Clockenflap festival pulls out all the stops for 10th anniversary
Light rain and dramatic stage fall do little to dampen spirits at annual music and arts festival
Hong Kong’s biggest annual music festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in explosive style this weekend.
Running over three days and nights from Friday to Sunday, the Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival attracted tens of thousands of people to the Central Harbourfront – the young, the old, an impressive number of out-of-towners and of course the music lovers.
The festival mostly went off without a hitch – a persistent drizzle put a mild dampener on Saturday but it was nothing compared to the torrential downpour that plagued the same day last year.
And the guitarist for Saturday headliners The Prodigy took a bad fall from the stage, but in true rock-star style, got back up, smashed his guitar, and returned with a new one a few minutes later to finish his set with the British dance-rock pioneers.
The Prodigy were the highlight of this year’s festival for many punters, putting on a deafening, high-octane performance that included many of their classics such as Firestarter and Breathe, and with striking frontman Keith Flint prowling the stage and hyping up the crowd.
But there were dozens of magical moments – mainland rappers the Higher Brothers showing the audience why they are such a vital force in Chinese hip hop, British indie heroes the Kaiser Chiefs leading an ocean of fans in feel-good singalongs, UK grime star Stormzy telling the crowd it was the most beautiful setting he had ever performed in, and British trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack bringing the Sunday night to a beautiful climax.
Festival co-founder and music director Justin Sweeting was elated with how the 10th anniversary played out. “It was such a fun and smooth weekend on so many fronts. It was a truly great way to celebrate our first 10 years and we are now looking forward to the next 10 years,” he said.
Hong Kong bands also made a huge splash at the festival – none more so than rockers Supper Moment, who electrified their legions of local followers who turned out for their high-profile set on the main stage before Sunday headliners Massive Attack. Lead singer Sunny drove the audience wild when he leapt from the stage and into the crowd, not missing a beat as he crowd-surfed above throngs of adoring fans.
Also making Hong Kong proud over the weekend were rising noisenicks David Boring and post-rockers ANWIYCTI, whose strong, polished performances point towards a bright future for indie music in the city.
While the headliners of the first two nights, the Kaiser Chiefs and The Prodigy, more than lived up to the hype, many more discerning music aficionados had spent the weekend waiting for Massive Attack. The Bristol originators of the trip-hop sound were making their first ever performance in Hong Kong, and before they took to the stage to close Clockenflap on Sunday, the excitement in the air was palpable.
The duo of Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall commanded a small army of electronic hardware and sent thick waves of their reggae-inflected, bass heavy grooves such as the anthemic Rising Son floating across the crowd, ending Clockenflap 2017 on an emotional note. In a surprise for the band’s followers, long-term collaborator Horace Andy - the old-school Jamaican reggae icon - was on hand to guest on several tracks.
The festival had been scaled down to four stages this year, compared to seven last year, and while there were some grumbles about the loss of popular attractions such as the Club Minky cabaret and the Electriq dance tent, others appreciated this year’s more compact layout.
Veteran festivalgoer Jay Foss-Cole, who has been to every instalment of Clockenflap since it was founded in 2008, said this year the festival felt more intimate, compared with the more sprawling versions of the event held in the past.
“I have heard some people complain about there only being four stages but I like the new layout – having fewer stages doesn’t mean less content, it just means less walking,” he says.
“Everything this year felt very well organised – the queues for food and drink were never too bad, there was lots of cool interactive things to do, and plenty of things for families as well.”
The 11th Clockenflap is expected to take place at the Central Harbourfront in November 2018.