And so the journey begins...a libertine excursion, marked by acts of incompletion and random outbursts of ineptitude. All times are 24-hour clock. Shall we begin?
I've just finished a 5-hour move, up/down more than a 1000 stairs. These knees aren't made for climbing, but there's brass in pocket and plans are underway to catch the 1430 ferry to Central. Destination: Cyberport for the Clockenflap Multimedia Arts and Music Festival from 1400 hours to 0200 hours, Sunday. Should be a cyberdelic Woodstock (w/out mud, but w/a huge bouncy castle). Strolling down YSW Main Street, against a lot of happy feet traffic, I learn there's a free ferry to Pokfulam leaving in 15 minutes (about 1330). There's just time enough to buy cocktail ingredients, a new notebook and hit the pier (for a 15 minute wait on the boat) Good crowd, lots of familiar, multi-generational Dickstock faces. No pushing. The antithesis of the RFU's shambolic distribution of rugby tickets (but that's a completely different story of rage, impotence, irritated joy, greed and incompetence).
The Bush regime's rain-makers are up to their usual standard. It's a glorious day, thanks to a dazzling performance by Ole Sol, the biggest star in our system. Beaming in good vibes (if we don't get too technical and mutter about melanomas and mutant radiation) from 8 light minutes away he Makes The Day! I spend the next 20 minutes, sharing cocktails with Hermann, Parksie and Tiff - all of us are working VIP's today. Hermann gets his 1st significant mention now for exhorting us all to "Flock n' Clap for Clockenflap!" The hired ferry boat (from the same people who did the recent round Lamma tours) gets us there safely. Out of the boat at Cyberport, past the Sculpture Garden, round a big building and down the length of the Information Circuit. Lucky me, there's about another 150 stairs to clamber to gain entrance. Wiry, young dads bound blithely past me, 2 steps at a time, carrying prams and possibly subharmonising to a rousing chorus of "hey-ho, hey-ho, it's off to work we go". Reach the top without recourse to oxygen.
Inside, the lovely Maryann (?) with the unshaky hands, signs me in and deftly attaches my Clockenflap media bracelet. Through the doors and wow! Groovy Venue. There's a 4-tiered garden area (very flat) ringed by a moat (no fishing allowed and please don't feed the mosquitos). Lots of tiny tootsies getting soaked though. There's the main bar and a big vidscreen at stage left, a decent sized stage, the ubiquitous iron fence in front. Next is Ray's Shed, some food stalls and bars and Andy's environmental booth. Andy explains. "I'm on duty. The WWF has a tent and we're talking to people about seafood hunts (I think that's what it reads). There's also a laptop to calculate your carbon footprint. Looking forward to Young Knives too!" The SCMP reports that the organisers will donate 20% of their profits to offset the carbon footprint. Good Work Fellows! Unlike the Dubyahoo and his Cabal. This is a President whose mangled syntax inspired a book "The Bush Dyslexicon". A man who allegedly spent his formative years with a silver shotglass welded to his wrist or a silver spoon up his nose (anecdotes vary). He's now swapped them for a silver foot in his mouth and I hope he gets to the silver sock in his gob before he tells us his Final Solution to Global Warming is...Nuclear Winter. He needs to listen to Meher Baba speak more often. Pete Townsend will vouch for that.
Nice grass at front of stage, more cocktails, casual banter, blah blah blah. Parksie and Tiff have ambled off and Hermann is skulking somewhere. There's a hint of a wisp of a snippet of a Chinese Whisper saying The Music's Too Loud. Apparently 70 decibels is tolerable to the Authorities. Negotiations are continuing. The main suspect is anonymous from the hotel at stage right. Didn't they know there was a Happening today? The complaint occurs during Luke Chow's vibrantly pleasant acoustic guitar w/vox opening set. Songs include "Accumulation", "Internally External" and "Becoming a Dentist" He seems glad when it's over (too much Friday night?) and much prefers playing with his band Hungry Ghost - a 4-piece with Tiffany Love, Paul Lam and Mike. Who plays what is left as an intrigued reader's exercise. Check out www.myspace.com/hungryghostshk. I've told him to unearth "Love Chronicles" by Al Stewart (Jimmy Page on extended lead guitar!)
