Thank you soooo much to Ravi & Rula Live for hosting our big celebrations this year. We were thrilled that we could finally go ahead after a two month postponement… Thanks to the eight amazing bands who unleashed their pent up energies and desire to perform for an eager audience! Thanks to Bun for stage management and to Leon for taking heaps of great photos. Thanks to Ally for filming all night long. Thanks to Jack, the outstanding soundman at Rula Live. Big thanks to Dicky for door duties and band promo video assistance. Big love to Dawn for the amazing artwork, to Keita & Nikesh for making all the supporting images, to Nicole for the band’s promo videos.
High Five to Jack Daniels, Leo Beer and Brewdog for keeping the bands refreshed. Thanks to Jerry and Nicole on door duties. Thanks to our three dedicated reviewers: El Jay, Jasmine & Cyril for their time to listen and write. MOST OF ALL thank you soooo much to the audience (some of them came from the edges of Hong Kong!), to come and celebrate with us, the bands really really appreciate you guys! We look forward to bringing you more great shows in the future.
好感謝Ravi和Rula Live提供場地給我們辦今年的慶祝。我們很高興經過兩個月的延期終於可以舉行演出。也謝謝8隊樂隊；他們勁力十足，又十分期待與一眾觀眾重聚。多係Bun的舞台管理，Leon拍十分多的照片，和Ally整晚不停的錄影。 多謝Jack，Rula Live確實有一個出色的音響工程司。多謝Dicky管理門票，也幫忙過樂隊的宣傳影片的製作。 非常愛Dawn的海報設計，Keita和Nikesh幫忙處理圖片，Nicole也參與了樂隊的宣傳影片的製作。 Jack Daniel，你好支持吖！Leo Beer和Brewdog也幫忙提供飲品慰勞樂手們。謝謝Jerry和Nicole處理入場事宜。
謝謝3位堅守崗位的樂評人：El Jay, Jasmine和Cyril整晚聽著、寫著。 最少不了是謝謝、再謝謝來看演出的觀眾們（你們有些還由香港邊邊遠道而來！）。你們來到跟我們一起歡樂，樂隊們都感受到你們來臨的重要。我們期待為你們帶來更多的精彩音樂會。
❤️ Chris B xx
Le Groupe Electrogène Fanfare Club
2. Les amants de St Jean
3. Le poinconneur
4. La Carioca
6. Femme des années 80
8. Take on me (prend sur moi)
9. Sweet Dreams (reve doux)
10.Les Copains d’abord
I tell people I like being fashionably late, but the real reason for my lateness is that I’m bad at timekeeping. My lack of ability to read a watch properly is made worse when the band starts playing early which means that instead of watching some twenty band members set up, I was hearing oompah tubas from afar.
Interesting. A brass band was not what I expected. Unique doesn’t even come close to describing Le Groupe Electrogene. In a city where street marches (for celebration) and marching bands are essentially non-existent; knowing that a group of fun loving, dancing tuba players exists makes me more than happy.
Le Groupe was formed a couple of years ago and originally branded themselves as “the ultimate side project of a pack of homesick Frenchies who longed for their homeland’s ‘ferias’, or festivals, with their boisterous atmosphere and their famous marching bands.” In true Hong Kong fashion “Frenchies” doesn’t just describe moustached men in berets; but all of the ethnicities and cultures considered ‘French’. White, Black, Latino, Asians – Fraternity among all races put on stage playing trumpets, wearing purple wigs and strumming Hello Kitty Guitars.
The band is not without its problems, though the problems by no means outweigh the massive amount of fun to be had with that many performers in the room! The instrumental balance is odd; far too few saxophones to properly balance the trumpets and there are five percussionists but not many percussion instruments. The singer also looked a bit stressed, but he was working the audience, nonetheless.
