Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Good tidings friend.
Everyone nice and warm? I must say this weather is some great contrast to the skin melting heat we had over summer. This isn't a weather blog though so lets review some music.
This past weekend I once again found myself at the Underground. This time for event number 74. CiXi no longer being a UG location, we find ourselves at the swanky establishment: The Melting Pot. I have to say, I am a big fan of the place. It has the vibe of a 1950's jazz club , with its purple walls and dim drop lighting. I was deliberately even chaining my cigarettes to get the smoky atmosphere going. There are some criticisms however. As a live music venue for gigs (where you want the audience standing front and center) , the location of the stage and general layout of the room makes it a little tight for space. On the other hand though, I haven't been to many clubs/bars in Hong Kong, that have a sound system like The Melting Pot do. It truly sounds brilliant. You CAN actually have a conversation with the person next to you and have the band playing at a loud enough level that they aren't purely ambiance music.
UG 74 for me was a night about great vocal melodies. No screams from anyone apart from the crowd who turned out to see the five great. I have to apologise here to Resurgent and any followers. I encountered transport failures causing me to miss their set. Thus todays review starts with Karat.
A four piece funk band led by Cherry, who's voice is a match made in heaven for the band. To me, if Blondie and Shiny Toy Guns had a love child and then beat the electronica out of it, the result would be Karat. The band immediately have all eyes on them as soon as they take to the stage. This is because the instrumentalists are all wearing afros and red ties. I'm not usually a fan of bands in uniform, but these guys pulled it off well. After being happy with their levels, and an introduction from Chris B, the band busted out their dancy intro and started their grooving before the vocalist in her blue wig jumped onto the stage from the crowd and greeted the audience, who showed their love for Karat. Nothing like a good entrance to start off a set. Karat proceeded to play a 6 song set full of funky beats that just make you want to shake your thang on the dance floor. Fear not reader, I had only one Asahi by this point, so there was no embarrassing acts of “dancing” from yours truly. On the fourth song, aka “a moody song” Cherry tells us. Karat show that they are not just a one trick pony and play a slower tempo number. Aka the token slow song. Its during this song that Cherry demonstrates her abilities as a singer , going through various runs and taking us on a trip through her range. Like most bands, Karat saved their best song for last, and man dad I like this one. It starts off funky like most of their other songs, but come the bridge they break into a half tempo dub rhythm (who doesn't like reggae beats?) before returning to the normal speed, ooh and a guitar solo! Quick kudos to the guitarist here, great tone and riffs dude! Just before Karat walked off stage, the singer informed the audience “We're Karat, remember us” Don't worry guys and gal, I'm sure they will.
Just before this next act came on, there seemed to be a noticeable increase of the male population congregating in front of the stage. Was there free booze? No sir, it was due to the arrival of FIFITWO, Taiwan's very own, all girl ,“happy rock” band. What exactly is happy rock? It's a little difficult to describe. If you think about the song “If I had words” sung by the three mice from the movie Babe. Ask Blink 182 to teach them a punk rock version. Then give them ecstasy, thats happy rock, and happy rock is what FIFITWO play. Joly Kate and Sherry are all wearing bunny ears and you can't help but go “aww aren't they cute, I just want to take them home” But not in the naughty way. In the way the fab five get excited about venetian blinds. I have to admit, I thought the act were going to be purely eye candy , with songs consisting of repeatedly thrashing out three power chords. However once you shake the initial Josie and the Pussycats comparisson, you realise that , shit, they actually play music. Music with great hooks, tight harmonies and songs that go through different sounding sections. They also instantly own the stage. They could take the easy route and stand their looking pretty , but no they rock out, they jump around and they interact with the crowd. It's no wonder they have won various awards and competitions in their hometown.
