辦的Threesomes音樂會真的很盡興。好多謝各表演樂隊用音樂和風趣的對話娛樂觀眾。感謝Sherman處理音響,感謝Leon為我們拍照,感謝各位筆者花時間觀看、聆聽然後為樂隊寫樂評,感謝Susanna管理票務,並感謝Aneesh和Morrison的全體員工。下月London Calling時再見!
❤️ Chris B xx


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EMPTY

1. party time (c)
2. We are
3. 延遟起飛 delay to depart
4. 一種感覺 (c) one feeling
5. 五月天空 (c) may sky
6. 虛構喝彩 an empty cheer up
7. 腳印 foot step

On Saturday, Cantonese five-man rock band EMPTY showed up at Threesome, our three x three-man band-concert, without their drums and bass. “Who here speaks Cantonese?” lead singer Mandy asked, around 70% of the room did, “Good. Because I’m not used to speaking English” he immediately replies in Cantonese. It was not only their first time at an Underground concert with an audience that could not be more different from their usual mainland tours but also their first time as an acoustic trio. It was probably not the smartest idea but one that should pay off in the long run having now expanded their music, which can easily be understood without words, into the English-speaking market.

The loss of drum and bass would not have been recognizable to anyone who were not avid listeners. The pulsing quasi-classical guitar parts are ever present played masterfully by Ka Ming and Tin Hang along with the percussiveness of Mandy’s vocals drives the ethereal music. Despite the ‘cloudiness’ of their music, they are definitely not niche. It is clear they know their market very well: %60 Mainland China, %40 Cantonese HK. One English cover aside, every song is exactly what you’d expect from a modern Chinese language pop song; melody with lots of words, country-classical guitars and high, slightly strained, vocals. However, there’s still something about them that’s not quite mainstream – in the same way that Sam Smith isn’t indie but isn’t as mainstream as, let’s say, 2010 Bieber.

Their opening song was called ‘Party Time’. It sounded exactly as you would a Cantopop ballad – Formulaic and with few surprises. There was little excitement in the song with a slow chorus simply going ‘Party Time, it’s my party time [keep playing when I wake up tomorrow]’. Nothing in the song sounded particularly like a party, if anything the slow, flowing melody crooned by Mandy sounded like sit-at-home-quietly-with-a-book time, not Party Time.

Their later songs quickly regained the audience. There seemed to be a recurring theme of flying throughout the concert with songs such as “遟起飛 (Delay to depart)” and “五月天空 May sky”. These songs had soaring melodies, tight vocal harmonies and incredibly well written guitar parts.

By the last song, EMPTY had convinced the audience that they were anything but empty, even without their full band. Everything was tapping along to their final song “ 腳印 (Footsteps)” aptly written with a solid, continuous tapping rhythm.

Despite enjoying every song more than the last, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that they could have been literally any other Cantopop band. There was nothing particularly astounding about their writing, all their songs were well written, catchy and masterfully performed with great stage presence to match but there just wasn’t anything particularly unique about them aside from skill. Their songs could be background TVB music and no one would know the difference.

Having said all that, Cantopop isn’t exactly in a second renaissance and although EMPTY doesn’t quite push the boundaries or match up to the old masters like Roman Tam or Beyond, they are a tight group with great music. Would I personally go see them again? Possibly, I might not have had my mind blown but I was impressed by their writing and personality. Do I recommend them? Very much so. Go support good music.
– Cyril Ma


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Spam

1. Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall (Coldplay cover)
2. War Within My Soul
3. A Grace Disguised
4. Making Out To Jobim
5. Because Of You
6. Letting Go
7. Material Man
8. Just The Way You Are (Bruno Mars cover)
Encore: Radioactive (Imagine Dragons cover)

“We’re the filling of this threesomes sandwich,” grinned Spam vocalist Aaron Pan, greeting the room at his band’s second Underground appearance. Decked out in aviator shades (inspired by Bono) and a T-shirt bearing the logo of the eponymous canned meat product, the ebullient frontman brought a winning charisma and charm to a challenging performance. It was hard to pinpoint exactly why ropey opener Every Tear is a Teardrop (a Coldplay cover) was so jarring. It could have had something to do with the out of time combination of keyboard-guitar-cajon, or the distracting conversations being had within the crowd. It’s not often that fans gain attention at The Underground for the wrong reasons, but a lively atmosphere among Spam’s supporters occasionally diverted attention from the performance. Fans shouted above the music and a number of them had their backs turned to the stage during most of previous act Empty. The babble even continued into the beginning of Spam’s set, which was, at times, barely audible over their own fans. That aside, there was plenty to enjoy in Spam’s entertaining show.

Spam – aka “Solomon’s Porch Awesome Musicians”, named after the church the band are active members within – showed a knack for translating their faith and its teachings into relatable tunes with emotional heft. A War Within My Soul, for example, drew from the theme of resisting temptation and clinging on to hope during challenging times. A Grace Disguised, introduced as “a metaphor for how we medicate pain in our life”, was inspired by a man who lost in family in a car crash and suffered from repetitive nightmares. The song contained a deep message about “facing the darkness”, which paired with anthemic drumming that drew from OneRepublic’s playbook.