To tell you the truth, Le Groupe made me incredibly nostalgic. Seeing a bunch of musicians enjoying themselves playing jazzy tunes on stage, running around the audience and generally having a good time made me remember the impromptu jazz jam nights I used to take part in. That sort of musical comradery is sorely missing in Hong Kong; rock bands are very set in their numbers – you can’t have too many guitars (why not? Just cause), but with a brass/marching band? As many as you want! Percussion, going briefly back to that, is great for including more musicians who just want to have fun because you can double up, and double up, and double up without any problems!
Ultimately, music is something to be shared and enjoyed and what better way to start the evening than a massive brass band playing roaring sing-along French, English and Italian songs?
As they say in (French) Louisiana – Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler!
– Cyril Ma
All For One
7:I Dont Love You（Cover）
This review doesn’t need to be long. In fact I can do it in one word:
But that’s not very fair to the band, so I’ll give it some more words. Let’s start with another 6 words:
They knocked my f***ing socks off!
In terms of musical style, All For One is nothing too exciting. Musically, they’re your run-of-the-mill heavy alt-rock band dressed in the current fashion for Cantopop bands; that is to say black and white outfits, long hair and a bit of bling. Taiwanese-Japanese-Hong Kong look.
But as the mantra goes, why fix what’s not broken? And there is nothing at all broken about All For One. Short, punchy, straight to the point style of performance with no extra frills than what is needed. Everything done perfectly without a single mistake anywhere (except when they accidentally said happy birthday to Rula instead of the Underground!)
Despite being a mostly Canto/Mando-pop cover band, All For One did play a single English song ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay. It’s quite common for a Hong Kong band to try and include at least one English song in their sets, but they’re not often great – just stroll down Kwun Tong promenade and listen to the buskers. However, cementing their brilliant versatile playstyle, All For One nailed the song. Being the only song that the largely expat audience could sing along to, everything got up and rushed to the dancefloor. I couldn’t even see the band from my chair.
By half-time, a brief but noticeable tiredness had set in, however. Aiden, the lead singer, covered in sweat, took off his jacket. For a moment, the band slowed down, and it seems like the adrenaline had worn off. All For One isn’t a veteran band, – at least not with the Underground – so I thought that might be the cause. How wrong I was to judge them. Immediately they began to then to play their three original offerings of the night, and the energy was right back.
Never before have I seen a Cantonese band get so many expats dancing and singing along to words they don’t even understand. For an international city like Hong Kong, it’s often hard for a band to hit both sides of the linguistic divide but All For One have done just that.
All For One’s first time playing at the Underground and already they’ve established themselves as venerable members of the Underground canon.
Stereo is the Answer
1. The Door
2. City in the Ocean
Hong Kong certainly loves a throwback ’90s indie band, and Stereo Is The Answer might be one of the finest the city has to offer. The band have made their mark all over Asia, having performed in Taiwan and Japan and scooping up many awards in Hong Kong for their tight performances. One of the most distinctive aspects of the band is lead singer Stephen’s falsetto vocals, which evokes Mew’s Jonas Bjerre in its softer moments, building to the strength of 30 Seconds To Mars’ Jared Leto when he really wants to let it rip. While it is fairly difficult to find true originality in the music, songs were executed with grace and gravitas.
Jimmy delivered some interesting drum work on Gears, which brought to mind The Script in its radio-friendly, soft rock ambiance. Why? piled on an emotive intro Coldplay would have been proud of in a soft, delicate and twinkling song that pulled at the heartstrings. This wistfulness carried over to final song Chemicals, which was both affectionate and affecting, and left a lingering sadness with its solemn drone and clear, raw vocals. Stereo are a band that are doing the city proud inside and outside Hong Kong and tonight was no different: they sent a rousing “Happy birthday” to The Underground with a polished set that toyed with emotions and left even the rowdiest punters momentarily calm and reflective.
– El Jay
2. Midnight Summer Blue
5. Release me!
6. Winning Days
Cry!Romeo brands themselves as an experienced four piece band coming from previous rock backgrounds creating a “brand of fearless indie rock that illustrates the moth’s lifecycle”.
Something to do with flying into lights and getting burnt, apparently.
Is that an apt description of Cry!Romeo? Well the flying close to the sun bit, sure. They’re absolutely an experimental indie band with lots of combined experience across a variety of genres.
