ByeBye Miku

Live review from Playful Palooza:

ByeBye Miku

4.528hz dec

Names don’t have to have a deeper meaning, but with a name like “Bye Bye Miku”, you’re inviting interrogation. After all, the vocaloid, 初音ミク, Hatsune Miku – the sound of the future – is a ubiquitous name in Japanophile Hong Kong. If we’re saying bye to the sound of the future, I wanted to know why.

I found very little answer to this question. Bye Bye Miku is at their heart an R&B inspired cantopop band. Their first song 逆光 (Against the Light) is a relatively new song released only in October. Starting with a pounding drum intro and an explosion of guitars, their first number captivated the audience (which, for reasons I’m still confused by, were sitting on dinosaurs and macaroons; I was sat on an ice cream bench next to an emoji). However, while the energy was in the right place, it was not refined. Perhaps lead vox Yiu Cho had a cold – it was a pretty cold week – but the vocals felt strained, sometimes forced. He had a vocoder on which used some moderate autotune and heavy compression to create a slightly vocaloid aesthetic – the only semblance to anything ‘Miku’ I could find. This gave it some interest but wasn’t used very obviously until the song ended with a tasteful harmonic.

After a brief intermission where the excitement of performing at an Underground Palooza broke a guitar string, Yiu Cho introduced the second song Catch. “I’ve always wanted to perform this at a park or a carnival – and now it’s come true”, he said as he turned around to signal the band to start. Catch is a very summery pop song, ironic considering the weather but catchy melodies, sappy subject matter and infectious rhythms a good time makes. The crowd definitely agrees, swaying and nodding along. However the inkling of things not quite being a bit strained, a bit anxious perhaps or just not warmed up was still there. This did improve. Their third song, a classic breakup rock ballad (which literally translates to “the first song I listened to after breaking up”) was far tighter.

Although here I realised my main gripe – their performance was too performative. There were clearly choreographed movements, especially from the vocals, with arms crossed then swinging. Yes, there’s a cool demeanour but it felt a bit forced. The irony here is that they’re not bad. Far from it. I honestly greatly enjoyed their songwriting – it’s creative, imaginative, fun and fiercely local. But the staging felt inexperienced; there were moments where the guitarists sat down with little warning, the audience obviously confused thinking they had broken another guitar string. When Yiu Cho tried to get the audience to stand up, people seemed hesitant.

Compared to most bands I’ve reviewed, Bye Bye Mike is a bit of an oddity. Despite their songs being lively and catchy, great for an audience, they really REALLY excel in the studio. Listening to their songs on their social media and watching their MV performances gave me a very different band. One that was confident, youthful and yes, still very fierce and proud. On stage, much of that seemed to be hiding behind a facade of gangsta postures and stress. Not to mention, their use of technology really comes out in the studio recordings too – the vocoder is used far more clearly and additional synthesised layers gives every song serious interest.

They did bring that stuff on stage of course, their newest number 528hz begins with a kick drum imitating a heart beat (yes, very sappy) followed by a sparkling, dreamy auditory soundscape of pianos, keyboards and synthesisers. All this was even more amazing considering there were clowns on stilts blowing bubbles, creating an oddly fantastical, magical atmosphere.

However, it really did feel like more could have been done to show off how different and unique Bye Bye Miku are compared to any other run-of-the-mill Gen Z cantopop band. You know that they’re nice musicians too because they introduced the next band between numbers as close friends. So there’s really nothing they’re lacking aside from experience and confidence.

All said, their final number, 半優秀, was brilliant. Compared to their other numbers, the vocoder was on full blast. It was deep and robotic, and reminded me more of Daft Punk than Miku. Their banter was lively too – telling everyone to let loose and party harder before taking the lead and absolutely smashing. And to end it all? Drum sticks thrown into the air, possibly taking a ride down the Helter Skelter.
– Cyril Ma

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Performances by ByeBye Miku: