by Adam Wright
Black day for White Party
Imagine that you pay HK$420 for a ticket to a late-night jazz concert at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and as you are queueing for entry, a scuffle breaks out in the line. Later, after you enter the venue, the police arrive and lock it down, stopping the music for two hours and turning on every light while they search all concert-goers.
It's 4am by the time the police raid is over and after two hours of standing in the bright light with plainclothes officers guarding the closed bar, most people are not in the mood to party any more, regardless of whether the jazz band have hung around long enough to take to the stage again. So you walk out, bitter at having blown HK$420 and perhaps just as bitter because you know no one will listen if you complain anyway.
An unlikely sequence of events at a jazz concert, isn't it? But what if you substitute the word 'jazz' for 'electronic music'? Many people who attended dance parties this year will know what Outtakes is getting at, as many of the events they attended this year were raided by the police, whose sole aim seemed to be to shut them down.
The scenario described above - typical of police raids on large-scale parties this year - took place at the White Party, held earlier this month at Happy Valley racecourse's Adrenaline club. It was billed as one of the biggest parties of the year and organised by a crew named Lotion, which has become accustomed to early, police-enforced closures of its events.
Lotion representative Jason Fung says he is starting to question his involvement in organising such events due to the constant problems with police and government red tape. 'Does this police pressure really prevent crimes being committed?' he asks. 'It seems they are really aiming in the wrong direction by constantly targeting people who are just going out to listen to music and having fun.
'Does this city really support the development of creative arts, even though they say they will learn from countries such as Japan and Singapore? Even in Singapore, which has a very strait-laced government, they act very differently regarding dance parties because they know electronic music is a form of art, not just purely about drugs.'
The police won't comment on whether they would conduct the same invasive operation at a jazz concert, saying only: 'Enforcement actions against dangerous drugs activities are conducted from time to time. The operations may cause inconvenience to attendees not involved in any drug activities. However, in order to fight dangerous drugs activities, police will continue to take necessary action.'
After searching several hundred people during the White Party lock-down, the police admitted they arrested just one person for drug possession. It hardly sounds like a drug-fuelled orgy worthy of a large-scale police raid.
Finally, let's return to the jazz analogy - although it's true electronic music has a strong association with illegal substances, so do many of the biggest names in jazz, such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ray Charles and Charlie Parker. But now jazz has a veneer of middle-class respectability, would any Ray Charles fan take that kind of treatment sitting down? Of course not. Clubbers deserve the same respect.
A feast of music and comedy
City Festival at the Fringe Club isn't all about being confused by experimental theatre - some fantastic live music and comedy is scheduled to take place during the festival from January 10-26.
World music followers will be well catered for by the Lan Cao Bluegrass Band from Mongolia, who play contemporary and traditional tunes from their homeland and the mainland, with vocals performed in the intriguing throat-singing technique. The band play on January 13-14.
Australian comedian Justin Hamilton will perform his award-winning Three Colours Hammo show from January 10-12, while three cabaret singers also from Down Under present a tribute to the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the Flat On Your Bacharach performance from January 10-13.
Uncle Warren and His Magic Fingers on January 13 will see pianist Warren Wills display his keyboard wizardry, and local pianist Ted Lo presents a live showcase of some of his favourite jazz classics from January 10-12.
Some gorgeous voices are also set to caress our ears. New York singer Mary Fahl will perform songs inspired by revolutionary women from January 17-19, and chanteuse Eva Meier makes a return to Hong Kong for two nights of classic German cabaret on January 25-26.
Tickets are on sale at the Fringe Club.