Clementine is my Sunshine is next on stage. A more ethereal set on acoustic guitar and occasional harmonica. The type of tunes you would hear on Sarah Records. Sorry, dude, gotta go. Just spotted Kulu climbing into Ray's Shed...He spins an interesting mix of nu-funk and offbeat rare groove at Solas and Kee Club. Today's aural offerings include Flow Dynamics w/Diesler, Quantic and the Freestyle All-Stars. Steve Bruce, Ray and Kumi Drum Jam are here too, almost inhaling the sounds of his short set. Someone's shot a snap of me and Kulu - the Battle of the Beards! I wonder what time my mates Karina and Derek will arrive? Recent experience suggests the odds of them seeing the headliners are 60/40. Meanwhile, Bizali are busting some chops on stage...
This Bristol-based group have been gigging about 2 years. In their own write, they claim to be "inventors of FLUNK music. Boil the copper pot of FOLK, mix with the silky tea-leaves of SOUL, blend with smooth FUNK syrup and serve in a little teapot of SWING". Long-term Lamma-ites will remember Mothership. Newer arrivals will think of a hornless Nude and Garoupa's acoustic lead guitar w/FX pedals. (Has Garoupa now gone the way of the cod?) Blythe Pepino is on lead vocals and part time melodeon. She's a twirlyball of energy, floral summer skirt flaring out. Dancing barefoot, she's a minxy mix of Sandie Shaw, Belinda Carlisle and Eddi Reader. Daisy Palmer is a subtle power drummer with some cool changes in pace and tempo. Dave Johnston on bass meshes fluidly with her, providing the solid necessary heartbeat to move the tunes along. Aaron Zahl is the main scribe and his acoustic guitar playing blends rock riffs, wah-wah pedals and ringing powerchords (plus a nifty Hendrix riff. Well spotted, little Nick at the mixer). Marina, a guest photographer says "the show is bizarre. I love the Bizali band playing right now". Tunes include 'UH-HUH", "Shiny Things" and "Broken Chains". The melodeon track was a real Augusto Pablo flashback. More details on www.bizali.co.uk and I'm looking forward to chatting with you...Bodhi is now DJing at Ray's. Gets a little more trancy and then slips in a real gem. Lee Perry doing 3 Blind Mice - a rarity from 1971-74. People in the crowd are having fun. Time for more solicited scribbles and scrawls. Here's Sean and Lauren: "Kid Carpet and Young Knives are gonna kick ASS! Blips and blops forever. Great venue. Great price. Do it Every Year".
Nick explains that his job is to get the band sounding right (to them) on stage and his feed is sent to the master mixer who makes sure it sounds cleaner and crisper than the original band CD. Bizali are backstage, winding down and we chat for a bit before they go do some PR and interviews. Like me, they're Young Knives virgins. They wonder why everyone is so laid back. I reassure them that most local audiences don't dance, but they DO enjoy the show or else they wouldn't be there, not dancing. MC's Will and Kinny introduce DP who are preparing to "shock and awe" the front row of grinning gurners and the tv eye. No sign of Karina and Derek.
DP is Dave (voxbass/FX) and Paul (drums). That's the simplest acronym. Other more scatalogical versions exist. Enjoy making up your own. Musically, they could be Dub Punk to Dark Prog. Their Demented Playing has led to a Durable Partnership since they graduated from The Academy of hard rock knocks in early 2007. They blast through a 10-tune set which includes crowd pleasers "Supermegadon", "Man Thresher", "Eye of the Eagle" and "Vincent Blackmountain". The sound recalls prime sludgy-Sabs, some Metallica, and bits of more electro NIN when Dave mashes his pedals. Paul's charity Mohawk is growing out and his white suit and matching shades gives the appearance of a slightly psychotic ice cream vendor, but it's all an act. He sheds the jacket and his drumming becomes faster, more fluid while his hi-hat cymbal stack is knocked askew about 3 times during the set. Thomas, a visiting drummer, notes "DP rocks, but their cymbal is defective". His mate, Preston, wants everyone to know he's having an awesome birthday. Dave is blending power bass riffs with a rumbling, underlying rhythm. Close your eyes and they could be a trio. Personally, I think they need a mad synth/samples/keyboard player. Someone like Alan Ravenstein (Pere Ubu) over Isao Tomita and samples triggered by Don Letts. They've done some recording/re-mixing w/Dan F. (Yumla) and that's what I want to hear. Embrace Noughty Technology! My viewpoint is not a Damascene moment for Paul. Other fans have said the same thing. You can check DP out on www.myspace.com/dpmetalheads.
