What an amazing night! HangOut was packed with eager live music fans and five finalist bands (and one previous winning band!) and the air was electric throughout the evening. We all felt like it was one of the most memorable nights in Hong Kong’s live music history. Thanks to the amazing judges: Clem Fung (RubberBand), Dennis Argenzia (LiveNation) and Simon Gaudry (Envol et Macadam) for giving their full attention to the bands and helping us to choose the winners, Sugar Bro, who will fly to Canada to perform at Envol et Macadam’s festival (headliners include Bad Religion) in September this year. Thanks to Focusrite for giving each finalist band a take home prize of iTrack Solo. Thanks to HangOut for the great sound & professionalism. Thanks to our reviewers: El Jay, Jon & Josh. Thanks to Sam Sam & Jenna for the visuals. Lastly, I want to express my utmost gratitude to the team members working that night: Kei, Angus, Becky, Dicky, Jenna, Sophie and Sunil – couldn’t have done it without you guys.
真是一個令人讚嘆不絕的晚上！蒲吧當晚氣氛極為高漲，現場擠滿眾多音樂愛好者和五隊決賽樂隊（以及去年勝出樂隊！）。我們都認為這是香港現場音樂史上其中一個最令人難忘的晚上。多謝專業評審：Clem Fung (RubberBand)、Dennis Argenzia (LiveNation) 及 Simon Gaudry (Envol et Macadam)專心一致地欣賞樂隊演出，並從中挑選出冠軍樂隊：Sugar Bro。他們將會在今年九月飛往加拿大在Envol et Macadam’s festival 進行表演（音樂節主打樂隊包括Bad Religion）。謝謝Focusrite 贊助iTrack Solo給每隊決賽隊伍作為獎品。感謝蒲吧提供專業的音響及支援。謝謝為我們撰寫評論的 El Jay、 Jon和Josh。多 謝Sam Sam 和 Jenna的影像設計。最後，我想藉此衷心感謝當晚的工作團隊：Kei, Angus, Becky, Dicky, Jenna, Sophie 及 Sunil，大家的努力令當晚活動非常順利！
love Chris B xx
The Three Hares
2. All Gangsters Are Pussies
4. Post (Black Out)
“Don’t talk too much between your songs because it’s boring,” Planetrox judge Simon Gaudry warned bands before the China Final 2016. The Three Hares’ set was not boring, but a little less natter may have kept them on the right side of that strict 20-minute time limit.
After the Matchbox 20-aping All Gangsters Are Pussies, atmospheric drums and softly nudging bass led into Milestone. Lead singer “ChubbyBunny” began the song with soft, low singing, but his voice went all over the place as he tried to reach the higher notes. The song’s saving grace was a beautiful bluesy solo from guitarist CharlieSmiles, before it wound to a halt with gently ticking cymbals.
A slightly underwhelming set was turned on its head for closer Post (Black Out). Opening with echoey bass banging and mysterious, brooding Spanish guitar arpeggios, the track built steadily to a howling climax. Starting low, Chubby’s voice was wrathful and dark until he hit spine-chilling Matt Bellamy levels for a climactic finale amid walls of guitar feedback and stadium-sized drums. The theatrical track’s extended outro put the band two minutes outside the time limit but, for the audience anyway, the enduring chills as the distortion continued echoing around the room made it a worthwhile penalty.
– El Jay
4. AGAINST the Brazen (film)
In less than a minute, Narcissus showed me one side and changed that perception almost right away. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what they were going to be as they started as a lot of Hong Kong rock bands these days, like a pop band. To a point where I thought their lead singer 七瀨 was going to be a slightly more energetic Denise Ho, Hong Kong’s very own rebel musician. But with a quick stomp on the pedal and quick wave of the hand, I was transformed to another place.
As the intro to their first song, 戀影花 died down, they launched into something reminiscent of Alter Bridge or Creed. Loud, crunchy and fun. Their laid back verse and powerful choruses work together like so many bands that came before them from the early 2000s. They even had time for this cool breakdown for a Spanish guitar solo.
Song 2 (every time I say that I think of Blur) 頹垣敗瓦, which funnily enough has a small eight bar chord progression resembling that song, started with a nice drum intro and band introduction. 七瀨, having put her guitar down after the first song, went into full front woman mode, and she killed it.
Part Punk part Evanescence, part HIM and all rock. They might have been a touch under pressure, considering the night, as they weren’t at their tightest, but you saw they were having fun and really enjoying themselves. This song has all these great hits and points and you could sense when they wrote it, they were having the time of their lives. They really have nailed the hard rock/Metal formula where bands like Metallica, with their guitar solos and and big choruses, have spent decades perfecting (save for St. Anger).
Their third song Trick was probably their tightest of the night, and was a great combo of Godsmack and maybe a bit of Seether thrown in. It was straightforward but with some power palm muting making it aggressive and fast. Arrangement wise, I also feel this was their most accomplished song of the night. They way the songs works is a beautiful thing, and it also had a guitar solo that would make Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett proud.
Their fourth and final song, reminded me of Whatever by Godsmack. And it’s a shame this was their last song. I was really getting into their set and I think they were just getting warmed up. But it was a great song to end on. If you can get Metallica’s For Whom the Bells Toll and Whatever into one song, it would be this.
