Blackrainstorm signal PAIRED with a Typhoon #3 didn’t stop HK’s live music lovers from coming to the Cavern and enjoying a fantastic mix of original music at Underground 57! The atmosphere was great – it felt like a private party for everyone there – thanks to the bands for being so supportive of each other and thanks to everyone who was there, YOU ROCK!
love Chris B xx
Senseless helplessly started the set in Black Rain warning, even though when they started there was not much rain outside (an hour before the evening started, you could step outside and sing Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains In Southern California”: “it pours, man, it pours“). The five young men practically played for the enjoyment of the other bands of the evening. It meant the later audience arrivals really missed a great performance.
This is truly a fun-loving band, and their lyrics (Chinese lyrics) show. However, they do show all the signs of a young band. I mean, they look young, they do silly choreographed moves, they are willing to suddenly jump, like they realized that … ooops, we’ve played for ten minutes without jumping, time to jump; now that’s not very rock-star, is it? They play a pop-rock style more borderline on rock than pop, but I wonder if it is intentional, that their instruments are all much quieter than the usual rock configuration, making the vocalist Raymond more prominent (a great vocal to begin with). I call this pop-mix. Normally I would say there is no place in live band music for such nonsense.
But, hear me out. I am a bit uncomfortable with bands who are too conscious of themselves; lots of “action”, and a bit of stylish guitar solo, a bit of bass runs, almost like they are in competition and they know what it takes to win. At times, I felt like suggesting that they pay attention to what they are saying to the audience through the songs (music and lyrics). Still, didn’t I say they are quite fun-loving? Well, their stage show does contain sufficient fun element. A friend was saying to me, how come their words are so mainstream pop? In that respect, they’re suddenly out of place.
But, hey, Raymond the vocalist is a rare treat, with a voice that cuts through the rest of the instruments, which makes it easy for a song to succeed. And on the last song, even the twin guitarists Kenny and Yuren started to jump around. They will grow.
FireBird International and their brand of metal pop delivers impact. They are no newcomer to the Underground, and allegedly they spent some time in Soler’s studio after the last show on December 7, 2007 (Not allegedly … it’s a fact). But, I thought pop and alternative don’t mix. Well, Julio showed up to cheer his friends. I hope he finally get to learn some blues from the headlining band of the evening.
Their opening salvo of metal funk is rock solid rock. You’ve got to like it if you like band music. The singer Cain is the right kind of front man for any band, especially for a band this busy, and even has the good looks of Justin Timberlake, unless I was fed too much Asahi by Chris for the evening, which makes the guitarist Archvictor just a good conventional guitarist. No hard feelings please, the other two front guys are just too good. And to you too, Nice, Mr drummer. You’re sitting way back and those guys really grab our attention.
Which leads me to single out Jerald the bass player. He gives you the playing, which is really quite versatile (trouble is he plays in the same evening when there would be a God of bass in the room, at least a demi-god). He has the build of those bass players you don’t want to run into in a dark alley, and the hair to go with it. He even cares to give you all the right moves, including the finger that he tots every so often. So, let’s have it, is Jerald a great bass player or what?
And when they pick up speed, with the jumping around by every member except Nice the drummer, you’ve got to admit rock’s in their blood. A gweilo who’s Chinese and three Chinese guys who are gweilos (if you weren’t there you won’t get the joke) they make rocking in Hong Kong cool.
Start learning the lyrics.
The Train were the 2006 World Battle Of The Bands Hong Kong leg winner but that seems to have faded somewhat. Their bio left on every table is a link to mp3.com.hk where you can download their songs. I already did. So, one wonders, does that mean there is nothing more you need to know?
A strange phenomenon I have observed is that bands with bass player on vocals tend to have really good vocal. Egg is one. Henry of Ignite The Hope comes to mind, She-K of Synthetic (In)Semination another one. I’m not going to offer any reasoning. Just in case you haven’t heard The Train, one thing to be prepared about.
Well, The Train with their new keyboardist (beautiful Sonia) should fill the dancefloor (they didn’t, which is … oh so typical of Hong Kong, and I don’t mean jumping up and down, I really mean dancing). And worse, they don’t have a spike -laden, leather-clad black lipstick lead guitarist. Their guitarist Kelvin is so normal you wonder he might have a secret identity more matching with the music they play. You might like to say Egg looks cool and tall, Jim the drummer looks crude and not-so-tall, and Sonia is attractive. So the conclusion would be: that really makes an average looking band, no wonder in the history of The Train there was no stage-diving (I’m guessing).
But The Train know how to write brilliant pop songs, whether fast or slower numbers, down to the woo-hoos. And these are songs that groove you to a happy mood, which makes Disco Suicide not a “suicide” song but a “disco” song. I can hum that to you (if you’re sitting next to me) and these are songs so catchy the second time you heard it you would have gone: brilliant, I’ve heard that before.
I don’t have a favourite guitarist, bass player, singer, keyboardist or drummer, but these are songs you should put on your music player.
Henry Chung & the HK Blues All Stars
I stopped jotting down notes for the review. How could I review?
This is a real allstar, and if you want to know, you only need to check notes on http://www.henrychung.net. Chung is himself a Washington blues and harmonica celebrity. Yes, Washington in the United States of America. I never found out why a big shot should swim in a small pond like Hong Kong. If you were just there, to experience all flavours of blues floating together so comfortably, you will not doubt. Henry invited everyone to dance, but again … wait … actually … a few gweilos did dance on the dance floor, but mostly it was the guys from F.B.I. showing a whole lot of appreciation. And Henry was very generous in going through difference styles of blues in such a short time. By the way, the bios let you know that “Henry was cited by SCMP as one of the ‘best performances of the year’ alongside Eric Clapton, etc.” The HK Blues Allstar features Tsang Tak Hong on bass, Ram Cheung on guitar and Johnny Abraham on drums.
Halfway through the set, after you are convinced by harmonica, blues singing, guitar solos, magical bass, and drums, Henry brought out saxophone player-friend Paul Klemperer from Texas, who happened to be in Hong Kong, thus making the evening more blues-tastic. For a techical guy like myself, to see the orchestration done throughout, by Chung himself, as well as by the luminous bass player Ah Hong, and then everything just falls into place, you know you are witnessing top-class musicianship at work. But frankly, it was also a bit too orchestrated: one guy starts a solo (guitar, bass or drums, whatever) and it ends in 12 bars or a bit more, then your turn, in as many bars. It was like a bunch of British gentlemen talking politics.
So, is it a jam or is this what blues really is (pardon me I have not seen so many blues performances)? Special guest in the evening is Tony Lee, who plays with Koya San — of Mark One Studio and of myriad bands — in one of the incarnations Diving For Air. Oh, of course Tony Lee by himself is good enough to headline, so how can you measure the stature of this band? Couldn’t start.