All unplugged music you could hear – Sound Base festival is an annual music event set to represent the best of amateur musicians playing unplugged in Hong Kong. As an only event of its kind, the encouraging atmosphere allows players to thrive and accomplish their musical goals with the utmost confidence. On 14th August, 2008, judges Leo Chan, Eddie Sing, Jimmy Mak and Tony Lee based their decision on overall performance, originality, technique, and stage presence. With those variables in mind, Supper Moment stood out from the rest of the 19 finalists and was awarded with Gold Prize at the Ko Shan Theater.
Formed by four young lads, Supper Moment impressed the judges with a social commentary written to raise public awareness to suicide incidents that frequents in local headlines. In this guitar-driven Cantonese number, it is not difficult to find traces of influences from John Mayer and Clementine and The Band. "The song was derived from a fiction, about an overdosed teenage girl who chose to put an end to her life by jumping off a building. Preoccupied by the intoxication of illegal drugs, the girl perceived such behavior as liberating and peaceful, instead of dangerous and erratic", said singer-songwriter Sunny Chan. The group is thrilled and overwhelmed with the unexpected triumph and attention they received in the finals. Through the writing process and rehearsals, the four-piece has learnt how to achieve a good musical balance by distributing work evenly among three guitarists.
'Shoebox Duo' Joves, who did remarkably well in last year's festival returned and sustained their charisma with "Master", a winning blend featuring the heart of rock and the soul of blues. Capturing the uncertainties and dilemmas of a relationship, the silver prize pair offered a more polished and organic sound with insightful lyrics. Vocalist-Guitarist Joves Fuego’s solid and clean guitar strums and bass guitarist Chris Collin’s thoughtful bass line formed a tight rhythm section, a foundation for Miss Fuego’s sultry vocals. Letting her vocal gifts soar, her gusty performance drawn a huge burst of applause, as well as winning herself one of the two Best Individual Performance Prizes this year.
Another Best Individual Performance Award went to Jonathan Wu, singer-guitarists from the Bronze Prize band Clementine & the Band. Wu is the type of performer who does not need dazzling costume nor heartbreaking lyrics to endear himself to a huge fan base. His heartfelt composition, "To the Ones I Miss and Love" is a Bob Dylan-influenced acoustic pop that follows a folksy inclination. The intro, which was constructed with minimal notes and an uplifting arrangement, is extremely accessible and contains surprisingly more depth than some of the more generic titles. For no doubt it had succeeded in defining the band’s musical identity in the first twenty seconds of the performance. Perhaps what’s simple is true - this home-style yet well-structured tune would be the song that best reflects the appeal of unplugged music, and Wu, is definitely one of the evening’s most recognizable and sensible front man.
D’hat is a troop of all-male musicians that scores high in technical skills and artistic judgment. Crossing the boundaries of jazz, Taiwanese pop and world music, their CASH Best Original Song was a satisfying, chill-out Mandarin tune with nothing to sniff at. Delivered in a relaxed pace, the group was fixated on recreating the fusion and lay-back aura of Champs-Elysee in Paris. With a style that is almost similar to a crossover project between Pat Metheny Group and Taiwanese R&B/Pop singer David Tao, their flamboyant, jazzy guitar fill-in, as well as the interesting, monologue-like rap insert sustained interest and felt exactly right throughout.
Apart from the award winning teams, there were a good number of performances which could strike a chord with the audience. Take LOLA as an example, the duo wowed us with a more rootsy, girl-with-a-guitar sound. Despite the fact that it was only their second attempt to play to a big crowd of several hundreds, the girls enjoyed every moment on stage and covered "All About You" with much confidence and joy.
While love is probably the most popular theme in songs over the last few centuries, Travellers incorporated the spirit of summer and romance into their radio-ready pop creation "Here comes the Summer Breeze". 二鍋頭 melted the audience’s heart by expressing their love for mama in an entertaining way. Joining acoustic pop with a slight hip-hop shuffle, their slangy lyrics is all about their mama, the heroine who hunts for the best-valued farm produce in the fresh market for the family everyday.
In its 9th year since its commencement, SoundBase Festival has become an annual event that amateurs look forward to join. The power of unplugged music brings people from different background, nationality and culture together thus promoting greater understanding in this international city. If you like to sing, perform and exchange musical ideas, get your song ready by next spring and sign up for the next Festival!
- Francis Fu -
Click for more information and photo gallery: