What an amazing night! RULA LIVE was packed with eager live music fans ready to watch the four bands : Whitt’s End, The Lemon Ones, The Ferals and the last but certainly not least, Diamond 6, who were eager to rock out our first show of 2023. Thanks to Gweilo Beer for providing the refreshment to the bands and audience! Thanks to Aaron for the photos. Thanks to our reviewers: Lauren & Cyril. Thanks to Ally for video duties. Thanks to Bay for the awesome artwork. BIG round of applause for the team members working so hard that night: Calvin and Dicky. I couldn’t have done it without all of you guys.
嘩！超精彩嘅一晚！RULA LIVE 當晚塞滿咗好多為咗一睹首次响2023年 The Underground 舞台上面演出嘅四隊樂隊, 包括Whitt’s End, The Lemon Ones, The Ferals 同埋最後壓軸嗨爆全場嘅Diamond 6
而嚟到嘅樂迷！多謝 Gweilo Beer 為樂隊同樂迷提供飲品！多謝 Aaron為我哋拍攝！多謝 Lauren 同 Cyril 為我哋寫樂評！多謝 Ally 為我哋拍攝影片！多謝 Bay 精美號嘅 Artwork! 最後仲要多謝我地一眾嘅團隊成員：Calvin 同 Dicky! 全靠你哋我先可以搞到一場Good Show！
❤️ Chris B xx
The Cummings way
Corner of my eye
Learn to Fly (Foo Fighters cover)
Is this a reality
Ode to music
Since they were very small, Saxon and Jarvis Whittaker have been jamming together, first as the duo Case Sensitive; now, in their mid-late-teens as fully fledged rock trio Whitt’s End, with the addition of Theo Robinson on drums.
The band proved one of The Undeground’s most exciting and popular openers in recent memory, storming out of the gate with The Cummings Way and instantly evoking the likes of The Stooges and early Iron Maiden with high tempo smashing and riffing. Third track Hey Charlie hit right in the early-noughties with guitar stabs that evoked the jangling melodies of The Kooks or Razorlight for a super catchy, energy-filled vibe-shifter.
“This song is dedicated to anyone who had to get a plane here,” was how the band introduced Turbulence, which blended a jumpy bass lick with a phasing guitar effect, harking to the American rock of bands like Television. “Pour yourself a drink and let’s be friends,” sang Saxon. The energy of the room obliged.
The only cover in their set was a fine adaptation of Foo Fighters’ Learn to Fly: an eternal classic. With Saxon’s voice cracking at the edges, the song took on more of a gritty punk feel while Jarvis’ guitar droned in and out dreamily. The lyrical section of the song’s bridge was omitted to let an impressive solo shine, adding the band’s own spin on an eternal classic.
Set closers Is This a Reality? and Ode to Music were equally filled with attitude; the latter paired revving riffs with a bobbling bass in the vein of Dinosaur Jr and early Weezer, calling to mind the hazy distortion that defined early MTV. Theo scowled out from behind his fringe as he smashed his cymbals, causing the crowd to leap. The band thanked the crowd before signing off with a heavy breakdown to finish. It was an Underground debut to treasure, and marked attendance at this three-piece’s coming shows as mandatory.
– El Jay
THE LEMON ONES
1. The Last Train
2. A Thousand Volts
3. We’re Not The Same
4. Figure It Out
6. High By The Afternoon
7. That’s Just The Way It Is (Feat. Aurélien Nissen @ Rising Atlantis)
In 2020, I was working part time as a sound tech twice a week at the old Wanch. One night, without saying much or looking over, the keyboard player for a relatively new band hands me a USB cable. I look at it expecting some instructions but she was a bit busy setting up – obviously I knew she wanted it to be plugged into the sound system but the issue was that the equipment we worked with then was a little outdated and putting in a USB? Not happening. The keyboard player looked confused, then shocked, then worried. Eventually, we concoct a solution wherein the keyboard, which wasn’t actually a keyboard but a MIDI controller running through a sound program on a laptop, could be run from the laptop into the speakers through a 3.5mm aux like that on a phone but in doing so compressed the sound and offered much less control.
The moral of the story is to always check what equipment your venue has even if it’s well-known.
Also, that keyboard player was Bobo from The Lemon Ones.
