What a fantastic night! I’ve not seen Backstage so packed with eager fans, curious audience & dancing men for a long time ! Maybe it was the Jagermeister shots? Maybe it was the Singha beer? It could possibly have been the JackDaniels Cola. What I do know is FIVE awesomely talented bands made this one of the most memorable nights in Hong Kong’s live music history. Thanks to the festival in Quebec for giving us this opportunity to offer bands and thanks to the awesome The Underground team for managing this event . Congratulations to Wondergarl 神奇膠 for winning.
Love Chris B x
Mr Rocket Head
First to grace the stage was the Hong Kong band ‘Mr Rocket Head’. Already proving popular in the Hong Kong indie scene, this energetic four-piece blend funky bass riffs with Cantopop crooning, giving an often staid genre a much-needed shot in the arm.
A slap bass intro popped around a wailing guitar line that felt like David Lynch turned funk. Peppy vocals reminiscent of C-Pop archetypes ‘Beyond’ soon entered, becoming similarly impassioned as the song progressed. Soft flutters of acoustic guitar from lead singer Kelvin contrasted with a solo full of scraping string bends as the first song of the night, ‘追逐’, came to a close.
Sensing a warmed-up crowd, the group tore into next song ‘黑傷淚’ with gusto, all noisy walls of guitar and a leading bass melody crashing around powerful hits from drummer Raven. The influence of early Red Hot Chili Peppers couldn’t be denied, from the singer’s curt vocal style to the John Fruiscante-like riffs. Bum notes and some uneven singing did not detract from the level of intensity the band displayed. This rough and ready quality is always desired in a pop-funk band.
MRH closed their set with ‘再見淚光’, a stripped-down ballad of epic proportions. After a brief ask to the audience, a sea of glowing smartphone screens soon filled the crowd as the band played among the lights. This was undoubtedly the anthem of the night, as couples danced and friends swayed arm-in-arm to a sweet vocal melody. With a beautiful outro of crying guitars, MRH ended their set, having firmly brought the groove to Planetrox.
– Jon Billinge
Mr. Rocket Head ，成立於2012年的本地樂隊。現時成員包括熙，Jon，Raven和健。樂隊音樂類型以Alternative Rock為中軸，並混入其他元素，創作出別樹一格的曲風，因成員們均認為音樂是不能與社會甚至世界脫節的，所以希望透過樂隊的音樂表達想法和理念。他們是當天第一隊的演出單位，歌曲風格大致偏向pop rock，第二首歌曲黑傷淚意在批判政府，一開首由鼓手帶動了歌曲的氣氛，中後亦加插vocal 的effect為歌曲增添少許特別元素，唯歌曲最尾一句的 爆發點若以screaming手法處理或更能顯出歇斯底里的感覺和驚喜。整體來說，若樂隊的穩定性能稍作提升，效果會更佳。另外，或由於第一隊演出，觀眾還未進入狀態，氣氛略嫌不足﹐但整體來說已算非常不錯，編曲及彈奏技巧亦不俗，他們當晚的結語更顯誠意和對音樂的熱誠，相信未來定能有更好的演出。
– Sidick Lam
- Don’t Turn Around
- Electric Love
- Believe in Our Memory
- Breaking Limits
While waiting for the heavy metal group ‘Bamboo Star’ to appear, it was at first unclear who exactly was to walk on stage due to a swarming mass of ‘Bamboo Star’ shirts. There isn’t nearly enough metal in Hong Kong, so it was pleasing to see the diehard fans up front waving their fists and flying the flag. As the four members emerged, clad in black and with long hair flying, no mistakes could be made as to what lay ahead.
A steady chugging of muted guitar tied to a tribal drumbeat set the scene. In a booming voice, lead vocalist Wolf Red introduced the band: “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE ARE… BAMBOO STAR!” Coupling this Mötley Crüe-style showmanship with the band’s self-aware take on classic rock seemed to work in their favour, as the crowd geared up for more.