Let’s take a look at the first song on the night Goodbye….Queen with the pumping viral chorus where everyone (not just the band) chants ‘The righteous! The bad!’ This song was alternative and punk with the exception of a Middle 8 with baroque arpeggios.
The overall sound reflected this and was very alternative with clear influences from disco, pop, rock, punk and a bunch of other genres. Do all these identities work together? I don’t personally believe anything doesn’t work when it comes to music – so it does, and also somethings doesn’t. Goodbye….Queen was definitely fun and so was Midnight Summer Blue, one of the band’s signature songs which has a Maroon 5-esque quasi-disco chorus sung in head voice.
While their music is interesting, the tightness of their live performance that night left a little to be desired. The rhythm guitar and the drums were sometimes a bit out of sync – out of beat? No, out of sync. There’s a voice in my head that told me that. It’s not wrong, it’s just not there. Given, these moments were anomalies in what was otherwise a great performance by a band full of original music that’s been an Underground staple of a number of years.
Underground is the home of Hong Kong’s original music and a band like Cry!Romeo is exactly the type of entrée we normally serve.
If I had to put my own description to the (although I do love their moth metaphor), I’d say that Cry!Romeo is in the camp of early 2010s ‘big reverb’ bands. You know, the alternative bands that popped up and turned their effects on max? Ok, Cry!Romeo hasn’t gone quite that far, but they’ve definitely got a similar vibe. It’s the type of indie band that has 20 sections in a 3 minute song – the complex mixtape that is not always ideal but quirky and fun nonetheless.
To be honest, that’s the beauty of being an indie band in a welcoming music scene. You want to falsetto for an extended coda? Go ahead. You want to jump down three octaves in the middle of a song. Go ahead. You want to go too far, fall back, go too far again, fall back; again and again because it doesn’t matter as long as the final, final, FINAL product is brilliant? Go ahead!
Oh! I get the moth metaphor now!
– Cyril Ma
Seasons for Change
1) Not Enough
4) Fall In Love Again
The crush of bodies clamouring to get to the front of the pit was my first indication that Seasons for Change were going to be something special.
Hailing the punk-pop purity of All Time Low and lacing it with an addictive post hardcore aggression, lead vocalist Kasa and company certainly did not disappoint the room of fans (and burgeoning converts) alike.
Opening track Not Enough had the crowd fired up from the very first note. Evocative of the alt rock heyday of the 00s, the searing energy and jubilation in the room brought with it a specific nostalgia- the kind that makes you want to dig out the Taking Back Sunday records you told your mother you’d given to the charity shop back in 2012.
Hot on its heels, emo anthem Erased kept the relentless momentum going. Kasa’s characteristic clean vocals were layered with fry screams courtesy of guitarist Dennis Ho, the combined force making for something far more urgent and emotionally charged than your standard pop rock fare. Truly unified both in sound and performance- everyone knows I’m a sucker for synchronized head banging and jumping- this is SFC at their prime.
Anchor, with its echo distorted guitars, Latin drumbeat, and a slower melodic groove, proved the band’s ability to hold the room even when the offerings ebb towards the softer side of punk. By mixing songs from their back catalogue alongside newer releases in order to showcase a range of material, Seasons for Change display keen self-awareness; they allow their energy to shift and change, but never die down.
Cranking the atmosphere back up to a 10, Fall in Love Again is the kind of song which begs even the most awkward audience member to get up and jump. Despite singing not being the easiest thing to achieve whilst embodying a human pogo stick, Kasa did his damn best- and whatever notes he accidentally dropped, the audience picked up.
Penultimate offering Rain is an unapologetically upbeat anthem to positivity. Whipping the audience into a frenzy with a chorus that you can’t shake, this is the infectious, hook-driven, pop-punk fantasy high you’ve been chasing all year. Flavours of Simple Plan and State Champs converge to create something which is familiar yet refreshing- and the sea of raised fists and flying feet surely agreed.