DP have finished and the tension is mounting as The Young Knives HK debut draws ever closer. Backstage, Paul has the answer. A large guitar case is put on the table, opened and...it's treble doubles all round. The Guitar Bar is officially open for business! Another choice of Jim Beam, Absolut, Jagermeister, and Bombay Gin. I spot Bizali up front, having done the PR chores, and motion them round to the back. The Jagermeister sustains heavy damage as everyone swigs and bonds. Hermann has arrived and wants to know if I want to join his press conference with Jay and Mike (the organisers). I say no as The Young Knives are on stage.
You know the story. UK Mercury Music Prize nominees last year. The Post wrote that they "forged a reputation on the back of their live shows" and their debut release "Voices of Animals and Men". Henry Dartnell is on lead guitar/vox. Brother Thomas, aka House of Lords, (who looks like a young Ronnie Barker - think Fletch, pre-"Porridge") is the bassist. Oliver Askew is on drums. They wear suits. Slightly less flashy than early Be Bop Deluxe. Not quite Men in Black-era Madness. More accountants on the razz, so to speak. Thish could be the cocktailsh shpeaking (or Sean Connery), but they are really rather good. Tight songs, fusing the gritty guitar runs of The Ruts. Melodies courtesy of The Only Ones or The Skids. Heroic stances worthy of Pete Townsend or Spinal Tap's Nigel Tuffnell. This is a post-punk v retro-rock amphetamine-fuelled charge through some of the greatest Indie moments of the last 20 years. It's like most of the best acts from "Uurgh! A Music War" all mashed up. The only titles I hear are "Up All Night and "Lightswitch". The encore features Henry falling over, playing a blistering rock guitar finale and leaving his guitar prone on stage feeding back, while he scuttles off, followed by Thomas and Oliver.
The sound is up to 90 decibels for this performance, thanks to the unflappable Alex and her mediation skills. Hermann and Marina are getting some excellent snaps. Manek is here now. Haven't seen him since the Hed Kandi gig. He's videoing the show. Blythe and Daisy are in full-tilt boogie mode at the side of the stage. (Ja, ja, Jagermeister!). Lots of Lamma-ites visible. Tamara is still dancing. Chunny, Sian, John Hutton and Barry are on the periphery. Where the hell are Karina and Derek? I persuade Bizali to make Clockenflap history by becoming the 1st Bristol band to review another Bristol band while the latter are still playing. Here goes: Bizali says: "The Young Knives are brillo pads, like chocolate on our nether bits. Uuuummm, I like". Thanks, Blythe. "Clockenflap rules. The Young Knives rock". Cheers, Daisy. Hermann has the photographic evidence of this mini-moment in history. Don't all surf for it at the same time.
Clockenflap by Day is over. Most of the families are leaving, while the unencumbered are heading to the downstairs inside hall for Clockenflap by Night. Ray's abandoned his Shed and is on the Wheels of Steel, just below a stage clustered with equipment for the later acts. The indoor venue has a Cathedral-cum-foyer appearance, set off by huge bay windows. About 600 (?) or so people remain of the nearly 900 (?) who were outdoors. Ray slams out some frenetic grooves to a wildly delirious crowd (up front, anyway). The final tune features a raucous rock soundbite "you've got a bullet in the head" Sounds familiar? MC Grey Goose enlightens me. "Who else fuses funky 80's electro into Rage Against The Machine" That's some cool shit" Take it away Mr Ray Dollars.
While laptop duo Snoblind set up and fine tune, there's an impromptu performance by Hannah. She's Patti Smith meets Joolz, the Punk Poetess. A bravura recital of "Lamma 'til I Die" over an absorbing funky soundscape. She articulates in brief, but telling detail, the joys of being a Lamma resident. 20 years of my life flash by while she performs. A smile of happy recognition plastered across my face. Hannah, please get in touch w/Hermann. He really wants to publish your poem in Lammazine. On with the show. Still no K + D.
