[Live Review + Photography] Clockenflap Festival Hong Kong

— Clockenflap GALLERY —
Clockenflap Festival – Off The Stage
Clockenflap (Day 1) – featuring Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Clockenflap (Day 2) – feat. Franz Ferdinand + The 1975
Clockenflap (Day 3) – feat. Tegan And Sara + Metric + Efterklang

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It’s the time of the year again!
CLOCKENFLAP!!!

   Clockenflap Multimedia Arts and Music Festival is the one and only annual festival that brings international acts to Hong Kong. Taking place at the West Kowloon Cultural District, the Harborflap main stage was facing the incredible skyline of Hong Kong Island. You just could not ask for more for a stage setting with such scene. This year, they got American garage kings Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Scottish indie rockers Franz Ferdinand and the godfather of Chinese rock and roll Cui Jian as the headliners for each night. Other famous names including Metric, Tegan and Sara, Efterklang, The 1975, CHIC with Nile Rodgers and 2manyDJs. Many found the list rather confusing ’cause they got acts from EVERY GENRE. I won’t say Clockenflap was a fully-packed festival except on Saturday with Franz Ferdinand and The 1975 who are very popular in Hong Kong. But it’s perfect because you then had room to dance in the crowd and was able to move around form those giant obstacles standing in front of you.

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Although Day 1 was started at 5pm, there were three excellent acts performed in the few hours – The Strypes, Omar Souleyman and the mighty Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Those were enough to make you scream TGIF! We were totally taken by surprise and here’re the reasons. The Strypes, a young Irish band playing garage rock with scents of blues. These boys were to replace Two Door Cinema Clubs who pulled out the show due to illness. People were full of doubts regarding The Strypes when the replacement was announced and even made comment like “Are they sons of One Direction and Arctic Monkeys lol?” Well as an audience, I could say they did a pretty good job as a new band, though, you could clearly tell they were not that experienced from their stage movement. I can foresee The Strypes to appear on NME a few years later. As for Omar Souleyman, he’s a musician/artist from Syria. Dressing in traditional middle-east outfit, you could never guess what kind of music he would play. This was the most unexpectedly interesting set in Clockenflap. With a touring DJ joining on stage, Souleyman sang in Arabic with electronic beats behind and clapped to cheer the crowd up. Everybody on the (grass) dance floor were all high with this uniquely-crafted world electronic tunes. The first night was ended by the perfect set by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Needless to say, these Californians didn’t earned their names for nothing. No gimmick. Just intensive, straight up rock and roll. The rawness of the guitar was amplified through the stereo, traveled across the whole West Kowloon and across the Victoria Harbor. How could a Friday night end better than this – pure rock, gorgeous night scene and cold beer?

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
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Omar Souleyman
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The Strypes
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Headliner Franz Ferdinand, the Berlin-based electro-punkers Bonaparte and CHIC (with Nile Redgers) are definitely the top acts of Day 2. You may not know who Bonaparte are. Bonaparte is the brainchild of the award-winning Swiss musicians Tobias Junbt. His live performance is always joined by other musicians as a full band plus other performers dressed in costumes. Junbt came out with full head of neon pink hair and heavy eyeliners. The upbeat punk lines with rebellious funny lyrics (and sometimes intersected with a few dirty words in French) easily turned on the audience. Performers including a sexy sometime-half-naked-sometimes-in-swimsuit lady, a QR-code-paper-box-head man, a square-head-rhombus-patterned wo/man and a rubbish-bin-like wo/man crashed the stage on-and-off, turning it into a play-like show. Everything was carefully-curated yet it looked so carefree. After an hour of punk rock party,  Junbt crowd-surfed with his guitar and crawled back to the stage to say goodbye to his Hong Kong fans. Absolutely stunning visual effect and sound quality! Following the punkers were the indie rockers Franz Ferdinand. As the most anticipated band at Clockenflap, Alex Kapranos had done everything a fan wanted to see – interacting with the crowd and his bandmates, complimenting how much he loved Hong Kong, playing classic hit songs like Take Me Out, etc. Yet, there was a sense of dissatisfaction in me. I could not explain the feeling. I guess I was waiting for that headliner-special moment, not only some popular songs to singalong with. Until the last 10 minutes, Franz Ferdinand finally showed their real power as the biggest headline act – a four-in-percussion to end their 1.5 hour set. Thank you Franz Ferdinand. For CHIC and Nile Rodgers‘ dance party in the evening, their names may sound unfamiliar to the younger generation. Nile Rodgers is a legendary musician who has written songs for names like Duran Duran, Madonna and David Bowie. With the gorgeous-looking CHIC singers and backing musicians, everyone was dancing and putting their hands in the air along the disco-esque tunes. Some of you may wonder why I did not pick the up-and-coming The 1975 as my favorite… frankIy was disappointed. Dressing like hipsters did appealed a lot of young girls in the crowd but not for me (or people like me) who are looking for some solid rock music. I do appreciate pop rock music as well but The 1975 are sort of in between. Not purely pop and surely not quite rock. It’s hard to tell the niche they stand.

