Emerging from its reputation as Hong Kong's sleaze capital, Wan Chai is turning into a mecca for musicians. With the Wanch, Carnegie's, bb's and more recently alternative rock venue Dusk Till Dawn, the district now has a number of live music spots. Moonshine 1928 is the newest addition, but it does not see itself as direct competition to the others. 'We're basing this on a middle to older clientele,' manager Mary Ng said. 'We're trying to be a little different from the rest of Wan Chai. Our directors felt that what was missing in Wan Chai was a space for middle-aged people to go.' Inspired by the American Prohibition days, when moonshine was the accepted term for black market alcohol, Moonshine 1928 is an obscure little venue. The small, dimly lit restaurant is 1930s America with a distinct local feel, particularly with the tacky lighted refrigerators behind the bar. The cuisine is of the East-meets-West variety, an odd choice for an American theme bar. 'Well, we are in Asia,' Ms Ng said, 'but we still have that Western side.' The band similarly seems a little out of place with this theme. Called the Moonshine Band, the quintet perform mainly commercial pop, instead of the era's swing, jazz and blues. 'We have to take care of the audience,' guitarist Stephen Chan said. 'So we can start with the jazz theme, but we still have to do the commercial requests.' With a repertoire that includes Joe Cocker's Up Where We Belong, Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight and Tina Turner's What's Love Got To Do With It, combined with coloured slow-moving strobe lights, the place has a strange karaoke feel to it. Aside from audience preference, commercial hits are what these musicians are used to. Vocalist Lorina Alonzo has been in Hong Kong for the past 13 years, after moving here from the Philippines. For the past 10 she has sung in hotel lobby lounges. The 28-year-old hopes this new gig will give her a chance to experiment with soul and blues. The remaining band members are similarly looking to Moonshine as a way of exploring new avenues. Which is rather odd considering Chan, drummer Douglas Tang and keyboard player Ivan Leung all have had success within the local music scene. Chan is the leader of Alan Tam's backing band, and the trio has also played with Jacky Cheung. Despite having experienced the thrill of a packed Coliseum, all three are enjoying the relative peace of Moonshine. 'Being here is more relaxing,' said Leung, also 28 years old. 'It's much freer. Alan Tam concerts are more stressful.' Chan agrees, and believes the opportunity is also good for them musically. 'Here is another dimension that we want to venture in to. At those shows you are limited. Here you can really expand on your knowledge. So many back-up musicians only work three to four gigs a year. In between what is there to do? 'This is our chance to get better musically. It's time to sit down and learn something different. You get paid to practise and enjoy.' Although many musicians use bar bands as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, the group do not see themselves as having come down a level or two to work at Moonshine. 'Being a backing group is different from being a band that is established and known by their name. We're just backing musicians, so if we do the Coliseum or Moonshine, there's no real difference,' Chan said. 'It's different in size, and in money, that's all.' He stressed: 'I love to work in pubs. It's more creative and it's closer to the people. Music is about relating to the audience - the place doesn't matter.' The band, including bass player Roy Marinda, 38, was formed by Moonshine's entertainment manager Rose Ko, who is also a singer, composer and has her own production company, Dynamic Productions. Many bars choose to stick with an all-local Chinese band, all Filipino or an imported American band. So for Moonshine, the choice to combine Chinese and Filipino musicians was a conscious one. 'Filipinos are musical, and Hong Kong has its own place in music,' Ms Ng said. Nevertheless, there have been a few difficulties in adapting. 'Compared to going in to a band where it's all Chinese, we have to all adjust to each other, adapt to each other's way of playing,' Leung said. They have also had to adapt to each other's musical styles. Alonzo is very much a lounge singer. Marinda has spent most of his musical career as a solo folk artist. Chan, Leung and Tang, although all have played Canto-pop for the past few years, also have different musical backgrounds. Leung was trained as a classical pianist, and Chan spent a few years playing country music. Chan says the band will try to infuse some of their varied musical influences into their performance. 'We'll try to stay true to the original, but sneak our way around it.' Ko hopes to find success with the Moonshine band, and is already planning for them to perform in China and Asia. In the meantime, they will be at Moonshine 1928, which incidentally does not have a liquor licence yet. So you may need some of your own moonshine. Moonshine 1928, Empire Land Commercial Centre, G/F 81-85 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai. Tel: 25278887. Moonshine Band 8pm to 11pm.