What an amazing night! The Dog House Kowloon was packed with eager live music fans and five finalist bands and the air was electric throughout the evening and even the sudden downpour couldn’t do anything to dampen the excitement. Thanks to the amazing judges: Julio (Soler), Jordie Guzman (Studio B Productions) and Simon Gaudry (Envol et Macadam) for giving their full attention to the performances and helping us to choose the winning band, who will fly to Canada to perform at the Envol et Macadam festival in September this year. Thanks to Simon + Kai for working on the sound. Thanks to Angus for his amazing photos. Thanks to our reviewers: El Jay & Simon. Thanks to Ally + Prada for video duties. Thanks to Martin for the artwork and the finalist’s foamboards + thanks to Jenna for the airticket foamboard. Thank you to Polaroid for the headphones giveaways that five lucky members of the audience won! Shoutout to The Dog House Kowloon for hosting this event at the eleventh hour – your support was amazing and we are forever grateful. Lastly, I want to express my utmost gratitude to the team members working so hard that night: Bun, Susanna, Sally and Olivia. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.
NastyDudes, you guys are going to CANADA!
真係一個好正嘅夜晚！樂迷同五隊決賽樂隊坐滿九龍嘅Dog House，就算突然落大雨都淋唔熄觀眾嘅熱情。多謝幾位評判盡心盡力睇表演同揀出冠軍樂隊（佢地十月要飛去加拿大Envol et Macadam festival表演啦！）：Julio (Soler)、Jordie Guzman (Studio B Productions) 同 Simon Gaudry (Envol et Macadam)。多謝調整音響嘅 Simon 同 Kai。多謝影左好多靚相嘅Angus。多謝評論員El Jay 同 Simon。多謝拍片嘅Ally同Prada。多謝Martin嘅作品同決賽樂隊發泡膠展板，亦多謝Jenna嘅機票發泡膠展板。鳴謝寶麗來送出耳機，給5位抽獎幸運觀眾！多謝九龍The Dog House Kowloon提供場地，我地會永遠記住你地嘅支持同幫助。最後，我想多謝嗰晚好努力嘅隊員：Bun、Susanna、Sally同埋Olivia。冇你地我根本做唔成件事。NastyDudes，你地要去加拿大啦！
❤️ Chris B xx
1. Something Blue
2. Wild Love
4. A Wrong Turn
I remember these guys well from a gig they played a couple of months ago in the Wanch and I was super impressed, particularly by Daryl’s vocals and Lenny’s sick guitar licks. This time they’re first up to play in tonight’s final with a trip to Canada at stake. Rather than the after work boozers at the Wanch to contend with they have a capacity Doghouse to entertain and impress to book their place on that plane.
There’s gotta be a story behind why this band have a song named after them, or are they named after the song? Either way, it’s a gentle start to the night. I get the feeling Daryl may be feeling a little uncomfortable, understandably as it’s a big occasion and probably the most important gig for this band in a long time. None of it seems to phase Lenny at all and he flies around his fret board like he’s in his own living room. Also using his tremolo bar to great effect. Ah Yip keeping it tight on the drums
Tonnes of Red Hot Chilli Peppers vibes on Wild Love. A real doff of the cap to Under The Bridge. Lenny is just taking it to another level on this song. The rest of the band are good, but he has star quality. Thief is a much darker song, not that the last two were especially cheery, Simon on bass is really coming through here. His bass lines are much more of a centrepiece to this song. Lenny’s solo could have been taken right out of one of Carlos Santana’s books. Nothing wrong with that, but does feels bit too much like the Mexican guitar hero, with a sprinkling of Brian May. Love the change in tempo at the end of the song.
Final song A Wrong Turn has a beautiful baseline which flows like lapping water up the side of a boat, just before they take It up a notch to a bit of a Jamiroquai. Nice falsetto from Daryl as Something Blue draw their set to a close. They’ve been solid tonight but not quite there enough to win for me.
– Simon Donald Jones
1. Teenage Kicks
3. Pretty In Pink
4. Make Us Feel
5. This Disconnect
Turing Apples are next to grace the stage. Something Blue having warmed up the crowd to the level of a nice morning stretch. They seem pumped and totally up for this.
They start things of with Teenage Kicks, not a cover of the Undertones, and an attempt to get a crowd clap going falls pretty flat. I’m sure it’s not a taste of things to come. There’s a real 90s feel to this tune with a lot of “what the fucks” being sung. Lead singer Nicola clearly spent her formative years singing Alanis Morrisette songs, the similarity at times uncanny. I can’t say enough how fired up this band are for tonight. It’s infectious and I can feel the mood in the crowd change because of it.
