Thank you soooo much to Ravi & Rula Live for hosting Underground Legends this year. We were so happy that we could gather five legendary Hong Kong bands to perform all on one night.
Thanks to Tim for taking great photos. Thanks to Ally for filming all night long.
Thanks to Loy, the outstanding soundman at Rula Live. Big thanks to King & Sumit for door duties.
Big love to Bay for all the amazing artwork. High Five to Jack Daniels, Leo Beer and Sapporo Beer for keeping the bands and audience refreshed.
Thanks to our dedicated reviewers: Kelvin, Jasmine & Cyril for their attention and words.
MOST OF ALL thank you soooo much to the audience (who patiently followed all Government regulations), 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.
我們好感謝Ravi和Rula Live提供場地給我們辦今年的慶祝。我們很高興可以邀請5 隊樂隊來表演。他們勁力十足，我們十分期待他們與一眾觀眾重聚。
我們非常愛Bay所有令人驚嘆的藝術品，感謝 Jack Daniels、Leo Beer 和 Sapporo讓樂隊保持活力。
❤️ Chris B xx
The boy who wouldn’t grow up (part 1)
Back in time
When their song “That’s Why’ was featured on a hit TV show in 2020, Nowhere Boys found themselves catapulted into mainstream success.
One year later, hungrier than ever, the band found themselves opening for Underground Legends and exceeding all expectations.
The Boys kicked off with 生死時速 (Extreme Speed). Self-described as cinematic rock, the song was like something from an Anime Movie with a catchy guitar riff and powerful vocals.
愛情動作神功 (Miraculous Actions of Love) showcased some fun tunes, with chromatic chord progressions and impressive piano and drum solos.
A pleasant surprise was ‘Back in Time’. This allowed the Boys to show off their versatility by playing a rock ballad- however, it perhaps was the odd one out of an otherwise upbeat setlist.
You would never expect a violin to feature in a rock band at a packed LKF bar, but Nowhere Boys are so experimental that they nailed it. 狂想曲 (Rhapsody) is akin to a Cantonese version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’- a mixture of hard rock, rap, and even a children’s song. Yep, they incorporated “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” into it!
Sophisticated and layered, this track was a true gem to experience. It reminds me of Guns n Roses’ “November Rain”, with dynamic instrumentation and a building intensity throughout.
Nowhere Boys ended their set with 天外飛仙 (Fairy), when the band’s frontman Van Chan performed a live sound check with the audiene, hyping up the crowd even more with some sing-alongs.
One unique talent of Nowhere Boys is their ability to get the crowd going. Despite most of their songs being in Cantonese, it was not hard to sing along to such catchy music. The performance even capped off with a loud growl from Van, waking the audience up (although I doubt the audience needed any wake-up calls by this point).
Of course, even the best of the bunch come with a fair share of performance-related snags.
Perhaps due to the limitations of the space, keyboardist Fisher Kan seemed a little cut off from the rest of the band as he stood in relative darkness.
Another problem faced during live performance is achieving a balance between the vocal and the instrument sound levels. The vocals were somewhat inaudible at times, with the drums and lead guitar dominating the speakers.
Looks can be deceiving, and the same can be said for the Boys. Unassuming Van Chan shines onstage as a frontman, comfortably working with an array of vocal techniques from polished falsettos to opera. Similarly, clean-cut drummer Nate Wong (who might be the last person you would imagine rapping) came bounding out from behind the drum kit to spit some bars during 狂想曲 (Rhapsody).
They’re walking, talking, musical contradictions. But these contradictions allow them to complement each other as an enigmatic band of loveable misfits.
Nowhere Boys are pure talent, and we should expect many more quality performances from them as they continue their ascent to stardom.
1) Come Undone
2) Moving On
3) City of a Million Lights
6) Calling Out
7) Welcome to the New World
Next up to prove their legendary status was Helium3. With their fresh, confident faces, you wouldn’t think that this was their 7th gig at the Underground alone. H3’s cohesion and individual talents more than reflected this, however, as they impressed the audience with their specific brand of poppy and palatable soft rock.
