What an amazing stage to host our festival this year. Big thanks to AIA Great European Carnival and Michael Denmark and Alex Gibbs for this opportunity.
Shout outs to the team who worked tirelessly: Angus, Sophie, Jon Lee, Kei & Abe. HUGE LOVE to the nine bands that played this day. Thanks to the amazing crowd who came along to watch some great local indie talent.
love Chris B xx
今年我地音樂節所舉辦嘅場地簡直一流 ！好多謝友邦歐陸嘉年華，Michael Denmark及Alex Gibbs對The Underground嘅支持令一切成功。重有一班不眠不体嘅團隊：Angus, Sophie, Jon Lee, Kei 同Abe。當然唔少得當晚表演嘅9隊樂隊！當晚D觀眾都非常值得讚賞，一直支持本地原創音樂！
love Chris B xx
The Three Hares
4. post(black out)
5. what’s wrong guitar
6. apocalyptic abandon
7. all gangsters are pussies
The indie-pop quartet The Three Hares open the first day of the Underground’s Back to Its Roots Festival with the punchy bass intro of “Volcano” leading into an intense intro jam. Playing to a sea of festival food patrons sat at the picnic area and a few families stood up front, the singer perpetuated a cool vibe with his sunglasses-acoustic guitar look. The Four Quarters singer can already be seen in the crowd, moving along to their set. An emotional start to “Amsterdam” breaks into a catchy rhythm, and a sunny day vibe emanating from the stage to match the weather, a few interested on-lookers sitting down on the lawn in front of the stage chilling along to the music, while kids frolicked about in the audience. A catchy solo with an immersive look on the singer’s face ends on a memorable hook. A very dreamy feel came with “Milestone” with emotional rhythms sounding like early day emo music, the bassist really getting into the groove, with a Hendrix-feeling solo with light splashes on the cymbals scattered about.
The singer introduces the band with their funny nicknames, prompting a few laughs from the audience, and goes on to lead with the timeless-sounding guitar intro to “Post (Black Out)” with the whole band putting together a soulful beat behind it. The vocals are croony and the guitar slightly menacing, the song built up a melancholic feel towards the end, covering it in reverb and a spacey solo, reminiscent of 30 seconds to mars. “What’s Wrong Guitar” had a blues-y feel, featuring jabby guitar licks, attracting more spectators to the sidelines, with the bassist again moving his body to the solid groove they were creating. Grooviness intensified with “Apocalyptic Abandon”, an upbeat jazzy number, with intricate chord structures and energetic rhythm, giving the festival atmosphere a very positive feel. Tight for time, the band ended on “All Gangsters are Pussies”, their strongest track, with a lick-y guitar solo intro, a somewhat chochukmo/RHCP vibe, a hard driving beat and intricate guitar work, they gave it their all. The Three Hares was a very good choice to open to the festival, with a very chill vibe to it.
– Sherman Leung
2. Bother Not
3. Nothing More
4. The Minutes
After a few good cheers for The Three Hares, ambient folky band Esimorp intro’d with their first song ‘Adam’. A thumping Cajon accompanied a melodic electric guitar while the lead singer poured his heart out with his acoustic guitar and strong voice. Second song ‘Bother Not’ was a faster yet softer track, pulling in more spectators with a rhythmic electric guitar and a steady beat. The band was introduced before the third song ‘Nothing More’, lead singer mentioning his guitarist was his BFF and trying to set him up with a lucky crowd goer. A lot of photos were taken with the song’s story-like vocals and the dreamy tremolo guitar sound. Fourth song ‘The Minutes’ featured lots of effects work on the electric guitar, creating a dreamy soundscape, and the lead singer getting really into it during the guitar solo, passionately strumming the rhythm away on his acoustic.
The fifth song ‘Paris’ again featured a dreamy soundscape, with sparse lead guitar riffs and airy acoustic strumming, contrasting well with the sights of the carnival rides. Ending on ‘Apostacy’, the lead’s singer’s rich vocals and unswerving acoustic strums were accompanied by a floaty-sounding lead melody, lulling the crowd and earning a big round of applause. Esimorp had a very organic, natural feel to them; you the audience could see the three piece band had a tight bond between them.
