Hong Kong has so many things going for it, but when it comes to its music industry or a ‘live’ music scene, it’s a non-starter. For the tourist, we might reluctantly suggest taking in a Canto Pop concert by one of the leading Cantonese Megastars just for shock value- always a laborious and shameless exercise in self-indulgence and surreal overkill. When megastar and horse owner Aaron Kwok actually rode out onstage at a recent concert on a horse, it was something even film auteur David Lynch could not have created in his wildest Twin Peaks dreams.
Of course, there are venues offering ‘live’ music, but these are mainly in the form of middle of the road- and ageing- female singers trotting out the tired and lame crowd pleasers in the lounges of five-star hotels for those who get sentimental for San Francisco or New York and don’t mind some horrible mawkish versions of current hits played by a “jazz” trio. Some are better than others, but when mediocre is the base, it’s not saying much.
Then there are clubs like Insomnia (Shop A, LG/F, 38-44D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central), Hard Rock Cafe (Hard Rock Cafe), Amazonia (2/F, Empireland Commercial Centre, 81-85 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai) and Dusk Till Dawn (G/F., 76-84 Jaffe Rd., Wanchai, Wan Chai), where Filipino covers bands mimic all the usual suspects.
The Wanch (54 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai) sometimes offers a respite from covers with performances by local indie bands with more enthusiasm than musicianship, but with the right crowd present, it could turn into a good alcohol-fuelled Friday or Saturday evening.
For things more sedate, mature, and on the jazzy side of the street, there really is only Peel Fresco (49 Peel Street, Central ) and Orange Peel (Flat A-C, 2/F, Ho Lee Comm Bldg, 38-44 D’Aguilar Street, Central).
Depending on the night, Peel Fresco can be a good fun night with an interesting crowd and above average talent whereas the newer Orange Peel is already looking as tired and haggard as many of the performers who get up onstage and indulge in unabashed corn. Give Peel Fresco a go, but not if it’s Open Mic Night. Some shockers get up there to strut their stuff that should be made illegal.
Very frankly, the best singer in town- Jennifer Palor- and an extremely good band get together every Happy Wednesday for exclusive performances at Adrenaline at Happy Valley Racecourse. The band performs songs in-between races at a venue that attracts a very good crowd with always the chance of a guest singer sitting in.