Category Archives: Hong Kong Night Life

Friday Night Rocks

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There’s a new place in town and it’s called the New Central Harbourfront, a huge outdoor area right along the harbor next to the Central Ferry piers.  This week, with the Hong Kong Rugby 7′s in town, they’re holding daily events here as part of what they’re calling HK Fanzone. The opening night featured local star Khalil Fong while Saturday night brought De La Soul back to Hong Kong.

Friday night brought Friday Night Rocks, the first in a series of events celebrating the 10th anniversary of Underground. So for the crazy low price of just HK$150 for advance tickets, you got a festival celebrating the amazing diversity of Hong Kong’s independent music scene (plus a guest band from Korea). The bands that played were:

It was a great night, to put it mildly. Stand-outs for me were Shotgun Politics, Galaxy Express and Dr. Eggs.

Here are a few quick photos. There’s a lot more over at the Friday Night Rocks Gallery Page at Spike’s Photos.

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Friday Night Rocks!

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Yes, every Friday night rocks but Friday March 28th is going to rock even harder.

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After staging at least 150 shows in Hong Kong clubs over the past ten years, my good friends at Underground are doing their first music festival – and it’s long overdue in my opinion!

The Hong Kong Rugby 7′s are coming up in two weeks and some organizers have put together a multi-day event called HK Fan Zone. Khalil Fong is scheduled for the opening night, Tuesday March 25th, and De La Soul will be headlining on Saturday March 29th. All of this will be taking place at the “New Central Harbourfront.” This is really nice – a second waterfront venue for events and concerts. Is Hong Kong finally dipping some toes into 21st century water?

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Friday March 28th belongs to Underground and they’ll be bringing along SEVEN bands for the event. This includes local indie favorites like Noughts and Exes, Dr. Eggs and Bamboo Star, as well as Galaxy Express, a hard rocking trio from Korea.

There are a limited number of advance tickets for sale at only $150 – admission will cost $200 at the door. I think that’s an incredibly reasonable price for an event like this.  You can buy advance tickets online here.

Read more about the event and the participating bands here.

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Finance Live! – Charity Benefit

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(Please click on the above image to see it full size.)

I’m sure that a lot of people in town know Steve Bernstein. By day he works in the financial field and somehow most nights he finds the energy to be playing mandolin in a variety of bands all over town, frequently The Wanch, where I’ve seen him perform many times as a member of the Joven Goce Band.

As if all of this wasn’t already enough, he also puts together charity shows and the latest one is coming up on March 20th at Grappa’s Cellar. Titled Finance Live!, it will feature five bands, all of which include musicians who work in Hong Kong’s financial industry.

The proceeds from this show will be going to Hong Kong charity Foodlink, This is the charity that is working to end hunger in Hong Kong primarily by collecting all of the food that hotels and restaurants used to throw out at the end of the day and distributing this food to those in need.  

So in essence, you’re going to have a great night out, hear some great live music, drink a bit (or a lot, if you’re so inclined) and know that you’re helping people in Hong Kong who really need your help.

Finance Live! is almost sold out, but not quite. I’m asking you, my readers, to help make this event a sell out, and to keep an eye out for their future events as well.

If you’re looking to buy tickets, or if you just want further details on this event, drop an email to steve (dot) bernstein (at) sinopac (dot) com.

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BLOHK Party Coming Soon!

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If you haven’t already heard about BLOHK Party, it’s looking huge.  It’s coming just one week after a bigger-than-ever Clockenflap (which I can’t attend this year because it coincides with my wedding). Finally Hong Kong is getting a number of sizable world-class music events.

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On December 7, 2013, Hong Kong will play host to one of the largest upscale one-day events in Asia. Taking the concept of block party (which originated from the streets of New York City) and tailoring it to suit the tastes of Hong Kong – the Inaugural BLOHK PARTY 2013 will take place at the West Kowloon Cultural District.

Curated by Pharrell Williams for I AM OTHER Entertainment, BLOHK PARTY 2013 is an elevated cross-cultural experience bringing together the global community to Hong Kong, enjoying a full day and evening of cultural activities related to music, food, and fashion.

Grammy Award winning musician, Pharrell Williams, will headline the event
which also features Pusha T, & the Ed Banger 10th Year Anniversary World Tour
including live performances and DJ sets by famous French DJ & producer
Breakbot & label boss Busy P (Pedro Winter). Local acts that are
participating include Edison Chen with MC Yan & Chef, LMF, 24 Herbs,
Josie & The Uni Boys and Skibs the Kid. There are more to be announced
soon in the coming weeks.