Three years on, the same Line6 25 keys MIDI controller is still active on stage, but aside from the interesting choice of instrument, not much else seems to be the same with the band. What was a few years ago an upcoming casual alt-rock four piece band has now grown almost twice its size memberwise, and a fateful collab with stylist Kevin Ho in late 2022 changed their outfits from touring garage band to high school prom. Was this a good change? Considering that their last major show was with Ear Up at the massive MacPherson stadium, probably yes! Their new white suits, sunglasses and sparkling dresses made them stand out among a sea of band tees and hemp vests. But I couldn’t help but sense that the extravaganza from their new sophisticated sexy style censored consistent sound issues.
The good things first – since 2020 they’re much smoother and their sound overall is a lot better. Jero’s vocals were always impressive (although he always felt a bit serious to me) but tonight, he really showed off his ability to go high, go low, go fast and go slow. And this fit the new band branding which is no longer semi-acoustic rock but full fledged punk. A natural evolution? Perhaps – they bill themselves as Artic Monkey inspired psychedelia and I certainly see parts of that. I particularly enjoyed Jero’s softer vocals on High By The Afternoon, a much slower and lyrical song compared to the rest of their loud punk-grunge-psychedelic song list. The band’s expanded line-up also let them get a much fuller sound on “loud guitar song(s)” [end quote] like Figure It Out was, as Jero described, a pretty good loud guitar song. New psychedelic effects like intense wah-wahs, whole plucked sections and tight harmonies were showcased in We’re Not The Same and A Thousand Volts. Their performance of Blind, one of their headline pieces from their 2019-2020 days also drew existing fans onto the dancefloor.
But not all change is good change. The vocal harmonies were generally nice but sometimes out of tune – the falling harmonies in High By The Afternoon were flat (a common issue with descending phrases) but sharp in their final number, That’s Just The Way It Is. An upgrade for Bobo’s keyboard might also be a good consideration – the two octave range of the Line6 25 simply did not allow her to play as expansively as she could have. This was obvious in the lead in to High By The Afternoon where the range was clearly limited by the range of the keys. Not to mention the band’s focus on louder guitar and drums often covered up the keys anyway. Another thing covered up? The tambourines. There’s a lot of potential in a good tambourine guy, but not only could I not hear the tambourines at all, but I generally felt like it a meaningless addition. And I swear there were moments where the tambourine was shook up and down instead of side to side. Tambourines do not make sound going only up and down. And unfortunately despite all the loudness, a lack of consistent stage banter and audience interaction (except when selling merch) left chunks of the crowd watching the ceiling rather than the stage. The lack of stage banter also made the set much shorter than expected – like a good 10 minutes shorter than expected.
The best song of the night was without a doubt That’s Just The Way It Is which featured Arezzen from Rising Atlantis (“His name is Aurélien but he asked me to say his stage name” Jero, 2023). Despite similar balance issues to previous songs, the upbeat rhythm, alt-rock atmosphere and impressive rapping from Arezzen got the crowd moving just in time before they finished off.
Anyway, final verdict: The Lemon Ones have definitely grown into something else. They no longer have the vibe of an upcoming neighbourhood band, but now act as if on Broadway. Their music is louder, prouder and more layered. The band is getting bigger and bigger, both in their performance choices and literal band members. But more is not always better and a choice has to be made – focus on the music and close audience interaction or focus on extravaganza at extravagant venues. You can have both but we’re not currently getting both.
Proximity (soundcheck song)
Used To Say
Through The Park
Garden of Love
ENCORE: Salty Pork Hands (aka Jazz Song)
On the surface, The Ferals are a straight rock outfit, though Chris B’s theatricality adds a dimension of showmanship that sets the group apart. Props were rife throughout the set—from a blue and yellow fabric top hat to a small cat toy. Her magnetism and stage presence kept eyes and ears on the stage, and the band formed such a sturdy backbone.
Searing opener Woofie saw Chris B adopt her best Alice Cooper sneer over William’s thumping drums, before she channelled Blondie to rap over driving guitars on Used to Say: “I’m free/I’m sweet/I’m tattooed/I exist/I’m Chris B.” Instead of shallow aggrandisement, the track played as more of an exposition of the male gaze and female empowerment. Either way, Mark’s blistering solo made it a great track.
