Thanks so much to Vivian for creating this original concept, a perfect way to spend a summery August night with some of the best Hong Kong bands in town. All the bands played 200% and we loved seeing the audience dancing along to their music!
Thanks to Backstage for the great sound & GFM.FM for their support. Big love to The Underground Team and special thanks to Sam (our Visuals DJ).
love Chris B xx
Summer Romance (夏日浪漫)
Summer Romance is usually the one man act of 大森Dai Sum, a character dripping with self-deprecation and deadpan humour; this night, he had two backing members with him, and afterwards he joked on his Facebook page that they were his supernatural companions, since the show had fallen on the same day of Chinese Ghost Festival (we are, afterall, the ‘Underground’…) Summer Romance definitely lived up to his namesake: his folksy, Albert Au-esque songs evokes images of sunlight dappling on a guitar as the wind gently grazes the grass on a prairie, which is as summer-y as a dark room flashing with strobe lights and reeking with alcohol will get. The ‘romance’ element was quickly answered by the first song, 舊情人.
Most of his songs featured simple picking/strumming and clean, at times almost conversational vocals that seem to borderline on a deliberate off-keyness, but always skirts back just in time. The third song, 大時代, was the standout of the set; departing from the sarcastic cheeriness of his previous tunes, the song first took on a melancholic note, then, almost without warning, dropped into broader, angrier strokes complimented by heavy drum beats and bass. As he voiced his commentary on the ruthless stock market in Hong Kong, you begin to really appreciate the layers in the construction of the piece. Having a backing band that night was a good move; it added a quirkiness to the songs that a solo act may not have had otherwise, such as the playful bass that compliments the intro in the fourth song, 管理員的將來.
Summer Romance’s atypical stage presence worked surprisingly well, a strange out-of-place-ness that highlighted the quiet desperation in his songs, and a physical manifestation of his melodic ranting towards the circumstances of Hong Kong. He was often near expressionless, with a guitar pick delicately held in between his fingers as he holds his free arm in a gesture that seems to question, “but why?” Essentially, he was really telling a story in each of his songs, and even the humorous transitions are bits of narration that enables each to flow almost naturally to the next. After talking about stock markets, he continued down the vein of bleakness by singing about a ubiquitous yet near-invisible character in this city – the security guard. Before the last song began, he also added: “I wrote this song and people have no idea what I’m talking about; I’m actually talking about Hong Kong,” as he went on to sing about how he really wants to be able to love a certain someone, but can no longer knows how to satisfy its needs.
My qualm with Summer Romance was that the songs are all musically quite similar, though the heartfelt lyrics, which heavily resonate with the experience of being a HongKonger, more so than any band that night – helps in setting them apart. A close reading or a second listen may be required for the audience to truly appreciate the finer bits, and the crowd was unfortunately a bit too impatient and loud for Summer Romance to quietly work his magic.
– Karen Cheung
為音樂會打開序幕的是一人樂隊Summer Romance夏日浪漫，取名自張國榮的大碟名稱，成立於2012年，曾推出一張專輯，是民搖類的歌手，歌曲都是以幽默的方式描述和評價著生活。初初聽會讓人聯想到my little airport，但再認真聽便不難分別他們的風格，可以說夏日浪漫是麻甩版的MLA吧⋯⋯他當晚帶了supporting band一同演出，但也不失他一貫民搖和田園的風格。第一首短短的《舊情人》像是一個自我介紹，讓觀眾稍稍認識夏日浪漫的曲風和格調。然後第二首的《燒鵝》更突顯他的個人風格，抵死搞笑的歌詞，讓整個場子的氣氛變得輕鬆，而有一些歌曲更帶有跳脫的節奏，增加了可愛和小清新的感覺。夏日浪漫的音樂重點不在於大森的唱功或音樂技巧，而是在於他貼近生活且直白的歌詞，再加上那種對生活中的苦與樂喃喃自語的頹廢感，猶如在逼人的生活當中苦中作樂。歌曲的共鳴感強，加上這樣偏acoustic的表演，為這場夏日主題的音樂會作開始恰到好處。
– Sidick Lam
1. Morning Sun
2. Saved by Signs
3. The Girl
4. Deep Waters
The crowd began to warm up as the second act, Tri-Deuces, took the stage; the band kicked things off with Sonia, the vocalist, asking everyone to repeat after her and sing back her tune. This garnered lukewarm response; the night was early, and the melodies were perhaps a tad too complicated. But it didn’t matter, because as soon as Tri-Deuces launched into the funky guitar opening of their first song, ‘Morning Sun’, their contagious energy started rubbing off on everyone. In so many bands, the keyboardist lurks in the corner silently, but Dick moved about with so much ardour, his fingers dancing on the keyboard as he bobbled up and down to the music, that you can tell these guys really, really enjoy being onstage. Sonia’s vocals, strong and sweet, hits each high note perfectly while never once losing its soulfulness; if ever there was a Beyonce of Hong Kong, it would be her. The jazzy vibes got turned up in the second song, ‘Saved by Signs’, with its saxophone intro and the blues guitar riff; it’s a slower one, and in fact, the whole of the band’s set alternates between songs of different tempo, a thoughtful sequence which keeps the audience’s interest in check.