With a breath-taking view of Hong Kong Island, the West Kowloon Cultural District will be transformed into an urban playground of activities with a large range of offerings from the hippest food establishments in Hong Kong to special fashion areas featuring retail/lifestyle pop-ups by emerging and established brands, providing limited edition and special merchandise only available at the event.

Founded by cultural entrepreneur, Kevin Poon and live events producer, Alex Ng, BLOHK PARTY 2013 promises to be one of the hottest music-led events of the year. In addition to captivating performances by top class international and local musicians and a plethora of cultural activities, BLOHK PARTY 2013 will also feature top-grade VIP areas complete with food and drinks that will cater to the most discerning partygoer.

Pharrell Williams is having his biggest year ever, with his voice being heard on two of this summer’s biggest hits (from Daft Punk and Robin Thicke).  And let’s face it … Grandmaster Flash, need I say anything more?

Standard tickets are HK$788 in advance or HK$888 at the door. Check out their Facebook page – they have frequent contests offering free tickets.

I think this will be an interesting day out and I hope it’s hugely successful so that it will draw other festival style events to our little SAR.

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In Brief – Bar Notes

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I’m not out at night much any more. It takes me up to two hours to get home from work so most week nights, I don’t hang out. I don’t drink alcohol much any more and when I do, it just seems as if there’d be nothing more depressing than sitting on a bus drunk for an hour. But last night, I needed to go out and I needed a few drinks. My friend was in the mood to try a couple of new spots, and so we did.

We started at Push Bar. This is on the corner of Jaffe & Luard in Wanchai, 5th floor above Joe Bananas. It used to be Skitz, a place with a pool table and darts, and a place where a lot of the Filipino musicians in Wanchai cover bands would head on their breaks. Now there’s signs all over about “Dance Club” but we were there from 6 till 8 and there was no dancing. Actually there was almost no one else in the bar but us. The waitress said it gets busy after 10 or 11. What they do have is a large outdoor space where one can smoke. Music? We had to rely on the tinny speakers from our iPhones because (we were told) they weren’t allowed (a loud?) to put speakers outside. There was a hot tub at the end of the deck – partly filled with dirty water.

From there we went to Hong Kong Cafe Pub & Disco. Know what this is? It was Neptune 2 until they lost their liquor license last year. I suppose it took them more than 6 months to re-open because they were waiting for the new license. They certainly didn’t spend much money fixing up the place. They refinished the bar and the table tops and put a few new pictures on the wall. Otherwise, everything is the same – same floors, same staff, same free Neptune 2 lighters. What was missing? People. At 8:30, we were the only customers there. It could be because people don’t know they’ve reopened yet. Or it could be because they’re no longer allowing smoking down there (at least not yet).

Lastly, I’ll mention a bar I haven’t checked out yet. I almost never go to Lan Kwai Fong anymore. But I spotted an ad in the new HK Magazine for Geronimo Shot Bar. I had to check and yes indeed, this is a branch of the place of the same name in Roppongi. It was one of the first bars I ever wandered into in Tokyo, back in 1994 (hopefully it’s still there, I haven’t been to Tokyo in 4 years, dammit) and that one holds a lot of happy memories for me. If I ever do find myself in LKF at night, I’m going to make a point of checking this place out. If any of you have been there yet, leave a note in comments with your impressions please.

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Ian Anderson Hong Kong Concert Updates

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Ian Anderson is coming to Hong Kong on Monday, June 24th, in a show billed as Ian Anderson Plays the Best of Jethro Tull.  I’ll be photographing that show and might have back stage access as well, so aside from finally getting to see Anderson live for the first time, I’m excited to have a chance to meet him and photograph him.

Here’s an interview with Anderson in Music Weekly/Asia in which he discusses the upcoming Hong Kong show.

There will be something unique at the Hong Kong show – HKAPA student and flautist Melody Kuen-Kuen Chuang will be performing with Anderson at the show.

If you haven’t purchased tickets yet, the promoters have also given me discount codes that will get you 15% off on A and B tickets or 40% off on C and D tickets. They have asked me to distribute the codes privately – so I can’t post them here or in comments. If any readers would like the discount code, then send an email to hongkietown at gmail dot com and I’ll send you the codes.

