I first set foot in Asia during March 1994, and began my love affair of the continent, particularly east Asia. My first footsteps being disembarking from a British Airways 747 at Hong Kong's legendary Kai Tak airport. Almost 7500 days later, I am stood under the old flight-path, taking shitey pictures on my 'phone, grinning like the proverbial dog with two cocks. Grinning doubly-so as I have managed to sneak in some Laphroig in a hotel water bottle. Back of the net!
Hong Kong has changed immeasurably since my first visit, which then, was a UK colony. I need not mention where Hong Kong is politically today as you can all see in the media. Whereas there has been modest land and building creep on the Island side, it is Kowloon where the major infrastructural changes have occurred since Kai Tak closed in 1998. This is the seventh year of Clockenflaps, and despite having lived in China since 2010, I have been completely oblivious of this festival until now.
The setting for Clockenflaps is truly amazing with the International Commerce Centre (the 8th tallest building in the world) nearby, with also Hong Kong Island's iconic skyline across the harbour. And whereas anyone who knows Hong Kong is aware that it is particularly pedestrian-unfriendly, getting to Clockenflaps is even more so, with all the construction activities around the Austin/Kowloon MRT stations.
So, a bit out of breath, I decide to soak up the festival atmosphere first before taking in Chvrches, The Ravonettes, then Mogwai.
Chvrches are actually very good, and get the Harbour Flap (main) stage in a bit of an electro-frenzy. My only mild criticism is that the vocalist sometimes had a bit of a screechy voice. Also, the wee lassie had been poorly briefed as she attempted to talk Mandarin to a predominantly Cantonese or English speaking crowd. Anyway, marks for trying, hen.
The Ravonettes sounded good (on the Replay Stage), though unfortunately didn’t see much of them, as I was stuck in a queue to top up value on my food and beverage card. Conversely the queues for toilets are non-existent. Think a balance needs to be set next year.
You can sense that this festival is running to military timing, so at precisely 20:59 I position myself in front of the mixing desk, sponsored by Sennheiser; quality. A couple of French guys waving decibel meters are there. Yes, this is Hong Kong, after all- Asia Lite Lite Lite Lite…..
‘Heard’ starts the show, and immediately the sound is perfect, though not loud. Well, not illegally loud. I have not caught the setlist as the stage is a quite a height. (In fact, this is the first time I have seen Mogwai at a festival and by far their biggest stage and audience for myself).
So, it is quite nice in that each song comes as a surprise, of which there are only a few. The real surprise would be Travel is Dangerous, which I just didn’t expect. (But my phone notes later show Acid Food, so obviously the Laphroig and later red wine has had an effect by now….)As is normal for myself, Ithica makes an appearance.
Remurdered was eagerly awaited, and came after flawless versions of Helicon 1 and 2 Rights. Simply amazing when one considers the songwriting, musicianship, and the sound quality set against the most amazing of settings that is the HK Island skyline. And a very good decision to minimise the stage effects, just the Rave Tapes backdrop, given the setting.
In what would be the encores in a regular gig, both Satan and Batcat are predictably impressive, and it may be the alcohol, but I think the volume had been ramped up a bit. (Guessing the French guys were off duty by now…..)
I had always been reluctant to see Mogwai outdoors due to intimacy and sound concerns. Not after this. And, I will definitely put Clockenflaps on my annual calendar, as visually, this must be the best festival in the world. Why my Shanghai and Beijing music mates whinge about how gash the Midi festivals are, yet they have no visibility of Clockenflaps, just has to be addressed. And it will be.
And finally, I do need to catch Mogwai sometime soon again, as just two from Rave Tapes tonight. But as I have said before, Mogwai have simply far too many quality tunes to play all at the same time….