Category Archives: Music

Clockenflap Music Festival 2012

Sooo….Clockenflap 2012!

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(Photo by Ricko)

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(Photo by Ricko)

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This year’s was held at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade, close to Elements. I went with Ricko, my Indonesian friend from Beijing who’s here in Hong Kong looking for a job, to the December 1 event, 12-pm – 10pm, 390 HKD per head. We got there at 2pm after lunch at Stormies at the Civic Square terrace (fancy!) in Elements. Weather wasn’t at its best; I was pointing out to Ricko the Ozone bar on the 118th floor of the ICC but the top of the building was totally covered by fog.

Anyway, Clockenflap! where coupons were currency.

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(Photo by Ricko)

Luckily it wasn’t too crowded then and we could get pretty close to the stages during all the performances. Sets were half an hour each.

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Stuart Lennon and Marie Witt. Acoustic rock. (Photo by Ricko)

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The Sleeves. Arcade rock (at least that’s what they call it). (Photo by Ricko)

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Buskers playing gypsy music.

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Bella Elektra. Jazz hip hop. (Really enjoyed this one.)

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Poubelle International. Indie rock. (Photo by Ricko)

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Tom Read / The Vine Band. Christian rock (though the stuff they played there were more pop).

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OK. I did not expect to see Sandwich here!!! Sandwich is a rock band from Manila / home. They were given a great introduction from one of the event organizers and they played an AWESOME, AWESOME set. They were a huge hit and got the crowd totally worked up. (“I just wanna go to the beach!” “SUNBURN!” is now stuck in my head.) More Sandwiches!

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Shamus Dark and Eugene Pao. Noir jazz, that’s the best I can put it. (Photo by Ricko)

Ricko and I left around 5:30pm, though the party and the crowds were only really starting by then, but we were pretty tired. I got my Clockenflap T-shirt and the Hungry Ghosts EP and had a good, decadent dinner at Spaghetti House back in Jordan.

Til next year!

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Recording session photos!

In the cold and drizzle of last Sunday, my friend Cyrus (vocals, rhythm guitar, bass), Candice (keyboards), James (cajon drum, backing vocals) and I (lead guitar) were recording at Koya Hisakazu’s studio in Sheung Wan! A lot of of local bands (even Beyond) have had their albums recorded and mixed by Koya and it was a fantastic learning (and adrenalinic) experience for me. Cyrus wants to release an EP next year and he invited me to play lead for one of his songs, “Never Too Late”, and hopefully we can collaborate more in the future. Last Sunday we put down the guide track and got my and James’ tracks down as well. Pics of me and James! Cyrus and Candice will be finishing their tracks one of these weeks.

Here’s an interview with Koya Hisakazu in HK Magazine and a vid below of Cyrus at Backstage Bar playing bass and doing backing vocals. I’m totally looking forward to doing more of this.

A Reggae Kind of Morning

I think these moments come more frequently than we think; we just forget because they can be easily overshadowed when you start doing something as small as reading the news or sending emails. You’ve woken up to a crisp, bright morning, sweater and PJ’s still on, tea boiling in the kitchen, and reggae playing.  Term just ended the day before and revision week has begun. Your students are going insane with the amount of work they still have to do and you’re not off the hook either – there’s still make-up classes,  an infinite number of papers and tests to mark, an entire affair of exams, grades to submit, and you’re going to the office in fifteen minutes. But this calm right now, you don’t just pass it by. Another semester has come and gone and you punctuate it with a big breath. Good job, one and all. The next semester is peeking around the corner of another month, there are news to read, emails to send, and another hundred things to worry about once you open shop, but right now there’s this, there are people who care about you, and everything’s all right.

Couple of Things

Tonight’s soundtrack is Herbie Hancock’s Takin’ Off (Grooveshark is awesome if you want to have a listen), served with a small dollop of plum wine drowned in water because tomorrow’s a work day.

My short story “The Likeness of God” has been accepted for publication in Philippine Speculative Fiction 7! A snippet from the email from Kate Osias, who’s editing the anthology with her husband Alex:

There is something brutal and honest in this piece of work; it made Alex and I uncomfortable, at times disgusted. But it is because you were able to make us feel this way that the story succeeds.  Not all stories could be about love, or longing, or bitterness. Yours was a different journey, and all the unpleasant emotions we felt along the way led us to think about our humanity.

Thanks, Kate! This year’s PSF will be published digitally for the first time to reach a wider audience.

I’ve also gotten an account in LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/crystalkoo. Because it seems to be the professional-looking thing to do. And you can look up old acquaintances without the politics of Facebook.

I’ve also signed up with InterNations, the biggest networking site for expats from all over le world, where you can find info and advice about your city and connect with others expats. Membership is invitation-only and its founder, Philipp von Plato, emailed me an invitation after he bumped into my blog while looking for information about Hong Kong. They have around 5000 members of 89 nationalities in the HK community alone,  which is pretty sizable. I’ve still to fully check out all its functions but it’s been looking really interesting so far.