Here’s a terrific clip of Anderson in concert from 2008 – you want to stick with it past the 2 minute mark, when he and the band start to heat things up.

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Ian Anderson Plays the Very Best of Jethro Tull coming to Hong Kong

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Well, for all intensive purposes, Ian Anderson is Jethro Tull.  Originally formed in 1967, Jethro Tull’s music has combined elements of blues, folk, jazz and progressive rock. Their best known albums include Aqualung and Thick as a Brick. (Guitarist Martin Barre was with the group from 1969 onwards, but as of 2011 Tull no longer seems to be a going concern.)

Now lead singer/songwriter/flutist Ian Anderson is including a stop in Hong Kong on June 24th on his current world tour.  It’s his first concert in Hong Kong in 20 years. Top “regular” ticket price is $980, but the promoters have put together some special VIP packages that include the chance to meet and be photographed with Ian Anderson backstage before the concert starts. I’m informed that these packages, which top out at just under $2,500, are almost sold out.

I’ve been a Jethro Tull fan since their first album (which made a huge splash on FM radio in New York when it was released) but I’ve never seen them live so going to this show crosses another item off my bucket list.

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Here’s a quick video that Anderson made inviting Hong Kong fans to the concert. (Link in case you can’t see the embedded video.)

And here’s some concert footage from 1978, Tull performing Thick as a Brick at Madison Square Garden. (Link in case you can’t see the embedded video.)

All of that aside, here’s a little tale of how things work in Hong Kong.  One day about two weeks ago, I’m standing outside the building where I work (on Lockhart Road) having a smoke. This woman comes walking by, looks at me, comes up to me and asks, “Excuse me, do you live in Hong Kong?” I thought she was a tourist and was going to ask me for directions. Instead, she reached into her bag and handed me a flyer for the concert.

Before she could walk away I asked her, “Excuse me, are you associated with the promoters of the show?” She told me she was, so I asked for her card. As soon as I got back to my desk, I sent her an email with links to my portfolio and asking if I could get a media pass to photograph the concert. I didn’t hear anything for a week and I figured, okay, that’s that, but then this week I received an email from her husband. No, it didn’t say “leave my wife alone you xxx,” it said that he liked my portfolio and that he wanted to meet to discuss my request.

So I’ve now been hired to shoot the backstage stuff as well as photograph the concert, and I’m thrilled. The promoters are a new company called Euro Asia Entertainment and this is the first show they’re producing in Hong Kong. They seem to be quite well connected on the international music scene and mentioned to me some of the other acts they plan to bring to Hong Kong in the future. I’m not free to share any names but let’s just say that if things work out, this Ian Anderson show will be the tip of the iceberg.

Either way, I’m looking forward to the concert.

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Beertopia Hong Kong 2013

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Yesterday I attended Beertopia Hong Kong 2013.  Actually I was hired by the event organizers to shoot the afternoon session. However, I enjoyed it so much that I went home at 5 PM, picked up my gf, and then returned for the evening session just because I was enjoying it so much – and I’m not much of a beer drinker.

(Photos will follow on Spike’s Photos soon.)

So here’s the deal.  The event was organized by Jonathan So. Jon’s from Toronto, lived in NYC and decided to put together a craft beer festival in Hong Kong. He did the first one last year at Western Market in Sheung Wan. It was so successful that he needed a larger venue for this year’s event and so it was held at the West Kowloon Promenade. It was my first time going there and it’s just great that there’s this lovely park and event space right on the waterfront, just a 10 minute walk from the ICC and Elements mall.  Clockenflap was also held here but I was unable to attend that because I was traveling at the time.

I didn’t attend the event last year and didn’t look at the web site for this year’s event so I didn’t really know what to expect. Watching Jon brief the vendors and staff before the gates opened, I was immediately impressed by how well he seemed to have thought through everything. There were plenty of toilets (a must for a beer festival, eh?), plenty of security guards and arrangements for keeping the area clean, even as the number of empty bottles was piling up.  There were two sessions, one running from noon till 5, the other from 6 till 11.

I’d say there were roughly 25-30 booths there. Two rows of booths featured somewhere around 100 different craft beers from microbreweries around the world. Of course the U.S. and Europe were well represented, but there was even a booth from a restaurant and microbrewery from Shanghai and another from Korea. Cider was also well represented, with at least 10 or 15 varieties on hand.

