Woooohoooo! And a big WOOOHOOOO!! I had a fabulous time at Underground 84!! Six top notch bands (with THREE bands from Compilation CD1 playing) plus the debut at The Underground of Dear Jane (whom I have great respect for!) plus trippy Logo and new band on the block Pleasure Garden. I was tired by the end of the night but on a high!! Thanks again to the California Beer Bar, soundman Jaydi, Asahi beer, The Underground crew and most of all thanks to the audience, the bands love you!
love Chris B xx
I was feeling a touch of deja-vu as Logo kicked off Underground 84. I thought it was pretty trippy that my second attempt at reviewing would be of a band who were doing their second underground show. I thought that maybe the planets were aligned in some weird way, somehow drawing us together. What could I do to make this review different from the first one? Well, for me I wanted to concentrate on the development of the band. And so that’s where we start…
As always, James (aka Wolfe) continued to have the same pull and presence as in his previous show. He banged away on the drums, so hard at times that the bass drum nearly escaped him. He played awesomely despite the drum kit nearly falling apart underneath him. I started to think, is this the most fragile drum kit I have seen in Hong Kong? Despite the small hiccups James plugged away without missing a beat and he even impressed the audience by slapping the tambourine onto the snare drum. He continues to amaze me with his effortless singing, sometimes stretching his voice to the limit which reminded me of Eddie Vedder (from Pearl Jam) when he screams and shouts.
I looked to the two guitarists , Mysterioso Akiko and Chris Derrida, to see how they had improved. Akiko wasn’t sporting the pink rimmed glasses from the previous time and I kind of missed them. Maybe she should of worn them still because they had some pull and I could see her eyes falling to her fingers as she plucked away at the bass strings. I wanted her to look up from her bass and look me in the eyes. Just as I made that thought she did just that as she was probably wondering what I was scribbling down. Oops. Chris maintained his cool look with his dark sunglasses and he swayed side to side as he strummed on his instrument of love. It seems that both Chris and Akiko’s skills had improved greatly. They were generally tighter and didn’t make too many mistakes.
The great thing about this band is that their songs create a lot of imagery. For example, in their song called ‘Non-stop Paradise’ I could imagine being on a deserted island with the soundtrack in the background. The scene plays out with myself and my loved one having fun on the beach, surrounded by palm trees, white sand and clear blue water. The song ended with chimes, as if we were waking up from a dream and being brought back to reality. The second last song they played, and I forget the name of it, was really trippy. I immediately thought, the Prince of Persia is here. The room turned into a harem with sexy belly dancers dancing all around. The guests of the room were high off smoking opium and in a trance brought on by the psychedelic tunes. This song was followed by ‘The Temple of Smoke’ which also had an Arabian feeling. I felt like sitting back and smoking a shisha.
Other songs that they played were ‘Eye for an Eye’, ‘Love Thief’ and ‘The Love Motel’. The last song I mentioned had a very infectious guitar riff in the chorus that I thought would stay in my mind for the rest of the night. Actually, I still can’t get this song out of my head. All in all, watching Logo again was an enjoyable experience. It was like going on a trip to exotic places without leaving my seat and accompanied by a great soundtrack. I look forward to what else these guys have got to offer.
Cain (F.B.I. vocalist)
Pleasure Garden is a four piece Cantonese Pop Rock band consisting of Haley on vocals, Frankie on guitar, Jack on Bass and Verdi on drums. What drew me to this band straight away was the good looks of Haley out in front. I don’t think I am being biased either because I heard other guys around me comment on how ‘fit’ she looked. So, she is good looking but can she sing? The band was greeted by a warm and mainly Chinese audience. It looked like they had many fans or friends who had come to support them. This was their first Underground show, despite being active in the Hong Kong underground scene for some time. I heard from Chris B that this band was recommended highly by Dear Jane who also played this night. So, I was very interested in how they would perform.