The boys wrapped the set with Sky, again swinging the pendulum back towards the heavier end of the spectrum. A deep rumbling bassline bolstered the ethereality of the track whilst the guitars spearheaded their approach to heavy metal sensibilities, proving that they are anything but a bunch of one-trick ponies.
Not only insanely talented but genuinely nice guys too, you won’t find a rock band in Hong Kong with more heart and integrity than Seasons for Change. Their love for their fans is unmistakable, with Kasa taking a moment between nearly every song to interact with the crowd and thank them for their support.
Looking at the bright, sweaty faces screaming back every lyric, it is clear that this love is very much mutual.
1- Goodbye Blue Monday
2- Children of Atomic Bomb
3- But I am Always Worried
4- Alexander the Great
5- Blind + Rats
6- The Sanctuary of Lost Souls
The Underground’s 16th anniversary bash was hitting a peak when Flying Daggers took to the stage, exploding into their set with driving, optimistic rock that recalled Queens of the Stone Age. A slickly executed set, notable for its texture and depth, was held up in large part by strong guitar sections. But what would you expect when Vincenzo Nardelli (Wan Chai Warriors) is the man on the strings. Slightly muffled vocals from Sam Sucheki took the shine off certain songs—as it did for headliners ARKM—and at times he didn’t seem quite sure of the strength of his projection. His baritone brought to mind some of post-punk’s most prominent voices, such as Ian Curtis of Matt Flegel.
Some of the more rhythmic segments had a mesmerically motorik feel, playing with the audience’s expectations with ambiguous endings and interesting diversions. The final song was very Franz Ferdinand in its angular melodies and debonair vocals that hid a simmering anger. A firecracker solo was just what the performance needed for its finale—and ensured that Flying Daggers pierced into the memories of all in attendance and established them as a band of great promise.
– El Jay
Flying Daggers EP Man is Man’s Worst Enemy is available to listen/download at Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp
4. False State
5. Toxic Generation
6. Breed of Our Own
7. Killing In The Name (RATM Cover)
Nepalese hardcore metallers Loud Shaft brought their A-game to the 16th Anniversary Party, creating the first mosh pit of the evening. One of the heavier bands of the night, they put the crowd through their paces with a sprawling set list, incorporating everything from nu metal post punk to melodic hardcore.
Don’t be fooled by their wide smiles and unassuming statures. These boys are here to Rock (yes, with a capital R).
Channeling early Slipknot, opening track N.O.Y.B effervesced with raw, unbridled angst. Despite the sound balancing being slightly off and muting the guitars to sit just below the domineering bass and drums, Loud Shaft pulled off an effortlessly energetic performance. Their excitement to be back on a stage was palpable, and it’s that prodigal intensity which makes them such a joy to watch.
Chaos brought nu metal back to 2020. Chunky riffs and a melodic chorus kept the audience under their thrall, with an unexpected, eye-watering guitar solo adding a touch of old fashioned rock n roll theatrics. The beat begged us to headbang, and that was an urge very few audience members could refrain from indulging.
Almost midway through the set, we experienced yet another tonal shift with Rebel. Featuring an exuberant audience singalong and a guitar solo with all the heart-rending clarity of a classic rock ballad, Loud Shaft again twist when you think they will turn. Moving from metalcore hooks to smooth, clean vocals before rounding off with characterising gritty guitars, this was another performance during which the band’s sheer love of playing truly shone through.
Fourth item on the bill False State delivered strong flavours of Sum 41’s All To Blame, that delicious “metal guitar chug” sound being a standout effect when played live. The breakdown, thick and heavy and pronounced, rattled every speaker in the room; by this point in the evening, the sound tech had corrected the levels so that the deep bassy rumble could be felt in every fibre of your being, and wow did it make a difference.
A treat for percussion enthusiasts, Toxic Generation featured some truly speedy pedal and wristwork from drummer Ab Gurung. Followed up by the anthemic Breed of Our Own, these final two songs on the set list were replete with heavy breakdowns, audience singalongs, and a hefty bite of nu metal.
But wait…it’s time for an encore!