(A brand which only comes with years of experience as a Cold Play tribute band. Colder Play, anyone?).
Opening tune Come Undone is a smooth and simple introduction to the flavour of the band, offering shades of Brit rock favourites The 1975 and Kasabian. The boys run a tight ship in terms of performance. This song (and most others on their setlist) is bursting with slick vocal harmonies which are performed by all band members, boasting their technical musicianship and professionalism when it comes to multitasking on stage.
Moving On’s brooding acoustics resembles bands like Radiohead and U2: groups who capitalised on those darker sensibilities back in the 90s without fully going heavy rock. Melodic, clean, and polished as fine China teacups, the only complaint I have with this song was that it didn’t seem to come to a satisfying enough end.
Or perhaps this is the first band I’ve listened to in awhile who do not put earsplitting breakdowns in every song.
Though I can’t imagine H3 turning metalcore, it wouldn’t hurt the soft rock scene to take a leaf from their books and consider other ways to end tracks than just fading into silence.
Ah, the ode to Hong Kong. Every expat-y band has one. For H3, that song is City of a Million Lights. Although it was not the most memorable of the night in my opinion, the song is a tender tribute to the city we all call home. Something about it reads as melancholic, yet still pleasant enough to not encroach upon emo territory. This makes me curious, however; bands like Helium3 who don’t stray from their tried and tested style always hold a certain intrigue to me. When it comes to imagining how they might approach different genres, I would love to see H3 explore their sensitive and gloomy side. Emo rock seems a natural side-step.
Satellite stays true to the Brit rock sentiment, with smooth bass and trebly vocal vibrato which seems a fond nod to Ziggy Stardust himself. The lead and rhythm guitarists are fine-tuned to a single wavelength, which is especially notable here as their corresponding sections flow seamlessly together.
Their self-proclaimed “most famous song”, Heroes-esque Home is everything you’d want from a rock ballad. It flowed smoothly into Calling and finally Welcome to the New World, which holds all the Helium3 hallmarks which we have become familiarised with choral harmonies aplenty, dreamy guitars, and pleasant catchy riffs.
If technically precise, tightly-hewn pop rock tunes are your speed Helium3’s style is sure to satisfy. Being such talented musicians, it would be interesting to see them veer out of their comfort zone and dare to put Coldplay in their rearview mirrors for a change.
– Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Andy is Typing…
Take a Break
Yesterday Was Sweet
I’m a friend of Andy’s, or at least I think I am, he’s been typing a reply to me since 2017. That was when I first reviewed them anyway. The band was quite new at that point and I was asked to listen to their first album and their single Take a Break. The furious and catchy alt-rock number broke all expectations I had about indie band with a weird phone reference for a name. A few months ago, I was asked by coincidence to review Take a Break again but on a different album. Take a Break (Shelf-Index Remix) was symbolic of how far the band had grown since 2017, being able to work closely with a local DJ to reinvent the song that started them off. The placement of the vocals and lyrics, the mixture of live and synthetic instruments, the song took on a whole new meaning, and a whole new performance style. Andy is Typing… had finished a paragraph in their neverending text.
Their first song, as expected, was Take A Break but not the original alt-rock version, they performed the remix. Not one to cut corners, they had rearranged the remix version into a song that could be played on a guitar, a bass, drum kit and a bit of VOX effects (J.K.Y is a full-time vocalist now) The vocal gasping was new to the remix, but far more powerful live. There are fine tunes to be made; I’m personally unsure about the swapping between falsetto and chest voice, they weren’t as smooth as I had expected. But the fact that this got on stage at all was impressive, what was particularly cool was how they kept parts of the original song – such as the background vocals – in essence creating a third ‘live’ version of Take A Break. Also, the imitation of synthesized rhythms on stage is also impossible without incredible amounts of stamina; the drummer, Kelvin, was not taking a break (next time you’re at an Andy Is Typing… concert, keep an eye on Kelvin, while everyone else gets super dark, this guy never drops his smile).
