Thank you so much to all the bands and lovers of live music who came out in force on this night to show Club Cixi that live bands performing are POPULAR in Hong Kong! Thanks again to the amazing soundguys who work at The Underground events. Thanks to the bands that played and enjoyed and who embraced The Underground and what everyone in the team is doing. You all ROCK!
love Chris B xx
Xero came out suffering. They suffer from being a young band, and they suffer from bad sound. Xero is a five piece university graduates band (formed in university in 2003). They have obviously tried some heavy numbers, but ultimately, we must consider Xero a pop band, especially since the Chinese rock ballad number has Canto-pop written all over it. Their bio described them as having been around for a few years, and played as a cover band; that should mean they probably have good experience, but it didn’t seem so. The drummer, Eric, was simply not loud enough. It’s always very hard to judge why certain drummers are quiet because stage monitors could be misleading to the musicians. But for half of the set it was loud guitar, heavy tunes, then pop tunes, slow number in the middle, with drums not loud enough. Towards the end of the set they were actually getting tighter and seemed to be really enjoying themselves – maybe it takes them longer to warm up? So, we have to assume, from 30 minutes of rocking, that it was all just experience. They will come out ahead. There is potential in Xero, we’ll see you again.
The Sinister Left
The Sinister Left is a middle-age band. I actually don’t know their respective ages, may be they just look middle-age but are fresh out of their teens, but they have the middle-age sounding songs (80s post punk), middle-age hairline, and middle age stance on stage. Singer Nathan Inciong once explained to me he just preferred not to play in a dance band no more. They have two songs already published on the Underground Compilation CD: “Caped Carnival” and “The Faux King”, both of which did not preview the tight, strong and emotional delivery that is live. “Caped Carnival”, in particular, would potentially (depend on the kind of person you are) take you emotionally up and down and end with a burst. “Timeless” is almost the climax of each show, when Nathan’s melody flows inside the ethereal guitar layers provided by himself and lead guitarist Al Dini. The Sinister Left is clearly alternative all the way. As I said, hear the middle-age messages from these serious rockers. Come to think of it, they should smile a bit more.
Another 80s sounding band. Bone Table has the star-quality look, blues in their bassline, a post punk edge and a Nick Cave roughness. They immediately drew a crowd, and I immediately enjoyed watching Maggie Chang, the bass player, swinging behind the raunchy duo (the two frontmen both sing and play guitar) Robert Prevendar and Adrian Furby. Well, I know for a fact that Maggie also plays bass in El Destroyo, local surf-music rocker, so the country swing should come naturally. Their influence are marked clearly on the sleeves, 80’s post punk weird stuff, moving to a 60s psychedelic number like an updated Door song, then a ballad that sounded either like it’s from the deep south of the US of A, or from U2’s Rattle And Hum out-takes. They also have on their portfolio a song about “taxi taking me to Wanchai”, sung by the drummer. Bone Table is a versatile great fun band, excellent skill and clearly very experienced. I assume they expect 5 out of 5 most days, and on an off-day, 6 out of 5 just because they could also be weird-ish.
Sexy Hammer is a rap metal band with four members, Sexy Kin on vocal, Sexy Four on guitar, Sexy Chiu on bass, and Sexy Wah on drums. They said vocals and drums are new members which explains their recent hiatus. I must say I didn’t quite notice the hiatus because I’ve never been a big fan of rap metal, so please excuse my lack of viewpoint on them. Having said that, they do have a tight and complete sound, minimal for this kind of music but strong. The high energy drew a big crowd in front of the stage. They are very aggressive in what they want to say, and that would include silly matters and the green issues. I wish their guitar was more punchy, though, to make the metal element really carry.
Milkshake 7 came out with a song with nearly unintelligible Chinese lyrics, a sort of hard rock nearing heavy metal music, very complicated, high energy all the way. Then they follow with a loud pop rock tune reminding me of ToNick and Wild Dogs. Their good fun pop punk style jumped into presence in the middle of the set while the crowd was really getting quite excited. It appears they are one pop band that can spiral a song into a fast-pace attention grabbing hook, while the audience was definitely showing appreciation. It’s only going to take a little more time before they would be producing a stadium anthem like Green Day’s “American Idiot”. Not to be out-done by themselves, they launched into a real high-speed punk number to end the set. But, in the end, they do lack the look of a stock standard pop punk/punk band.
Oi Squad features prominently the charismatic singer Moi from The Philippines. In the middle of the set, the venue was visited by the Police on regular health check and Moi was so serious, yakking and barking, it was like he truly thought the Police wanted to wreck the event. Moi is a bald head vocal in his late 40’s with energy that would put some younger bands to shame. It was a lot of Oi’s and three-chord progressions, or, actually, some four-chord progressions. But, with Oi Squad, punk is no longer about anger. They could be a noisy party band and it’d be just fine. The Guinness, that Moi hoist constantly, must have been a sign. At the end of the set, they did a ska number, bloody hell, not so punk, at which time, dance was the thing. In fact, throughout the set, the crowd was non-stop dancing. Clearly, there is no need for slam-dancing in this set. Are they just scum or are they doing their job? Well, that’s another story.
It’s only the second opportunity I see Defiant Scum but they 100% certainly make a mark. Muzz the Maniac, DS’s singer, does not look a second less energetic than Moi of Oi Squad, as a singer to a defiant punk band. Both Defiant Scum and Oi Squad share the same guitarist Pierre the Frenchman, which probably solidly nail him as the most punk guitarist in Hong Kong. Between Oi Squad and Defiant Scum, DS is the angrier of the two, with clearly shorter songs. I have a feeling they went through more than 10 songs in a short half-hour span. And these are rock-solid old school street punk tunes begging for well-aimed spits. While DS gave us real slam-dance music, the crowd has somehow dissipated. They have seriously grown since I last saw them, but I just could not quite understand why a punk band would need 2 guitarists. Two songs stand out: “Punk Rock” really put them on the pedestal (for me), and “Plastic Passion” which is a funny view on life in Hong Kong. We all need a punk anthem like that.
photos © Copyright 2008 by ANGUS LEUNG
poster by Sheli