On the song Leave the bass on this is really cool, up tempo and tight. I get a taste of Blondie here. As well as a 70s rock flavour like Ramjam. Ali’s guitar solo is very Richie Sambora. These guys are taking a very big step towards Canada for me.
It’s clear on Pretty in Pink that Rafe on bass is the back bone of their sound and I love how Ali on guitar looks like he works in IT but he’s totally rocking out. Latif Dilworth on drums has been solid so far just a little loose in places on this one for me. The song gets a tad lost a couple times but they bring it back. At one point I find myself singing along, but Zombie by the Cranberries to their song. Nicola calls out to the big table at the back, clearly their travelling support, let’s not forget the rest of the crowd now.
On Make Us Feel the second go at a crowd clap is a little more successful. This is their stand out song for me. The whole band are all really on it, Ali going about his business with real class and I love how much fun Rafe is having on this song. A great song, first time I’ve been completely impressed tonight. Wanchai Road and Nasty Dudes will be a little nervous now.
– Simon Donald Jones
Carrier’s second Underground performance (after Sub Terra #3) saw the Hong Kong supergroup throwing their hat into the ring to win an Envol and Macadam festival slot. The third to perform out of five acts, the group attacked their primetime slot with an infectious energy.
Musically, the band was nearly impossible to pigeonhole, veering between metal, disco, classic rock, and chart pop. This made for an interesting buffet of sounds, but also made such a short set feel disjointed, like the band was throwing all genres at the judges to see what would stick.
First song 硬仗 was low and ominous, with a distinct metal feel, topped off by rasping, growling vocals from singer (and notable TV actress) Lung Siu Kwan. Based on that first song, Carrier could have been perceived as a heavy metal group – but they had lots more up their sleeve.
The dark opener segued into the slap bass intro of 我地. Lung strutted the stage with sassy, Canto-pop attitude, while guitarist Sugmakho Mak blended the disco dexterity of Niles Rodgers with the funk rock of Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Competition may have been fierce at the Planetrox final, but Carrier showed no sign of nerves, and instead looked like they were having fun.
Keyboardist Ken Au looked particularly joyful on stage, but, unfortunately, he was virtually inaudible in the mix. Vincent Ah Po showed a lot of talent, but his volume sacrificed the nuances of the other instruments. Again, on the rock-flavoured piece 去吧, Lung’s vocals were exceptional, but she was forced to compete in the mix with the much heavier rhythm section, and Mak’s twinkly arpeggios were also hard to hear.
有病 began with a ramshackle march of drums and Ken’s tambourine. During the verses, the guitar tone drew from Foo Fighters, but the chorus was much more jolly and pop-oriented, like Kelly Clarkson’s early material, with a touch of Chochukmo’s instinct for a catchy indie melody. Mann Tse’s big, overarching bass riffs held the foot-stomping piece together before a slick wah-wah pedal outro.
Sugmakho’s held on to the guitar distortion for closer 快樂嗎, which channeled Paramore in its “woah” chorus. A clap-along section worked the crowd and the band members fed off that energy, jumping in unison to the sound of anthemic guitar trills.
The performers’ consistency was spot on, despite the varied genre influences and a challenging sound mix. Carrier had one of the most charismatic, versatile and self-assured lead singers and played some of the most original-sounding songs of the night, but there was a sense of untapped potential, leaving judges feeling slightly underwhelmed. Bands with such eclectic sounds tend to struggle finding their niche at Battle of the Bands-style events, but we’ll look forward to catching Carrier again soon at one of their full-length solo shows.
– El Jay
4. New Beginning
In a matter of months, Wanchai Road have become a mainstay on the city’s music scene, bringing both a sunny West Coast rock sound and a sizeable entourage of friends wherever they play. After missing out on the judges’ accolades at Volkwagen x Underground Battle of the Bands last month, the hard-working rockers drilled down in the rehearsal room to prepare for their next competition – and it really showed at Planetrox.
Keyboardist Diego Caro was absent, so the band played as a four-piece. Without Caro’s contributions – branded as “sloppy” by a previous Underground reviewer – the band debuted a sleeker, more straightforward classic rock sound. With fewer players and competing sounds on stage, lead singer Maria Lopez’s vocals and guitar playing came through a lot clearer – though it was still occasionally difficult to make out the lyrics.
