Underground 61


Wow! What a great night for the local bands – a true indie music showcase. Thanks to all the bands & their fans who came to cheer and dance. Was so great to have a mosh pit thanks Ignite the Hope! Thanks to Manek our photographer for the evening who managed to arm EVERYONE in Club Cixi with an Underground sticker!!
love Chris B xx


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(*takes dictionary out*) In Hawaii he’s Harry Hula, in Spain he’s Harry Hola, in Heaven he’s Harry Halo, when he’s feeling friendly he’s Harry Hello and when he’s playing at being a big, green, shirt-tearing monster he’s Harry HE-LA…Grrrrrr!. He played an acoustic set of 7 folk rock-pop ‘secret songs from the bottom of the drawer’, a mix of snappy, half-poetic/ half-tongue-in-cheek bits of flotsam and jetsam from the inner recesses of his mind. Just some soul-baring observations and melodic thoughts delivered in a satirical but thoughtful way, best summed up by some of his own lyrics, ‘shifting sands and raging calm’. According to Harry these songs are too quiet for Born to Hula to use, working beautifully performed in a simple, solo setting where the songs, guitar and voice blended together as in a gently intelligent, entertaining force. “We keep still if we hear something coming behind us’- very true. Silly that. He cites deceased folk romantic Nick Drake as an influence, together with still-living Radiohead, a blend of which fairly much describes his sound.
Club Cixi’s newly-revamped sound system was set for hip hop and dance DJs so the bass and volume levels were too pumped for an acoustic set. Even if you were listening out for every word, there wasn’t much you could decipher. The sound guys, 3 of them at one stage, were told by at least 5 people, with a few scowls from Harry-in-Hell thrown in, what needed to be done but it took them most of HH’s set to make the sound less fucked. Training, my little doves, get some TRAINING in sound mixing for various types of live alternative bands. Still, the new swirly floor and wall lights are pretty.
And he had a song about satellites. ‘You really are something to shout about….we became satellites’ We were saying later that lots of good bands have songs about satellites. The Plums (Caroline Kennedy-McCracken’s band) from Melbourne, Elvis Costello, Guster, Glaswegians Raising Kain and Dave Matthews Band to name a few. After this white-light flaming meteoric performance, we can add Harry Halogen to the many names of this versatile artist, who burns brightly with or without his band. Harry? Hallelujah! (*puts dictionary away*)
Isobel S. Saunders


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Test: What is (a) ‘spodac’? Is it…

A. holes in the sides of Kodak film negative?
B. a pouch of skin containing the testicles?
C. blue and white cups and plates?
D. of or concerning spondees?

The answer is, in fact, all the above plus more. As bass player Tommi Spodac explains there can never be enough definitions. Like Arthur C. Clarke’s The Nine Billion Names of God, existence will lose all meaning if you define infinite. As the famous story goes after the scientists’ computer had identified all the names of God (or for atheist canine-enthusiasts like me, breeds of dogs), the IT dudes fleeing the monastery look back and see that ‘…overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.”
So, (*trumpet blows*) DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DAAAAAH! The Underground has its first competition to come up with the most creative definition of ‘spodac’. (If you want to destroy the universe, send in nine billion different emails- send your trippy or twerpy ideas to Chris B, not me.)
My offering: a spodac is a small, shy, brown, furry creature with a long tail that lives inside bass drums and only comes out long after bands have packed up and gone home. It resembles a mouse.
Tommi Spodac’s offerings: (1) An old tribe in Uzbekistan (2) Everything that’s awesome about music (3) A derivative of ‘sporadic’ but no one in the band knew how to spell it.
The winner gets to pick two members of Spodac to take home with them forever (*lots of girly squealing*). Two runners’ up prizes get you a remaining Spodac each. (*more girly squealing but not as much as before*) Spodac’s sound is a tough, rough rock, tinged with grunge. Their musicianship is tight and commanding, but not overly polished so that it sounds manufactured. They let enough of their own very mixed personalities sneak in to make it highly idiosyncratic and interesting.
They intro’d with an instrumental, a beast that woke quietly and slowly and then from a run went into energetic attack mode. The rest of the set was marked by great lead guitar work, hurtling drum beats and a dark, imaginative, very talkative bass guitar. Well, of course, man! If a Scandinavian is playing it will naturally come out sounding Goth punk or metal core because that’s just in their genes. Good rough rock vocals by Nick Spodac – a versatile mix of a bit Staind + a bit AC/DC + a bit Eddie Vedda + a bit out of tune.
They said some stuff about ‘climbing mountains’ and about it being ‘too fucking late to apologise’, but again the sound mixers were over-eager with some of their volume settings so lyrics became just splodgy sounds. I’m giving Spodac a very good B+ for their Underground 61 effort. They would have got an A but they were let down by their use of foul language in the final song. See me after class. (Also bad boy Nick Spodac laughed at me and my computer looking all prim and proper instead of spacey and cool like you’re supposed to at a gig, so that’s another reason they lost marks. Ner. That should make you think twice before you make disparaging remarks about the reviewer, Nick, my old son. You’re in big trouble now. Read the other reviews (*snigger*).)
Their superb, very professionally-produced CD is available at www.spodac.com with 5 kicking tracks: Madam Madam, Scaffold, Gravity, The Pain and WTF? (‘WTF?’ Do I detect bad language here again? Right! C- You boys will never learn.)
Isobel S. Saunders


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Set list:

