Clock 'n' roll
A five-metre-tall rabbit sculpture lurks in the bushes and punters try bizarre custom-made contraptions while cutting-edge cinema is projected in a film tent. If this doesn't sound like your usual rock festival, that's because Clockenflap isn't one.
The two-day festival taking place at Cyberport this weekend is a true multimedia celebration, and while the main focus will be on the music - and great music at that, with a host of overseas names alongside some of our city's most exciting acts - the creative types behind Clockenflap stress the art and films on show are equally important.
Clockenflap directors, Britons Jay Forster and Mike Hill, were two of the driving forces behind local techno collective Robot, known for transforming nightclubs through decorations, installations and projected visuals. It's a philosophy that has been taken to an entirely new level with Clockenflap.
Last year's debut of Clockenflap was warmly welcomed by those who had been crying out for a festival since the demise of Rockit several years earlier. Upwards of 2,000 people packed the outdoor area at Cyberport last January, and bigger crowds are expected this year - partly because the event has been extended to a full weekend.
And those who complained that last year's lineup was underwhelming should be satisfied by the inclusion of several hot British acts, including alt-rock duo Blood Red Shoes, Alexis Taylor from electro-pop outfit Hot Chip, indie-rock act Los Campesinos and acoustic singer-songwriter Fink.
'The first time we did it, we didn't really have much idea about what Clockenflap could be, but this year we have a much stronger idea of the concept. The music lineup, the arts lineup and the film lineup have all come together quite nicely - especially the music, which is a nice balance of indie, electronic, whatever,' says Forster.
'We had some challenges earlier in the year due to the depressed economy and we questioned our sanity for a while for taking on something this big. But we asked for help [from sponsors] and the response was mind blowing.'
This year Forster and Hill have taken on the services of Justin Sweeting, who was also involved with the now-defunct Rockit festival. 'Everyone has an opinion and expectations of what a festival should be,' Sweeting says. 'Managing those expectations and keeping focused on the overall festival mission requires constant, conscious attention. An ongoing challenge ... is keeping the sincerity of the festival as priority No 1, as we will hopefully continue to grow it.'
The festival has certainly grown this year. Apart from being extended to two days and the musical roster expanded accordingly, the multimedia aspects of Clockenflap have also been enhanced. A who's who of Hong Kong urban artists, including the ST/ART collective and Graphic Airlines, will create artworks during the festival, while the film tent will screen works by British short film labels.
Forster says: 'Music takes the lead in terms of festival billing, simply because audiences respond to this first - it's always the question that people ask, 'Who's headlining?' But ... the film and arts aspects of the festival really give life to the weekend and provide opportunities for the audience to explore, discover and interact. Clockenflap is all about the unexpected.
'We've listened to feedback from last year and fiddled with the nuts and bolts of the festival to make it a more cohesive experience. We have also furthered our ecological contribution by creating an 'eco-village' in partnership with Ecovision Asia,' he says, adding that the event is carbon neutral.
Hill says the only challenge in expanding the festival to a full weekend was having to fill more spots, but in a town where a music festival can mean four bands spread over three hours, he has had some explaining to do.
'Where we're from, most festivals go for two days, but to some people here it's a strange concept,' says Hill. 'We've even had people ask whether the exact same lineup will be playing on both days.'
It wasn't just those in the target market who were confused. 'We've gone to the licensing people and the police, we've explained what we're doing, and they were really helpful. But then someone would ask something like: 'Does one band work with all the different singers?' And we're like, 'Er ... no, we have lots of different bands.''
Local music festivals such as Rockit struggled with such cluelessness in the past, which stands in contrast to the official support similar events receive elsewhere in the region. Forster and Hill say the festival will look to the government in the future, but only once Clockenflap has found its feet.
'We have a clear vision in terms of creative direction and production. But the festival could benefit greatly from government recognition - leading to both financial support along with endorsement and promotion,' Forster says. 'But first we'd like to get the festival established and show what a good thing this festival can be for Hong Kong. We've been lucky with Cyberport. It boasts both greenery and super hi-tech facilities that are key components of Clockenflap.'
The expansion of Clockenflap won't stop there, as the organisers have high hopes for the future. 'We're looking to expand the festival in terms of scale, duration and pre- and post-festival activities and projects,' says Forster. 'We have been discussing options to expand the brand overseas. But Clockenflap will always be a Hong Kong festival; if we are able to feed back into and enhance the Hong Kong scene via expansion overseas, then we shall.'
But for now the creative scene will get a boost this weekend when acclaimed local acts such as indie-poppers Chochukmo and laptop rockers Snoblind share the stage with the likes of US electronic musician Yacht and Jamaican-Chinese reggae icon Clive Chin.
What are the organisers most looking forward to? Sweeting says: 'It's going to be wonderful to see Chochukmo on a big stage this year. They're a genuinely exciting local prospect. Pet Conspiracy from Beijing are a real coup for us as well, and will be joining us for their first Hong Kong show. All the artists have been chosen because they have one thing in common: they kick ass.
'Something else I'm also looking forward to are the free Bloody Marys. We'll be giving them out to festival-goers who are on site before 2pm on Sunday - just to help ease any remaining Saturday night excesses.'
Clockenflap, Sat-Sun, noon-11pm, Cyberport, one-day pass, HK$290 (students), HK$390, weekend pass, HK$450 (students), HK$550, HK Ticketing, Tom Lee. For more details, go to clockenflap.com
Los Campesinos! (Britain)
Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip) DJ set (Britain)
Pet Conspiracy (Beijing)
False Alarm (HK)
Uptown Rockers (HK)
Noughts & Exes (HK)
Volt In Music (HK)
Songs for Children (HK)
Metal Postcard Sound System (HK)
DNK RCK (HK)
Blood Red Shoes (Britain)
Fink, solo acoustic set (Britain)
Radioactive Sago Project (Philippines)
Clive Chin (Jamaica)
Poubelle International (HK)
Pimpin' Aint Easy (HK)
Posin til Closing (HK)
Ray Dollars (HK)
Metal Postcard Sound System (HK)