The next act marked the start of the singer/song writer phase of UG 74. Jovelyn aka Joves is the lady with the soothing voice that can warm gig goer hearts on cold December nights. Musically , Joves songs are acoustic based pop with little hints of jazz and soul. What sets Joves apart from the many other female singer/song writers that she resembles (Marie Digby, Colbie Caillat) is that her songs all tell little stories, as opposed to yearning for the quarter back. Stories the way Tracy Chapman might sing. The sort that are full of imagary that let you play out the plots for yourselves. I look around the room and I notice people are listening intently to the songs, figuring them out for themselves. Credit also has to be paid to the spot on but never over-bearing backing band for keeping the foundations of the tunes solid. On bass is one of the Tai Tai Alibi guitarists, Chris Collins and on the drums is a man whose name has escaped my memory. All I know, is it is not the usual drummer who usually brings mayhem with Shepherds the Weak. I realise this may be a shorter review than the other bands, but maybe in some ways, thats what Joves is like. To the point.
Jeff Caylor Band
Last but by god not least, was the Jeff Caylor Band. Now I have not seen Jeff Caylor or his band perform before, but have been floating around his various spaces on the inter web, and have learned that the dude has his act together. A good web page, good media, and from the turnout that was buzzing behind me at my location on the cool kids table (the Underground crew) Mr Caylor has a good little fan base in tow. As soon as these guys stepped into the melting pot, they oozed confidence and as we would eventually learn, this was not at all misplaced. Jeff Caylor's band consists of himself as the lead singer and pianist, an acoustic guitarist who helps out with the harmonies, a bassist and a drummer. After a quick set up and introduction from Chris B, Caylor counted in the band to their 6 song attention grabbing set. Honestly, Caylor's sound could hardly be called unique, you can instantly draw transparent similarities to John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and Daniel Powter. But heres the thing, its a formula that has been proven to work. I guarantee even the most devote Eve of Sin fan will have at least been in the vicinity whilst a song from those guys has been played. It's also good music. It gets the feet tapping before the head realises it, and usually the songs themselves are tales of interesting events or emotions. The four that are the Jeff Caylor Band, come across as extremely rehearsed. I know at these gigs, the last two bands are usually the more established or experienced. However on this night it felt as if we were at a Jeff Caylor Band's concert, with very good opening and support acts. Again I feel I have to take my beanie off to the sound engineer, who had the levels for the band spot on. The JCB had the UGoers requesting an encore. Sadly though , due to the house band needing to get on, it was permission denied. Never mind though, as I'm sure it won't be the last time we see the Jeff Caylor Band.
So thats it then. No more Underground gigs till 2009. I hear Chris B and her loyal crew have great things planned for 09. When it happens, make sure you're there to find out for yourselves.
Here I found the nominations for this years Grammys on Stereogums site. Discuss.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Happy to say that these guys will be playing on the Conan O'Brien show, which can only mean these guys will be huge in the next two or three years.
You heard it here first.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Alternative Rockers Noir had the task of opening up this mammoth evening with their catchy hooks and driving guitars. Their six song set had a mix of both English and Mandarin songs, and just to make things more interesting. They had a go at playing one of my favourite songs from Muse : “Time is running out.” Noir did a good job of trying to get the UGoers in the mood for a gig by screaming a demand to come forward. Lets ignore the fact that possibly two people shifted slightly, it was the effort that counts. Noir have enough grit on the guitars to keep it heavy , while the vocals are kept melodic. A good way to start out the eclectic selection of music for the evening.
Next on the bill were the quantum Alternative Metal band (yup I create my own genres now) : Eccentric. I say alternative metal as the backing music is pretty heavy with metal elements, while the voice of gorgeous singer Kiki, kept the music pretty accessible. Think Evanescence. Eccentric have a rock solid rhythm section with one of the best drummers of the night, and a bassist who rocked a solo. While we're mentioning capabilities, the guitarist demonstrated his skills with a great solo in the third song. Speaking of guitarists, and this may sound a little queer, but I was momentarily in awe of this rockers immaculate straight long hair. If Herbal Essence started a marketing campaign for metal guitarists, they should hook this dude up for the posters. Back to the music though, Eccentric played a well thought out set with songs flowing from one to the next, complete with tight breakdowns and even started the nights first mosh pit. Did I mention the gorgeous lead singer?
