Last weekend, seven of Hong Kong’s hottest new bands went head-to-head at The Hangout in Sai Wan Ho as part of the Volkswagen x The Underground Battle of the Bands 2017. Up for grabs was recording time with Sammy So at Kolor Studios, a HK$2000 Parsons Music voucher, and a free shuttle service with a Volkswagen T6 Transporter van for the winning band’s upcoming shows, as well as individual performance awards.
First up was instrumental group Cow Head, whose three song set relied heavily on the Latin-style guitar interplay between Simon Choi Tsz-man and Wan Chung-wing. Some of the guitar work was so intricate that it earned Wan the Best Guitarist award at the end of the night.
Dusty Bottle were next up, bringing their effortless blend of soul and funk to the basketball arena. Their performance oozed style, with the Best Bassist award going to Matthew Leung, who masterfully lay down the groove while simultaneously stealing the limelight with his vocoder.
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Esimorp (“Promise” spelt backwards) delivered a tightly rehearsed trio of pop-rock songs, with guitarist Ric Newsom’s incisive and melodic chimes likening them to The Fray or Snow Patrol.
Youngsters LPM then provided an energetic show, with big choruses and lots of structural changes, helping secure Pun Tak-hei the Best Drummer award, with his creative input not going unnoticed by the three judges.
Mockingbird were another band who displayed a wide range of influence, cranking up their amps to the max, and delivering a wall of heavy guitars for singer Miki Ocada to compete with. While there was plenty to talk about, it was their closing track Poison which really left a mark.
Metal synth group Narcissus followed, giving a bombastic spectacle as singer Ho Man-lung (who won Best Vocalist) exhibited her dynamic range with arguably the most personality of the night. She commanded everyone’s attention with her cool demeanour, before the band went into an unexpected jazz rundown to sign off their 12-minute slot. Lee Pui-chui also won Best Keyboardist.
Closing act Wanchai Road brought a huge following with them, offering a refreshing classic rock sound, which often sped up and slowed down playfully, much to the audience’s delight. It signalled the end of a highly entertaining group of bands, before the judges went away to tot up the scores.
Unsurprisingly, Wanchai Road went home with the People’s Choice Award – gaining the biggest crowd vote of the night, before the main prize went to pop rockers Esimorp, with the announcement being met by huge cheers.
Event organiser Chris B, who is also a co-founder of The Underground, was clearly thrilled with the vast talent on display, as well as the big crowd turnout. She told Young Post, “I’m constantly delighted by the new audiences who come to watch these events and say, ‘I had no idea there were such good bands in Hong Kong.’ That’s always been the core of what The Underground’s about, and we are so excited to be a small part of the vibrant live music scene.”
Edited by Ginny Wong