They started off sounding very punky. Haley’s voice was not too strong, but maybe that is because the microphone wasn’t turned up loud enough. I could see her pointing her finger in the air to notify the sound guy to turn her up. But, he either didn’t see her or ignored her requests. Anyway, I thought that she had plenty of potential.
Their second song sounded like every other Canto-rock song that I have ever heard. Maybe it’s because I can’t understand what she is singing about. As you will probably notice, I don’t make mention of any of their song titles as I am just a mere gwailo. She spoke with the audience in Cantonese and I waited for the English translation, but unfortunately there was none. And at this stage I didn’t have my interpretor next to me to tell me what she was going on about. The band was very talented and I really enjoyed listening to the guitarists play their instruments. In their fourth song they changed up their styles once again, this time sounding more like the previous band, Logo. It had an Arabian feel to it which I really dug.
The fifth and last song involved some shouting from Haley which was very unexpected, especially after her meek performance prior to that. Was she saving it up for her last song to stun the audience? Her yelling and shouting was umm… interesting to say the least. It gave them a little bit more flavour. Someone commented to me that they sounded a little bit like Flyleaf and he wanted them to do a cover of one of their songs. So, maybe that is something that they can think about doing in the future.
Cain (F.B.I. vocalist)
This was Dear Jane’s first appearance at the Underground. I thought that this was a little bit out of place because this band is no Underground band. They are very mainstream and have the backing of a well known recording company. If anything, why didn’t Dear Jane play at an Underground earlier on? I know they have released their second album not too long ago and I guess that the Underground is a good platform for them to promote their new CD ‘XOXO’.
So, I have told you that these guys are a mainstream band, but I haven’t yet elaborated. They are a four piece band that sings in Cantonese and are generally a pop rock band. This is something that you do not find very often in the mainstream of Hong Kong music. I know for a fact that one of the songs from their latest album got to number 1 on the Hong Kong charts. Can you believe it? A rock song beat all of the other canto-pop songs. This is a great feat because it opens up the door for more Hong Kong rock bands to try and aspire to become more like Dear Jane… recognition that we are all looking for.
So they are a four-piece: Adam plays guitar, Howie plays Bass, Tim does vocals and Jackal is on the drums. They are a multicultural lot of Chinese guys having lived in Canada, U.S., Singapore and of course Hong Kong. I have been lucky enough to interview these guys in person and I found out that are really a nice bunch of guys. Previously, I have seen a few of their music videos online and I was keen to see what their live performance would be like.
Their first song was really punk and had a rocking start. I was amazed by Tim’s crisp and clear vocals. Adam was flawless on the guitar, as was Howie. Jackal also blew me away with his intensity on the drums. They had a great stage presence which I was very envious of, not to mention that they also had a great rapport with the crowd. The crowd loved them. Their fast paced songs had a great tempo that made me want to get up and start dancing to it, and their slower songs were very melodic and once again Tim’s vocals pulled on my heartstrings. I knew that all the girls were fixated on him. He had it all, the good looks and a great voice. Though I couldn’t help looking at all of the members of the band as their musicianship was so good, I wanted to make sure that they weren’t miming. Haha! It was that good. When they played yet another slow song I was wondering by this stage where was my girlfriend because I wanted to give her ‘hugs and kisses’.
Their fifth song was supposed to be their last, it was yet again another quick paced catchy song. I couldn’t resist it any longer, I had to get up and dance along to it. So, I made my way to the middle of the crowd and within seconds of me bopping up and down, the people around me began to catch the fever too. All of a sudden there was pushing and shoving (the good type) and we had our own little moshpit in the centre of the dance floor. Dear Jane continued to work up the crowd and they responded by jumping around crazily. Check the photos for proof. The song ended and the crowd cheered for more, insisting that they play one more song.
