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LIFE

2014 high notes for music in Hong Kong: four industry players look back

It was a landmark year for local lovers of live music. We talk to the people that matter

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 December, 2014, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 December, 2014, 12:08pm

Hong Kong's live music scene continued to mature in 2014, with regular performances by key international artists and the emergence of talented local acts. To get the full picture, we talked to a range of influential people involved in the local music scene

Justin Sweeting (Clockenflap and Your Mum music director)

How did 2014 compare to 2013 in terms of live music in Hong Kong?

It's been quite a challenging year as fewer of the larger-profile international acts have come through this year. Overall though, the volume and quality of shows taking place, especially small to mid range has continued to rise, which is really encouraging. We're also seeing more niche shows being put on by new promoters which helps cultivate choice and competition. Really positive.

What were your personal live music highlights of 2014?

Dan Deacon at Clockenflap was a personal highlight. The first time I saw him was in a small outdoor yard in Texas several years ago, and to repeat that experience in Hong Kong at the festival, and see him go down so well with the crowd was truly heartwarming. From a fan perspective, I remember the giddy feeling when I heard Spiritualized were coming to town, and the buzz of turning up to the venue. Joy.

What are your thoughts on the home-grown live music scene in 2014?

It continues to evolve and develop, step by step, each band paving new ways and opening doors for the next generation. Hearing the lineage between bands such as Chochukmo and Tfvsjs come through in math folk group GDJYB for example. Of course, the low glass ceiling here makes it difficult for artists to progress beyond a certain point, but there are opportunities here which aren't so easily available in other cities, and the scene continues to improve in many respects.

What do you hope to see happen regarding live music in 2015?

Once acts reach a certain level, I'd like to see more local bands take pages out of My Little Airport's book. Play fewer shows and make each that much more special. Beyond egos and expectations, local artists need to be able to take stock of what their pull and profile truly is. Then use that to their advantage by not doing shows where they aren't getting something they want out of it. More venue options would be nice too.

Nora Wong (marketing director, Asia, Live Nation)

How did 2014 compare to 2013 in terms of live music in Hong Kong?

Although it was still exciting, 2013 definitely had more pop concerts and Western acts. The lack of venues here really makes it tough for promoters.

What were your personal live music highlights of 2014?

Bruno Mars and James Blake were the best shows in my opinion.

What are your thoughts on the home-grown live music scene in 2014?

The indie scene is growing, with talented bands such as KillerSoap and My Little Airport getting more attention via social media, and doing more live gigs. Mainstream shows are still going strong at the Coliseum. Sammi Cheng - who hasn't toured in years - posted an image of her ad on Facebook and it went viral. I think I got more than 30 texts that night asking for tickets - and it's not even a Live Nation show.

What do you hope to see happen regarding live music in Hong Kong in 2015?

More flexibility and improvement in concert ticketing systems. It's not cool when concert-goers need to go to an outlet and get a printed ticket when they could just download it and have it scanned at the venue.

Kieven Yim (Jazz World partner)

How did 2014 compare to 2013 in terms of live music in Hong Kong?

There were definitely more gigs for us this year. The live music scene in Hong Kong is bubbling, both at the local and international level. This is a good thing and a bad thing. On a positive note, there are definitely more live acts from all musical genres: jazz, rock, Canto-pop, K-pop, J-pop, classical and indie. On the negative side, we're all competing for bums on seats. In any given week, there could be two or three gigs and there is only so much the punter can see.

What were your personal live music highlights of 2014?

On the jazz front, definitely Hiromi, one of Jazz World's gigs. She continues to astound and mesmerise. Other highlights include The Aristocrats featuring the brilliant Marco Minnemann on drums, Bryan Beller on bass (both of whom were recently on the Joe Satriani Asian tour) and ace guitarist Guthrie Govan.

What are your thoughts on Hong Kong's home-grown live music scene in 2014?

There's now a real buzz about the scene. It's great to see Clockenflap providing an outlet for many local bands to perform on the big stage. Venues such as Hidden Agenda in Kwun Tong have been the breeding ground for many rock acts, while Chris B's The Underground, which celebrates its 10th year, is doing a great job promoting young bands. Unfortunately, for many of these bands to survive, they need a following and in this town, where tastes are fickle, that could be quite difficult. Venues are difficult to find or book and, what with increased rents, they're also quite expensive.

What do you hope to see happen regarding live music in Hong Kong in 2015?

For the punter, it's a great time for live music. In 2015, it will only improve as audiences get to see bigger artists, as well as indie acts. For the promoters, it's about timing - trying to find the right venue at the right time. Many punters hate going all the way to AsiaWorld-Arena for a gig. But we don't have many choices. Hopefully, the West Kowloon site will house many venues. We wait with bated breath.

Adeline Lee (project director, freez limited)

How did 2014 compare to 2013 in terms of live music in Hong Kong?

There were a lot more things happening in Hong Kong, with different music genres and more live show promoters. Apart from Canto-pop, K-pop, J-pop and other international pop, rock, jazz and classical live performances, it's exciting to see the first heavy metal festival (The Heart-Town Festival) and the first EDM festival (DJ Revolution Festival) in Hong Kong … it's great to see more indie music shows being held in the city too.

What were your personal live music highlights of 2014?

My favourite is rock, no matter if it's pop, punk, grunge, alternative or heavy metal and I love festivals too … I haven't seen a lot of shows this year, but I've tried to catch as many as possible. My 2014 favourites are The Heart-Town Festival and Bring Me the Horizon's gig.

What are your thoughts on Hong Kong's home-grown live music scene in 2014?

It's great to see an increasing number of indie musicians, groups and bands emerging in Hong Kong, such as Chochukmo, My Little Airport, Yuki Lovey, Lil' Ashes, Trekkerz and KillerSoap. It's even more amazing to see that they're talented, have their own distinctive styles and most importantly that they have a significant following. It's cool to see them at Clockenflap representing Hong Kong.

What do you hope to see happen regarding live music in Hong Kong in 2015?

I hope to see even more going on next year, whether they're local or international groups. Blohk Party is going to happen again hopefully ... I would love to promote different live shows since that is the best way to experience and appreciate music.