Far from uptight or preachy, the band threw in plenty of laugh-out-loud jokes that kept things light and fun. Making Out To Jobim was inspired by Pan’s wife Priscilla. “When people meet us, they wonder ‘how the hell did you do that?’" Tear-jerking Keane-style keys heightened the sentiment, while Pan’s laid-bare vocals gave the song a starkness that echoed Bon Iver’s Skinny Love. The frontman, whose genuineness and optimism compared to Ryan Tedder, looked as though he were about to spill over with emotion introducing Because of You, a ballad dedicated to the couple’s son. The absence of a second guitarist made the composition seem thin: a rather trite Wonderwall-esque chord progression fell flat next to hesitant cajon patters and repetitive piano. Regardless, the music took a backseat to Pan’s heartfelt, yet corny lyrics, as he sang, “I’ll help you become the man I could not be … Because of you, our two has become three” delivered in an Isaac Slade (The Fray) monotone. Material Man took a swipe at the city’s consumerist culture: “I’ve been in Hong Kong 10 years but one thing that saddens me is how obsessed people are with money … you can’t take material wealth beyond the grave,” Pan lamented. A lack of chord and rhythmic variation made the Madonna-inspired song feel a little dry, but some intricate piano work provided some welcome variation.

“We do this thing where we say it’s the last song but really it’s not. You cheer and we come back for the encore,” said Pan, introducing a cover of Bruno Mars’ Just The Way You Are. Gentle keyboard melodies brought something new to the track, but the marching cajon-thumping drumbeat felt intrusive and ruined the mix. Sure enough, the crowd obliged Pan’s cheeky request, and stamped and hollered for an encore. Another cover – this time Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive – turned out to be the tightest and best-rehearsed song of the set. Atmospheric piano met varied, nuanced drumming, and Pan’s voice was the steadiest it had been all night. While it was clear that Spam isn’t at its juiciest as a threesome, the band brought something new to The Underground and left an impact with Pan’s infectious personality, his unflinching takes on heavy subject matter, and a collection of sincere songs.
– El Jay


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Say Mosquito

1. Destiny
2. Son Of Sam
3. Circumstances
4. In the Woods
5. Pretty Please
6. Running Late
7. Never trust a Scientist
8. Gotta Get it back
9. Hamster
10. Last Night in Hong Kong
Encore: Two Lips, Two lungs and One Tongue (NoMeansNo cover)

It seemed like Say Mosquito weren’t in the mood for hanging around, as they took to the stage to headline The Underground’s Threesomes event, exploding with the shotgun snare rolls of ‘Destiny’, a racy, chromatic power chord punk track that even took their fans by surprise. It was certainly clear that Morrison had not seen sound levels this high before as the clashing harmonised woahs could have probably been heard from Sheung Wan’s MTR station.

The offbeat frantic ska track ‘Son of Sam’ saw vocalist and guitarist Steve utilise a piercingly bright guitar sound, while bassist Maggie was jumping up and down the strings to create a country ska shuffle. Steve’s voice became more theatrical as the obscure gypsy jazz feel of ‘Circumstances’ gradually build into some descending noise rock, making each song as unpredictable as the last.
“Are we too loud?? Are we loud enough??” taunted the band, before jumping into the rockabilly ‘In The Woods’. With amped-up bluegrass basslines, more woahs and whistling, and the orchestration of the crowd to create their own threesomes, it was only a matter of time before the crowd started bopping along.

With the audience on their side, Say Mosquito continued to mix things up. The swung ‘Pretty Please‘, with the smooth oohs and chorus refrain, “Don’t you ever want it?” proved to be the standout track, while ‘Running Late’ was more dancey, almost emulating an eastern folk polka, and the shouty ‘Never Trust A Scientist‘ was a frantic mash of intensity that would impress the likes of The Sex Pistols or Fugazi.

‘Gotta Get It Back’ had a more skanky feel, mixing the vibes of NoFX and 70’s psychedelia. ‘Hamster’, meanwhile, was an insanely fast ska track which became almost comical how the trio managed to keep it together, with Maggie’s bass lines proving to be technically jaw-dropping. The bass lines were similarly wild during ‘Last Night In Hong Kong’, where Steve adopted some almost offensive vibrato bends during his guitar solo.

Steve had the crowd in stitches during their encore ‘Two Lips, Two Lungs and One Tongue‘, with an ultra-slow guitar bend in a moment of silence, juxtaposing the gritty bar chords and pumping, shouted wall of sound. It showed them at their most animated animated, as Steve wrestled with his guitar, as if trying to escape from a straight jacket.

While Say Mosquito’s style may not be to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying the group are talented, and more importantly, visually impressive and entertaining to watch.
– Chris Gillett

Photos by Leon Che’ Clark.​
由Leon Che’ Clark攝影。
Poster by​ ​​​Angus Leung​.
海報由​​​Angus Leung​.

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