Of course if you’re going to go with “gourmet” beer you can’t have run-of-the-mill food to go with it. Most of the food booths were from companies that do home delivery and catering rather than having restaurants. The most popular booth seemed to be the one from the guys at MeatMarket.HK, serving up a hearty steak sandwich on a seriously crusty baguette. There was a stand called Flying Brats and I asked the guy where I could buy his sausages (I got one of his bratwurst and finished it in seconds) and he told me that with rents being what they are, right now it’s simply something he’s trying out in events such as this. Only two actual restaurants were represented among all the food stalls – Brickhouse and Koh Thai. Another stand that I enjoyed was one that was serving brownies that were made with stout and bacon.

Along with booths featuring beer games and beer lectures (!), there was the main tent, featuring almost non-stop music from 10 bands, most of them booked by my friends from the Underground. The afternoon set opened with the Joven Goce Band, a particular favorite of mine, and closed with an energetic set from Canadian band Van De Kamp. How is it that I’d never heard of these guys? Well, they’re not only Canadian, they’re from Quebec, and mostly sing in French.  The evening show included other local favorites including The Sleeves and Thinking Out Loud.

About 1,500 people attended the afternoon session. They were expecting 3,000 for the evening session but I think they got more. Obviously there was much more of a party atmosphere at night – so I’m glad I was shooting during the afternoon when it was less crowded and more relaxed but also glad I went back to hang out there at night.

Negatives? Very few. I think at night the area around the food booths was too crowded. Trying to move around was like moving through a human car wash, as Robin Williams once called it. There was this point as I was trying to make my way to a particular booth that I could just sense the lens cap coming off my camera – and indeed it did. It was way too crowded and also too dark for me to try to search for it. Argh. Despite this one personal inconvenience, I’d say that the crowd was remarkably well-behaved.

Also, since I was working in the afternoon and driving both sessions, I was looking for something non-alcoholic to drink – and that was not to be found. I had to exit the venue and walk about 20 yards down to a bank of vending machines to buy bottles of water. To be fair, I don’t suspect there were too many others there looking for water or Coke, but I should mention that there were more than a few parents there with children and I don’t know how they coped when the kids got thirsty.

Overall, it was a really great event, well run, well attended and a great venue. I hope there will be a lot more events at the West Kowloon Promenade and I know that when Beertopia returns next year, we’re going to return.

(I’ll be processing my photos from the event today and will post some on Spike’s Photos later in the week.)

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R.I.P. Neptune 2?

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Believe it or not, I haven’t been around the bar area in Wanchai in almost a month.  (I’ll probably make up for that this coming week.)  I’d heard that Neptune 2 had closed, the reason being that their liquor license wasn’t renewed.  Today the closing was mentioned in the SCMP.

Legendary Wan Chai haunt Neptune II has been shut down, with the Liquor Licensing Board refusing to issue it a new licence.

The basement club in Jaffe Road, established in 1993, was one of the most popular dance clubs in the city. However, for the past two weeks its shutters have been pulled down and its doors closed.

Okay, I suppose this isn’t a huge news story (though I do know a lot of people who will consider this massive) but it took them two weeks to notice?

Staff at its sister bar – Neptune III in Lockhart Road – said Neptune II was closed for renovation, but considering that it is the busiest time of the year for the city’s nightspots, this seemed unlikely.

 

These were sisters who did not get along that well.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department later confirmed that Neptune II’s bar licence had not been renewed, but did not give a reason.

Did the reporter bother to ask?

The real reason for its closure is understood to be much less controversial, with an industry source revealing that its liquor licence was turned down because of overcrowding.

“The Buildings Department and Fire Services Department would have put a capacity limit on it for its bar licence, as it is in the basement and not on a ground floor. Anything that is upstairs or in a basement has a capacity limit put on it, for safety reasons, and this is what happened here,” the source revealed. “They consistently flouted this capacity limit over the years, and the Liquor Licensing Board was left with no other option but to close it.”

It doesn’t sound as if it’s going to return, does it?  Of course one of many things could happen, including someone else renting out the space and continuing the tradition (or not) or perhaps the current owners forming a new company, changing the name of the bar and applying for a new liquor license.

I don’t like to think about how many hours (or dollars) I spent there back in the day.  Nothing is forever.

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