Musically, the band’s pop and RnB elements is every bit as present as its jazziness, making their songs easy crowd-pleasers. Most of them end with the vocals trailing off to a sweet whisper or a saxophone note lingering in the air, and it’s also worth noting how clear-cut and distinguished each sound was. There was no doubt which instrument was in the spotlight for each section, which ones took the back seat, and in this regard, the sounds complemented and worked with each other, rather than against. Their individual talents were thus further highlighted, much more so that it would have been if they had mashed and layered everything in one go – this feature really came through in the bridge of ‘The Girl’, which started off with a bass solo (!), then added guitars, keyboards, and drums one by one. The night ended with ‘Reminisce’, the first song they had ever written and one of my favourites, featuring a heartfelt, memorable chorus that calls for the lung capacity of Mariah Carey, and an epic guitar solo. There aren’t nearly enough funk bands in Hong Kong, and Tri-Deuces has certainly set the bar high for the next one that comes along.
– Karen Cheung
接下來出場的是Tri-deuces，他們是一隊香港少見主要玩jazz-funk的樂隊，成立於2012年，聽過他們的人相信都會被主音Sonia觸動的嗓音吸引。一開始有keyboard漸漸滲出的音樂作墊底，慢慢把觀眾的情緒拉進Tri-deuces的音樂世界，隨即一進鼓聲即推高現場的情緒，然後再來sing-back game和觀眾互動炒熱氣氛，替觀眾作熱身。第一首《Morning Sun》，Sonia的爆發力讓人驚艷，把觀眾的情緒推得更高，也使整場都熱血沸騰。第二首歌曲《Saved By Signs》節奏沒上一首般強烈，稍稍舒緩觀眾的情緒，觀眾都隨著音樂輕輕的擺動身體，值得一提的是歌曲中後段的chok位，所有樂器把那chok位表達得很好，完全達到了chok位的目的和效果，亦把樂隊的默契發渾得淋漓盡致。之後的歌曲都讓觀眾的情緒持續高漲，Tri-deuces成功把場子化作了舞池，觀眾一直拍手跳舞。整體的說，Tri-deuces groovy的音樂編曲非常豐富，keyboard和吉他的選聲和主音soul味重的聲線非常配襯，saxophone的加入也恰到好處，把歌曲的氛圍再加強，樂手們也非常有實力，因此，Tri-deuces絕對是實力非凡，值得一聽再聽的樂隊！
– Sidick Lam
2. Morning Train to Chesterfield
3. California Girls
4. Are You Coming Back
5. The Icicle Works
6. I’m Not Supposed To Meet You
7. Tomorrow (New Order cover)
Fantastic Day has the jollity of Beach Boys and a dream-like quality that adds a smoothness and keeps it from being too in-your-face bubblegummy. Each song dripped with the influence of C-86 and new-wave – after all, the group did meet at a Primal Scream concert. The chiming guitars, synthesizers, and sweeping keyboards are unmistakable, and they all come together to produce overwhelmingly sunshine-y vibes – particularly in their second song, ‘California Girls’.
These guys are fast, loud and powerful, if the three guitars weren’t enough of an indication – Ah Dee working his lightning fast strumming, Chi Wai’s frantic picking, and Sherman on rhythms. The band joked about being old, but the level of their stage theatrics is not to be underestimated. During ‘California Girls’, the vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Dee strummed the guitar with both hands in a sort of frenzy, and later on during the last song of the night, ‘Awful’, he ran over to harass the drummer by clanging his tambourines onto the cymbals. There was almost a synchronized sort of choreography: their hair in eyes, heads down low, bodily movements subtly charged with beats – then without warning, they broke out of their trance to leap in the air, as Chi Wai had done in the beginning of “The Icicle Works”. Ah Dee had a permanent death stare, a guitar swung across his shoulder as he belted out the words of the song, occasionally jamming his hand on the keyboard, almost as if he didn’t have to look at it. The only thing that I thought needed a bit of work on was the vocals; while Dee’s voice in itself was very distinct – somewhat like a cross between Bobby Gillespie and Liam Gallagher – it was rather disorienting melodically, and there were times when I was unsure whether he was in the right key.
