Thank you sooooo much to The Hub for giving us this space to host live music events. Thanks to Jon Lee & This Music Studio and Jon for his fantastic MC-ing on the night. Thanks to Sam Sam for providing us with those awesome visuals. Big big thanks to Sherman and Harmeet (and Jon!) for the whole sound experience. Thanks to Leon for his gorgeous photos. Shout out to Cordelia on the door and Kendrick on various duties on the night! Last but not least, thanks to Polaroid who donated cool headphones + earphones for us to give away. See you at a future Underground event!
超級感激The Hub為我們提供場地來舉辦拉闊音樂活動。多謝Jon Lee & This Music Studio同Jon當晚為我們做MC。多謝Sam Sam超棒的幻燈視覺效果。非常感謝Sherman和Harmeet (還有Jon!)負責全場的聽覺享受。多謝Leon的靚相。不少得門口的Cordelia同Kendrick當晚緊守不同崗位。當然最後還有多謝Polaroid寶麗來送出他們的耳機。之後Underground的活動1再聚！
❤️ Chris B xx
1. Glass Castle
2. Let Me Love You (Justin Bieber cover)
3. Missing You
4. Can’t Let You Go Again
5. Crazy (Gnarls Barkley cover)
Let’s face it – we’ve all seen acts you frankly can’t wait to get off the stage. Then on the flipside, we’ve all had the (usually rarer) experience of performers who are great but seem to finish their set and disappear almost before they’ve started (which clearly is impossible but simply adds to their musical and time travelling je ne sais quoi). Tonight, as the opening act, Dixie Lynne is definitely in the latter camp.
The Californian cut her gigging teeth in San Francisco cafes and even though she’s still only in her mid-teens is already an accomplished performer. She’s also come a long way since making her Underground debut in November 2015 at True To This. Since then her voice has matured into something soulful and emotive and she’s written some excellent songs.
So, it was with some crowd anticipation that Dixie took to The Hub’s stage on Saturday. And she didn’t disappoint.
Glass Castle is understated, low, with almost husky verses leading to a catchy chorus that show off her Whitney Houston-esque range. “I hope you see I’m not gonna change for you … you can’t hide inside your glass castle,” she croons. The guitar tapping style sets the tone for the entire set, and is a definite musical motif. You’ll be humming the hook three days later.
Let Me Love You is a Justin Bieber cover featuring Ed Sheeran-style guitar tapping, over which Dixie’s singing is almost effortless – she truly has amazing vocal power and delivery. She tells us that the next track Missing You was “One of the first songs I wrote, about a year ago”, and is a simple, sweet strummed tune with heartfelt lyrics.
Can’t Let You Go Again is another tearjerker, again featuring that chord/tapping/strum pattern. To end she gives us a gorgeous cover of Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, her voice becoming sombre as she picks her way through the stripped-back, sultry number that sounds like it should be played in a smoky Parisian bar.
Dixie has undeniable God-given talent and is just getting better and better. She is still young, and needs more life experience to inform and enrich her music, and she needs to vary her guitar playing, but these things will come with experience. And stay longer next time Dixie!
– Dan Creffield
2. Fall in Love
5. Fireworks (Katy Perry cover)
Anyone in the crowd who’d seen Peri M perform would not have expected the goth rock band’s lead singer Aeolus Wong to be fronting an EDM duo. Cassette’s set did have elements of moodiness and dark theatrics, but it was a far cry from the organ keys and doomy guitar of the vocalist’s other group – and a message to other musicians that it can be worth trying something new, once in a while.
The set opened with 無限旅程, a wistful, 80-style ballad with crystalline synth programming. Aeolus sang, played the synth and controlled the backing track from her laptop, while bandmate Johnny Choi manned the bass.
Fall In Love began with staccato, chiming synth stabs (very nearly slipping into Jingle Bells territory) that pushed into fuzz-laden bass, suggesting a Flock of Seagulls influence. The synths became more urgent, like the Psycho shower scene, and Aeolus’s powerful voice took on a slight Amy Lee edge, echoing her goth roots. The pre-programming made the song seem a bit GarageBand, rather than gig, and it would have been interested to hear some of the electronic effects and percussion replicated live.
Nevertheless, the duo exuded effortless cool as the singer beckoned the crowd to move closer and Johnny swayed in his shiny wayfarers.
