Pick Pak Zhai

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Live Review from Underground 53:
Set List:
1尋醉 get drunk
2禍從口出 out of the mouth
3不耐煩 impatient
4偷得浮生 take a break
5冬泳 winter swim
6大人物 famous people
7沒有他 without him

Get Drunk had great rocking rhythms supported by some great bass guitar work and very funky, crunchy sounds coming out of the lead guitar. Although in danger of sounding crass and tacky because, after all, THIS is about the MUSIC as we ALL know, I’m going to say it anyway. Lead singer Fiona (and her vocals, of course), in her stripy, figure hugging dress and oozing almost a Deborah Harry-bow-wow-Wow! factor hit you as much as the band’s music. What a sexpot! If I ever thought of ‘jumping the fence’ and becoming a lesbot it would be for this woman.

Ok, being sensible now, this band also has a very versatile guitarist who produces with the one guitar everything from throw-your-body-up-and-down dance rhythms and hum-along clear supporting melodies to wild, searingly loud riffs and tingling forays into a higher zone only he and his guitar understand. The next three songs demonstrated this dude’s versatility. Out of the Mouth was marked by a strong, jumping rhythm guitar sound, Impatient showed well-played lead guitar melodies (complemented by some very thoughtful, interesting lyrics and vocal delivery, beautifully reminiscent of Everything But the Girl). And Take a Break opened with a great rock lead intro and then alternated with some waka-waka guitar sounds as well as well-executed lead riffs. The drumming and the bass on this one were nothing short of brilliant – a really tight, together, amazing sound.

Winter Swim came across as a 60’s/ early 70’s psychedelic trance type of thing. (It was real way out then, but now in the 21st century the sound is probably associated with elevator muzak by many.) Very smooth, relaxing vibes that even had your bones turning to liquid, massaged even further by the hallucinatory, soft echoey doo-wah-doo floating just above the instruments. Together with the club’s coloured spotlights moving across the walls and floor (think Elvis’ clip Suspicious Minds) I really was a child of the revolution on dope in some Carnaby Street hippy lounge in 1969. (What happened to the revolution? How come we’re all conforming and consuming now?)

The band’s final two songs set about blasting to kingdom come the chilled-out mood they worked so masterfully to create. Loud, fast drumming, jumping lead guitar rhythms and lyrics delivered crisp and fast in Famous People jarred your brain out of being pleasantly stalled at the traffic lights back to top gear at the Formula-1 track. Without Him had loud, pulsing rhythms punctuated with that rockabilly-blues boo-boom-boom-boom sound of descending notes plucked down the scale, not on a double bass but sounding so.

Pick Pak Zhai are highly versatile, out-of-this-world talented musicians with their own very interesting style and a varied choice of material. The audience was enraptured from start to finish. They are so listenable and watchable people were annoyed and showed something akin to withdrawal symptoms when they had to leave the stage. The only minor criticism I have, which can’t be taken too seriously is that the vocals sounded a little ‘pretty’ and little too non-descript-commercial-pop at times, but that could just be me… and my life’s preoccupation to seek out and worship the weird and the wonderful.
Isobel S. Saunders

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