Sultriness oozed from following songs Through the Park and Oh Mother. Craig’s solo on the latter sounded straight from Josh Homme’s playbook, while Judy’s slinking bassline on the former ska rock number recalled early No Doubt. Chris’ theatrics raised a notch on Superficial and she entered the crowd, emboldened by a Slash-style solo, full of 80s metal licks from Craig. Jagged, staccato guitar defined the low and saucy Garden of Love, before the tempo picked up again for the cacophonous Shocked for a vicious punk breakdown of pure riot grrrl proportions.
Encore Salty Pork Hands started slow and brooding before breaking into balls-to-the-wall rock, which was appropriate for the sentiment of the song. As the rhythms locked in, Craig ripped into another amazing solo and Chris B started up a chant of “hap sap lou!” “咸濕佬!” (“perverted man”) for a hilarious closer to a set as fierce as the band’s moniker promises.
1. Head Electronica
2. Pretty Shot Up
3. Transit Casino
5. Neon Crush
6. Far From Home
Extra: Boiler Girl
To end the night, a veteran vanguard of the Underground – Diamond 6 – the band that promised to play only one gig in 2017, then promptly broke that promise with six years of performances and 17 singles on Spotify. Despite only having three members, their solid compositions, polished performance and spectacular stage presence made the band seem twice their size. I was honestly shocked and had to double take when I saw the band having only three members.
Their first song Head Electronica woke up the sleepy 12am crowd (or maybe it was just me sleepy). Usually the crowd starts to politely change venues, but not this time! A catchy, singable melody well balanced with lots of drum and bass, layered with Kurt Colbain-esque vocals from Gavin. The singing was at times a little sharp and a bit too much mic but it didn’t detract from the overall experience. Head Electronica then seamlessly transitioned into their next song Pretty Shot Up, one of their best performances of the evening. The verses flowed into choruses, and into the guitar solo smoothly with no sudden movements or missteps. And Pete’s scream! The best scream of the evening and we had a few pretenders. The rawness of their performance came through despite being clearly rehearsed down to a minute level. The crowd had not been this wild all night – a hard trick to pull off as the final act at Rula.
This was then followed by Transit Casino which featured complex counterrhythms between the drum and bass. Then with a spotlight on Gavin’s bass, he whipped out an exciting exotic bass solo – very refreshing to see the bass being showcased front and centre. If one were to find the same track on Spotify (which I did very soon after seeing them), you’d find a pretty different track with synthesizers and lots of layered harmonies. Some bands attempt to imitate their studio tracks exactly on stage; this is something I’ve seen many times at Underground shows. But Diamond 6 did not do that. There is often no need to do that especially if your band is small but tight – trying to recreate something virtual live often leads to confused soundscapes.
Wonder, their most recent* single came next. A much slower yet equally invigorating piece that showed off the band’s more sensitive side. The harmonies gradually went flatter and flatter – clearly on purpose – and although there were times when the harmonies sounded not quite right, when everything came together, there was a gloriously gorgeous murky panorama of sound. In my notes I wrote “this would sound better on drugs. They are illegal”. Just as the song should be. Because it was like drugs.
With only a few songs left, it almost seemed like there was nowhere left to go, but Diamond 6 had 6 diamond songs. Next up was Neon Crush. Even more so than Wonder, Neon Crush’s vocal harmonies was a mosaic counterpoint that sounded pretty hard to pull off – drummer Matt’s bass vocal part was an octave lower than Gavin’s main melody but never felt disjointed or distant. And for the musicians reading this – they weren’t parallels either. Impressive! Nonetheless, this gets a 1/10 for me because Gavin asked if anyone was old enough to remember the 80s and I am not old enough to remember the 80s.
The night ended* with Far From Home, an explosive headbanger that summarised all that was great about the band: raw, exciting, unpretentious music.
A word of praise has to go to the organisation of their set list. They knew how to get the crowd roused and excited, then calmed down with a few slower melodic pieces before driving the audience back on their feet to end the night. An oft underappreciated aspect of performance, flawlessly executed.
*I lied, they planned (planned!) an encore: Boiler Girl, which was supposed to debut on Spotify while they were playing but it doesn’t seem like it’s up yet. Starting with a march on the drums before going into a new and exciting piece of hard rock. Something about the song was just a perfect encore piece – not too explosive, not too calm. The show is over but the crowd continues to dance.
– Cyril Ma
Photos by Aaron Michelson.
Poster by Bay Leung.
海報由 Bay Leung。
Translation by Twinny Chong