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Hong Kong gigs

Hong Kong indie rockers Chochukmo to stage immersive multimedia concert at Kitec

The band offer a trip inside the ‘Tree Hole Project’, a multimedia show that’s the fruit of collaboration with many other local artists, and say they’re going to explore the potential of mixing their music with other art forms from now on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2016, 8:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2016, 8:03am

Hong Kong indie rock legends Chochukmo will embark on an immersive experiment on August 24, ferrying audience members down a veritable rabbit hole of musical expression.

For months now, the five band members have been building on the idea of a multimedia concert, culminating in what they have named the Tree Hole Project. The Star Hall venue at Kitec in Kowloon Bay will be transformed into an enclosed tree-hole nest, an effect generated by five monstrous LED screens projecting cutting-edge visual art. Inside this tree hole, Chochukmo will stand at the centre, surrounded by their audience.

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The breakdown of the traditional linear stage and audience setting allows for a fourth-wall type of scenario, much like in theatre. Band members Mike Orange, Jan Curious, Less Hunter, Kitty Trouble and Tom Cheeky were mostly inspired by experimental musicians such as Radiohead, and the medium of musical theatre.

“Some of us have participated in one or two musicals with [local theatre company] Windmill Grass Theatre, and so we know a bit about how music can work in different ways,” says Orange. “There’s not only the physical rock concert, going to the front of the stage and showing off and stuff – there are a lot of different ways to use music as a medium to express feelings.”

Metaphorically, the act of falling down or into a hole brings up a fountain of references in pop culture. There is, of course, Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole, which his protagonist falls down, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro, Mei follows a creature into a tree hole where she finds the giant Totoro dozing. More recently, the real-life story of Texan girl Annabel Beam is as inspiring as it is mysterious – she claims to have fallen down a 9-metre tree hole, and didn’t just survive but was cured of a lifelong illness after receiving a vision of Jesus in the tree.

Needless to say, there is something otherworldly about these holes found in nature that beckon us to go into them.

Orange elaborates on Chochukmo’s particular vision for using the tree hole in the concert. “There are two meanings,” he says. “The first meaning is that in popular culture, a tree hole is a place for secrets we can’t share, a metaphor for when you’re talking to yourself. People need time to verbally communicate with themselves; so the tree hole represents a conversation with the inner self.

“The second meaning is that the tree hole is different from reality, with rules that are completely different, like in Alice in Wonderland. We want people to come into the tree hole, to put down all the usual rules and just feel the music, feel the heartbeats of others, and what is happening in the soul.”

In order to fully create this environment of musical and spiritual immersion, Chochukmo are also breaking away from their usual style of performing live. The gig will be split into five segments, or “chapters”, and each chapter will be directed by a band member. “Most of the time in our sessions, there’s a lot of compromising,” Orange says of the band’s typical style of formulating set lists for gigs.

“But this time, each member will create one of the scenes and the rest of us will help achieve that vision. People usually see Chochukmo as a very active band with lots of charisma, movement and body language. For this project, we are trying to bring out the different characters of the band members.”

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The band enlisted the help of various local collaborators for the project, including a visual artist, a sound production company, video directors and more. Teasers for the show have gone up on YouTube and fans of the band, as well as the musicians themselves, are eagerly awaiting this event aimed at changing the nature of gigging in Hong Kong.

“We want to provide another choice for people. It’s not conventional,” says Orange, adding that this concert is just the beginning of Chochukmo’s experimentations in exploring the dimensions of live music. “After this, we can figure out what our next step is.

“We have things in mind, like purely instrumental shows. For the pop music scene in Hong Kong, it seems like singing is a must, but overseas like in Taiwan and in Japan, there are a lot of popular instrumental groups. Or we’re thinking about collaborations with different art forms, performing arts maybe, or dance groups. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a ‘concert’ – we want to mix art forms, and music is just one art form.”

This philosophy is emblematic of the band’s decade-long career. Early variations with different band members and their sudden disbanding and regrouping a few years back have shown that Chochukmo are not simply a black-and-white band, but something more. They are a musical energy that transforms and redirects like water – and on August 24, the current will change once more.

Tree Hole Project, Aug 24, 8pm, Star Hall, Kitec, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$480. Inquiries: www.hkticketing.com/events