WHEN IT COMES to rock, Hong Kong seems cursed. An endless string of cancellations and to-be-confirmed gigs have left the city in a state of limbo, as each grand new project that tries to take off gets tangled in red tape. While efforts to hold large-scale international music festivals such as Harbour Fest and Rockit have been in the pipeline for some time, a small group of promoters have opted to think smaller and locally in the hope that a more streamlined project might have more success. Last month saw the first in what organisers Tom Howells and Justin Chau hope will be a lasting series of live rock shows, held monthly at Soho's Amnesia nightclub. The event, billed Live@Amnesia , featured Audiotraffic, False Alarm and Uncle Joe - all young, all rock bands, and most importantly, all local. 'We wanted to provide a venue where local bands could play and where audiences get to enjoy a live show on a regular basis,' says Howells. 'Amnesia seemed perfect because of its downtown location, its size, and its more intimate vibe.' Although there had been some publicity for the event, Howells and Chau were surprised by the overwhelming turnout, which packed the mid-sized nightclub. Strong performances from each of the bands and the enthusiastic response from the crowd made the night a success, and although the organisers were satisfied, it left them hungry for more. While it may be hard to make out from behind the shimmering glitz of Canto-pop media campaigns and the barren wasteland of nightclub cover bands, Howells says there is a wealth of young local talent lurking just beneath the surface that presently has no outlet because it has no way of showing itself. 'During the past five or six years the scene has grown, and there is real potential for local bands to develop at an underground level,' he says. 'The problem is, most of them have cut their teeth in youth clubs and school halls, and once they get to a certain age, and a certain level, there's nowhere to play. The talent level has risen so much that they need a forum for their music to be heard.' Howells and Chau, who have played in different bands in Britain and Hong Kong, hope to draw on their past experience as they venture into the virtually unchartered territory that is underground live music in Hong Kong. 'One of the main inspirations for the night came from our own experiences of being in bands in the UK,' explains Chau. 'After touring around a bit I saw that almost every town, no matter how small or inaccessible, would have a venue dedicated to live music, especially young bands. There isn't anything like that in Hong Kong right now.' It is this kind of venue that Howells and Chau hope to provide by making use of the increasingly popular Amnesia nightclub, which also hosts indie-rock night Brown Sugar, but until now has never featured a regular live music event. Making the night a regular monthly event is important, says Howells, not just for the bands but for the audiences too. Starved for so long of anything to attend that is either appealing or affordable, local audiences have never had the chance to develop a tradition of going to live shows. 'Hong Kong is a great place for live music because the audience is so receptive,' says Chau. 'It's not like in Britain or America where everyone has seen it all and crowds have become cynical. Here they're just happy that someone is getting up there and doing it. What we're trying to do is create a dedicated venue that will act as a sort of creative melting pot for young bands and musicians.' According to Howells one of the main challenges facing local up-and-coming bands is there is little support for live music, particularly for young bands. 'It's not purely due to a lack of venues - take a walk through Lan Kwai Fong or Wan Chai and you will find a lot of clubs equipped to host a live band. But they don't want bands that play their own music because they can't guarantee that it will fill the club. They only want cover bands that will crank out whatever is big in the charts.' The trials of performing live are further compounded by the fact that rarely do these bands get paid to do a show, and the money that goes into financing an event often comes from their own pockets. 'It's always a struggle' says Joshua Wong, guitarist and vocalist for local indie rockers Whence He Came. 'You really have to fight to organise a show, whether it's finding a venue, or figuring out how to get the right equipment. When you have to fund it yourself and you don't get paid, it's impossible to support yourself financially.' It all seems to be one big, vicious, chicken-and-egg circle wherein the clubs are unwilling to host bands because they aren't famous enough to bring in a big crowd, and the bands don't have the chance to become famous in the first place because there aren't the venues available to perform at. Howells' and Chau's approach seems rare in Hong Kong. 'We're not in it for the money, because there isn't any.' jokes Howells. 'We don't make anything from these shows, in fact we lose money.' They hope, however, that this will change and view their current project as an investment. Having taken on the ambitious task of creating an underground music scene from the ground up, the promoters are confident that the event will act as a catalyst for other bands to showcase themselves, and also prompt other promoters to take notice. 'If enough people come word will spread fast,' Howells explains. 'People will take notice, and things develop from there.' Tonight sees the return of Live@Amnesia with a line-up including The Love Motel, The Academy, and headliners Whence He Came - again, all local rock bands that have consistently found themselves all dressed up with no place to jam. However, Wong and bandmates Whence He Came are excited and optimistic about the future of Live@Amnesia and hope that the next instalment will be as successful as the last. 'It was one of the most fun shows I've ever been to. The atmosphere was great, and everyone there seemed really into it,' he says. 'I'm really looking forward to playing the next show.' Amnesia, 3/F, Al Aqmar House, 30 Hollywood Rd, SoHo. No cover. For further details, call 9187 5494.