Take A Break wasn’t the only thing about the band that’s changed. Their whole act has matured. If you YouTube their first music video shot, you see four young lanky musicians jamming out in an industrial building recording studio. They had a slight edgy alternative vibe with everyone wearing black T-Shirts and sporting emo fringes. Their album notes mentioned how some of the band members decided to play instruments because they didn’t want to sing in music class. On stage, they look largely the same – the emo fringes are still there (don’t get rid of them, they look good), the largely dull, monochromatic outfits are still vogue, but their vibe, the air in the room is different. This is now a seasoned band, they don’t just dress together, they are together. They brought with them an entourage so large, so energetic that, even sitting at the front of the bar, I couldn’t see the band. A swarm of black and white t-shirts yelling “Andy! Andy! Andy!” that conspicuously disappearing after they took a bow.
Their music too had matured. Their ability to remix a remix for live purposes is impressive, but what’s more impressive is their shift from good alt-rock, to screamo and punk. Their set list was carefully chosen, showing off their five years of fan favourites but without any apology for their much heavier style – Yesterday Was Sweet (2016) and Take A Break (2017) are both early hits, but now they hit you. Karma (2017) unfortunately stood out because it wasn’t as clean as the other songs. Their choice to use pre-recorded piano and sound effects didn’t fit with their new grungy vibe, it also just simply wasn’t as clean as the live instruments, in any case, we have a piano at Rula.
Amidst the noise, aggression and screaming though was a theme of nostalgia and softness. The rest of the set list included tributes to the late Leslie Cheung and originals like Lost Pearl (2016) and Don’t Believe (2020). With all band members being Hong Kong Chinese in their mid-20s, what they were referring to is clear and it made their relationship with the audience that much closer. The performance was very raw, very heart to heart. When J.K.Y at one point stepped off stage to jump, the crowd jumped with him. More so than many other bands at Legends, Andy Is Typing… felt very much like they were reflecting the crowd’s own anger and anxieties, rather than just expressing their own.
It is now close to the end of their set. I have pissed my pants. I am very scared and want my mom to pick me up. I’m still sitting at the front of the bar (to ‘intimidate the bands’ as the other reviewers jokingly say) but I cannot hear anything anymore. My ears are ringing, my heart is beating as fast as Kelvin’s madly flailing arms and pounding foot pedal. The apocalypse is here. I don’t believe. I am burning in flames and I am not taking a break. There’s background music; a pounding drum kit, wickedly aggressive guitars and a singer yelling his inner demons into a microphone. The world is imploding, literally falling down around us, Andy … Is Typing …
– Cyril Ma
Formed in 2007 and still very much kicking, canto pop rockers Wondergarl snagged the penultimate spot at the Underground Legends gig to raucous applause.
Opening track 午夜浪漫, with its beachy vibes and bouncing guitars, was a fitting introduction to the band for us newcomers. Sure, the lead vocalist’s mic was rather low compared to the other instruments, but the digitised geeky anime energy was as infectious as it was refreshing, highlighting the variety of musical styles showcased that night.
Next up, 守武者夢翔 continues the upbeat antics. Rhythmic and anchored by some slick drum fills, the percussion definitely made an impression here. The bass sections thrummed with a touch of darkness, adding new textures to an otherwise peppy tune.
Uptown Funk-laced 放⼼吧！爸媽不在家 brought the party with groovy bass galore. Despite not understanding Cantonese, the unwavering energy of WonderGarl saved it from losing my interest. They played wholeheartedly from start to finish, smiles on all their faces encouraging crowd participation. Their passion for the music still holds true today; they are every bit the “hot blooded teenagers” (as per their Facebook bio) who started the band fourteen years ago.
