It’s a rare but beautiful thing to witness the moment someone’s life is completely made. That was the scene that played out on stage on Saturday night at the Planetrox China Final 2016, hosted by The Underground at Hang Out in Sai Wan Ho. Planetrox is a competition with a mission to discover the world’s best new bands through worldwide auditions. The winning band from each country gets a slot at Canada’s Envol et Macadam Festival of alternative music. Each year, the massive event flies in bands from all over the world to share exciting new music.
Frontman Kan Lo had played it cool all evening, leading his pop punk band through their winning set. But he burst into tears of pure joy when he found out Sugar Bro was headed to Quebec City.
No one was surprised the band won. From the moment they took to the stage – all backwards caps, Hawaiian shirts and questionable hairstyles – it was clear the crowd was in for something special. They got the room moving with party-starting pop punk influenced by skater rock idols, such as Fall Out Boy, Wheatus and Fountains of Wayne. However, it was clear the group wasn’t just all about goofing around and had their hearts set on the prize. During their performance, Lo thanked his mum, his mum’s friends and even his mum’s friends’ friends for their support of the band. “It wasn’t just my mum, my entire family support me,” he tells Young Post. “They have never stopped me playing music. They support us at our shows so that I can focus on making music.”
The band formed back when they were in Form Three. Gordon and Kan were schoolmates and wanted to take part in a singing contest so they formed Sugar Bro as a two-man band. They met bassist Kirk in 2013 at one of their own shows, and he introduced them to drummer Ronny. “Our goal is to make people feel high and play the songs with us,” explains Lo. Their advice to new bands looking to follow in their footsteps is to “interact with the audiences even if they don’t jump along with you or clap or sing.”
It’ll be a busy few months for the band as they polish their live show for the September festival. They say they’ll prepare for the trip by making sure they’re all in peak physical condition. “Besides preparing some new songs rehearsing old ones, we’ll work out, as our act is very physical,” says Lo. “We’ll need a lot of energy for the festival. The stage is so much bigger than anywhere in Hong Kong. We can’t wait to show Canada what Hong Kong music is all about!”
Going from Hang Out’s converted gymnasium to Envol’s massive stage will take some mental preparing too, and the band has come up with a clever way to make sure they don’t get daunted by the bright lights and enormous crowd. “During rehearsals, we put photos of the crowd at a festival on the computer screen to mimic a large concert,” Lo reveals.
Regarding last Saturday’s tearful victory, he adds, “We still can’t believe it. We’re so happy. Finally, we made it!”
Sugar Bro’s competition was fierce. Each band had a strict 20-minute time slot to impress the panel of high-profile judges, which included Dennis Argenzia from LiveNation Asia, Simon Gaudry from Envol et Macadam Festival, and Clem Fung from celebrated Hong Kong group Rubberband. The evening opened with moody guitar and wrathful vocals from theatrical rockers The Three Hares. However, the band slipped up when they went two minutes over their time limit, losing out on crucial points.
Narcissus – the only band of the night with a female member – followed with an intense and tight set of intricate gothic rock and an incredible vocal performance from singer Nanase.
They may have missed out on the grand prize, but it was hard to argue that local heroes Monochrome didn’t get the crowd’s vote.
Their fans were the most enthusiastic of the night, waving neon signs and rushing to cast their vote at the end of the show, even though there were still other bands on the bill. Their music altered between cheesy, ’80s synths to shrieking, finger-tapped guitar and mean riffs. After Sugar Bro, Tri-Accident threw their hat into the ring with their fiery brand of hard rock and old-school rebel spirit inspired by bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses and ACDC. Each talented member was fascinating to watch in his own right – whether it was blinding guitar solos, drumstick twirls or funky slap bass.
It was a wonderful evening, showing the strength and creativity within the local indie music scene. Last year’s winners, Bamboo Star, closed the show with a whirl of over-the-top hair metal and sing-along choruses, and everyone went home with a smile on their faces and rock ‘n’ roll thumping in their hearts. Congratulations to Sugar Bro on a very well deserved win!