Underground 33


WOW! Musically speaking – what a great show!!
Thanks to RANCOUR for flying in and showing us how OUTSTANDING a band can be! Thanks to the bands for working together to make the evening run smoothly! And of course thanks to the fans of the Hong Kong live music scene for coming!
love Chris B xx

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Walking on Air

On the eve of Rockit, I didn’t really know what to expect from Underground. As it turned out, it was a little underpopulated, with many of the indie crowd prefering to save themselves for the big weekend, but it was still a great way to spend a Friday evening.
First up were WALKING ON AIR, making their debut appearance at Underground, and possibly their first appearance outside the lead singer’s bedroom. They produced a set of bouncy sounding indie pop which reminded me of early Boo Radleys, Matthew Sweet, Housemartins and Lloyd Cole (which probably shows what an old fart I am). While the sound was fairly raw, which I put down to a lack of live gigging experience, the songs were melodic and well-constructed, and the vocals were nicely forward in the mix. With a bit of practice, Walking on Air could evolve into a respectable homegrown talent, and I’m already looking forward to their next gig.

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The room started to fill up with oversized t-shirts and this heralded the arrival of 218. They evidently have more gigging experience and after a brief “every man for himself” soundcheck, they launched into their first number. Even before they struck the first chord, the lead singers’ white specs had screamed ‘Punk!’, and sure enough they delivered on the promise. Also impressive was the lead singers’ ability to take not one, but two phone calls during the set. “Hi, I’m on stage right now. Can I call you back?”. Hong Kong stylee. Anyway, I digress. The set consisted of 6 quick-fire zippy punk anthems, in the style of early eighties British punk bands like the Buzzcocks. The lead singer also played bass, leaving the two guitars on either side to fill out the sound and bounce off one another. One of the guitarists bounced off the stage as well, but managed to bounce back on again without incident. The other guitarist’s guitar seemed to be struggling to get away from him, but he hung on and managed to get the better of it. As the set progressed the songs improved, and although some of the lyrics were a little too far back in the mix to be heard, the band had enough attitude to carry it off.

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Little Fat Pig
I have to admit to being biased about LITTLE FAT PIG. They won me over at last year’s Rockit, where they were the unsung heroes of the show, so I was looking forward to seeing them again. The guitarist had obviously spent waaay too much time on YouTube, as he launched into a bastardised version of Pacabel for a lightning soundcheck. A quick double Hong Kong V sign from the lead singer and we were off. They’ve pretty much invented their own sugarpunk genre here. The lead singer, Melon, is too cute for words, and the songs are bouncy and fun. Life, it appears, is not to be taken too seriously. At times the sound veered towards Belle & Sebastian or Aztec Camera, but all with a light feelgood vibe. As musicians they still have room for improvement and if there is one complaint its that the rest of the band tends to stand there and let Melon do all the work. However I was more than happy to watch and listen and smile.

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RANCOUR (Singapore 新加坡)
I didn’t know what to expect from the next band, RANCOUR, who sounded considerably more scary than they actually were. Right from the outset it was clear that they’d taken time to do a decent soundcheck and the mix was clean and sharp with a crispy bass and a slicing guitar. Sounds more like food than music. The guitarist and bassist swapped singing duty, and sang in a mixture of Bahasa Malay and English. The sound was tight and although it wavered dangerously close to Bryan Adams territory once or twice, they mixed in a few killer riffs and some punky drumming ended up sounding more like Green Day meets Nirvana. Great stuff anyway, and we should make them come back to play at Rockit next year.
(or at another Underground show Zoot! – Ed)
As soon as they burst into song, I felt like I was chasing a train that was almost going faster than I could run, trying desperately to get on. There’s never a dull, slow, or quiet moment when they’re on. They came from Singapore to HK to play, and they simply won’t do this unless they’re really good, which they are. They’re not lacking at all in any area but non-punk, which is not very lacking at all. Some of their songs can really rival Green Day, and I do not say this lightly. They are a very tight, intense, and together punk group with some fabulous stuff that should be a part of any punk enthusiast’s library.
Wally Amos

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The stage darkened. Thunderclouds gathered overhead. It was time for ORTHON. Well after a quick change of equipment that is. The bassist/singer has the special Orthon Death Voice. It was impossible to tell if he was singing in Cantonese or English, but then again it really didn’t matter. These guys are tight and the music — although not really my scene — was masterfully rendered. The synth player, despite hiding way off in the shadows on the left of the stage was the single instrument that simultaneously held the sound together and differentiated it from other HK death metal offerings, with sweeping handfuls of chords underpinning the music and lending it a certain majesty. The musicianship of the drummer and guitarists was also impeccable, and along with plenty of hair waving on stage and a bit of air-punching and ‘devil-horns’ from the crowd, it was clear that the band are masters of their genre.
Overall, a great Underground. Not a single bad band, and a good mix of styles to keep everyone happy. And they didn’t run out of beer.

Above photos © Copyright 2006 by Willem Van Der Merwe

Poster by Sheli

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