The band looked to Chris B for the go-ahead and when she gave the nod the crowd went into hysterics. Dear Jane played another heavy song and the moshpit increased in size and intensity. What I loved most was that Tim jumped into the crowd while singing and joined our little moshpit. I was hooked on this song and I found myself singing along in Cantonese without really knowing what I was singing about. Afterwards I asked the guys what ‘fong dai ga’ meant. They told me that it meant a ‘big holiday’. Ah… it made sense to me now. ‘Fongga’ meaning holiday and ‘dai’ meaning big. This was definitely a highlight of the night for me. I will definitely go to see their live performance again. You shouldn’t miss it either. Don’t worry about not understanding Cantonese because their songs break through all communication barriers. They really get across their message very well… hugs and kisses xoxo
Cain (F.B.I. vocalist)
Tai Tai Alibi
As the members of Tai Tai Alibi starting setting up I felt like I was in the twilight zone. This was yet another band that I had reviewed previously. I remember saying so many good things about them that I wondered how they would be able to top their previous performance. What more good things can I say about these guys?
Tai Tai Alibi is a band that never disappoints. I have seen them live more than a few times and what sticks into my head is that these guys never let down. They are always on top of their game and tonight wasn’t anything different. They started their set and showed us again why they are one of the best bands in Hong Kong. And as always, I was mesmerized by Tim’s voice.
The only negative thing I can say for them is that a large chunk of the crowd (supporters of the two Chinese bands) had disappeared. Leaving the audience with mostly ex-pats and hardcore underground goers. It really annoyed me because I thought that this was rude towards TTA. They hadn’t even given them a chance, yet shot them down before the first song was played. To Tai Tai Alibi’s credit they rocked the house and I knew that those people who had left were missing out on one of the best bands of the night.
The second song they played sounded like the band ‘Wolfmother’, except that the vocals were totally different. I was wondering if this was a new song. I didn’t catch the name of it, but it sounded awesome. The guys continued to impress me with their skillfulness and stage presence. It wasn’t just one guy in the band doing all of the work, it was every single one of them. How many new songs did they play this night I wonder. I was kind of lost and never quite heard the name of the songs. Was I too stuffed from jumping around to the previous band. Maybe? Their music didn’t get me up and moving, but I could feel the music deep within… in my soul.
The 4th song reminded me of Soundgarden yet again, my type of music. This song had a beefy bass line. I had to breathe in deeply as the music was getting me high. I didn’t want to write any more notes, just lose myself in the music. Their music can make you forget about all your troubles. Next they played ‘Cycle’, which is one of my favourite songs of theirs because I can sing along to it. They finished off with another song I hadn’t heard before, it had a nice beat to it and added a new dimension to the band.
I can’t ever say anything bad about this band. They are bloody fantastic! I always enjoy listening to their songs and I am really looking forward to their album they are releasing later on this year. If only a record company would snatch them up so that they can hit the world stage. I hope they can make it big and show what Hong Kong has to offer.
Cain (F.B.I. vocalist)
Velvette Vendetta got onto the stage next and started off with one of their signature VV songs. This immediately gave us a taste of their intensity and their raw talent. Often they have been described as Muse-esque because Jacky’s vocals have a similar sound and range. These guys are very dark electronica goth rock. They have so many band members (five) that they can’t all fit on the stage. The Bass player, Ken, had to play on the dance floor.
The next two songs they played were off the Underground Compilation CD no.1. In the song, ‘The Night Before the Storm’, Jacky gets to show off his talent with his unique quavering yodel-like voice. The other song off the compilation ‘This is our Rotten Love’ has a great intro and amazing guitar riffs. It is quite a heavy song and it did make me feel like getting up and back onto the dance floor. Actually, during this song I was being coaxed back to middle of the dance floor by a VV enthusiast who wanted to start up another moshpit. I think he thought that I might be able to get the crowd moving again. But at this stage I wanted to write more notes about the band before I started to enjoy myself.
