Anyone who’s worried about the future of an authentic Hong Kong music scene needed to look no further than last week’s Lion Rock Festival.
Nine guitar-wielding acts took to the King George V School stage to showcase their skills and battle for a slot at next month’s Rugby Sevens concert.
The stakes were high, but the atmosphere among bands was friendly and supportive as players swapped faulty instruments and cheered loudly for each other. With all proceeds from the night going towards anti-human trafficking charity ZiTeng, punters turned up in droves to snack on samosas and raise the roof for a good cause.
The stage oozed with rock star swagger from local punk stalwarts The Pansies and Jaded, while anthems from Paramore to Arctic Monkeys were covered by some of the bill’s strongest singers in Blve and Zero Displacement. X – formerly known as Year 10 – had abandoned their slightly geekier-sounding name for a set of solid, jump-along rock songs and adoring fans.
At the end of the night, YRock judges Belinda Howard and Ricky Cumes revealed that they’d been so impressed by the bands that they’d picked three acts to perform at Rugby Sevens.
The room erupted with excitement as Asyndeton, The Folk Ups and Lucky Blues were revealed as winners.
The cheekily-named The Folk Ups – though sometimes barely audible above a boisterous crowd – charmed the judges with thoughtful ballads. The only acoustic act of the night, the shy-looking duo, who only started playing music together four months ago, seemed daunted by the bright lights.
“We saw the event as a fantastic opportunity to get our music out to a wider audience and play our music for a good cause,” members Ryan Harling and Jasmine Kelly agreed, adding, “Initially we were a bit unsure if this was the event for us as our sound stood out so much from all of the other bands.” Turns out the event was just the confidence boost they needed – they’ll play to a huge crowd at the Sevens next weekend and are planning to release an EP in the next few months.
Few bands at Lion Rock looked like they were having as much fun as Lucky Blues. The blues rockers’ incredible drummer Ydis Lopez blew judges away, and it was hard to choose between the joyous sticks-woman and Zero Displacement’s Jon Itamah as the crowd-favourite dummer of the night.
The five piece crowned their set with a powerful cover of Eagles’ Hotel California. “Lucky Blues had a lot of charisma onstage,” said Cumes. “And it was great to hear some female energy!”
Asyndeton brought the night to a close with a fierce, high-energy set. Their name – inspired by the connection the members share – may sound pretty heavy metal, but this was a slick guitar band fronted by the astounding singer, Benjamin Man. The at first timid vocalist drew ecstatic screams from the crowd as his soulful voice began flowing from the stage.
As one of the most polished acts of the night, and one of the eventual winners, Asyndeton drew gasps when they revealed they’d been together for only a couple of weeks.
“Just a month ago I barely even knew who these guys were!” said Benjamin. “I think the one thing that really helped us form that close bond was having a mutual understanding and passion for the music we want to create.”
“It was amazing that after just one show we were able to get to play at the Sevens, and we were thrilled that even though we were last loads of people stayed until the end and were so into the music,” said guitarist Harmeet Bhatia.
The festival – flawlessly organised and run by KGV students – was testament to Hong Kong’s burgeoning indie culture, and gave the city’s music scene a very bright outlook.