Bands' political message subverts cut-price Kai Tak concert
Bands performing at show, funded by developers, on day of march deliver message sponsors may not have wanted to hear, then join protest
Critics said the Hong Kong Dome Festival was a tool designed to keep Hong Kong's young people away from yesterday's political march - but one local band ensured that music fans who chose pop music over protest didn't miss the call for democracy.
RubberBand were pilloried online after being put on the bill for the gig, but their 30-minute set had a distinctly political theme - even if the crowd was more concerned about the storm swell over the Kai Tak venue.
The rain poured onto the former airport as RubberBand's four members took to the stage sporting black T-shirts with the word "NO!" across their chests.
"It is this unhealthy election system that creates all the problems … we need to fight for 2017 universal suffrage and freedom of speech," said frontman Mau Hou-cheong before belting out mainland rocker Cui Jian's I Have Nothing, an anthem for 1989's Tiananmen Square democracy protest, and local alternative duo Tat Ming Pair's Ask the God.
"We should be choosing our chief executives," he told the crowd of 18,000.
The group and fellow local band Mr, which opened the show, faced calls to withdraw from the concert, which was funded by property developers and coincided with the huge July 1 pro-democracy march.
RubberBand reversed their initial decision to pull out as they had already signed the contract. But the band promised to join the protest after their set and donate their performance fee to charities. Mr also later said they would donate their earnings from the show. Both bands joined the march later in the evening.
RubberBand also delivered renditions of Bob Dylan's Blowing in the Wind, John Lennon's Power to the People, Do You Hear The People Sing from the musical Les Miserables and their own anti-national-education-curriculum anthem, Open Your Eyes.
At a press conference before the show, Florence Chan, chairwoman of festival organiser the Performing Industry Association, said the event was a way for the music industry to call on the government for a venue with a capacity of 30,000 seats. She said the concert had been hijacked by those with a political agenda.
The Kai Tak redevelopment is due to include a 50,000-capacity stadium, and there are also plans for a large performance venue in the West Kowloon Cultural District, if private funding can be secured. Chan would not comment on whether those plans would meet the industry's needs.
Organisers said the 18,000 tickets - some priced at just HK$99 for a show featuring Korean stars used to playing HK$1,000-per-ticket gigs - were sold out within a few hours. But not everyone had to pay.
"We got free tickets at school," said Form Four student Carmen Yuen, 16. She said one of the concert sponsors, Wharf, gave tickets to her school, which she refused to name. Wharf did not respond to a request for comment.
"I had never thought about joining the protest, Yuen added.
Organisers had said they would cancel the show if typhoon signal No 3 was hoisted. But it carried on despite the fact the signal went up before the 2pm start.
Some fans had queued for days to get the best spots to see K-pop acts Shinee, f(x), EXO, Super Junior-M's Henry and BoA. "If the show is cancelled now, those teenage girls will probably jump into the sea. They are hardcore K-pop fans," said a concert staffer. "Some have camped out here for five days."
Concert-goers were split over whether the show was an attempt to keep them away from the march.
"The tickets only cost HK$99, which was quite cheap," said Nicole Chung Lai-yin, 20. "It's attractive for many students."
Winnie Yip, 16, who started queuing at 2pm on Sunday, did not think the concert would deter people from joining the march.
"Those who want to go to the march will go," she said.