Live Review from The Underground’s 18th Year Anniversary Party
Into the Light
Scent in the Dark Feat. Naseem
Hybrid Stereo have been around since 2020 and are known for their clean urban style, both visually and musically. Andrea Curtis, glowing beautifully with smokey eyes and dirty blonde hair but dancing like a giddy high school girl and singing with a clean pop voice felt like Christina Perri or Avril Lavigne at the height of their careers. The rest of the band were dressed in all black street-style, shorts covered by oversized T-shirts; it felt like I had time traveled back 15 years. In fact, with their musical style feeling like an advanced version of the pop and alt punk waves of the 2000s as well, I had flashbacks of sitting in the master bedroom watching TVB Pearl play MTV videos.
Their first two songs Arise and Broken Shards encapsulated the energy they would bring as the closing act – upbeat with a nostalgia that got everyone on their feet. Broken Shards was an epic ballad with soaring guitars that merged with Andrea’s lo-fi voice (though that could’ve been a technical issue – similar issues from Parallel Horizons remained till the end of the night).
Following on was Into The Light which featured Aaron Moderno from Parallel Horizons. Seems like the two bands have an unofficial partnership because Moderno would not be the only guest! However, I’m not sure what having Aaron on added. He’s not on the studio recording and his vocals were muted and sometimes off-tune, although he and Andrea harmonized perfectly when given the chance. After Into The Light came Enigma which contrasted with the punk ballads by giving a power-chord heavy anthem that really showed off the band’s compositions as inspired but not imitations of alt-punk. It was cleaner, more complex, longer and more musically diverse than the bands of the 2000s but not quite as flowery or theatrical as a lot of contemporary pop.
They then performed two new songs – a song with no name (literally, it has no name yet, although Andrea said it might be named Rainbow in the future considering the amount of colours and visuals mentioned in the lyrics). As with their previous songs, the performance was tight, and to top it off they added in a colourful light show as well! Surprisingly, their newest single Luna wasn’t performed as well. Lyrics had to be read from their phones and an unannounced backing vocalist was brought on stage. Similar to Aaron’s guest appearance in Into The Light, this new girl wasn’t on the studio recording but what was more surprising was…well…I have no idea who she was. Maybe I zoned out while she was being introduced. Andrea’s vocals weren’t as tight either with clear strain on the higher belted parts of the melody.
But in any case, the song was written brilliantly. Guitar harmonics pierced through the musical texture and the word painting was spot on.
Their final number Scent In The Dark featured a surprising guest – Naseem Khan! Unable to be kept down, the beast of Parallel Horizons joins bubbly Andrea Curtis on stage in an Angels vs Demons show off as both singers stood forbodingly with their hands on their mics. And the song really showed off the performance and writing style of both Naseem and Hybrid Stereo (officially speaking, Naseem collabed under his own brand SCRIPTVRE rather than Parallel Horizons…but the energy is the same). Long beautiful melodies clashing with demonic grunts. There was wailing and moshing of pits; there was a dark musical energy I hadn’t felt since I went to a (literal) underground performance in Edinburgh where the bar was in a (literal) crypt.
The crossover we didn’t expect because we didn’t know we needed it. A perfect finale to the Underground’s 18th Anniversary, showcasing all the great musical talent Hong Kong has to offer, whether already perfected or a work in progress.
– Cyril Ma