Immediately apparent from opener ‘Don’t Turn Around’ was the standout vocals of these modern-day thrashers. Calling to mind the controlled highs of 80s doom-metallers Candlemass, you could forgive the at times clichéd lyrics to appreciate the sheer power and range of BS’s lead singer. Amid the variations on classic bass and guitar riffs came a scorching solo from guitarist Terrish, with lightning-fast hands and the crowd excitedly tried to keep pace.
Things soon heated up with second track ‘Electric Love’. A riff reminiscent of Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ had the audience headbanging along. A slightly underwhelming chorus did little to sway an audience eager to mirror the words “Give me your electric love”, as a blistering solo of sweep picking gave the song a much-needed lift.
The group clearly wears their influences proudly on their sleeves. Though mid-point song ‘Believe in Our Memory’ served as a refreshing break from tradition, as slow, wistful picking akin to Pantera’s ‘Cemetary Gates’ unfolded a brooding slow burner. The influence of Axl Rose was never far behind however, as Red’s impressive yelps returned along with a catchy chorus that had the entire audience swaying from side to side.
With the audience in the palm of their hands, BS began a rousing shoutback, teaching the lyrics of the last song ‘Breaking Limits’. With echoes of Thin Lizzy and ‘Motorhead, the driving bass and guitar conjured up visions of speed and danger, as they charged up for the singalong chorus. Cries of “I’m a rock n roll bastard, all I wanna do is go faster, faster, faster, faster, faster!” rocked the room, bolstered by the voices from the audience. An ear-piercingly high cry from the Red closed out their impressive set, as an exhilarated crowd screamed for more.
– Jon Billinge
Bamboo Star，由四名「竹升仔」所組成，成立短短兩年已有豐富的演出經驗。他們的演出充滿氣勢，亦使觀眾進入瘋狂的狀態。主唱的具爆發力的高亢嗓音和結他剛烈狂躁的音色，為classic rock注入了新鮮感和活力，聽著有一點點Gun N’ Roses的感覺。他們一開始便成功以Don’t Turn Around一曲推高觀眾的情緒，主唱的高音穩定性非常高，也很搶耳。而他們整晚的setlist安排得相當不錯，歌曲的build up 亦做得很不錯，歌曲本身甚至整個演出都相當有層次感。同時或由於當晚他們有不少支持者現身打氣，他們和觀眾的互動氣氛非常好，台上台下均很投入，帶動唱環節的觀眾反應亦非常活躍，非常有大將之風。
– Sidick Lam
- Make Us Feel
- Better This Way
- Teenage Kicks
- Machine Gun
As the boards bearing the bands’ names were changed to correctly reflect the change in situation, the band hadn’t quite started yet. As it turned out, the minor delay was due to their singer feeling not-quite-brilliant. She didn’t let that stop them, though, and give a strong (if a little subdued) performance, so kudos to her for that. Her strong singing style didn’t seem much diminished by the situation, and the rest of the band certainly didn’t hold back. Theirs is a tight, fast-ticking brand of rock; mostly uptempo stuff overlaid with the sort of playful, ticklish guitar that populates math rock-like genres, backed up and contrasted with a chugging, strong-armed guitar. In some form of miraculous coincidence, the two guitarists have contrasting styles that match up almost perfectly with the styles of the two original guitarists from Shotgun Politics, Niall and Timmy, who were also last year’s Planetrox winners…Witchcraft, I say!!!
In nearly every song, there’s a bit that has chorused, echoey, dream-like guitars ostensibly substituting for the guitar solo. It’s the sort that was played right when New Wave began emerging as a genre; they’re more departures into that undulating guitar tone rather that the tone dominating the entire song. Which is (like everything when I look at it, so you just can’t win!) a double-edged sword; they don’t commit the dream pop/shoegaze sin of preferring form to substance, but the transitions to and from these sections are often rickety segues (as Frank Zappa put it), such as on Better This Way. The song generally, I find, pulls in a few different directions, but the tension between them is discomfiting rather than pleasing. Also, the drums which were quite engagingly groovy for most of the song somehow disappear from there in the chorus; I’m not sure whether it was just the miking or an artefact of the night, but I found that a little jarring.