– Sherman Leung
5. Jessie Smiles
7. Monday Morning Blues
The brit-pop band Black Coffee put the night into a more energetic swing. With the lead singer donning a cushty looking “Teenage Riot” sweater, he swings his hands along to the groovy tune of “Hoah”, sounds reminiscent of The Clash, with the guitarist making some wacky effects to intro the song. Strong, catchy vocals moved along to a disco, brit-pop beat that made me think of Blur, and the swinging movements of the singer eventually got the audience shuffling their feet. The second song “Utopia”, another Clash-sounding song featured trashy drums, a raw and crunchy sounding guitar and overall a very good feeling noisy sound, featuring a punk sounding solo with a powerful bassline. The third song “Madchester” featured a punky drum intro, drawing in a few people to the front. Coarse sounding vocals filled the PA with lots of zany effects sung by the guitar.
The fourth song “Michelle” sounded a lot like the Foo Fighters song ‘Everlong’. A lot more people were coming and formed a semi circle in front of the stage, intrigued by the catchy beats and poppy interlude. The set was bridged by the fifth song “Jesse Smiles”, a song featuring catchy bass riffs and the singer switching to lead guitars, jamming out a poppy chord progression with a very Oasis feel to it. Next came the song “Honeybomb”, a 90s feeling song with mass distortion, a solid beat with trashy cymbals, and a sharp, raw guitar sound, with a very catchy chorus. The band ended with killer song “Monday Morning Blues”, featuring shoutouts to co-workers, friends and crew, the song had a floaty, almost hovering feel to it, again featuring the vocalists lazy-sounding vocals and a stoic looking guitarist. Black Coffee felt like the perfect Oasis/Blur mashup, building up intensity in all the right places, ending the set with a long feedback outro.
– Sherman Leung
4. That’s why I go away
5. Play tonight
Another Kitchen, a band featuring influences of Jazz, Cantopop, Math-rock, alt-rock and folk, started their set with the upbeat song 示威, a lot of the members were dancing on the stage, with the bassist showcasing an amazing talent and the jazz providing a warm, jazzy backing to the song. Fast licks and soulful hooks were included in a very J-rock sounding solo, with the petite singer waving to the multitude of kids appearing in front of the band. Second song 每一天 had a slow, sparkling dreamy start, a nice chill beat giving the song a very positive feel with an amazing bridge and a washy bassline, the song had an interesting song structure coupled with dancy guitar parts and dreamy vocals. The third song, 無常 was another ballad-like slower song, with passionate rich vocals and an awesome bass solo. Using intimate quiet sections and mixing the melodies of the vocals and synth well, it created a very moving vibe for the audience, giving the festival some composure.
Keeping with the slow but swinging theme, another ballad song “That’s why I go away” comes in, with a bit of soul influence and enticing a crowd of people to gather up on the side, featuring an intense crescendo that keeps the crowd anticipating for the last song “Play Tonight”, an upbeat song that has a jazzy feel. Funky guitar work with jazzy chords litter the song, seemingly conjuring a gathering of children to play in front of them whilst the talented bass player melts the stage with his funky bass solo, the band chose a very strong song to end on. Another Kitchen has a lot of talented members, and really gave it their all to showcase what they were made of at the festival.
– Sherman Leung
3. Flying at Tree level (Brand New cover)
6. You won’t Know (Brand New cover)
Pop Punk quartet Four Quarters opened with a loud punk track “Angels”, a Fall Out Boy-esque song with Alt Punk influences including guitar harmonic hooks and double pedal drum beats. A nifty solo earns cheering from the crowd, making sure to show that they mean business. The second song “Rita” featured a catchy vocal melody, raw sounds from the guitar lead, a warm rhythm sound and a punky finish. After a quick tune up Four Quarters surprised me with a cover of Brand New’s “Flying at Tree Level”, featuring strong stabby crunchy guitars and alternating vocals from the guitarists, harmonizing the instruments impressively. The fourth song “Annabelle” had a swinging vibe to it, the guitars chugging some crunchy palm mutes to a hypnotic rhythm.
The fifth song “Paris” featured a ballad type intro, using washy guitar sounds and a natural sounding rhythm to it. The band ended with another Brand New cover, “You Won’t Know”, a song with angsty vocals, melancholic sounding guitar and splashy drums. Fans were moving and dancing about to this song, cheering them on and getting into the mood. A catchy punk interlude goes into a gut-wrenching solo, fading into a slow, clean section and building up into a full blown distorted punk pounding. An angsty end to the set from an angsty band, Four Quarters served as the perfect gateway band to the heavier section of the night.
– Sherman Leung
Joke Ian (捉伊人)
4. Just The Way You Are
Set amid an emotionless European-style funfair, The Underground’s Back to its Roots Festival was the stubbornly beating heart of a curiously detached carnival of light, sound, and pulsing Euro-dance.