Natasha Patamapongs at Peel Fresco

June 25, Peel Fresco. Natasha Patamapongs on vocals, Ted Lo on keys, Peter Scherr on double bass, Robbin Harris on drums.

I was really looking forward to seeing Natasha Patamapongs, the vocalist from the Thai jazz band Mellow Motif, perform. So were a number of guys it seemed, and by that I do mean nicely-dressed young men. (Almost said eye-candy there.) She was practically handshaken, hugged and bussed all the way to the bar and eventually to the stage. There’s the allure of musicians for you.  Ted Lo, with that generous crop of graying, curlier Seiji-Ozawa hair behind her (the keyboardists always suffer when I take pictures from where I usually sit), was mobbed by girls during the break and I think he might close to 60 already. The place was packed.

The music was unrehearsed and impromptu and yet spot-on, which caters very much to my preference that you should know your instrument so well you can let rip a solo on the spot. Natasha Patamapongs read her lyrics from an iPad and passed around her iPhone for the chord changes if someone in the band didn’t know the song. They played jazz standards, mostly from Mellow Motif’s self-titled first album. Natasha Patamapongs had her signature bubbly and yet intimate voice, very smooth and assured, romancing the microphone, singing like no one’s watching her. She also had a particular way of gesturing with her hands in order to get just the right register for her voice. I’m not talking of Mariah Carey’s dribbling-a-basketball moves; more like small, minute movements with her fingers and her thumbs, picking just the right sweet spot in her vocal cords for that particular note. I also liked the way she did her embellishments, very tasteful and restrained  (my favorite was when she sang Love for Sale). When the rest of the band did the solo rounds, she’d step off the stage to give them the limelight and watch from the bar. (She also has a surprisingly low speaking voice. Very radio.)

The very laid back Ted Lo, who also plays the drums and the bass, had very nice stuff on the keys. It would have been much better with an acoustic piano (Fresco can only fit a digital one) but he put so much texture in his playing I think I might not have noticed it was a digital one if I was just hearing him. Crisp attack, great dynamics, impeccable sense of timing, and successfully unintrusive by occupying mostly the treble range, which contrasted really well with Natasha Patamapong’s more rounded sound. When they played more uptempo pieces, his feet would go ballistic and knock the beat against the piano bench legs.

Peter Scherr, a Fresco regular and a very jovial guy who cracked jokes for the audience’s benefit, was the one who took quite a few, more avant-garde liberties during his solos and went into the other scales. At one point he was mimicking his own lines, which we, the crowd, really liked. No virtuoso acrobatics here (and I’ve always thought that given how grand a double bass looks already anyway, showing off would just be too pretentious) but a lot of warmth and confidence in the playing.

Robbin Harris, strong and silent type, always kept a godlike calm even during his solos, where most other drummer would just take advantage of the space and let rip a bit too much (a guest drummer they invited up later intruded with his solos too often that I felt like the band was almost forced to accommodate him). Lots of energy but all controlled. I think what struck me the most was the variety of sounds and patterns he made with just wire brushes and his hands – unlike rock where it’s almost like all downbeat all the time, in jazz you have to get really creative to go beyond the usual tsch-tsch on the snare or tinkling on the cymbals and fill in those bits before the next downbeat, which he did quite successfully.

An enjoyable night.

Kevin Guffy and the Satchurator

(I like how it sounds like a story.)

Last Saturday, Annie and I went to Peel Fresco at Central, for drinks and some blues jazz. Playing were Kevin Guffy (sample music here) on guitar and his band for that night: Tsang Tak Hong (a.k.a Bassie Hong) on the bass, Jezrael Lucero on keys (but he was a no-show that night), and, er, the drummer, whose name I embarrassingly never caught.

It was a small crowd so we got very good seats, about six feet away from the musicians. The manager, Rob Baker, was as friendly and accommodating as always (he always manages to say something to me whenever I go to Peel) and we arrived early and had a bit of small talk with Kevin Guffy (cheerful and easy-going guy) during his mic test. The music was mostly jazz-based blues, with some good old blues-blues (I actually wanted more of those – Kevin Guffy sang an Albert King song and pulled a mean Eric Clapton vocal imitation) and soaring, overdriven guitar leads once in a while. Great night of music altogether, along with what Annie proclaimed was the best Midori Sour she’s had in Hong Kong so far.

What blew me away really though was Hong shredding on his five-string bass guitar. He was playing a heck lot more notes than Kevin Guffy at one very impressive point. He spends most of the time with his eyes shut and his fingers flying all over the fretboard, like this. That video doesn’t really do him justice, though there’s a good bit in the middle (it’s in the same venue but a different event; he’s playing with Eugene Pao on the guitar there). There was also a guy with a trumpet who was friends with some of the musicians and joined in a few songs (my lack of names here is really showing how informal this event is – which is something I quite like about Peel Fresco.)

We left after the second set because it was getting late, and we were walking down Queen’s Road Central toward Pedder Street, just across Lan Kwai Fong, to catch a minibus to Mongkok where we could cab it home. We saw a group of local kids our age taking turns busking in the street, which is quite rare in Hong Kong. It seemed like a pretty big, pre-meditated affair: about three guitars, two small amps, and a lot of beer going around. They sang mostly crowdpleasers like Jason Mraz and John Lennon and Paramore. It was very pleasant, especially close to one in the morning, and drew a big crowd of expats and local people.