But, they also have some solidly-constructed songs, like Teenage Kicks that was somehow simultaneously punky and dream-like (and for people who think like I do, it sounds nothing like the song of the same name by The Undertones, so don’t let that jar you like it did me). Game was another good number which had a really catchy bridge (and also had the slightly odd quality of sounding vaguely like a Bond theme song; or, perhaps, a piss-take of one) and an awesome breakdown towards the end. In their best moments they fall somewhere between a more punky Dinosaur Jr. and the Foo Fighters during their “There is Nothing Left to Lose” phase. Which, I’d say, is a pretty good place to be, and certainly a good place to start building their own unique sound.
— Shashwati Kala
Turing Apples由五人於2012年組成，成員包括Nicola , Ali, Rafe和Latif，亦是當晚唯一一隊是女主音的樂隊。他們被指是玩dirty indie rock，可他們會把自己的音樂風格定位為「Nerd Rock」﹐他們亦在今年於網上發佈了第一張EP。主音Nicola當晚抱病上陣，需坐著演唱，但她的穩定性仍維持得不錯。另外結他的groove能有效地帶出歌曲的氣氛。唯其中一兩首的sharp cut收尾讓筆者感覺有點突然，但對歌曲的整體感覺影響不大，編曲和彈奏技巧等非常不俗，每首歌曲都有突出不同的樂器，分配得算是平均，總的來說，Turing Apples絕對是具有潛力的樂隊。
– Sidick Lam
- Big Hand (welcome to Planetrox)
- Le Cracheur de Flute de Sham Shui Po
- Le Taximan de Sheungwan
- La Makumbreizh
- Cyber Pilot (Nathan Road)
Variety hour had clearly struck as ‘Les Gromechkos’ took to the stage amid deafening levels of applause. With their trademark trilbys, white shirts and suspenders, the Gromechko boys offered up a slice of French musette that was impossible to ignore.
The band were clearly old hat at engaging an audience and appeared to have the largest (and loudest) home crowd. Parading about the stage like some mad ringleader, lead vocalist SebW whipped the fans into a frenzy as the group outstretched their ‘Big Hand’ and welcomed all in attendance.
Pleasantries aside, the French rap/ska/punk/rock machine tore into their next track with a similarly eccentric flute-beatbox intro. Apparently formed around several pints of Belgian beer, the band was clearly focused on the peculiarities of Hong Kong life and how they should be celebrated. The regions were certainly repped tonight as cries of “SHAM SHUI PO” from the audience reverberated around the Backstage venue, as the hypnotising ska melodies of ‘Le Cracheur de Flute de Sham Shui Po’ took effect.
A mellow groove of bass opened next track ‘Le Taximan de Sheung Wan’, but it wasn’t long until the style deftly shifted to full rocking guitar. The band flitted between headbanging, gang vocals and speedy raps, all while pogoing haphazardly across the stage. Their sheer energy was unmatched on the night and had clearly infected the thrashing audience. SebW turned to the crowd, shouting “no time for sleep, this is time for rock n roll!” as they skillfully changed rhythm, ending on a stripped-back guitar solo.
The air seemed to settle before stabs of salsa piano caused an alarming number of audience members to believe they could dance. You could say that the band play too easily to the Hong Kong crowd, but there was no such cynicism as penultimate track ‘La Makumbreizh’ came into view. This is a party band first and foremost, and the hold the group had on the crowd was impossible to deny.
One mass dance later, the band broke into their last song of the set, ‘The Cyberpilot of Nathan Road’. Showing no signs of letting up, a crash of cymbals and blast of keys had the audience back on their feet, enthusiastically matching a rallying cry of “oh-oh-oh” from SebW. A ‘United States of Whatever’-style riff of charging guitar repeated as the final, seemingly improvised cry of “Backstage, you can’t catch me!” soon brought the atmosphere to fever pitch. LG left the stage to a roar of applause, having brought to the stage a much-needed dose of fun.
