At midnight on NYE I was in Hidden Agenda again (it’s turning into my favourite place in Hong Kong), surrounded by hundreds of happy Chinese moshers going crazy to some fine local music. This time, I actually ran into a local friend (it’s good to already have a local friend) who could translate the intros for me, as well as clue me in on which bands were locally famous. The place was absolutely rammed, but sadly, a large part of that is apparently the relocation effect. I’ve been told the place is far emptier normally, as the only real promotion is done on Facebook and the website. The relocation parties were listed in the local Time Out and in HK Magazine, so I guess everyone in town into indie music knew about it. The crowd was a cool combination of the hip and casual – some girls (and guys) were very fashionably done up, but there were also lots of people in T shirts and jeans (and black leggings, which seem to be the most popular item of clothing for women here). Everyone was incredibly friendly, polite and smiley. Even when people got really drunk and the whole place went off in one big, crazy pogo dance it was all friendly and fun. People apologise for pushing past you or accidentally moving you or stepping on you and it doesn’t seem to be the autopilot response you get in the UK but an actual thought-out response.
The biggest band on the bill was apparently Chochukmo, which is apparently one of the very few bands whose CD is sold in the HK HMV (if that fact is indeed true then what gives, HMV? There are so many awesome HK bands, you’d think there’d be a whole section dedicating to supporting local talent!). They sing in English and sound not entirely unlike the Chili Peppers. They certainly seemed to have plenty of very keen fans who rushed to the front to see them play.
Then there were More Reverb with some really beautiful instrumental pieces. Hidden Agenda is actually relocating, rather than closing down forever, which is super good news for people in Hong Kong if you ask me. They’ll be moving somewhere nearby and their opening party will be on February 2nd. Shame I’ll miss it.
The night actually finished some time after midnight, so I headed off to a different underground Hong Kong venue altogether – the XXX Gallery, for a dancehall / reggae night.
Most foreign people I’ve met in HK so far seem to have fallen into the trap of going out in horrid Lan Kwai Fong which seems to be the local equivalent of going out in Leicester Square, or worse – some blown up version of the going out area in some super chavvy UK town. It’s full of loud, tacky bars where fat middle-aged Western bankers sit with their Asian hookers and drunken foreigners fall all over each other to the sound of mainstream hits. I went to an OKish bar there (Le Jardin) for the CouchSurfing meet up a while back and although it was pretty loud, the music didn’t suck too badly and there was actually a good deal on some very delicious martinis (plus the bar staff were cool and they sign you up for free “membership” at the entrance so they can serve you booze). Still, the area itself reminds me of all the sides of London I avoid like the plague. Apparently the going rate for a drink in the area can be as high as $100 HK (£8). I’d rather sit at home counting hairs than go out somewhere like that.
Anyway, if you thought going out in HK needs to be this foul, then I have great news for you. The XXX gallery is small in UK terms, but apparently a good size in HK terms. It has signs saying “private party” for that extra underground “not entirely licensed for this” feel and you need to bring your own booze cause they don’t sell anything there. It’s in Sheung Wan, so not too far from the vileness of LKF, really, but it feels like going out in London 15 years ago. There’s no dress code, no annoying drunks and everyone is incredibly friendly. At this particular party There was a mix of Chinese and non-Chinese (though, frankly, more foreigners than Chinese), the sound was good and the DJs were great. If you want to get an idea of what the vibe was like, then you can draw inspiration from the mother of all TV clubbing scenes. Just imagine a smaller venue, different music and no cheesy rave gear: