OMG! The Underground launches its FIFTH compilation! HUGEST thanks to Koya from Mark 1 Music Centre, you make all this possible and you are so easy to work with. Five years and five albums and a total of 55 bands. This night had 4 out of the 9 bands from “Breaking Through” performing brilliant sets and such an exciting night. Thank you to the wonderful sponsors who eagerly support the creativity of the bands – thanks Zippo, Edifier, Tom Lee, Hotel Icon and Sennheiser. A HUGE thank you to The Underground team for being the best team to work with and like a large extended family to me.
love Chris B xx
Winner of Sennheiser headphones:
2. 延後5秒 Delay 5 Seconds
3. 裝空作勢 Pretend
4. 豁出去 Fight
5. 見怪不怪 Surprising
6. 是非黑白 Right and Wrong
The momentous moment in May once again had come about when the compilation CD is released, and Party A was set to be a fun one. At the Hard Rock Cafe again, the massive stage, slick interiors and (most importantly) the rich sound promised a good show that they did not fail to deliver (despite some expressed self-doubtage, which was more for technical audiophiles than the average listener). Overall, the venue lived up to its sonic promises in flourishing fashion.
Being the first band on is always a double-edged sword, especially on an occasion like this one, but the members of beebob did not appear to sweat it in the slightest. Their on-stage demeanour was cool (to the point of being almost detached) and collected, and their (not inconsiderable) cabal of fans seemed to like that just fine. Which is odd, because theirs is one of the most odd-sounding combinations of sound I’ve heard in a long time. They combine styles that have gone well together in the past, but vaguely “country/folk”, “pop” and “rock” have rarely sounded less blended in my experience. The trouble, to me, seems to be that their sound pulls in different directions rather than forming a coalesced whole. Instead of sounding like Tom Petty it ends up sounding like ZZ Top being forced to do a Traveling Wilburys cover. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but there’s a definite discomfort between the styles that doesn’t sit quite right with my ear.
BUT – having said that, this is a problem that only someone who listens as obsessively closely as I do. If you’re not completely sidetracked by the minutiae of the styles you might find them an easy-on-the-ears listen. In fact some of the very hard-rock solos played were interesting in themselves, as was the jangly indie-rock rhythm and pacing of most of the songs. At their best points they have a jangly drive that you can get lost in, much like Pavement. That’s essentially where the problem operates – the solos cut through the momentum, and that’s noticeable right from the very first song. 延後5秒 Delay 5 Seconds bridged the gap much better, with its stop-start bass-driven rhythm; this one was slightly reminiscent of early Supergrass. 豁出去 Fight, serendipitously, has the same chords as the chorus in Who Shot Holga?’s Clair, but was instead a mix of sugary hard rock solos and a somewhat sinister but more earthy melody. The minor chords continued into 是非黑白 Right and Wrong, a much richer melody than the others making them sound something like Cheap Trick – an excellent note to end on. I’m still not over the incongruity between the styles, but their last two songs showed they can actually do it right if there’s some substance behind the melody and I hope that’s the direction they choose to take in their future compositions.
— Shashwati Kala
2. Way Too Long
3. I Am Gone
4. Even Flow (Pearl Jam cover)
5. Lost City
Audiotraffic is one of those bands whose name I have only ever heard mentioned with more than a little nostalgia for when they were properly around. They also appear to have the ability to induce madness in people, as evidenced by this testimony from a certain sprightly madwoman. In either case, from what I’ve heard on their album and the slightly morphed version of the band that is Ovary Overdrive, their sound is right up the alley of anyone that was in love with 90s rock, which thoroughly implicates me. It helps that the musicianship in the band is top-notch but subtle – you realise how good they are without them having to shove the fact in your face. It’s a self-effacing fact that you may happen to notice just as you’re drowning in the last discomfiting, echoing chord that was played and you realise that the bass has slowly taken over the throttle. Or you might realise that the second that drummer Ferdie is given an inch and he pulls out a crazy piece of timing deflection from nowhere, all the while moving chameleon-like between sounding like Jimmy Chamberlin and Dennis Thompson.
But possibly the coolest thing about the band is their Alice in Chains-ish tendency for finding notes that make you uncomfortable in juuuust the right way but without overstating the case. (Note that this is different from the discomfort you feel when someone, say, misses a note or when styles clash.) The ethereal tones of the lead guitar help a lot, especially when there’s some muscle underneath (added, on the night, by Bryant from STW). It’s the lean-and-mean-yet-somehow-still-rich emotional oil-painting style that Blur perfected, and they definitely make it work. As if their sound wasn’t perfect enough, they pushed the last domino over with their cover of Even Flow and did it well (hook, line and sinker, all in one). Way too Long brought out some of the Steve Turner-style minimalist blues in the solo, but had some light touches of almost math rock-like rich guitar work, proving that you don’t have to browbeat a song into having a strong effect. I Am Gone had some really busy drums and an almost headbang-ey rhythm.
Now, I’ll spare you the every minute insignificant detail about the Even Flow cover that I want to describe, but it was interesting to hear the song being played by a drummer who plays ever-so-slightly behind the beat (unlike Abbruzzesse, who plays a bit before it). Odd, but interesting. He made up for that lag by a mind-blowing yet still-relaxed-feeling drum solo, which is comparable to every live version of the song I’ve ever heard (and that’s a LOT of versions). My only complaint is that they were slight lazy with replicating the riff, but that’s a minor thing. Lost City, with its sparkly guitars playing some really shreddy parts, did what any good band that came after the Smashing Pumpkins should do, which is to play a grindingly hard melody delicately and really earning any headbang-ey moments that you want to put in there. A terrific song to end a terrific set. If there was ever a band in HK that needed to seriously consider going Mach II, this is one of them.
— Shashwati Kala
1. One More Time
3. This Time
4. Perfect Life
6. Running Behind
What can one say about a band that has been around for more than a decade and whose highlights includes playing a long the likes of Eason Chan? AirTub’s set at the Underground CD 5 release party was interesting if for no other reason than that the audience was treated to a compressed version of the band’s development over the last 11 years, with a combination of new and old songs, much to the delight of their fans. What was common among the songs, was the “expansive” sound that I would call the hallmark of the band, achieved by a relatively clean guitar and keyboard, wrapped around by a strong, tight rhythm section – this music was written for a big stage in a big hall! Another aspect that caught my attention was that, despite having their lives increasingly taken over by career, family and other variables associated with “growing up”, they delivered their set with a passion that has not lost its lustre over the years. I wish them luck with their forthcoming full length album.
2. Here I Come
3. Rock the Party
4. Lard Agai Bard
5. Man on My Own
Perhaps it is the glitz of the Hard Rock Cafe, but for a band to spend the first few minutes after they’ve been announced tuning and sound checking just does not seem right. However, with that out of the way, Intellectual Morons did what it does best – whip the crowd into a frenzy with their powerful rap metal… It is sometimes quite quite easy to forget that the backbone of the band consists of only one guitar, one bass and the drum, the liberal of overdrive and clever bass riffs and fills creating a sound that belies the band’s instruments. The set was delivered with enthusiasm which translated well to the audience. If pressed, I would sincerely suggest to the band… get a tuner!!
photos © Copyright 2012 by ANGUS LEUNG
poster by ANGUS LEUNG