Magnet, Luke Chow and Hungry Ghost and Red Star Rising. Nice Oriental connection with the names - "Rice", "Hungry Ghost" and "Red Star". Good sort of interconnecting vibe. I've arrived early at The Wanch. About 20 people inside. It's not as frisky as Session # 1, when the US Navy showed up to support their shipmate in his set of scintillating strummage, but I' ve got a good seat by the door where I can mumble inanities and scrawl irrelevancies. All part of the job. Young Bjorn from Beijing is opposite me. He's a rock scribe there,on a brief holiday in Hong Kong. I wonder how his review will turn out. We seem to be writing at different times about different things... Meanwhile, "Life Is A Bitch" by The Bastards is on the jukebox. Cool!!!
All the bands will play about 45 minutes. Up first are Rice Magnet, a power trio comprising Dave Ma on vox/gtr, Ken Ling on lead guitar and Eric Ng on drums. I'm wondering where Simon is. Not like him to miss his own magazine's showcase. I'm writing this down as he walks through the door. Co-Incidence? Cause and Effect? Wishful Thinking? Instant Gratification? "You've missed about 10 seconds of the show, mate"!" Dave has a deep, sonorous voice. I'm thinking a little bit Nick Cave, some Pete Murphy (Bauhaus), but the style is more nu-gothfolkdelic with a touch of Southern rock in the guitar solos, bit of Allman Brothers Band perhaps. Meanwhile, Steve Cray sidles up and remarks on the singer's sort of similarity to Elvis. Whatever, it works. Steve also likes the way Dave treats his vocals, using effects and overdubs of sorts to create a choir sound. Something like that, I was kind of drifting off in an ethereal bliss at the time. A shorthand review of the set would be in a similar style and mood to Reign Lee, albeit more macho and muscular. Songs include "End of the Affair" (the opening song), "Mood", "Losing" and "The End" from their debut CD "Never Let Go". There's a Chris Isaak cover, "King without a Castle" and a new tune called "Forget".
It's been a good start,but not entirely adhering to the Unplugged Concept. I'm thinking that this could turn into the Bruce Springsteen type of Unplugged Session (where "un" is XXXX'd out) as Hungry Ghost amble up, turn on, tune in and slowly get an improv groove growing. This is the first time I've seen Luke play since his laid-back set at Clockenflap. Certainly, it's the first time with Hungry Ghost, minus their drummer. Luke and Paul Lam on guitars. Tiffany L. on bass It's a 60's sort of mellow glide, part Grateful Dead noodling and part Kevin Ayres/Roy Harper shades of whimsy folk. It conjures up images of a vivid floral field, scampering kids entwined within. Picnic hampers and pipes. Boats punting on a river. Day-glow flashes. Riots of pulsing colours. Sounds merge. Notes coalesce. Long camera pullback over a field and river, across a road, over a wall, across a quad, up to a window and within. Fade to grey and a shot of a little boy in school, KNOWING the grass is definitely greener and greater out there. That's sort of how Hungry Ghost sounded. Provided an evocative dreamscape with pale echoes of what once was. A very pleasant chill out set. "Songs" included "This noise", "Internally External", "Chinese Families" and "Man Waltz". Not having their drummer did allow the remaining three to experiment. I've been told that when the mood is upon them, they're capable of dislodging your genitals, so to speak. Looking forward to hearing that sometime, but this was a great expectations deleter of a set.
Haven't seen too many recent Red Star Rising or Steve's solo shows, because he will be a gentleman and let all the other acts precede him. So, it's usually "...twang-g-g-g..." (fade out). "So long Steve. We're off to catch the ferry..." (usually yelled out of a taxi window). Tonight, though, there's time. It's also the first time I've had a chance to see Drummer Neil handling the twigs. Steve says welcome to "the semi-plugged night. We've got such a good crowd so rock it, let's fuck". The band crashes into a mighty rendition of "Megaphone Man". Alex and Drummer Neil lay down a solid drum/bass foundation and Steve goes all fingerblurry on the opening solos. "It's Stevie Cray Vaughn" (Nice One, Luke! I was momentarily miffed that I didn't think of that, but credit where it's due!). Steve, Alex and Neil have been playing together since January and they are tight. Drummer Neil is more 4-to the floor precision rock beats, with occasional flurries. Hugh the former drummer was more whimsical, shall I say? In and out of styles and tempos like a gifted amateur, while Drummer Neil is professional. Think of Ten Years After doing "I'm Coming Home" at Woodstock '69. Alvin Lee is in full on why-play-5-notes-when-37-will do-mode. Leo Lyons on bass and Ric Lee on drums are tweaking new extracts out of minimalist performance. Doing hardly anything that shows while maintaining a relentless beat throughout the 9+ minute performance (on film. They played about 40 minutes on the night)
The pace doesn't relent until Steve breaks a string during "Footsteps" and takes a little longer to replace it than he usually does, because he's enjoying the inter-riffery between the other two. The set is a stripped down Greatest Hits. Tunes include "Red Claw", the grinder blues-rock of "Walking With The Devil" and the quirkiness (somewhat overused word at times, but it still fits) of "Escalator Girls". "Dollar Arcade" and especially "Shopping Malls". These three songs form a triptych of cultural, fiscal and sociological observations of the increasing importance of Mall Culture. (And they rock, dude...) I've always heard "Shopping Malls" as their "Dark Star". Their Grateful Dead moment to stretch out for 20-30 minutes, segue into other material, mash up other hits, give everyone a solo etc. Perhaps, I should tell him this one day. You know, be discreet and obsequious and see what he thinks. Or on the oth..., hey, wait a minute, where is everyone? Oh, Drummer Neil's still here. "Great show. Very enjoyable. First time, I've..." Isn't your ferry leaving about now?" "What's the time?" "12:28!" "G'bye" Taxi, Tardis, whatever. Get me to the ferry in 25 seconds. The digital clock in the taxi reads 12:23. It's accurate. "Made it, Ma!" (That gig was) "Top Of The World" And as the California Governator once said when asked which classical musician he would like to play in a film. "I'll be Bach" See you next month.
Review by Nick The Bookman