THE CITY HAS LANDED its first annual music and sports festival on the back of the city's popular Hong Kong Sevens. The inaugural six-day HK Fan Zone kicks off at the New Central Harbourfront on March 25 and will run through to the end of the big rugby weekend.
American hip hop trio De La Soul and party-rocking DJ duo 2ManyDJs are among the international acts lined up to perform at the concert, which can accommodate up to 15,000 fans. The 36,000 square metre Central site will be split into eight zones and giant screens will show live coverage from the Sevens.
The Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) - working with the Hong Kong Tourism Board - received the green light to use the venue five weeks ago, although plans for an event dedicated to fans have been in the pipeline for eight months.
The union is working towards a six- to 10-year plan for HK Fan Zone and has already begun lining up acts for 2015.
The Central site and its Hong Kong skyline backdrop will be a big draw for fans, as well as international and local acts. "Lots of bands play at AsiaWorld-Expo and the convention centre, but the new site, with that great city backdrop and the Hong Kong Sevens atmosphere, is very enticing for a lot of artists," says Antony Phillips, HKRFU head of events and sponsorship.
Unlike at AsiaWorld-Expo concerts, where tickets start at about HK$680, HK Fan Zone tickets will be heavily subsidised, with pricing starting at HK$200.
The opening night on March 25 will see Hong Kong soul Mando-pop singer-songwriter Khalil Fong joined by local rock band Mr. The following night will be free entry for all, and will feature a line-up of local artists, classical music, jazz musicians and the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir.
On Thursday night, Belgian turntablist duo 2ManyDJs - made up of members of indie band Soulwax - will become the first international act to headline. They will be supported by The Cuban Brothers, a hilarious trio who play feel-good, soulful and sexy Latin tunes.
On Friday night, local indie music promoters Underground HK will mark 10 years on the scene with a showcase of local acts. De La Soul will take to the stage on Saturday night, supported by The Cuban Brothers and local DJ outfit Uptown Rockers. All of the live music performances are timed to start after the rugby, giving fans time to get from Hong Kong Stadium to the Central site.
It all winds up with the Sunday Family Extravaganza, which features live acts for the kids including the Smurfs and the Teletubbies, as well as stilt walkers, balloon artists and clowns. Parents can keep an eye on the rugby on the giant screens and a surprise is planned after the final match - it wouldn't be a surprise if we told you, but it will tie in with the action at the stadium.
Organisers have collaborated with the Clockenflap festival for some aspects, and say HK Fan Zone does not intend to take away from the annual arts and music festival which attracted more than 20,000 music lovers in December.
"There are some similarities to Clockenflap, but we will also have interactive games, some of which will be rugby focused, fairground rides, F&B, and a carnival aspect. They have assisted with music suggestions and Ticketflap are managing the ticket system for us," says Phillips.
Hong Kong Stadium can only seat 40,000 people, so the new HK Fan Zone - which can accommodate a total of 32,000 - will massively extend the reach of the Hong Kong Sevens. Between 80,000 and 120,000 people are expected to attend the six-day festival, with doors opening from 9am to 11pm daily.
Access to about 80 per cent of the site will be free, and there will be free activities as well as traditional carnival games, inflatable toys, log flume-style games and a 90-metre climbing frame with rope walks and zip lines for the young and young at heart.
Not to be outdone, the stadium has pulled out all the stops and organisers say they have booked even more entertainment this year and are making better use of space within the stadium.
Top of the list is the official Queen tribute show, The Queen Extravaganza. Founded by two of the original Queen members - drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May - the band will play from the South Stand on the Saturday from 2pm-3pm.
On the Friday night there will be local talent on show in the form of the homegrown hip hop crew 24Herbs and jazz guitarist Eugene Pao. A mini stage on the East Upper Level concourse will host four school bands, as well as the Hong Kong Welsh Male Voice Choir and local cover band Bus Uncle.
Jazz a capella group the Oxford Gargoyles will liven up the mix and cheerleading dancing girls the Kukri Starlets will add a touch of glamourto the proceedings over most of the weekend.
HK Fan Zone, March 25-31, 9am-11pm, New Central Harbourfront, from HK$200. Inquiries: hkfanzone.com/en/
More Sevens fun
● Prudential Beach 5s, Repulse Bay, March 22-23. Free family entertainment, beach rugby, netball and dodgeball, plus a dedicated kids zone, and a live band and DJ for the after-play party. hkbeach5s.com
● Louis Roederer Champagne Tent, Indian Recreation Club, 63 Caroline Hill Road, Causeway Bay, March 28- 30, 6.30pm until late. Live bands and DJs, HK$450 on the door, HK$300 or HK$350 in advance, tel: 2530 2773, ironmongerevents.com