If I had to point out at what point in the night the party started, it would probably have to be during the 30 minutes or so these gents from Lamma took the stage. Transnoodle either have a lot of friends, or a lot of fans (I suppose it's possible to have both), I say this because CiXi was packed when they rocked their set, and basically empty in comparison when they were done. Transnoodle were welcomed onto stage by the back pain plagued Chris B, (gotta love Facebook) who explained that the band used to do Metallica covers. True or not, I would like to see a ska version of “Enter Sandman,” Transnoodle, hook it up. From previous media on the Noodle, it seems that its one of those bands where the lineup could be between 2 and 20 at any time. If my memory serves me right, I counted one guitarist, one bassist, one drummer, one keys player, one horns player, and one hell of an entertaining front man. I've seen in some pictures a second guitarist though. Hmm? Transnoodles sound is a mix of punk reggae and ska. They are infectiously catchy. You look around the room and the people that weren't dancing were tapping their feet. I know I had a little rhythm dancing through my clogged veins. Moments that worked great for me were: the harmonies between the horns and the guitar. The current affair topics their songs were about. Referencing the Georgia invasion, and the vocalists dedication to “The bankers worried about losing their jobs”. The relationship they have with the audience is one full of love. So much love that Transnoodle were left with no choice but to play an encore. A+
I would not like to be any band having to follow the set Transnoodle played. However Poubelle International were definitely up to that task, and boy did they bring their A game. As PI were setting their levels, Chris B informs the eager audience that “the last time they played the UNDERGROUND, someone had sex on stage” Needless to say, if I had ears like a dog, they were stood at attention to that statement. Like Transnoodle, PI had brought their gang of buddies and or fans out. Sound check done, vocalist steps to the mic and questions “Are you ready?” before exploding into their 6 song set. For you classification Nazis, I guess you could say PI play garage indie pop rock. I always say its important for a band to remember they are there to perform to the paying gig goer, and a performance was without a doubt what we got. The matching outfits of white t shirts with the numbers 1,2,3 on the trio was a great touch. They also all wore matching Buddy Holly, black rimmed specs. They also seemed to have mates wearing black t shirts with the number 4 on , playing things like tambourines and shakers. PI have great dancy songs, where some even involve audience participation. In one song, the audience were asked “Who drinks Asahi?” to which the correct response was “I drink Asahi” (Heres me waving my fourth bottle in the air screaming F*** ya! Oops) Its obvious PI's preparation for the gig was well thought. That or they are just that damned good.
Eve of Sin
Lock away the young children, cause Eve of Sin , are to put it in one word. Brutal. They basically piss on every time I have described a band as heavy in this review. They are described as extreme metal. Even that seems too mellow for the wall of noise Eve of Sin produce. It goes without saying that the catchy segment for the evenings entertainment was well and truly over. The quintet consist of 2 guitarists, a bassist , a drummer (who also doubles up as a Stand Up Comic , Hi Vivek!) and a vocalist, or scream artist. I thought it was great that before they started their set, one of the guitarists nailed his beer before ripping into the riff of the opening song. Eve of Sin played a 5 song set of shredding, double kick drum assaults and soul piercing screams. I have to say though, for the heaviness of the music, I would have liked to seen the ax players rock out and tear shit up a hell of a lot more. No riot police were called out to this one, though bouncers did put an end to any moshing. On a side note, Eve of Sin have a really cool website : www.eveofsin.com
With an emptying out CiXi, Thornslaughter took the stage about 1-1.30. This I have to admit, is a blatant estimation as by then, well, lets just say CiXi had run out of Asahi. Take one look at the name Thornslaughter and guess what kind of music they play. Yes sir, we have a second extreme metal band closing the nights bill. Unlike Eve of Sin, thorn slaughter actually have obvious structure to their songs. You can hear a beginning, a middle and an end. Sure its still shredding and machine gun sounding drums, but you can hear the musicality in it. And for that Thornslaughter get my props (like that really matters to them!) The bassist in this one was busting out the “I own shit” pose I mentioned in a couple of posts earlier, and looked great doing it. Another act with musicians great at their instruments, I wish I could play riffs that fast. Great job Thornslaughter.
All in all, one hell of a good night. Looking forward to the next underground which I believe is the last one for 2008. Jesus, where the hell did 2008 go?