Next track 開拓 had a catchy synth intro and a strong EDM bass heartbeat that took on a more industrial tilt as the pulsing became more intense. A huge, over-the-top 80s metal solo burst out of the sound system, but it seemed odd without seeing a guitarist playing it live. Then, a softer, more ethereal section gave Aeolus space to show off her glassy vocals before the beat kicked in again. As she tapped out a melody on the electronic pad in front of her, it all sounded rather Dance Dance Revolution.
Tapped drums and synth couplets signalled the start of 某日. A low, growling, subaquatic bass vaguely recalled the downbeat electronica of iamamiwhoami, but a clean piano track took the edge of the song. Aeolus’s voice became babysoft, while Johnny’s bass rhythms fluttered over nursery chimes. It was a chance to breathe and enjoy the cinematic depths of the music, which had Air’s chilled-out quality. The band was trying something new and it paid off.
Cassette then opted for a cover of Katy Perry’s Fireworks, layering soulful warbles over gradually building bass and piston percussion. However, it felt like something was missing, and it wasn’t clear if the band had intentionally gone for a minimal effect, or if something on the sound desk had become unplugged. Aeolus’s soaring voice didn’t match the stripped-back music, which made it seem like a karaoke performance – especially on the high notes where her voice sounded a little strained.
To close, the band went with a cool thumping rhythm with a snatch of a synth motif that rose and fell behind rubbery bass. Aeolus’s strong vocal melodies on 染色體 made for a nice, noughties-inspired pop song, and the background synths evoked the rock electronica of Shakira’s She Wolf. Overall, Cassette played it very clean and safe with a largely pre-recorded set that allowed each member to show off their individual talents. But a little less automation and more of the risk associated with playing live would have made their show a lot more dynamic.
– El Jay
Wonder Garl 神奇膠
Some bands need a few songs to get warmed up, but Wonder Garl leapt into their set with exuberant energy. They kicked off with rousing, upbeat opener 跑線, featuring some particularly energetic drumming and dual guitars entwining for a retro power metal feel. Despite their “indie” billing, it became clear Wondergarl was more towards hard rock, while the lead singer’s clean tone was decidedly Cantopop. One of the guitarists, who was wearing a hat, laid on the metal histrionics with a shrill finger-tapping solo.
At the start of 絲打與貓, the lead singer invited everyone to dance and many obliged. The style was classic canto rock straight out of the 80s – lying somewhere between rock music and a musical in its theatrics. The song was peppered with nice little synth diddles. The other guitarist, who was wearing tartan trousers, laid down distorted chords from a busy pedal board.
起勢維穩 used a harpsichord keyboard effect for a cheesy, genre-blending sound. The tartan guitarist powered through fancy fretwork as the singer gave a big, Sinatra-style showman performance. Sharing the spotlight, the guitarists alternated between soloing and rhythm work, putting their unique stamp on each section.
Mr Hat got funky on his wah-wah pedal on 一招收你皮, and the other guitarist began playing in a Niles Rodgers style over a disco beat. Trumpet synth twiddles danced around a clap effect played from the keyboardist’s phone.
For the encore, the keyboard created a swirling space effect and a rock disco track kicked in. The bassist came into his own with punchy fretwork, channelling an Eye of the Tiger vibe. It had all the awesome impact of an overblown 80s action film soundtrack training montage – high energy and uplifting. The hat-wearing guitarist played an intense finger-tapped solo, leading to a clap-along section. Everyone jumped around as the singer’s vocals soared, before Mr Hat brought it home with a pitch-shifted climax.
Though their set erred on the tacky side, Wondergarl were a fun, energetic warm-up for the metal madness of Bamboo Star.
– El Jay
1. Ivory Tower
2. Movie Star
3. Wait For You
4. Bad Romance
5. Breaking Limits
Encore: Ready to Roll
Thundering forward headlong into a vicious down picking chug, Bamboo Star races through the beginning of Ivory Tower with as much power as could be conjured from their leather bound and blacken figures. Head banging and guitar waving followed, with the almost punk structure of the song not straying away from the original few chords of its manic assault on the audience. The excitement it seemed lent to the listener primarily by the bombastic stage prescience of the leader singer Wolf Red… Yes… Wolf.
A black megaphone emerged from out of nowhere, yelling the first distorted lines of Ivory Tower into the distressed microphone, drums crashing in the background of the other instruments as the song progressed. Even to the skeptical, it seemed almost subconscious to nod along to the striking forced that was put into the strings, a bass somewhere inside the mix jutting out at odd moments, absorbing into the walls and floors and making them tremble. The volume and output that launched itself from the stage was a sound to behold, covering up whatever misgiving were present and established the bands attitude early on.
