Saturday, March 17th, 2012
What an amazing night this was! It’s been a long slow lead-up to our biggest event ever. Thank you to everyone who came to support the bands AND The Underground and thank you to those who couldn’t make it, there will be other shows too! Thanks to the team of musical friends whom I work with who make all these events possible. Thanks to our amazing sponsors, especially Becks and Zippo and Edifier! Thanks to HKGFM.net for hosting The Underground channel there! Thanks to Shaun B! Thanks to the bands themselves - we could only choose 5 for Underground 100, we love many more Hong Kong bands - we salute your passion, your creativity and your persistence - Hong Kong needs you! Thanks to Musique & Angus for those special hand-made leather straps. Thanks always to Mangrove Giant for that amazingly sexy iphone app you made & maintain for us! And big thank you to Wu So Lui who brought glamour and beauty to the night and finally a beard too!
And to those 10 lucky winners of the limited edition Zippos, treasure them, they are indeed special.
Love, Chris B xx
- Running Behind
- Perfect Life
- This Time
- One More Time
- Wonder World
I s’pose there was no more fitting way to have started the 100th-iest Underground show than with the band that seems to have hitched their trailer of momentous events with the Underground itself. I say this because the last time they played together was at the 5th anniversary show, and even then they’d specially reformed for the purpose. This performance of theirs made it 12 years since they first got together, and they don’t seem to be much worse for the wear. They’re clearly still capable of getting a good gambol going when they play, and while it would be disingenuous of me to say that their music is groundbreaking or very gripping, the atmosphere and crowd rapport they managed to create was a good as any I’ve experienced. If you accept that they compose poppy ditties (which you may well not) there is quite an interesting trove of versatility to be found. Their set touched on many different styles of song ranging from the typical (the classic polished Bryan Adams-style love song) to the quite unexpected (a pop metal number with a surprising amount of groove, and a (presumably) Arabic-influenced melody). Like most poppy bands, they don’t run the risk of overusing an approach (unlike, say, the unlistenably long metal solo), as things are polished and sleek. The downside is that the music can be predictable to the point of being tedious (but that’s not really the band’s fault), and is full of glib truisms and platitudes that grate on the mind’s ear. Also, I must pull them up for doing exactly what I hate with their synthesisers – using the kind of horn effects whose timbre I can only accurately describe as “douchey” (though, in all honesty, I’ve never heard a synthesised horn sound that wasn’t so). But, they are enjoyable to listen to nonetheless, made even more admirable by the fact that they haven’t played together for three whole years.
After the massive intro by Chris B and Wu So Lui, they opened with the tingling creepy Breakway, which vaguely resembled the Cranberries’ Zombie. The combination of husky voice, aggressive guitars contrasted with the rather bright keyboards made for an interesting soundscape, made better by the fact that they didn’t go for a needless solo. The rhythm combo fit in much better with the song, and the choice is noteworthy. This isn’t for lack of ability, though, because the very next song (and several thereafter) had a quite blisteringly shreddy solo. The very sugary 摸索 while being very standard pop fare, was really well-done, and the mood created is similar that created by bands like Keane. Actually, that’s probably the best illustrative comparison I can make; the floaty pleasantness of AirTub’s music is very similar to Keane’s. One More Time started off almost sounding like a slow version of Run to the Hills, and had more of the sonically interesting rhythm combo instead of a solo, making the song a real thumper. They ended with the very rousing and anthemic Wonder World, which had an oddly nursery-rhyme-like melody. The feel of the song even made up for the lame horns, attested to by headbanging people, and they finished off with grandiose finesse. In all, a very good way to start the show, and a definite testament to the band’s competence.
– Shashwati Kala
- Jasmine Revolution
- FBI Theme Song
- Man Love [Encore]
We’ve come to a stage in the HK indie scene, where there is such diversity, that there are at least 2-3 bands that are right for the same job. What I’m trying to say is, if you need a band that will guarantee entertainment, the veterans in FBI should be on your top 5 list. It’s been very quiet on the Fire Bird International’s front recently, so I was quite keen to see whether or not they still had their trademark flair.