By the end of their set nearly everyone was dancing in the room, and they were the only band of the night that the crowd demanded an encore from. And well-deserved too; it was certainly one of the most fun sets that night. We heard it was the band’s last show before they head back into the studio to record their next album, so they’d be missed for a while. But even after the show the echoes of their songs remain in your head long after – a sign of the craftsmanship in their songwriting, and I look forward to the pieces they’ll concoct next.
– Karen Cheung
Fantastic Day在去年推出了大碟《Innocent》，獲得不少好評，這晚他們第三隊出場，把觀眾情緒推到更高。主要玩British Pop的他們，以較多人熟悉的《Promises》一曲開場，節奏感強烈的歌使觀眾很快便投入在他們的音樂中，觀眾們瘋狂的跳著舞，整個場子瞬間變成嘉年華一般。Fantastic Day的編曲也挺豐富且有層次，主唱的聲音純真直接，不造作不刻意賣弄技巧。其第三首歌《California Girls》music break中的keyboard十分搶耳突出。而第五首歌《The Icicle Works》的特別之處在於主唱和結他手交換了角色。在表演中途結他手更彈斷了弦，不過亦無損台上台下的熱情，他們更是觀眾當晚唯一一隊大喊encore的。整體來說，Fantastic Day的音樂聽上去有色彩繽紛的感覺，讓聽眾們很歡樂，而他們亦會在歌曲加入不同的聲音元素，如synthesizer的選聲十分多元化、也會加入搖鼓等的樂器豐富歌曲的編曲，唯主唱在聲線控制方面可再加強，他的聲線聽著似乎有點不穩，在假音位尤其明顯，若這方面他再稍加強，相信整體感覺會比現在更Fantastic。
– Sidick Lam
2. So Tired
3. Dream in Dream
4. Starry Memory
5. Sleep Out
FAD bills itself as ‘indie rock’, which is a genre hard to pin down they waver somewhat between Britpop and post-Britpop, the likes of Oasis and Radiohead, and Keane and Snow Patrol: clean layers, memorable motifs, and energy-fueled bridges. “Sofia” caught me by surprise with a dual guitar harmony – always a favourite feature of mine – that weaved into each other exuberantly as the band dedicates the groupie number to beautiful Sofia Coppola. The intro of “So Tired” paired a ballady keyboards with heartwrenching vocals that soon kicked into more powerful verses. Like many of the bands that night, FAD’s music exhibited a jubilant liveliness coupled with a vague sort of dreaminess. That, together with the range of techniques they teased into their songs, showcased particularly in their two ending numbers, ‘Starry Memory’ and ‘Sleep Out’ – from haunting guitar notes and well-placed progressions to layered constructions and noisy distortion finishes – made them, musically, one of my favourite acts that night.
All of FAD’s songs are in English, with simplistic and straightforward lyrics, and Sky Donkey sings with a distinctive Canto-accent twist at the end of his words, but this less-than-native ‘imperfection’ rather emanated an odd sense of familiarity and that made their HongKong-ness very comforting and likeable. That night, Sky was decked out in colourful checkers, apparently to match the cover of their new album. FAD played last, and by then the crowd had begun to thin, but the band wore their smiles big, and their infectious vigor convinced everyone else that it was worth staying behind.
– Karen Cheung
當晚壓軸的是FAD，剛在今年推出了他們的首張專輯《FAD》，大獲好評。以英倫色彩為基調，再加入不同的元素，創造出屬於FAD自己獨特的音樂。主唱的聲音辨識度頗高，一開聲有讓人驚艷之感，也是一隊散播快樂氛圍的樂隊，果然很乎合夏日這個主題。他們使用了很多不同的結他effect營造歌曲的意境，看他們豐富的Pedal Board已讓人讚嘆，第一首歌曲也是以典型的輕快歌曲《Sofia》先炒熱氣氛，不過觀眾們在看過之前三隊樂隊後情緒已經非常高漲，所以或許不算是「炒熱」氣氛吧，而這首歌讓筆者最欣賞的是那條搶耳突出的Bassline。第二首歌曲《So Tired》是比上一首靜的歌曲，讓觀眾能稍稍「休息」，當中keyboard solo的pattern編得很不錯，感覺舒服且很好聽。然後他們再用第三首歌曲《Dream in Dream》再推高氣氛，第四首《Starry Memory》的intro是一層一層樂器漸入，做到了漸漸遞進的層次感，慢慢滲出的音樂像把人不自覺地吸引入他們的歌曲當中，配合著歌曲的意境，再加上非常不俗的和音，讓人猶如置身如回憶中。最後他們以《Sleep Out》作結，值得一提的是outro的爆發力的確讓是印象深刻，最後他以讓它自然淡出的結他音牆為音樂會劃上句號。
– Sidick Lam
Poster by Vivian Yeung
Photos by Angus Leung