Here at Shanghai 247, if we had a kuai for every time we heard someone say something like: ‘Everything’s so commercial, there’s no decent live music around here,’ we could probably ditch the advertising banners and start booking tables at M1NT. But even those who are in the know about the Beijing or Shanghai scenes are often similarly dismissive of Hong Kong’s potential for live music, under the impression that everyone in Hong Kong either works at HSBC or the visa office.
But as anyone who’s seen any of the recent Hong Kong bands come to Shanghai such as Chochukmo, it’s clear that there is something going on in the Special Autonomous Region and it definitely rocks. Chris B is the founder of the HK Underground, Hong Kong’s longest running independent live music website / events promoter, which has grown to become an integral part of the Hong Kong live scene. And according to her, there’s no excuse for being bored on your next visa run.
The Underground began, by Chris’ own admission, ‘by accident.’ In 2004, when most bars wanted house bands who could crank out 2 and a half hours of covers, Chris was in a band with a 20 minute original set. By chance, there was an opening at a place called ‘Joe Bananas’ one of Wanchai’s ‘seedier’ bars, and Chris got together with a few other bands to put on a show, inviting a few reviewers along. This was Underground number 1, and it quickly snowballed- they are now gearing up for Underground 104 on September 1st.
The Underground has grown into an institution that really aims to support the growth of the independent scene in Hong Kong. As well as putting on shows, they release compilation CDs, and give new bands help and guidance. New bands are showcased at The Wanch and then either go on to appear at Underground events, or are given the chance to take some constructive criticism and come back to The Wanch later on. The Underground events proper are held fortnightly at the Hard Rock Café and Backstage in Central, and the Mong Kok Livehouse in Kowloon.
The Underground Compilation #5
A testament to the success of the Underground is that a band has never cancelled or failed to show up in the 8 years it’s been going.
“I think we've shown the bands that people do want to listen to original music and we've been giving them a platform to showcase and grow their creativity. The other promoters see they have to offer more to both the bands and the audience to make their shows better, which makes all the shows better. The audience are nicely surprised that there are good Hong Kong bands,” says Chris.
“I’m proud of my home. A lot of people come here and go ‘augh Hong Kong cultural wasteland blah blah blah…’ instead of moaning about it let’s do something, let’s put on shows, that’s where I’m coming from.”
Why does she keep on doing it? “It’s like I’m organising parties for myself!”
So, next time you’re in Hong Kong, do yourself a favor and see what’s going on. Check out the Underground events, and keep your eyes peeled for shows. As well as the Underground, there are ‘even more underground’ warehouse venues, and on the average Saturday night, Chris estimates that there are probably about 8 shows going on that are worth seeing. Never have a boring visa run again!
Find out more, buy the compilations and generally educate yourself on the HK underground site here: http://www.undergroundhk.com
And the photo credits go to Spikes Photos - website right here.
WORDS: Chris B / Pete Jackson
PICTURES: Spikes Photos (http://spikesphotos.com/) / Internets