All right, the Satchurator (which Theresa said sounded something futuristic, like a vaporizer). It’s a guitar distortion pedal, a collaboration between Vox and His Majesty, Joe Satriani. I just bought it at the Tom Lee in Wan Chai at a promo price (1000HKD –> 700HKD) after chasing after it in TST (sold out) and Shatin (display model only). Annie was with me in Shatin and said I was obviously excited about it because after spying it in the glass case, I apparently jumped and made a run for it.

I only have a small practice amp at home but the Satchurator makes it sound like it isn’t. Now I spent hours last night doing my yearly maintenance on my guitar (yes, I know I should do it more often) – restringing, cleaning and conditioning the fretboard, polishing the frets, cleaning and waxing the body, conditioning the strings and that hellishtuningofnewstringsona guitarwithafloatingtremolobridge (I was so tired afterwards I immediately fell asleep when I hit the bed) – and the arrival of the Satchurator today was really worth all that. The versatility of this thing is unbelievable. The journey from subtle grit to screaming overdrive is a long one with lots of delicious tones in between to dial into. Fantastic purchase.

(Satchurator photo from Guitarsite.com; I’m too tired to take my own, it’s been a long day)

(Other photos by Annie)

Publication of “Downfall” and Other Matters

First, Happy Independence Day back home in the Philippines!!! As @faithlessphil says, party like it’s 1898! One way of celebrating is enjoying the show at the #RP612fic event currently ongoing at Twitterville. Paolo Chikiamco describes it as the annual celebration of Independence Day through 140-word microfictions, which not only happens on June 12 but “on to June 13 as well, because the 12th is a Sunday, and we all tweet more when there’s work.” A visionary point.

Second, a shout out to my parents’ wedding anniversary today! (Yes, our family has a penchant for hijacking national holidays for our own. My own birthday falls on one of the coolest, most-badass named holidays back home.)

Third, and what has been the cause of much excitement last night, is my short story “Downfall” being published in the June 13 issue of the Philippines Graphic (Vol. 22,  No. 2). It’s already in print and easily available in local bookstores back home. The online version of the issue will be up soon at the site. Much thanks to Joel Pablo Salud and the editors of the Graphic, and thanks to Charles Tan and Kenneth Yu for informing me that the issue’s out already and Charles for sending me scans of the print copy.

I wrote the story about two years ago after listening to Regina Spektor’s beautiful “Samson” (video, lyrics), which opens and closes with “You are my sweetest downfall / I loved you first, I loved you first.”

The Asian Jazz All-Stars Power Quartet at Grappa’s Cellar

I went out with the girls last Wednesday to Grappa’s Cellar in Jardine House to watch the Asian Jazz All-Stars Power Quartet (which we all very inaccurately called the Eugene Pao quartet). Some friends and I were late because we had to rush from watching God of Carnage at Tsim Sha Tsui so we missed more than half an hour of the band and made it about two pieces before the break.

Very impressed on all fronts.  We had a very good table on the balcony that put us right in front of the band and a little over the other tables. Jeremy Monteiro (Singapore)  was the host and played amazing runs on the Hammond organ. They didn’t have a bassist so he had to pound on the bass line, and very effectively too. I also liked how there being a Hammond organ lent a very blues tinge to the whole thing; if they weren’t playing straight blues, it felt mostly very blues-based Jimmy Smith sort of thing going on.

One of my favorite moments was the face-off between Eugene Pao (Hong Kong) on the elec guitar and Tots Tolentino (Philippines, woot!) on alto sax. Very embarrassing how I had only always just heard about Eugene Pao and never listened to his music until that night at Grappa’s (well, I went to Hong Kong Records afterward but they didn’t have his CDs, which was strange).  Anyway, it was electrifying the way they were trading licks – a guitar and a sax doing call and response at such speed and intensity. (Was this the piece where afterwards Tots Tolentino kind of stepped back and fell off the stage? I can’t remember.) Not one false note and it didn’t even look like they broke a sweat.

I really admired Hong’s (Thailand) restraint on the drums, how his upper arms barely moved and every movement seemed to be just coming from his wrists. (He also had an odd way of staring at an angle at the floor during his solos, concentrating). Richard Jackson had smooth vocals and was absolutely terrific mimicking trombone lines.

A mix of standards and original compositions (my favorite was their take on “Blackbird”) and all around great rapport and connection among everyone in the band. They’ll also be playing at the Jazztastic! The Living Room Jazz Festival in Bangkok at the Sheraton for June.

(Photo by Annie. Poster from El Grande.)

Because I’m So Vain

Our soundman took it. And that’s not even Layla, my own guitar. OK, it was for the stained-glass windows. Honest. 😉 (Cue oversaturation here.)

Rock Me Baby

Because its hotness level is off the charts. And look at how the King is just callin’ the shots.

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