Magic Mountain Bells

Live review from 20th Anniversary Festival Day 2 星期六

– Time
– Electrocity
– Bad Habits (Cover)
– Paradox Love
– Lost Paradise
– Coming Home
– Still Got It

I normally just start with some descriptive preamble on the history of the band, but Magical Mountain Bells is a very direct band that goes straight to the audience so here we go –

A sheen of sweat on the nape of his neck, lead singer Vaun cast a spell over the bodies and mind of the audience. “Get closer, I want to smell you” said Vaun as they finished their first number “Time”, an almost period-accurate 90s-2000s punk number. With the look of 80s glam, the energy of 90s punk, and swagger of 2000s alt-rock, the fabulous and sexy Magicals Mountain Bells conjured a tempest on the main Fringe stage.

In any other context, asking to smell your audience would be a weird request, but with the crowd hypnotised, they moved closer. Vaun spoke again, “Hong Kong’s fucking electric”, he yells as thick power chords explode from the (obviously) electric guitars. Several performers come off the stage and interact with the screaming fans.

Despite only being founded in 2023, the ‘five time-travelling rock wizards’ are clearly experienced beyond the age of the band. Not only was their musical performance flawless, almost like listening to a studio recording. The gestures and movements of the band members were methodological, rehearsed, choreographed. Moment after moment, time after time, they find photogenic moments on and off the stage. With few exceptions, the band controlled the audience with their friendly and infectious personalities.

“Gotta fight for it” Vaun yelled while throwing their newly printed hats out into the audience; “We got condoms coming”.

“I’ve been partying all week so I haven’t sang at all for a week but I’m getting my energy from you guys”.

…It’s easy to see why they had such a large audience.

Musically, the songs were just as interactive and exciting as the band themselves. Every song had a memorable, singable chorus, and most of the songs had built in sing-along sections, which the band, of course, taught us first. Although the audience were a little apprehensive during the first sing-along in their cover of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Bad Habits’, they were soon bouncing up and down the drops and breaks of the music.

Perhaps their most memorable number was a relatively new song, ‘Paradox Love’. The verses oscillate between melodic rock and punk rap, almost disguising itself as first a love ballad before showing you the darker, harsher, paradoxical side of love. “And now I see you hurting, You stab and hold me”. Love-hate-stabbing-holding; “My heart it now bleeds”. The texture of the piece was just as paradoxical and complex with chants, bass slaps, military drum rolls, shredding all encompassed with their fun viral energy.

Though, perhaps that viral energy at times goes a little far. While it’s undoubtable that the show was exciting and smooth, it at times felt a bit too smooth. The moves were too perfect. Stage personalities too much a persona. Even Vaun’s speech patterns seemed to be a riff off social media influencers (“you guys!” “you guys!” “you guys are really…really the best”). And although the band does have five magical wizards, it at times felt like Elder wizard Vaun (and friends) instead of one cohesive school of musical magic. No one else in the band spoke or gave banter, though in at least one song they touched him.

But, am I being a bit mean about a band as smooth as an HD music video? Yes, probably. Their love for music and performance was undoubtedly true, and just like the Underground, undoubtedly Hong Kong – why? Because they admitted their love for this ‘electric’ city before singing “Coming Home”: “All of us are not from HK but this, this HK is our home”. Persona or not, the performance was undoubtedly fun and I look forward to being mesmerised by them again.
– Cyril Ma

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