The Gig Week: 26 Hong Kong bands to perform at seven venues over seven days, a mark of city’s growing musical creativity
Whether you’re into punk or hip hop, electro or acoustic, metal or dance – or even French marching bands – there’s something for you at this week-long festival of Hong Kong musical creativity featuring entirely local bands
You might not have noticed, but over the past few years the range and quality of home-grown underground music being produced and performed in Hong Kong has grown beyond all recognition. In much-loved local genres such as dream pop and post-rock through to less predictable excursions into areas like metal, hip hop and minimal techno, it turns out the city’s long untapped depths of musical creativity are coming to the surface.
This is so much so that Hong Kong can now support something like The Gig Week: seven days of entirely local bands – 26 in total – performing at seven different venues around the city from June 18 to 24. The performances are divided up by genre, with acoustic, hip hop, punk, metal, dance rock and electro nights preceded by a mixed-bag opening show. A true festival of multicultural creativity,it features acts composed roughly 50/50 of Hongkongers and Hong Kong-based musicians from overseas.
“I think the local talent has always been there in Hong Kong, but the awareness of it hasn’t been there,” says event organiser Elaine Ip. “With all the big events over the past few years [such as] the likes of Clockenflap, people are more aware how many good bands there are. The talent is here; we want to expose people to it.”
Ip, a Hongkonger who lived in Canada before moving back in 2009, put the event together with co-organisers Paul Sedille and Unmesh Rajendran, with help from Shum Yew Chuan. They got their inspiration from a similar event that has been running in India since early this decade. Rajendran had worked on the event and brought the idea to Hong Kong when he moved here to study.
The organisers figured that an event featuring a range of musical genres would maximise their chances of success – even if it meant facing the challenge of, for example, getting people to come out on a Monday. It also promises to be perhaps the most tiring week of their lives.
The Sunday opening night, at The East in Wan Chai, is the only one that doesn’t come with a genre attached.
“It’s a crazy mix of bands we thought would be great live but that don’t really fit into any genre,” Ip says. (In fact the organisers feared the lack of focus might have a negative impact on ticket sales, but so far it’s been the best-selling night of the seven). “It’s definitely not predictable – we [even] have a traditional French marching band.”
That band, Groupe Electrogène Fanfare Club, who play a kind of French party folk, are joined by Sexy Hammer, a Cantonese rap metal band of long standing; The Zero Point, who play their own versions of Bollywood classics and Western standards; and headliners The Interzone Collective, a sort of nouveau gamelan orchestra anchored by handpans, whose moody, atmospheric compositions draw on numerous folk traditions.
Monday is Acoustic Night, held at The Hive Studios in Kennedy Town and featuring indie-folk rockers Esimorp and the charming, slow-burn acoustic folk of 9 Maps. It’s followed by Hip Hop Night at XXX Gallery in Tai Kok Tsui, led by two local favourites – Dough-Boy and The Low Mays – plus relative newcomers Kada.C and 7On7.
Ip, herself a hip hop fan, is particularly excited about 7On7. “They’re young, new and they have a great energy,” she says. “We took them to the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry pier to perform and they immediately drew a crowd.”
Wednesday’s Punk Night at Orange Peel in Central features reformed hardcore punk band The Squawk alongside a host of street punk bands: Oi Squad, Two Finger Salute and Defiant Scum.
After that is Metal Night at Hidden Agenda in Kwun Tong, headlined by redoubtable Hong Kong metal band Shepherds The Weak and featuring progressive metalcore from Parallel Horizons, thrash and death metal from INDenial and deathcore from Aether.
“People who are into metal are really into metal – and this is an amazing presentation of Hong Kong metal,” Ip says.
Friday is Dance Rock Night at MOM Livehouse in North Point. In line with that rather broad definition, it has probably the most eclectic line-up aside from the opening night, featuring indie-rockers The Sleeves, jaunty offbeat pop band Opium and, in Shumking Mansion and Water Funk, two purveyors of slick, accomplished ’80s-flecked funk-pop.
The party winds up on Saturday with Electro Night at Volar in Central, featuring a particularly impressive line-up. Headlined by the high-octane live drum ‘n’ bass of Sushi Robot, it also features the dense, hypnotic, bass-heavy compositions of Gravity Alterstra, who combine grainy electronic textures and glitchy beats with soaring female vocals; Biting Eye, who makes atmospheric techno and ambient electronica using analogue synths; and drum ‘n’ bass with live trumpet accompaniment from Quadrant Projekt.
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Putting on medium-sized gigs in Hong Kong is, in general, a bit of a challenge. This is largely because of the lack of decent venues – there isn’t much between, say, the Convention Centre and The Wanch. According to Ip, a lot of the venues they contacted weren’t sure they’d still be around when the event happens, given the highly precarious short-term leases on which they rely. She adds that the organisers tried to make sure the venues were in a range of locations: two in Central, three elsewhere on Hong Kong Island and two in Kowloon.
Ticket prices are reasonable at HK$180 a night, which at most venues includes a drink. That, however, hasn’t stopped the usual suspects who expect everything free of charge carping on social media. “Everyone talks about wanting to support the creative scene, but no one wants to pay for it,” Ip says.
In a city starting to succeed in asserting a bottom-up creative identity, this is the sort of event worth paying for.
The Gig Week, June 18-24, various venues, HK$180 a night, Ticketflap