All in all, I think it was a good day at the office for Narcissus. After the acoustic Matchbox 20 feel of the previous band, this was a good change. They need a bit more polish on some of their songs, but they no doubt are well on their way to being a great band here in Hong Kong.
The previous bands I have reviewed have been fronted by women, and it is great seeing more and more women shatter the notion that bands are made up of guys. We have a long way in catching up with Europeans and Americans in terms of getting more women in rock and out of Pop but what I see has been so promising. Chris B truly has paved that road for others to finally follow.
Sign me up for Narcissus’ next show.
– Jon “the riot” Lee
2. Move It On
They may have missed out on a ticket to Canada, but it was hard to argue that local hero rockers Monochrome didn’t get the crowd’s vote. The band members were looking slick in hoodies and shades, while screaming fans and neon signs held aloft gave the group’s performance a lively atmosphere.
“This song is called Black and White (黑白) because we believe in honesty,” said lead singer Frankie, introducing the self-titled track with its beefy Buckcherry riff. The lead guitarist was the star of the show, opening Move It On with shrieking guitar and showing off some impressive finger-tapping. Final track普羅米修斯 (Prometheus) began with a nonsensical speech about Pandora’s Box being opened, before things took a turn for the weird with cheesy, Beverly Hills Cop-meets-Rick Astley synthesised strings. The song played out theatrically like the closing credits of the film as the “Monochrome” sign in the crowd dimmed to “Mo ch me”.
“Try to wait until the end of the night to vote,” said Chris B at the end, adding, “No fighting please.” Luckily, there were no brawls between rival fan clubs, but Monochrome’s fans made a beeline to the voting box after the set. Though it was great to see such a devoted following of a local group, it was a rather disrespectful gesture by the fans, especially when there were still other bands on the bill and there was lots of time for voting at the end of the night.
– El Jay
1. Fly To Fall Free To Run
3. We Are Not Wrong
With catchy tunes, a fun stage presence and tight playing, Sugar Bro ticked all the Planetrox judges’ boxes, so it hardly came as a surprise when the band won. Sporting an array of questionable hairstyles, the four-piece took to the stage with gusto to deliver an energetic and infectious set.
From the first notes of Fly To Fall Free To Run, the group got the room moving with party-starting pop punk recalling the skater rock shenanigans of Fall Out Boy. Built around a choppy, angular indie riff, the aptly-named Cool evoked the guitar pop of Two Door Cinema Club. Lyrics about lipstick stains were cliché yet catchy in the sunny song, which did go on a bit too long – this kind of music works best when things are kept snappy.
Lead singer Kan Lo took a breather to thank his mum, his mum’s friends, and even his mum’s friends’ friends before the band stormed through set closer and Sugar Bro flagship track, We Are Not Wrong. Drummer Ronny Yeung, who may actually be part-machine, pounded his kit while the rest of the band summoned up a chilled 1975 vibe to finish. Later, when Chris B announced they had won, Kan burst into tears and could barely contain his joy. Deserving winners of an incredible prize. Well done Sugar Bro!
– El Jay
1. Miss Pinky
3. Black House
4. Turnspit Dog
For an example of a band made up of talented musicians in their own rights, look no further than Tri-Accident. Led by vocalist Alexander Tong, regulars on the local scene gave it a damn good shot at the Planetrox competition with their fiery brand of hard rock and old-school rebel spirit.
From the AC/DC guitar and shrieking cat wails of opener Miss Pinky to the intricate finger-tapping and high-pitched fretwork of Black House, Tri-Accident’s set was a relentless six-string worship. Calling on influences from Black Sabbath to Airborne to Guns ‘n’ Roses, lead guitarist Johnny Chiu ripped through blinding solos, while the extremely talented drummer Cyrus Tse was fascinating to watch as he embellished his rhythms with fancy stick twirls.
On last song TurnSpit, bassist Zing Chee got funky with strummed slap bass before being joined by Chiu’s dazzling Sweet Child Of Mine solo. Judges probably felt the band’s sound was rather too derivative for a winning score, but there was no question Tri-Accident knows how to put on a good show.
– El Jay
Special Guest band: Bamboo Star (winners of Planetrox China 2015)
特別嘉賓: Bamboo Star (Planetrox 中國 2015年冠軍得主)
1. Ready To Roll
2. Don’t Turn Around
3. Believe In Our Memory
4. Breaking Limits
On Saturday, Underground HK hosted the Planterox finals in China. After five fantastic performances by the participating bands, Bamboo Star, last year’s winner of the contest, topped the night off with their set. They performed four songs from their latest EP. They started out with Ready To Roll and Don’t Turn Around, which immediately got me interested. The songs were pounding and loud. They got the audience excited and held it for two solid songs. Believe In Our Memory slowed the show down a bit, but did give some variety to their set. Personally I feel Believe In Our Memory is the band’s weakest song but the audience seemed to really enjoy it. They ended the night off with a roaring performance of their Breaking Limits. The drumming was consistent and ear-wormy. Their set as a whole was loud, fast, and extremely enjoyable, closing out a night of excellent musicianship.
– Joshua Ellis-Einhorn
Winning band announcement! 冠軍樂隊消息!
Photos by Angus Leung.
由Angus Leung 攝影。
Poster by Jenna Ho.