So here we are back in Hong Kong. This is now my 6th time playing Clockenflap festival with Burnitov from the Chicken Brothers (7th for him as I missed a year). We got invited to play their Silent Disco after one of the festival directors caught us both in Festival No. 6, and they keep on bringing us back, so all respects due to them. It’s not just the playing I love here however, I always catch some fantastic music and this year is no exception. Today (Sunday) we have lined up the likes of: Oddisee & Good Compny; Chancha Via Circuito; Khalid; Blood Wine Or Honey; local Reggae band Sensi Lion; and the world’s youngest DJ, 3 year old DJ Archie (who played Kidztown with us at Boomtown this year). Sadly my set clashes with Roni Size and Erykah Badu but I think the rest should satisfy me for now. In fact the acts I’ve seen already are probably more than enough. Here’s a little rundown of my highlights so far.
Nina Las Vegas
I only really know Nina from an excellent Boiler Room set somebody played me recently, however she was a radio host on Australia’s Triple J for 11 years before leaving to set up a label (NLV Records) and concentrating on her DJing and production. As the first DJ on Friday, she set a great precedent. Both myself and Matt (Burnitov) danced our asses off the whole 90 minute set. She started off a little choppy but with a top class selection, then eventually found a solid groove and still managed to ride that all over the place, from Baile Funk to Ballroom, Gqom to the edges of Garage and even a little Ariana Grande. She kept it consistently interesting whilst never nerding out enough to lose the momentum, I’ll definitely be checking out more of her sets in the future.
The first act I caught on Saturday was the Jamaican reggae veteran formerly known as Ricky Storm, who took to the main stage backed by Jahwazoo from Chengzu. I Kong himself is half Chinese and keen to build up the Reggae scene in this part of the world, I’d say he made a good start here in Hong Kong. Although there were a few obvious die hard Reggae fans in the audience, some mouthing the words as he played, the majority of the crowd felt to be just curious bystanders, who nevertheless warmed to the relatively gentle blend of rasta roots reggae and lovers rock. There was an obvious ease in the atmosphere and I Kong proved to be an engaging performer, sprightly above his years with strength and sweetness in his voice, albeit with some weathered roughness around the edges at times. The band played tight, despite being a relatively new collaboration (in Europe he tends to use Najavibes, I’m not sure about back home or the rest of the world) and all in all it proved to be yet another perfect start to the day,
Amadou & Mariam
Always a great act to watch and unquestionably the best crowd atmosphere so far, the , Malian couple and their excellent French band had the whole place in their hands from the second track. Watching Amadou & Mariam is a little like being taken to church, in fact some of their music has definite gospel overtones and there was plenty of clapping and joyful exuberance from the audience. I worked up quite a sweat, especially since it was still hitting 23 degrees here, even after dark,. Suffice to say I felt positively uplifted by the end, but the best gig of the night was still yet to come.
I was devastated to miss the recent tour back in the UK, in fact my only experience of David Byrne had been Talking Heads’ legendary Stop Making Sense DVD which I’ve watched numerous times. I’d totally forgot he was performing at Clockenflap and I was thankful my set only clashed by half an hour, both other days and all previous years I’m playing the final set so headliners are usually not even an option to see. I rushed over to catch the last hour and just caught the end of ‘This Must Be The Place’ which then went straight into ‘Once In A Lifetime’. It was impossible not to be drawn straight in and although I really missed not having crew around to revel in that moment, I managed a few shared smiles and appreciative nods with the folk around me. By the time ‘Road To Nowhere’ came on, I’d moved deeper into the crowd and found a couple of pissed up Brits to jump around in a huddle with.
He’s certainly not lost any of his flair for performance and positioning since Stop Making Sense, visually the show was about as stunning as you can make a dozen or so people in grey suits. The band were in constant motion, with not one fixed instrument or amp on stage, often in one straight line but forever switching. At times it even felt like I was at a Broadway musical, though I mean that in the classiest way possible of course.
I’m not as familiar with David’s solo material (though what I’ve heard of the new album is excellent so far) but not once did my concentration or appreciation waver. He finished with a cover of Janelle Monae’s powerful protest tune ‘Hell You Talmbout’, a bold move for an undeniably bold show. I’d say this was easily one of the best shows I’ve seen, in fact I did say it to him afterwards backstage. There’s nothing more embarrassing than realising you’ve gone a bit too fan boy, there’s a certain light that switches off in people’s eyes when you do that, but that said he did remain perfectly polite and lovely, and what the hell I meant it.