Capital's best head south this winter
It seems apt that in a city that loves a flutter, Kap Liu took a punt and it paid off handsomely.
A long-time fan of Beijing's burgeoning pub-rock scene, Liu spent a few months last year looking for ways to lure bands down south. With little money to spend on either fees or flights, things were not looking good - until she realised that most of the bands were coming to Hong Kong for the Cure concert in July.
'We weren't having much luck until then,' she says. 'But once we found out they were all going to be here at the one time anyway, we didn't have much trouble convincing them to play. We took a gamble and thought the people here would like them - and they did.'
That's how the first Beijing Explosion was born. Featuring mainland rockers New Pants, Hedgehog and PK14, it was a stunning success as the bands played to a packed Fringe Club audience that was left hungry for more. And with interest in the Beijing music scene growing, Liu immediately started planning for her second Explosion.
'We knew this time around there would be some financial burden as the bands would not be paying for themselves,' she says. 'But people loved the first gig so much that they kept asking us when we would be having another.
'Everyone seems interested in the mainland music scene now and the bands are starting to tour all over the world. We want to make sure Hong Kong doesn't miss out.'
Having formed her own promotion company, Crazy Young Master, and being able to lean on a friendship formed at university with one of the founders of China's Modern Sky records, Liu has kept an eye on the movements of many mainland bands. She also travels to Beijing as often as she can - and across the border to Shenzhen and Guangzhou, where the bands sometimes play.
'We wanted to invite bands that are building a strong following and a reputation for their live acts,' she says. 'That's what has been happening with Carsick Cars.'
The three-piece (below) have just released their self-titled debut - it's available at White Noise and Zoo Records - and in the past year have taken their talents overseas, where they have toured with the likes of Sonic Youth.
Their raucous sound has its grounding in the pop-rock sensibilities of the likes of the Cure and the Velvet Underground but with unique edges added by vocalist Zhang Shouwang.
'They are similar in style to Sonic Youth too,' says Liu. 'And they are one of the most exciting bands around. It's the Chinese element to that familiar sound that makes them special - they are very powerful and creative on stage.'
Carsick Cars will be joined by Dreamlike and Snapline, and Liu is promising that Beijing Explosion is just the beginning. There are plans to link up with the mainland's Modern Sky Festival - either by having a local version of the event or enticing some of the headline acts to Hong Kong.
'There's been some learning on both sides,' says Liu. 'The bands were not sure people down here wanted to hear them and we were not sure the bands knew much about the music scene here. But we've made the connection now and everything from now on will be easier for everyone. We were really encouraged by the reaction to the first night and things can only get bigger and better.'
While organising the events has been more of a labour of love for Liu than a money-making exercise, she believes the gigs will start to pay off - in more ways than one.
'There's not much money in it for us, but we don't do it for money,' says Liu. 'It gives us a chance to see the bands as well and we hope they might help inspire some local talent to get up there and do the same.'
Beijing Explosion, featuring Carsick Cars, Dreamlike and Snapline, Sun, 8pm, Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Rd, Central, HK$150 (members/students), HK$180. Inquiries: 2521 7251