I was enjoying the music so much. These guys are really entertaining to watch an they always put on a great show. I was half waiting for them to start destroying the stage like I have seen them do in the past. I have seen Jacky jump atop the drums and start head banging until he tipped the drums over. What a sight. So, I was kind of hoping for a repeat. Wouldn’t that be cool to write about. But, I doubt these drums would be able to handle his weight, they would probably just crumble and Jacky would be in a lot of trouble. So the shenanigans never transpired, maybe they weren’t drunk enough. Get them some more piss I thought.
But maybe Jacky was drunk because he said when I say ‘Fuck’ you say ‘Fuck you!’. So, like little sheep we followed and sent curses out into the middle of the night. He only did it the one time which made me feel a little bit bad because I screamed ‘f’ you in a pause of the song as I was writing because I was still caught up in that moment. I hope they didn’t think I was directing it at them. Haha.
Well, that was it. I had enough writing. The best way to enjoy the music and tell you of my experience was to be in the midst of the commotion. So, that’s exactly what I did. Once again I can tell you to take a look at the photos. As soon as I got back to the dance floor familiar faces joined me with much enthusiasm and we started to push and shove. At one stage someone pushed me so hard that I almost fell over and grabbed some girl by her umm… well, I didn’t. But, I might of brushed them by accident. I needed to grab something to stop me from falling. Anyway, I apologised to her afterwards and she was all cool about it. Ken on Bass started to join in and he rested on the side of the moshpit and we gave him a few pushes and shoves, but that did not deter his guitar playing. Maybe the alcohol was getting to me by this stage because Ken confronted me with his bass and all I could do was get on the floor and pretend to lick the strings. Seemed like a good idea at the time! Made a good photo! I can’t remember how many more songs they played. But, instead of going back to my table to write more notes I stayed in the middle of the dance floor with the rest of the mob and continued enjoying myself until the guys had tired themselves out. This would have been a great end to the night. But, this was only the fifth band. One more to go.
Cain (F.B.I. vocalist)
Lazy Susans is a five piece band that you would probably expect to start singing in Cantonese. They look so traditional Chinese and have two female guitarists (which you don’t see very often). Two of their band members, including the vocalist, had to play on the dance floor as there was no room for them on the stage. It is a very small stage at the LKF Beer Bar.
I felt sorry for these guys before I even started writing notes as I was physically exhausted by Velvette Vendetta and since they were the sixth band my writing hand was going numb. So in the end I didn’t get to write much about them. They started after 1.30 in the morning, which is way after my bedtime. I didn’t know how much more I could handle, but I stayed there trying to endure. I had been at the bar for more than five hours already and I was feeling very lazy, and a little bit drunk. They started off by playing very a funky pop song. Straight away I liked the use of the waa waa pedal.
Their 3rd song, ‘Steel Wall’, was off the Underground Compilation CD no. 1, which is quite funny. Not funny haha. But, it is also another weird coincidence that 3 bands this night had songs off the first compilation. I have listened to this song a lot at home and I still can’t get past the lyrics, “let me do what I long to do with you…” haha. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination. I really like the way the guitars sound in this song and I think the vocals are quite cute and sweet.
So, it was real late but the band didn’t show any sign of tiring. They are NOT so Lazy Susans. Their next song, ‘Let it Roll’ was also off the Undeground Compilation CD, This song is a more upbeat song that the guitarist uses the waa waa pedal for. It is very fun-loving and carefree. This seems to be their theme song as they keep repeating in the chorus ‘We are the Lazy Susans’. Which I think is quite clever as a marketing tool. Who are we? ‘We are the Lazy Susans’… please buy our album. Hehe.
The next song that they played was easy listening music which was putting me to sleep. I could have easily put my head on the table and slept with their music in the background. It was quite comforting. They played one more song to end the night which was yet another funky tune that they belted out with ease. These guys are very precise with their instruments. Their songs are well molded and polished. Generally a really enjoyable band to watch. But, the only problem is that they were on so late. If they were on earlier on in the night I might have been seen in some photos jumping around crazily to their music. Next time guys!
Cain (F.B.I. vocalist)
photos © Copyright 2009 by ANGUS LEUNG
Poster by Sheli