Winter of our disco tents
Get your dance groove on as the city prepares to host a flurry of festivals to see out the year, writes Rachel Mok
Not long ago, music lovers could be heard complaining about the lack of festivals in Hong Kong. How times have changed. In the last few months of 2013 alone sizeable music events are being held almost every weekend at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade.
Before the Clockenflap festival (November 29-December 1), Blohk Party (December 7) and the Freespace Festival (December 15-16), the waterfront area will play host to the Lion Rock Music Festival on November 2.
According to Vinci Chan Wing-sze, managing director of the event's organiser 168 Productions, the Lion Rock Music Festival features the "strongest line-up, with multiple food and drinks vendors on site, which guarantees a full day of excitement for festivalgoers".
Where Lion Rock Music Festival really stands out is in its proud line-up of Hong Kong acts, mixing mainstream and independent artists.
"We hope to create a music festival that belongs to the Hong Kong people and shows support for local music. We would also like to take this opportunity to introduce more new and independent bands to the audience," Chan says.
The festival is going about this introduction in a fairly hectic manner, presenting 16 acts in seven hours. Larger acts, such as LMF and RubberBand, will play 30-minute sets, while independent bands, including Chochukmo, ni.ne.mo and KillerSoap, will each play three or four songs earlier in the day, according to the organiser.
For local music veterans, LMF and seven-piece rock band Tai Chi are the big names to watch. Founded in 1993, LMF were the first hip hop act to emerge from the SAR. The collective has not been active in recent years, and its frontman rapper MC Yan once said the group "refuses to be part of Hong Kong's commercial arts and entertainment system".
But this winter the outfit plays the Lion Rock Music Festival and Blohk Party, with other local hip hop acts including Edison Chen Koon-hei and new rapper Chef.
After they formed in 1985, Tai Chi became one of the most influential rock bands from Hong Kong, until a hiatus in the mid 1990s. However, guitarist Joey Tang Kin-ming has been an active session musician for major Canto-pop acts, and also a music director at local label Gold Typhoon.
While Tai Chi and LMF have not released any new material recently, their shows will be a stroll down memory lane.
Some new names to keep an eye on include Yellow!, a pop-rock quartet featuring ex-members of Wildchild. Without Wildchild's frontman and renowned radio host Jim Yan Chi-hong, Yellow! produce a more mature rock sound catering to the twentysomething market. The lyrics of their most recent hit, The Senior Says It's Okay, were written by street-smart rapper MastaMic and focus on the frustrations of office life.
Another notable performer is Ellen Joyce Loo. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter, has never forgotten her love of rock 'n' roll and background as one half of the Canto-pop duo at17.
Loo covered Patti Smith's People Have The Power during a concert this summer, she played the Silvermine Bay Music Festival in Mui Wo a few weeks back, and is now scheduled to play the Lion Rock Music Festival, as well as Clockenflap.
Loo appeared on the bill at Silvermine Bay with Chochukmo, who recently released their sophomore album, A Tragedy Your Majesty. Post-production problems saw the launch date put back more than six months, but it has been worth the wait.
Produced by Jason Choi Tak-choi with visuals by photographer Wing Shya and artist Simon Birch, the 12-track album topped the local iTunes album chart within days of its launch.
Also not to be missed is local hipsters' favourite ni.ne.mo an electro-pop trio who describe themselves as "your girlfriend's favourite band".
The trio will release their debut album Afterparty at Hidden Agenda on November 15, featuring the new single, Instagram Queen, and will also appear at Clockenflap.
With short timeslots for independent bands, up-and-coming outfits will have to try extra hard to impress Lion Rock audiences who may only be interested in the larger, more-established acts, such as the multi-talented Jun Kung and Canto-pop heartthrob, Pakho Chau. The festival is mainly dominated by rock music, so Chau's recent switch to K-Pop could make him the black sheep of the event.
Although 2013 has witnessed an upsurge in music festivals, Chan stresses every event has its own edge and aesthetic, and they should not be seen as competing against each other.
"We only realised there were so many music festivals this year after we decided to put on the Lion Rock Music Festival," she says, adding that the plan was to make it an annual event.
"I think each event carries its own theme, and it's good to give different bands and musicians more platforms to showcase themselves."
Lion Rock Music Festival, November 2, 3pm, West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade, HK$300-HK$600, HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 2323 2811