What a great night! Three bands accepted the challenge to perform with only acoustic guitars, cajon drum (only allowable drum) and only piano sound on keyboards if needed. Thank you soooo much to the bands for rearranging their songs and presenting to the audience a very different side to their music. Again we must thank our wonderful alcohol sponsors – Singha beer and Jack Daniels Cola and also thank you to Polaroid for their cool headphones. Hats off to Morrison Cafe & Bar for hosting the event. Big shoutout to Leon for his photography, Simon on sound duties and Susanna on door duties. Thank you to our reviewers Simon and Prada. We may just do another heavy unplugged next year.
好棒的一個晚上。3隊樂隊接受了我們的挑戰，衹用木結他、箱鼓（唯一准用的鼓）和（如有需要）合成器上的鋼琴聲作為演出樂器。好多謝各樂隊重新編自己的歌曲，以另一面跟觀眾分享。再一次，我們要向贊助商勝獅啤酒和Jack Daniel’s可樂致謝，也謝寶麗萊送出非常型格的耳機。感謝Morrison Cafe & Bar提供場地，Leon為這活動拍照，Simon做好現場的混音和Susanna處理門票和接待。謝謝Simon和Prada為活動寫網誌。明年好應該再辦一個Heavy unplugged喔！
❤️ Chris B xx
Wan Chai Warriors
1. Dog eat dog
2. Don’t let go
5. Park Bench
6. Lost soul
7. Born to be wild
A night of heavy rock aficionados outside of their comfort zones is kicked off by Wan Chai Warriors. Usually a four piece, tonight they’re a three – drummer Jamie Edwards seemingly surplus to requirements for the unplugged version of the band. Cain on vocals is joined by Vincenzo and Dave both playing acoustic guitar, normally electric and bass respectively. Their approach is already unusual with seemingly no need for bass on their songs tonight.
The Underground’s Heavy Unplugged gets underway with Dog Eat Dog and my first feeling is already that this song needs more noise. There’s a great contrast between the simplicity of the two acoustic guitars and Cain’s rock voice. They seem to be playing the same chords to me but they’re bang in time and keeping it simple. There must be a big temptation to try to completely recreate your sound acoustically, which these guys seem to have resisted. The bridge works well with the aggression of the vocals and with the gentleness of the guitars.
All three of the Warriors are on stools tonight, which I get the feeling is particularly unusual for lead singer Cain. On Don’t Let Go he seems dying to stand up and move his body. Loving the licks by Vincenzo on lead guitar here. As I predicted Cain has got to his feet; it must be intimidating being this close to the crowd but if he is, he doesn’t show it. Really showing off his vocal range here, I’d love to hear him sing some old-school blues or soul.
Bloodlines is a cracking song. Hints of Bon Jovi in this acoustic arrangement with a nod to Dead or Alive. The guitars combine beautifully for the solo, with a little country feel in places. Love the top notes Cain is hitting. “Bang bang you’re dead now”; pretty dark lyrics form another nice contrast with the straightforward acoustic arrangement.
So far tonight Park Bench feels like the most naturally acoustic based song. Again, a country feel comes through at times, which really works with Cain’s huge voice. He’s back up on his feet and we now descend, or ascend is probably more fitting, into what feels like a Ho-Down – wish I’d brought my hat. A real down and dirty song. Cain makes a couple of “R” rated actions with the microphone, which draws a big cheer from my girlfriend stood next to me. Worrying.
What really brings the Morrison Café crowd to life is their cover of Born To Be Wild. They don’t do anything unusual with their version, it’s just Cain’s powerhouse voice doing its thing which is more than enough. He also doesn’t need to do much to encourage everyone to sing along. A good start to the night, the crowd suitably warmed up for more unplugged magic.
– Simon Donald Jones
2. Inner demons
4. My heart
6. Beauty out of the ashes
Normally Mockingbird are a bona fide alternative rock band in the same vein as Paramore and Evanescence, I’m excited to see how they tackle going unplugged. They arrive with much hype following their appearance as finalists in the Volkswagen Underground Battle of the Bands this year. They make full use of the limitations of Heavy Unplugged with piano keyboard, electric bass, cajon and acoustic guitar. These guys are another band that strike me as being “match fit”. Having formed in 2013, they’ll have plenty gigs under their belts and which shows on first song of the night Lotus. Very deep lyrics sung with an absolute bang to the chest by lead singer Miki. However, a bit of You’re Beautiful by James Blunt comes through in the acoustic guitar for me. Not something a rock band probably wants to be likened to.