This is the 2nd time I've had the pleasure of seeing Snoblind live. The previous gig was #34 of the long-running series put on by the local organisation that isn't HK Live. I sent them a review and they REACTED WITH A RATHER ROBUST, ROTTEN, RUDE, RANTING REFUSAL. Never mind, Long may they sporulate in their reeking swamps and rotten copses. No hard feelings. Anyway, with your indulgence, I would like to quote from this previously unpublished piece: "...Snoblind get ready to take us into the Twilight Zone where all is possible and nothing forbidden. They plough a slightly more funkrock path than the ambient electronica of FourTet, the mashed-up dance grooves of Kid 666 or the acid-dubtronix of Sandoz...samples and beats recall the mad Swedish Moogsters EHIF, jamming w/ The Flaming Lips as over-produced by the (homicidal) Phil Specter. There's also a nod to Frank Zappa's "Jazz from Hell". They also show sped-up jerky HK movies with a slight hint of paranoia. A sort of stalker's view of grimy, decaying architecture and late night freak rides along the Oblivion Autobahn. Some of the films are the same tonight. Snoblind use 3 laptops and a couple of magic boxy gizmos and joycontrols. Not quite a typical theremin, but capable of much electro-sorcery.
Tonight's set features both Regina and Vincent playing the same stripped down cyberbass(?) at separate times while the other twiddles, tweaks, and sculpts scary soundscapes. The last gig was loungecore compared to this. This set ambles through trip-hop terrain into a final 20 minutes of unparalleled freakout. More dirty/grunge v the sound of terrified prickle-sweat. White noise, bleeding into cosmic debris and background radiation from the birth of the Universe. I can almost hear the quantum foam bubbling in the nano-furnaces, causing the eventual entropic heat-death of the Totality that is our Space Time Continuum. 13.7 billion light years (since tea last Tuesday) and still going strong...
Cassady Winston, an American rep. from Solos records in San Francisco who's been in HK for 9 months puts it differently. "I came to see Snoblind, that's why I came. I'm happy when a down-tempo live group can work a dance crowd" His opinion is shared by Ole Grey Goose, who has possibly over-imbibed wisely on his eponymous vodka and is feeling very confessional. Shook's multiple personalities have decided "we love Cyberport". Sarah Swann and boyfriend Pete (both fellow lefties!) say "Great night. I'll be checking out hkclubbing.com" and "love the beard man! Serious cultivation" Finally, a small screed from the man w/no name. "To, Nick the book, who keeps the book. I Clockenflapped and...I got shook. It's all good, but what's it mean (I keep punctuation even in this mood). Check back next week and you'll find what we seek. I've 20 teenagers defining Clockenflap for homework as we SPEAK". Reveal yourself, kind stranger!
The Guitar Bar cocktails are working as advertised.Wax Apple are setting up and...(bump) :Hi, Nick" Karina and Derek have made it (it's about 2330) Tom and Adele are urging me to stay the distance and split a sampan back. Hermann is ready to go. Bizali have disappeared back into the throbbing crowd. I think, just a few more minutes. Catch some Waxed Apple and leg it. The Apple are veterans of 2 Rock-it Festivals and always receive a warm welcome. One of them is related to the organisers.No red suits today. What I hear is a breathtaking meld of traditional and electronic instruments. The drummer is frantic. Sounds like Afro-Celt SoundSystem re-mixed by Adrian Sherwood. Dub soundscapes and more swirly tronix at drum-n-bass pace. Wish I could stay. Karina says she has a parcel for me in her car...
Outside is chaos. A mini-bus is about to leave. Hermann's inside. I get gazumped. No cabs, hopefully another minibus will come very soon. It's 0010 (Sunday). Last ferry goes in 20 minutes. I wait, see a bus, jump on. It's going to Causeway Bay - via Aberdeen! It's 0028 and I'm stuck on the Aberdeen quay. No sampans, no other customers. A man tells me the single-person fare is $150. Another man repeats the price. It's easier to get a bus back to Central and wait for the 1st Lamma ferry at 0730. Arrive in Central at 0118. I've narrowly missed the next ferry by 6 hours and 12 minutes. Get some scoff at D-bay. Now what? I guess it's time for a long chat to Meher Baba. Pete would approve. ntb.
Review by Nick L.