Franz Ferdinand
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The 1975
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Bonaparte
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CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers
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So what did Clockenflap offer to their flappers on Day 3? Again they had EVERYTHING (for good and bad reason depends on how you evaluate) – Tegan and Sara for the synth-pop fans,  Efterklang for the huge post rock community in Hong Kong, Metric for the pop-rock lovers, Chinese godfather of rock and roll Cui Jian, the critically-acclaimed indie musician Mac DeMarco and the world class party boys 2manydjs. It’s hard to choose who were the best because a few of them did surprise me in different way, especially Mac DeMarco and Cui Jian. Tegan and Sara brought us a smooth, light-hearted gig under the sunny afternoon. Very sincere and devoted musicians. The twins repeatedly emphasized on their love for Hong Kong and how much they would love to move to the city which certainly melted the hearts of people below the stage. Efterklang were joined by two keyboardists / multi-instrumentalists on stage. The setting sun with stage lighting and smoke effect added the dreaminess to their mellow music. In the middle of the set, Efterklang passed a hand-written note from fans they met in their Beijing gig to two fan girls in the crowd who were friends of the Beijing one. And they expressed their willingness to pass on anything from the fans to other attendees in Taipei the day after. It was definitely an artistic and philosophical way of communication. As for Metric,of course all the attention was fallen on the frontwoman Emily Haines. The blonde-hair-red-lip Haines was walking against the ledge, playing guitar and keyboard on stage. Needless to say she had taken the whole stage by herself. She reminded me a lot of Gwen Stefani during the No Doubt days – the look, the style, even the stage movement. Metric‘s set was stopped for 15 minutes because of power connection failure during the show and nobody could believe Metric was forced to cut down their set. Clockenflap was supposed to offer a few more minutes so to finish what they had prepared. Chinese rock god Cui Jian was chosen to wrap up the three-day festival and unfortunately due to language issue, many audience chose 2manydjs instead of Jian. I do not think language should be a barrier or criteria to rate music. Music itself is supposed to be an international language. For those who had left, you had missed out a lot of fun. Jian‘s set spread from pop rock to Chinese-music-influenced blues to hard rock with heavy political message visuals at the back screen. At the end, Jian invited audience to go up to the stage. Good to see people of different nationalities had run up which proved what I just said language should never be the barrier in music. He later passed the mic to a young girl to sing with him and let a young man swipe the strings while he was pressing down the fingerboard of the guitar. This was the first time for me to see Master Cui Jian and I was thrilled. And it’s good to see the youngsters were under the influence of this rock god from their parents generation. More crazy performance was spotted on Clockenflap Day 3. Mac DeMarco was another worth-to-mention act. I missed this amazing musician’s show at CMJ Festival in New York City and finally I caught it in Hong Kong. Who would have thought?! DeMarco, his touring bandmates and his crew were clearly enjoying the gig themselves so much. Even his cameraman took off his pants and crashed the stage with another management guy/roadie. Drinking fans’ bottle of vodka and stage-diving into the crowd pushed the show to the peak. Everybody, on stage and off stage, were having a blast, including me who was shooting next to DeMarco.

Tegan and Sara

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Metric

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Efterklang

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Cui Jian

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Mac DeMarco

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2ManyDJs
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Well that’s all for Clockenflap. To be frank none of the bands on the list is on my all-time-favorite band list (I’m sure everybody has one), however many sets I attended did introduced me new music which I’ll look into after the fest. To me, that is what a music festival is for.

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— Clockenflap GALLERY —
Clockenflap Festival – Off The Stage
Clockenflap (Day 1) – featuring Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Clockenflap (Day 2) – feat. Franz Ferdinand + The 1975
Clockenflap (Day 3) – feat. Tegan And Sara + Metric + Efterklang