Miki tells us that Inner Demons was the first song she wrote with the band when she joined. Another deeply emotional song, this time with a cracking bass solo. Amazingly, this arrangement really suits their songs. Probably enabling Miki’s vocals and lyrics to be brought to the forefront. Next song Departure starts off with a wonderfully delicate piano introduction by Kelvin who was on cajon a moment ago – showing great versatility. Arthur on bass brings near perfect backing vocals to the song. Miki has a real 2000s sound to her voice, reminding me a bit of Christina Perri. She sings every word with intense emotion, bolstered by Arthur’s backing. The gentleness of the piano just perfect on this song.
As a band normally playing heavier music, with a lot more movement and intensity, you’d think this setting would be uncomfortable for them but I love how engaging they all are. Not avoiding eye contact with the audience at all. Totally relishing it.
Mockingbird deliver a very touching Linkin Park tribute with a cover of Numb. It’s really slowed down and stripped back, almost in ballad territory. A shame that Miki needs her phone for the song’s lyrics, despite telling us she’s been a Linkin Park fan since she was 6 years old. But that takes nothing away from a truly beautiful performance of the song. They conclude their set with a new song called Beauty Out Of The Ashes. Once again, Miki needing a little help from her phone for the lyrics. It’s another emotional song with deep and touching lyrics. It hits its peak with the high-pitched piano after the bridge which sings to my heart.
It takes some guts for a band to completely step outside their comfort zone and it takes some serious talent to do something magical with it, just as Mockingbird have done tonight.
– Simon Donald Jones
1. Movie Star
2. Don’t Turn Around
3. 50 Years
4. Breaking Limits
5. Crawling (Linkin Park cover)
6. Ivory Tower
7. Believe in Our Memory
If you think acoustic music must always be mellow and sounds mostly the same, then you must have missed out Bamboo Star’s performance last Saturday at Heavy Unplugged at Morrisons where they demonstrated how a rock band can rock on an acoustic set without any problems. Having seen their shows before (both Sub Terra and Lan Kwai Fong Music & Beer Festival), I was in awe to find out how their music can put on a different mask without losing their real voice.
Coming up as the last band of the show and probably the most anticipated one, they kicked off their set amidst the loudest crowd cheer with an unusual but striking vocal harmony in Movie Star. Stripped from all the electric elements, Wolf’s vocal power became even more outstanding while the strings were easing in and trying to get everyone ready for their next song. Don’t Turn Around hit us right away with the unbelievably cool slap bass by their new bassist Jasmine whilst Lawrence’s cajon kept up with all that. This arrangement totally blew me away. Somehow going from heavy rock to acoustic, the bass unquestionably retains some heaviness to it and stole the spotlight especially in this one. The guitar solo that came in later in the song was just beautiful as if it was trying to outthrow the bass but it went down swinging. 50 Years is said to be about an old friend. Sung in Cantonese with its depressing lyrics, it is hard for one to not imagine its underlying association with Hong Kong’s political environment. The slow tempo effortlessly put the audience into an emotional state while the chord strumming on the guitar proceeded to reassure their vocalist’s tremendously melancholic delivery.
Entering the latter half of their set, they broke out their popular song from their first album Breaking Limits. If they blew a long high-pitch whistle before they began to sing, that would definitely take us all hostage of a Western gun fight scene (even the song mentions “got the rattle of the drums like a quick draw gun”). It was one of their songs that blended surprisingly well into the acoustic realm as if heavy rock has been grinded into smooth sand and tasting like dark country. Their frontman deliberately tuned down to his lower range and continuously sending the grooves with the help of the minimalistic guitar part. Gradually escalating to the wicked blast in the chorus causing everybody to clap along, Wolf’s iconic roar simply marked the climax of the song. Crawling on the other hand set a rather eerie tone to commemorate the deceased singer of Linkin Park (Chester Bennington). The unsettling harmony agitates all the insecure spirits in the crowd and putting forth a moving tribute that would have made Chester proud. Then Ivory Tower was yet another brilliant upbeat original that has its essence extracted and disguised itself underneath the steady cajon and the separate but equally impressive bass and guitar riff. Although personally, I think it sounds more liberating in metal. Being the one of the most sentimental songs in their album, Believe in Our Memory perfectly summarized their set and the show in a peaceful and gentle melody where the romantic guitar solo bidding all a merry night.
Bamboo Star totally nailed this unplugged challenge. They successfully touched the spectrum of emotions within this half hour tight and truly fantastic set. No wonder the crowd yelled Encore for more. Like Chris B says, it is uncertain if heavy unplugged will happen again. But if it does, you should make sure you are not going to miss it again.
– Prada Leung
Photos by Leon Che’ Clark. 由Leon Che’ Clark攝影。Poster by Angus Leung. 海報由Angus Leung.