Joke Ian (捉伊人) took to the stage late in the afternoon on Saturday, kicking off an evening’s entertainment that steadily cranked the amps up to 11. Performing a mix of English and Canto pop punk, the local rockers – whose name is a play on the Cantonese for “hide and seek” – drowned out the noise of surrounding carnival rides with their own excitable pop-punk, interspersed with jokes. Singer Siu Sun Lee gave a strong vocal performance alongside Pinkerton-era Weezer guitars on 風起了, (translation: The Wind Blows).
An unexpected cover of Just The Way You Are began with high fretwork guitar, evoking Bloc Party’s Helicopter. Bruno Mars’ original soulfulness may have been beaten into submission, but this was a powerfully infectious take on the original featuring all three guitarists bouncing in unison.
The emo introduction to 孩子(translation: Children) enveloped the stage in a moody atmosphere before Mikey Ki’s guitar drowned out all the other instruments. The mix allowed the talented player to shine during the ballad, but sounded out of balance.
Band goals? More songs are coming! We’re staying tuned.
– El Jay
Heroes on the local scene, Senseless kicks off a carnival set with 如果我去南華’s mix of post-punk rhythms and metal shredding, before the balladic 男人唔可以窮’s is made into an almost campy musical number by Raymond’s Adam Lambert-style vocals.
Mean riffs, on stage theatrics, and bubbling surf rock influences combine to make an uplifting show that was impossible not to grin and bob along to. Long-time friends of The Underground, Senseless live are pretty polished and engaging … that is, until Raymond starts reading lyrics from his phone during 毅行者 (or checking his Facebook updates…)
兄弟 is a sunny prism of poppy guitar, rendered gorgeous with a gurgly vibrato effect. It’s a chance for the charismatic frontman to show off the operatic strength of his pipes, alongside guitarist Kenny Li’s We Are Scientists-intensity tremolo picking. Raymond belts it out one last time on the bluesy 請緊握搖滾, with its glam rock, chant-along “when I say rock, you say roll” chorus, his powerful vocal wails bringing Senseless’ set to close.
– El Jay
The David Bowie Knives
2. When in Doubt
6. Take Me There
7. You Want Me Don’t You?
“I can’t swear, I can’t swear,” sang Shaun Martin, substituting a particularly tawdry verse onstage at the family-friendly AIA Carnival. It was a little late for that, after the David Bowie Knives frontman’s reaction to a torrent of feedback at the start of the set was a hearty “Shit!” bellowed into the mic.
One of only two bands to have played The Underground events 10 times, DBK are old hands and old friends, and take to the stage like an insane, profane hurricane. Opener Foreplay is a shouty, punk ode to Hong Kong in all its frenetic, MTR and escalator-driven glory, crowned with a dirty blues solo.
Over the rumbling bass line of Thighs to the 90s britrock guitar of Love, Martin’s voice was a ragged Liam Gallagher-esque snarl revelling in risqué lyrics and in-yer-face riffs. It’d be dad rock if it wasn’t so simultaneously smart and filthy, and held together by three quality players, including the brilliant Gabe Andre on drums.
“We all like money, yeah?” the singer said, Money, a slower number with cymbal-led rhythm, fed into final tracks Take Me There and You Want Me Don’t You? It wasn’t a warm night, but it was shirts off time for the final song; an ode to sex, with lascivious lyrics and grubby guitar grooving. Like Eagles of Death Metal, if Jesse Hughes sang about his “sticky white love piss.
Goals: record another record, get fatter.
– El Jay
2. Fraction of Time
Ingrid Sera-Gillet isn’t well. The Opium singer-songwriter woke up on the morning of her band’s carnival appearance unable to speak, yet decided to soldier on. With a lack of vocal power, her mic was cranked up high, which resulted in occasional feedback interference.
This didn’t detract from a sultry, passionate performance oozing with retro glamour. Bassist Stephanie swapped her guitar for a melodica for second song Fraction of Time. The former flamenco dancer sashayed and swayed in time with the music; an intoxicating blend of trip-hop beats, offbeat singing and shimmering Portishead guitar chords.
Persevering through vocal issues, Sera-Gillet reached her stride on Shadow, introduced as a song about what happens when a former flamenco dancer finds new solace with a group of musicians. The pop-based song with a catchy vocal hook built steadily until being overthrown by buzzsaw guitars and lyrics howled with the growling aggression of Shirley Bassey. Dark, gothic, and goosebump-inducing stuff.
– El Jay
Photos by Angus Leung.
Poster by Angus Leung