To fill in the usual lull that is rigging up, front man Cain offered his congratulations to the UG in the form of a poem that he had prepared. “Ode to the Underground” I believe it was called. It set the crowd in good spirits, actually, perhaps maintained the current good vibes set by the previous band and heroes: ‘Airtub’ I should say.
FBI then proceeded to demonstrate that being an energetic band with great stage presences is like riding a bike, you simply just don’t forget. They rifled through their brand of what I’m calling fusion-pop-punk at a good pace and never failed to capture the interest of the crowd, who’s appreciation of popular songs such as Senorita, Jasmine Revolution and of course Man Love, was reflected in the amount of dancing and jumping that was taking place. My favourite moment from the set was during the FBI Anthem, which is this sort of … rap, I suppose, where the band introduces themselves, I saw a middle aged man in the audience watching very intensely with this look of bemusement on his face. It was sort of like he was unsure if it was the strangest, or greatest thing he had seen. Listen, the point is, he was watching… closely, and so was everyone else. Well done fellas, welcome back.
– Timmy Gunn (Shotgun Politics)
Surprise Guest: The Underground Crew Band.
(Click song titles to see the videos, and the band names to read about the bands’ performances at the Underground)
1. Queen of Diamond Hill (22Cats cover)
2. She’s the One (David Bowie Knives cover)
3. Sex Museum (The Sleeves cover)
4. (Use it For) What it’s For (Helter Skelter cover)
There was a surprise band earlier on in the night that I want to draw attention to.
Yanyan, Angus, Vivek and Calvin, are all familiar faces at gigs in Hong Kong and not just under the Underground flag. They got together to form a band that would play one song from each of the released Underground compilations, of which there are 4 and it goes without saying that you should definitely own all of them.
I’m told they only practiced 3 times, which is pretty impressive because they sounded great. What was awesome was that they had guest vocalists who were also members of the Underground crew. Cliff the bouncer who insulted my football team sang a David Bowie Knives song. Possibly the greatest highlight of the night. Marketing dude Keenan, I believe his name was, sang a good cover of a Helter Skelter song and we can’t forget that Chris B sang her sexy rendition of Sex Museum by The Sleeves! Brilliant stuff.
I was secretly hoping that when it came to the CD4 selection, Shaun (aka Mr Chris B), who was standing side stage when all this was happening , would get up and sing 852 by Shotgun Politics. Alas it was not to be. Next time?!
– Timmy Gunn (Shotgun Politics)
- Made in China
- The Admire
- Salary Race
- Please Hold, Rock and Roll
- Love Trap 愛情陷阱 (with Wu So Lui)
I remember watching these guys a few times, in fact, I’m fairly sure I might have reviewed them before. I have always thought that they had good songs, but their delivery could have dealt with more work. They have however, improved each time I have seen them. At the Underground 100 though, dear GOD did they bring their A game.
It must be noted that these dudes who play a comedic punk rock, as in, the songs are funny, have won the HK battle of the bands award. So you have some idea of the calibre we’re dealing with here.
Now I don’t understand Cantonese if it ain’t directions to my next char siu fan fix, but I have been told many times that these guys are funny. I watched a lot of their set with my buddy Jan, who of course fronts the legendry Qiu Hong, and he too informs me that Senseless are some funny mofo’s, just in case all the laughter in the room wasn’t the give away. He also tells me that he loves them, and rightly so.
I have been to many shows in HK now and seen certain bands on more than one occasion. I have however, not seen a band that has grown in confidence and deliver an execution of a set, in the way that Senseless did at UG100. Hell, I’m tempted to say they stole the show! There were times where it felt like we were at a Senseless concert whose devoted fans loved every moment of it.
As I said, I don’t understand the songs, but I understand good song writing, and Senseless are very, very good at that.