Movie Star kept much the same tempo as the previous song, relying much more on the vocals as a pivot point for the melody, having the guitar and bass follow along with the drums keeping time. Take a Poison instrumental and sped it up by 1.25th, then have Chad Kroeger write the lyrics and vocal melody, and you’ve attained this song. I couldn’t help but admire the performance here, especially the beating Lawrence Wong inflicted on the drums, adding more low end then the bass at times as the other member jumped around on stage. Its similarities to the first song again show up as they broke down at the bridge, slowly knitting together harmonies to slow down the rapid-fire delivery of the last couple of minutes, calling back towards a more Post-Grunge sound. Then, building with a powerful release, they flung back into the tempo, highlighting the best part of the song, Wolf’s performance on vocals. Understanding the importance of having control of the microphone as well as your section of the stage, Wolf punctuates every vocal melody with an air tight pitch control and feel, floating above the rest of the carnage and allowing for a precise delivery, and resolution.
Taking a break from the high energy and breakneck pace of the first two songs, Wait For You opens slowly and with a much more serious tone surrounding it. Expanding on the Post-Grunge style of Movie Star’s bridge, the band uses much more feedback and slower tempos on the guitar and bass, creating a much more commanding feel to the song. Here the drums are forced out into the open, as before they were hidden behind a wall of sonic frequency. Now exposed, it becomes Lawrence’s job to push forward the timing and keep it in check as the bass continues to lay the foundation that the guitar tiptoes across at a high gain, creating waves of feedback between chords. The lyrics may have a cheesiness to them, but the vocals again prove to have a confident showman’s quality to allow the words to pass. The Staind effect is so evident here, as the band sounds very akin to Staind with more up-tuned guitars. Not adding flashy solo’s or any pomp, it’s becoming far more solid and passionate rather than theatrical. A solid transition song to the next half of the set.
The next song I will admit took me by surprise, as up until the famous beginning melody started, I wasn’t aware it was indeed of a cover of Lady GaGa’s Bad Romance. It was quite a trip listing to a bonafide dirty pop track from yesteryears radio circulation receive the treatment of a hard rock band. The pinch harmonic chimed as they would in an 80s hair metal band, with the vibrato sounding like sputtering battery would on a distortion pedal. The chorus came in with a damn blast beat on a Lady Gaga song, leaving the foundation of the pop song and hauling it into the realm of Metal in one move. The vocals continue to impress on the following verse, as a sweeping guitar solo ties the bow around this solid cover.
Wolf yelled aloud “Come to the front; We aren’t starting until you all come forward!”, jumping off the stage and racing into the crowd, bringing the audience forward towards the stage. With this movement of the people forward towards the band, the structure of the song begin to shape behind him with a slowed down jam of Breaking Limit’s chorus, the words “Faster, Faster” Being repeated over and over again steadily. Suddenly the guitar began to pick up speed, using the high tempo of previous songs in the set, before falling backward into the advancing sound of the drums and bass. The speed in which the song is played didn’t take away from its clarity, as the words come across clear as any track previously. This isn’t new territory the band is treading on, but by far it’s the best executed and performed song during the whole set. The chorus with those words “Faster, Faster" now sung by the audience as well as the band lifted the enjoyment up further as people began to dance and jump. Next came the bridge, giving more room to Wolf’s vocals and concluding the bridge with an almighty scream followed swiftly by a robust and fast solo from the guitar, launching back into the chorus. Heavier and quicker than anything I had heard that night and perfect conclusion to a already fantastic set.
An encore call was bound to happen, now that the crowd was insisting for more to dance to, so with a whisper the words Ready to Roll were said, and the song began without pause. The Guns and Roses influence was far more evident than usual on this track, with a call and response added to its intro, drawing the crowd further forward. The bass here was more grounded and heavy in the mix than anytime before, and the rattling of the metal chairs stacked in the back was evidence of its effect on the listeners. The chorus came as a release from the beatdown, with its vocal harmonies taking centre stage away from the guitar and adding a much-needed dose of clarity. It was a crime, in my opinion, to omit this song from the regular setlist, as it would have fit perfectly and logically right after Wait For You, but this thrasher was here, and it left an impression as the band rapped up the set, leaving behind a plethora of yells and applause as they bid the audience goodbye.
– John Glenn
Photos by Leon Che’ Clark.
由Leon Che’ Clark攝影。
Poster by Angus Leung.