Opener Supremacy combined a punchy, Tim Commerford-style bassline with a bluesy guitar riff to create a distinct Led Zeppelin vibe. Slightly shaky at first, Lopez’s vocals soon blossomed into vocal melodies that were full of warmth and character. Guitarist Tom Cowan’s phaser pedal beamed out a nu-psychedelia feel on the following song, Delusional, while Lopez’s voice wavered soulfully like Stevie Nicks, building to a husky, gritty chorus over bassist Clark Cahill’s four-note motifs.
Never was a slower number brimming with intensity. Lopez’s voice dipped and soared while monsoon rains began to fall, adding to the dramatic atmosphere. It became clear at this point that Wanchai Road could be in contention for victory. Diego Calascibetta’s cymbal-heavy drumming dominated in the mix, as Cowan wove through some tremolo playing. As with the previous acts, the drums were disproportionately loud, though Wanchai Road were fortunate to have one of the most balanced sound mixes of the night, allowing Cowan’s understated technical skill to steal some of the spotlight.
Final song New Beginning recalled Hole feel in its grungy guitar arpeggios and catchy hook. The crowd reacted with excited cheers as Lopez’s voice built to a shout alongside a solo straight out of Cherub Rock-era Smashing Pumpkins. Natural performer Cahill’s animated antics made for an entertaining show, yet occasionally threatened to detract from the music and overshadow his bandmates’ more unassuming personas.
Though the individual band members were perfectly gracious, a minority of overzealous audience members showed some rather unsportsmanlike behaviour during other bands – booing, talking loudly during other sets and one even outright called for a recount when the winning act was announced. A passionate fanbase’s support can really spur a band on, though actions like this can also see them gain a bad reputation on the scene. It was a shame when Wanchai Road’s sophisticated Planetrox set saw them graduate their image from a bunch of expats playing to rent-a-crowds, and showed them starting to taking their stagecraft seriously among a very competitive roster of bands.
Overall, it was evident that a lot of work had gone into a tightly-rehearsed set that established the group as worthy contenders for the Canadian festival slot. Going forward, the band could look at reincorporating Caro’s keys into the live set in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive, while working on new songs that bring greater originality and personality to their sound.
– El Jay
2. Man On Steel Wire
3. Life Goes On
4. You Can’t Stop Me
The final act of tonight’s final is NastyDudes. They don’t look nasty at all, if anything lead singer Terry looks a bit nervous. I later find out that this is far from the truth. Their sound check bodes well and they feel to me like a ticking time bomb. No band has taken this thing by the scruff of the neck. It’s all to play for.
The crowd are fired up and praying for someone to come out and win this thing. Well NastyDudes kick off with TGIF and I already know that they have won. These guys are doing it right before my very eyes. They’re a throwback to the old bands of the 70s and 80s. This song is a combination of AC/DC and that song by Michael Jackson, They Don’t Really Care About Us, but I don’t care about that. Terry has even got a hat Brian Johnson or Angus Young might wear. Awesome high vocal solo, pitch perfect.
On Man On Steel Wire this guy has got the crowd in the palm of his hand, something none of the other bands have done tonight except maybe Carrier. They’re a perfectly tight group this band, I think guitarist Kim came out of the womb with a Les Paul in his hands. I love how nervy Terry looked before and now he’s owning the Doghouse. In fact, this is his house. The dog does not own this house any more. We’re in the NastyDudes house. I wish I didn’t have to sit and take notes on my phone and also wish I knew the words to this song so I could be up at the front going crazy. Kim’s solo very Kansas here.
Life Goes On is an old school sing along rock song. Bit of country and a bit of Bon Jovi, and I love the nah nah nahs at the end. I’m asking myself why aren’t these guys super famous? They seem like one of the best new bands I’ve seen in ages, certainly the best local band I’ve seen in Hong Kong. Terry nails this balance of strutting around like a rock legend, owning the place but being completely humble and appreciative of the crowd. Where other bands tonight have directed some love towards their own travelling support, these guys engage with the whole place. We feel like they are playing for everyone here.
An absolutely exhilarating set which has everything you want from a rock band. I’m now a NastyDudes fan, and can’t wait to have a drink at the NastyDudes House again. Worthy winners on the night by a country mile; send us a postcard from Canada boys.
– Simon Donald Jones
Winners of Planetrox China Final 2017 Planetrox 2017 中國總冠軍 － NastyDudes
Photos by Angus Leung
Poster by Martin Ng