– Timmy Gunn (Shotgun Politics)
- Sex Museum
- Thursday Song
- Totalitarian Love Song
- Walk With the Devil
- Mirror (with Ivy Fernie)
It’s always so hard for me to review The Sleeves because I like to think that they are my mates! Except Keith, who is my Uncle Keith and my music career advisor. One can’t befriend the staff. I’m always going to be biased, but I do legitimately think that they are a good honest rock’n’roll band who write songs from the layman’s heart. I asked Philip from the band ‘Lone Star Radio’, who was watching The Sleeves with me, what he thought. He accurately answered “They have that Brit-Rock vibe with the good songs going on, I like them … I BELIEVE them” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The Sleeves are another band who have grown a lot, I have seen them in quite a few incarnations, and I feel like they have found a good place with this current line up and role responsibility.
Pete, the band’s new lead guitarist wears sunglasses on stage. If you know me well, you know I f****** hate guitarists who wear sunnies on stage, IF… IF…they can’t back it up. My hat’s off to Pete, he played with attitude, flair and had great lead guitar work, I forgot that I initially had beef with him and became an instant fan. His riffs and solos bring that little bit more of an edge to The Sleeves that I previously think was missing. This is saying a lot as I was a big fan of previous axe man Bee. I also have decided that Uncle Keith is the right front man for the band, and that they have a great rhythm section with bassist AG possibly being one of the most fun band members to watch in HK.
The Sleeves recently released their debut CD. You should definitely pick it up. Now.
– Timmy Gunn (Shotgun Politics)
1. Let’s Go 出發
2. Look For Treasures 尋寶
4. Get Back 尋找回來
5. Boom Theory 爆炸論
6. We’re 我們
7. Night 城內入夜
8. Can’t Leave 離不開
It’s quite late in the night when Qiu Hong take to the stage, but there are still a very good number of people in the room. That’s Qiu Hong for you though, a band that has continued to deliver great sets and write great songs over the years that their fans will stick with them anywhere they go.
There’s this air of excitement that has given everyone in the room that second wind when Qiu Hong step up on stage. I for one haven’t seen them in a while and judging by just how good all the bands had been so far, surely Qiu Hong were to be the cherry on what has been a FANTASTIC cake. Yum cake. ANYWAY. Qiu Hong explodes into the start of the set and there are instantly devil horns, rock fists and much cheering going up into the air.
Qiu Hong take great care with their sound, and this was evident as they sounded incredibly powerful. Their balance was just right. My favourite thing about QH, is how charismatic Jan is as a front man. He’s this tiny dude who is very well mannered and quiet when you chat with him, but when he performs, he owns that stage, and you are privileged to be their watching him lead the beast that is Qiu Hong.
I’m not sure if Qiu Hong is a professional band, but they certainly seem like it. They look at the set in terms of the bigger picture, it is paced very well, slowing down at the right moment and transitioning in and out of their heavier songs with great ease. They are another band on the bill that has shown brilliant song writing. Their melodies all work together at the right times. Every note sounds like it has been deliberated over carefully before making it into the song.
Then of course, there is the megaphone. Screaming into a megaphone is badass. The End.
It’s been something like two years since I turned up at a show armed with a notepad and pen but when I got the text asking if I could come review THE UNDERGROUND 100 celebrations, I would have been a damn fool to say no. Chris B and her ever-growing legion of Underground crew have been giving the HK indie scene a home for eight years now. Upon arrival at Grappas, I see a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, many of whom, are also in bands. Like a lot of these people, the Underground gave me my first chance to perform in Hong Kong, way back in 2005 with my angsty teenage emo band ‘Hotcakes on 55th’. I thought it was a fitting tribute that so many had turned out to support the centurion of shows. Well done guys, here’s to the next hundred.
– Timmy Gunn (Shotgun Politics)
Photos © 2012 by ANGUS LEUNG and Carina Ho
Poster by ANGUS LEUNG