1. Cycle
2. Autocrat
3. Strawman
4. A Little More Empty
5. Lost in You
6. A Million Miles Away

This was Tai Tai Alibi’s first Underground gig and their 6th or 7th gig ever, but they came across as old hands. The crowd instantly liked this band made up of HK-bred ex-pats. You can tell because people stopped talking and started really listening. Their whole body language changed as a seriously-good mind-fuck took over. Heads nodded appreciatively in time and lulled limbs swayed. This is a band that demands a lot of itself, blending the dynamics between instruments, lead vocals and backing masterfully.
Tim Hills, who skillfully writes all of TTA’s songs, cites the bands influences as Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Sound Garden, Jeff Buckley, and Guns N Roses. Their post-grunge sound is completely influenced by Seattle, but it still has lots of innovative edges. Like all post-grunge vocalists they’re some of the most versatile in the alternative rock arena and Tim is no different. Somehow he manages to sing, soar, growl and howl in all manner of subdued, melodic and screamed ways.
The band has a great alternative style. They intro’d with the darkly melodic Cycle followed by Autocrat featuring a menacing and thunderous rhythm section and a singing lead guitar. A little More Empty is about materialism and that dark, nauseous place inside you that shopping – and MORE shopping – and MORE SHOPPING – and the sickness of materialism brings. Concreted, skyscrapered places like Hong Kong and Tokyo have made me feel like this with limited access to other types of leisure activities besides shopping and the panicked feeling of being completely removed from the natural world. “Just a little more,” Tim entices… the seductive desire to have more…when desire itself can never be satiated. Funny thing this because TTA’s songs are also supremely irresistible, too. Pleasure is the drug/ desire is the withdrawal?
The band apologized for Lost in You saying it hadn’t been rehearsed with their drummer before, but it sounded great. In fact, the beats boldly led and never let up. Some intricate guitar solo work, too, which continued in their final offering for the night, A Milion Miles Away.
Tim mentioned Tai Tai Alibi has a CD in the works and would possibly have it out by September. I’ve already decided I’m going to camp in line overnight to buy it.
Isobel S. Saunders


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Ignite the Hope

Dressed in matching black shirts and looking slick with groomed haircuts, Ignite the Hope started out looking a bit emo, but soon made it clear that rock-metal anarchy rules. Bands with piss-take, misleading goody-goody names straight from a preacher’s mouth are always sooper-cool. (Shepherds the Weak are another awesome example and playing next Underground.)
ITH’s set was marked from start to end with ground-shaking bass and drums and big, discordant, punk screaming – with some strained higher end vocals – something the crowd went nuts for with some serious moshing and head banging going on in front of the stage. “R U fucking ready?” Yep, as good as we’ll ever be as Guns N Roses-style guitar riffs ricocheted off the walls knocking down everything standing in their projectile paths. Not so much a single line of melody, just an aggressive screaming lead guitar adding to the Great Wall of metal-rock.
The final song saw Innisfallen’s drummer guesting on vocals in a great move that added a brilliant dynamic to the band’s sound. That little guy in glasses is one kick-arse screamer delivering a burst of creepy hardcore metal vocals. (See Nick Spodac, you can’t judge a nerd by its cover.)
Ignite the Hope ignite the hope by smashing everything else around that is pussy.
Isobel S. Saunders


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Bands named after mystical places or ones that reference the natural world already signal that powerful passions will be coming into play. Innisfallen’s music is everything elusive, beautiful and frightening that is evoked by its namesake, an island steeped in history in a big lake near Killarney, Ireland.
With a harder, more ragged sound than heard at their last Underground performance,-symbolized in part by Eric’s long fringe falling over his face – Innisfallen revealed a darker underside, taking their music to new levels of versatility and sincerity. They proclaim what you know is true – that happiness and beauty can be threatening and destructive. Any which way this band chooses to perform their music, underneath the surface style is still the same inspired, lyrical depth.
Innisfallen’s set kicked off with an instrumental, soft and mysterious at first with chiming otherworldly keyboards. The electro trip-hop sound was soon joined by a juddering blast from the rhythm section as a menacing bassline and drums smashed head on into the beauty of the melody. Their second song mixing loud/ soft dynamics of a grunge vibe was marked by some savage, searing riffs picked out on the lead guitar. The third song in the set was marked by a change to purer, harder alt.-rock.
Just as I was thinking these guys should have a full Cantopop makeover and be dance kings who do seemingly pointless jump-about choreography in unison, Eric followed with an apology for the band ‘not being attractive’ and for ‘not having hair on their chests.’ (Are you listening, Mr. Nick Spodac?) Instead of running straight out of the Underground and signing a contract with the Emperor Group for a ‘Please Exploit Me Ruthlessly’ contract, Innisfallen stayed right where they were and launched into some more of their excellent brand of chiming, jangly lead guitar and warm, thudding rhythms to complement Eric’s gentler, but still edgy, vocals. Their fifth song was a return to a trippier dynamic, mixed with some rock interplays. The thumping, steady drums and bass were charged loud enough for paramedics to bring dead people back to life, who would then be forever thankful that their lives had been saved by some seriously good music. Innisfallen’s final song was a more poppy, new wave-infused sound with lead vocalist and bassist combining tonsils and voice boxes. (No, they weren’t into some deep tongue-pashing, just singing together.) A squirt of smoke from Club Cixi’s smoke machine, some epilepsy-inducing, pretty revolving lights on the floor, a BIG impressive energetic final burst from the band and it was all over.
Isobel S. Saunders

Above HARRY HULA photos © Copyright 2008 by ANGUS LEUNG
All other photos © Copyright 2008 by MANEK
Poster by Sheli

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