Hong Kong in 2010: Music & Clubbing
The live music star is beginning to rise in Hong Kong. Mark Tjhung speaks to the people pushing it skyward
There’s no doubt about it – something exciting is going on in the music scene. Over the past year, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of gigs, both local and international, as well as new venues coming into the regular rocking rotation.
One of the driving forces behind the burgeoning scene is Justin Sweeting, the face of The Peoples’ Party. “[I started The Peoples’ Party] to fill the void of bringing in acts to Hong Kong that wouldn’t have come otherwise, as well as helping develop the local scene,” says the Hong Kong-born Sweeting.
Since February, when he launched The Peoples’ Party with a sold-out Jose Gonzalez gig, Sweeting has done just that, drawing on his years of industry experience in the UK – as well as his involvement with now-defunct music festival Rockit, previous promoting venture Far East Far Out and multimedia and arts festival Clockenflap – to put on many of 2009’s finest gigs, including the uproarious British Sea Power, the vivacious Handsome Furs and the guitar-shattering Ratatat.
After a successful first year under the new banner, the former Academy guitarist is going bigger and better in 2010, anticipating an even more hectic second year. “We’ll keep building, plus I’d like to widen the net in terms of the genres of artists we’re working with,” he says, already living up to his word with his confirmed bookings for this year: the incomparable folky baroque pop master Andrew Bird, New York post-hardcorers Glassjaw, Jimmy LaVelle’s atmospheric project The Album Leaf, and Cambodian-inspired psychadelic rockers Dengue Fever.
Although the ever-coy Sweeting is reluctant to reveal what else might be planned, we’re pretty confident some awesome gigs are ahead. “The focus will always be on quality rather than quantity. TPP needs to grow along with the scene and it needs to be managed responsibly and in a sustainable way. At least one show per month feels about right,” he says, a rate that would almost double TPP’s 2009 output.
Sweeting, of course, is not driving this Hong Kong music mobile alone. In the past year, several players on the gigging block have popped up, contributing to a music scene that has become increasingly vibrant, professional, and international.
Last year, Love Da Records, one of the biggest distributors of indie music in our territory, ventured more boldly into the gig realm than ever before, hosting Emmy the Great, Little Dragon and Telepathe.
“We want to share the great music that we promote and distribute, and share this live experience,” says Elaine Ng, of Love Da, who this year have already lined up Patrick Watson to play Grappa’s Cellar this fortnight. And although she didn’t want to give any hints about what’s in the works, Ng promises it won’t end with the Montreal quartet.
Few newcomers affected the music scene last year like Songs for Children. After arriving in Hong Kong in mid-2008, likeable Scots Jane Flynn and Mike Middleton launched their indie club night early last year. “We didn’t really set out to do anything, apart from do the first night and play music we liked,” says Flynn. But step by step, things snowballed, from regular parties at Philia, to a joint night with Pimpin’ Aint Easy, an invitation to play the UK’s Indietracks festival and Clockenflap. Suddenly, by October, they had taken the big step from the DJ box to promoting gigs with their first show, Theoretical Girl.
Enlivened by the experience, SFC is planning to continue their foray into gigs. Although nothing is yet confirmed, they’ve got plenty of irons in the fire, looking to bring something a bit different to the territory. “We’ll only do stuff that we love, that you wouldn’t normally get in Hong Kong. It’s about bringing out smaller bands that you could see in a more intimate gig,” says Flynn.
The growth in the music scene is palpable – don’t believe us? Just check out what’s already confirmed and rumoured in the calendar opposite. Or at least listen to TPP’s Justin Sweeting: “I’ve done other shows, though it’s really only [in 2009] that one can feel a genuine momentum and growing interest in it.”
While a small dubstep scene continues to rise on the back of an always just-hanging-on drum’n’bass community in Hong Kong, we think it’s a while away from coming to full fruition. Instead, we see two clear pillars of the scene emerging with new force in 2010: tech house and indie dance. Last year, both genres were the beneficiaries of big pushes from newly enthused promoters and glorious visitations from some ass-kicking international turntablists. By Mary Agnew
This stalwart of European and American dance floors has been slowly making its presence felt as a burgeoning trend in Hong Kong’s more puritanical dance haunts, such as Yumla and A.V.E.N.U.E. The genre tends to attract diehard dance music connoisseurs that lean towards a deeper, more soulful sound than that of minimal or progressive. With Resonant Frequencies – the promoters who brought Tom Clark to Space in December – promising more of the same in 2010 and the industrious fellows behind new night PUSH providing the city with a fresh weekly tech house night, things are looking rosy for those long-starved connoisseurs.
No doubt, the term alone cuts a pretty wide swath, but the acts that fall within the nebulous ‘indie dance’ category have been making some of the biggest waves in Hong Kong in the past 12 months – and we think that trend is set to continue. It’s the artist-producers such as Diplo and Digitalism that really turned up the volume on the indie dance amp last year; and the arrival of Hype Nasty (TOHK Best New Club Night 2009), with its border-expanding electro and big-name gig nights – including A-Trak and Craze & Klever – really kicked it home. The venue-packing successes of those nights bode well for another year of sweaty fusions of hard-banging bass and scintillating strings.
14-Feb 12 City Festival
23 Mono, Saosin
27 Andrew Bird
29 The Killers
30 2manyDJs (Macau)
27 HKPO plays Bruckner’s 8th Sympthony
TBC The XX (rumour)
5-7 Café de Los Maestros
9 Andreas Scholl and Edin Karamazov
16 Ojos de Brujo
25 Kings of Convenience
Last week of March Tom Jones
TBC La Roux (rumour)
TBC Regina Spektor (rumour)
TBC MIMA (Macau)
15-Jun 15 Le French May
16 The Album Leaf
TBC Massive Attack (rumour)
TBC Air (rumour)
TBC Kelly Clarkson (rumour) Macau
TBC Prodigy (rumour) Macau
15 Dengue Fever
15 & 17 HKPO plays Fidelio
TBC Tears for Fears (rumour)
TBC Pet Shop Boys (rumour)
2 & 3 HKPO perform Carmina Burana
7-11 Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival 2010, ‘Music in Nature’ theme
TBC Hong Kong International Jazz Fest
5 Nicola Benedetti
TBC We’ll Make Your Album: The Gig 2
Music & ClubbingMacau