To say that the room went feral when the first notes of Rage Against The Machine’s seminal Killing In The Name buzzed through the amps would be a grievous understatement. Everything about this cover was a dead ringer for Tom Morello and the gang, from the rap vocals to the tone of the guitars to the pure, undiluted chaotic energy that the band exuded. The walls were shaking from the cranked-up gain, the floor from the entire room jumping in unison, and the table I was resting my notebook against vibrated violently as concert-goers slammed their palms down in a defiant (and slightly violent) displays of enjoyment.
It takes a hell of a band to carry a crowd through seven tracks of aggressive hard rock without faltering, but Loud Shaft are a testament that it can be done.
(…Perhaps with a proud, cheeky flash of those pearly whites to boot).
– Jasmine Gould-Wilson
1) Oceans Turn Red
3) Phantom Pains
6) Corporate Closet (Encore)
Deathcore meets synth metal when you go to toe to toe with the deliciously dark ARKM, the most brutally heavy band of the evening.
As twinkling cymbals ghost over an ambient backing track, you’ll be forgiven for not expecting the gut-punch soon to be delivered by opening track Oceans Turn Red. But when frontwoman Allison steps up onto the stage, staring down the crowd with menacing stillness, you know they mean business.
The track bursts with early Bring Me The Horizon sensibilities, Allison’s deep growl tearing through the amps with ferocity and intention as she makes full use of her stage space before swooping down into the audience. Flanked by a bassist rocking a five-string instrument and a lead guitarist touting a whopping eight, ARKM bring not only the volume but the talent and edge to boot.
When they take a moment to address the room between songs, it’s unbelievable to fathom how Allison’s banshee screams could have erupted from the same set of lungs as her sweet, all-American speaking voice. We get to hear more of her clean vocals in Disavowed, which is introduced as one of their newer songs.
Erring on the side of melodic, this track is a standout performance not only due to Allison’s rich chorus vocals, but because of some technically ace slap bass skills (that’s five-stringer Bryan for you!). A song which flows effortlessly between face-melting verses and melodious choruses, ARKM here display their experimental side proudly and with sophistication.
“I wanna see a f#cking circle pit!” Allison growls in the lead up to third track Phantom Pains.
Sure enough, when the rapid-fire snare and bass drum kicks have punctuated the opening salvo to one of their most beastly performances of the night, the mosh pit at Rula Live springs to life.
With smooth synths winding through the song and a blistering guitar solo on that eight-string monster, ARKM redefined the term “unrelenting”- especially when the song ends with a chaotic cacophony of “What have you done?”. Jarring to the core, the band’s Arkham Asylum influences are perfectly evoked here.
Mirrors begins with another prerecorded ambient interlude, this time a soundscape of a distorted voice (as if over a voicemail receiver) speaking incomprehensibly over chiming cymbals. Employing their tried and tested formula of juxtaposing demonic, guttural screamo over more gentle clean choral vocals, this is perhaps one of the more polished tracks of the evening.
Finally we come crashing into Sorrow, confidently led by thunderous percussion and a deep, trebly bassline. Again the song cascades into ethereality during the chorus, harmonic guitars sweeping beneath soaring crystalline vocals before careening into an emotive solo from lead guitarist SamirZe.
But wait…there’s more!
With the crowd baying for an encore, the band quizzically look at each other before a giggling (somewhat maniacal) Allison turns to the crowd and sweetly posits, “Do you want one more?”
Within moments we are launched into Corporate Closet, drummer JM never disappointing with near superhuman pedalling skills. The breakdown has everybody in the house moving to it (is there such thing as a full-body headbang?), the stage ominously flooded with blood red lighting as Allison and company give every note their absolute all.
There’s a reason why they say you should save the best for last. In ARKM’s case, that reason is twofold: firstly, your ears are ringing too loud to hear anything for a few hours after they reach curtain call.
And secondly, it’s because they brought the house all the way down.
Photos by Leon Che’ Clark.
由Leon Che’ Clark攝影。
Poster by Dawn Chan.
海報由 Dawn Chan。