– Jon Billinge
Les Gromechkos （音：Gro-Mesh-Ko）成立於2008年，是一隊六人樂隊，他們形容自己為「法國人，香港band」，音樂混合了Ska, Gipsy-Punk與French Rock。不止音樂風格具有特色，他們的台風也讓人為之讚嘆，當晚各成員一如既往的有統一的裝束，加上他們別樹一格的音樂，辨識度非常之高。當晚他們唱出了充滿玩味的歌曲，更有心思地把歌詞改得配合Planetrox比賽，氣氛輕鬆歡樂。他們的歌曲亦多加插不同元素，例如hip-hop, beat-box, rap等，樂隊的配合性亦很高。另外，值得一提的是他們當晚大部份歌曲都是先由鍵盤帶入，而鍵盤的彈奏方法和音色正正完美地帶出歌曲歡樂的氣氛，短短十多分鐘的演出讓人彷如置身嘉年華一般。總而言之，Les Gromechkos是一隊非常有趣的樂隊，他們的音樂會讓人不自覺的想起舞，絕對值得一聽！
– Sidick Lam
Wonder Garl was last up, and coincidentally the last (and first) time I saw them, they also played with Les Gromechkos… Again, this has to be some form of witchcraft, surely! Two years on, they’re still rather punky, but in the final act of possible magic during the night they sounded even more like Senseless because (and this is good) they had the guitarist from Senseless playing with them!!! This time, their outfit was much closer to the standard formulation of band make-up, as they’d shed the second dedicated singer, and had kept the rap-ish bits to a minimum. They’re very pop-punky, but with heavy second guitar that sounds more like Aerosmith, because of the high and grand-feeling bits that are played, all wrapped up in a nice danceable package. They also, evidently, are moving in a more Senseless-like direction in that they have some political songs now, such as 起勢維穩 being about propaganda from the Chinese government dressed up as “societal stability” (it’s entirely possible, though, that they always have been political but I simply hadn’t the wherewithal to determine this) which is always a good idea. While this was a positive, I do hope, though, that they don’t end up turning into a mere Senseless clone, and that they do instead find a unique voice and style of their own, for the music scene will be better off were that to happen. Their set this time was also much more consistent that it was last time; there wasn’t any feeling of them doing a shtick, but felt more like they’d found their voice. Having said that, they only played three songs, so it might be more a result of that than any major change in direction. By 一招收你皮 the energy had built up, and it was the most high energy song of the night, and featured a really great guitar solo. It was a great, very enjoyable set and, most importantly, focused set, and in hindsight they were deserving winners of the night.
— Shashwati Kala
Wondergarl神奇膠是香港本土粵語樂隊，是一個充滿娛樂性的音樂單位，擁有豐富的演出經驗，在去年剛推出了首張專輯《起勢維穩》，成員包括日新、 762、 Kenji、 Rockgor、 布和 Lo。他們的歌曲風趣反智，風格結集舞曲、Punk、rock、rap等元素，每每令觀眾充滿驚喜。他們的歌曲均取材於本地文化和精神，因此非常的「地道」，而且歌詞幽默搞笑，以玩味且跳脫的手法諷刺時弊，樂隊獨特性非常強。他們當晚壓軸演出，生動活潑的音樂及說話讓觀眾們的情緒一直保持高漲，他們以‘the government is trying their best to keep the society stable’來翻譯他們的歌曲「起勢維穩」更逗得全場大笑。雖然當晚不少外籍觀眾，但神奇膠亦成功用音樂打破了語言界限，使全場投入在他們的節奏感強的音樂中，美中不足的是結他手當晚因家人入院而被迫臨時缺席，雖缺一把結他，在編曲上不能完整的表演，另外若要從雞蛋中挑骨頭，主音在「一招收你皮」的假音位更穩定會更佳，但這些亦無損現場的氣氛和樂手的投入程度，因此他們最終亦順利勇奪當晚的冠軍。若以一句來概括神奇膠，筆者會說他們真是一隊非常「香港」的樂隊，值得一聽！
– Sidick Lam
First Runner Up – Les Gromechkos
2014 Planetrox China Winners – Wondergarl 神奇膠
Poster by Ananya Kala
Photos by Angus Leung