Hong Kong gigs

Big hair and a Strat: Harts rocks Hong Kong despite substandard sound

Backed only by a drummer, multi-talented rising star delivers a high-energy show that had crowd in a frenzy; let’s hope he returns with more speakers, and band members

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 October, 2015, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 October, 2015, 3:40pm

Darren Hart is not so much a musician who wears his influences on his sleeve as someone who has taken the classic 1980s sound of Prince, the immaculate funk/disco production of Nile Rogers and the guitar pyrotechnics of Jimi Hendrix and woven a deadly three-piece suit.

The overdriven guitar, the synth bass and melodies, the falsetto singing, the squeal - he’s part of the next generation of “bedroom” musicians, pioneered by Gotye (of Somebody I Used to Know fame), who’ve grown up in a private world of multi-instrumental composition and ProTools production and then go out and prove they can repeat on stage what they performed in private.

A mixed crowd turned up to Lan Kwai Fong venue Loft 22 to see the spunky 24-year-old wunderkind from Melbourne on October 28; the young and hip, the obligatory Stepford Bachelors from the world of finance, dating couples looking for something to dance to, the older types who may well have seen Prince and the Revolution play back in the day. The only thing that handicapped the show was the room itself, providing all the acoustic warmth of an aircraft hangar on a winter’s morning.

Harts rose above it all to deliver a show with genuine energy; just one big-haired guy in a leather jacket with a Stratocaster and a tireless drummer, working the stage and the crowd into a frenzy.

Having played in front of tens of thousands of people at festivals across Australia, Darren Hart took to the stage with the energy and enthusiasm of someone who’s still in it for the fun, and the audience witnessed an act in its ascendancy.

There was some discussion among the crowd about why this superb musicianship was given such dodgy sound and about why this band was a two-piece. After the show, Mr Hart confirmed that one day, he’d be able to afford to add a third member to his band and realise his dream of achieving the power trio sound of Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys.

For someone who really only came to prominence last year, Harts had a burgeoning songlist to choose from - tracks from his 2013 EP Offtime and his 2014 album Daydreamer, as well as more recent material from an impending new release. The music drew similar reactions from his fans (and there were quite a few) and the newer types experiencing his music for the first time.

For the encore, Harts came out and played two songs, finishing with Purple Haze - a staple of the cover bands playing some 22 floors below in the bars of Lan Kwai Fong. Staying true to the Hendrix legacy, Harts delivered the behind-the-head guitar trick Jimi took from the chitlin circuit and made his trademark. And his response to a request for a Prince cover? “No. Too close to home.”

It was a hot performance, delivered via substandard PA to a warm crowd. We hope Mr Hart returns to Hong Kong victoriously with more speakers and more band members soon.