起勢維穩 got the audience more involved still. On command, the crowd got down low before the music slammed into a crescendo and they jumped to their feet, all the while buoyed by a simple yet savagely effective guitar riff. These guys know their music and their audience, as shown in follow up 紫⾊黎明. Both songs seemed to overlap and complement each other well. This is both a testament to the band’s well-formed sound, but also perhaps shows a risky element of “same same”-ness when it comes to delivering an eclectic, layered setlist.
Finally, 我的⼀⼈前 brought the house down with some heavy snares and jubilant danceabilty. A smattering of samba spice to round off a pacy and up-tempo set, this was the perfect way to get
the audience amped up for the closing act of the night and offered something a little bit different to the norm.
It was a hit night for WonderGarls in all respects. Spirited and effervescing with joy, their commitment to a killer performance made up for any language barrier.
– Jasmine Gould-Wilson
1) strange memories
2) song of home / aoa
5) no shoes
10) disco dystopia
First time I saw them at Wild Boar, I was blown away by their creative yet honest performance. They were theatrical, but not too staged; creative, but not fully avant-garde; simple, but not too clean. That last one is a video game music pun (for all the men of culture reading this), deliberately placed because of Shumking’s Nintendocore songs – like Mario – which are massive fan favourites, as well as my personal favourite. But forgive me, let me off the band-aid: I like Shumking Mansion; I did not like them tonight.
Given, it seemed the cards were stacked against them. The small and intimate Rula meant that the theatricality of the massive screen at Wild Boar, and the football field separation between audience-staring-in-awe and the magical stoic top-hat-glasses-large-wig keytar god just couldn’t exist. It was also midnight when they went on stage; the audience, myself included, were tired from a night of dancing and drinking. It’s hard being the headliner! There was also a bit of awkwardness in their characters tonight. Shumking Mansion, aside from quirky music, is also known for their glam-rock inspired onstage personas – lead singer Zaid in his dress, Keytarist Jem stoic in his top hat and sunglasses. Lesson one of drama class – go on stage in character. Being so late in the evening, one could barely blame them if they decided to not go on stage in character, but to have a reduced heart-to-heart performance instead. Instead, the top hat was hanging off the drum kit and Jem only put his sunglasses on after awkwardly staring at the audience for a few minutes. Forgive me for adding salt to a wound, but playing the ‘unexpected’ sound check opener after you’ve been introduced? At Wild Boar the theatrics were exciting, tonight they were forced.
Ok, ok, so the drama was lacking, but they’re a band not an acting troupe – Did they play well? Aside from needing a few songs to warm up (again, we’re all tired), Shumking Mansion did still play quite well. Surprised me that they decided to start with Strange Memories though, the 80s vibe was similar to some of the other bands. Their second number Song of Home seems to be new; I’ve not heard it and can’t find any recordings, but there wasn’t much of an introduction to it. I had yet to jump off my seat. Then they played Mario. Finally the crowd started moving again. What just a few minutes ago had been awkward swaying, suddenly became a wild jumping crowd. I am biased, Nintendocore is like my thing but Shumking Mansion have some honestly banging Nintendocore tracks that reflect their incredibly creative use of synthesizers, their whimsical characters and generally great musicianship. It’s a shame that it took so long to get to these numbers! Luckily, by then those that were going to catch the last train had gone and the band was in full swing. Refugia was performed perfectly and the banter leading to DD2K was a much needed humorous pick-me-up. To top it off, at 1:10am, they jumped into DF which I can only describe as a late-night Chiptune Rave. The crowd was completely hyped, ready to end the night on a high which Shumking Mansion were only more than happy to entertain with their classic Disco Dystopia.
All in all, there were some honest-to-God great moments with their performance. Shumking are undoubtedly Legends in the Hong Kong music scene, there was never a doubt about that. What happened wasn’t a reflection of their musicianship, but purely a reading exercise gone wrong. It’s midnight, we either want to go wild, or go to sleep. Send me off to dreamland with a romantic rock ballad or get me dancing with some chiptunes.
– Cyril Ma
Photos by Tim Saxon.
Poster by Bay Leung.
海報由 Bay Leung。