Review by Scott Murphy
November 17th, 2017 – Hong Kong
When the Clockenflap Festival began in Hong Kong 10 years ago, the venue was the back of Cyberport in Pokfulam. There was one stage, with a couple handfuls of buzzing international alternative acts, a few thousand attendees, a makeshift food stand and a single Ardbeg stall liberally pouring whisky so that music fans could get a bit of a buzz on.
Two venues later, the multi-staged event is now known internationally, with Prodigy, Massive Attack and Kaiser Chiefs set to headline a three day event starting today at the Central Harbourfront before an estimated 50 to 100,000 attendees (or more) consisting of music lovers, art fanatics, families and those who just want a good day out. For the original trio of Hong Kong based organizers, this was always the goal. “As we’re all either born and raised in Hong Kong or are authentic Hong Kong belongers who call this home, to be able to be part of something so creatively giving and gloriously silly, slap bang in the middle of the city, is something very special indeed and is a real honor,” says Clockenflap co-organizer and founder Justin Sweeting.
Of course it’s the live acts that most people come to see, and Sweeting and company have done their best to make sure that there’s a formidable talent lineup that could compare favorably with festivals elsewhere. Alternative scenesters will thrive on seeing Canadian act Feist, U.S. band the Dandy Warhols, Australian rockers Pond and UK up and comers Temples. For hip hop and electronica lovers there’s London’s Stormzy, LA rapper Kid Ink, dubstep maven Skream and Danish singer Mo.
World music fans will have the opportunity to see feted Malian band Tinariwen and the West African funk provided by Ibibio Sound Machine. And, of course, in addition to the well known headliners, the Bootleg Beatles will be singing songs from one of the best known music catalogs of all time, in what is sure to be a vibrant singalong atmosphere. “This will be the closest most of us will ever get to experiencing the Beatles live,” says Sweeting of the group’s inclusion, while adding that he expects it to be one of the most “fun-filled sets of the weekend”.
More than ever, there’s also a strong contingent of Asian acts, including representatives from Korea (R&B singer Dean), China (Chengdu rappers Higher Brothers), Japan (J-pop act Wednesday Campanella), Taiwan (several acts, including indie band Hello Nico), Thailand (popsters Gym and Swim) and the Philippines (Pedicab and Cheats). A large line-up of homegrown Hong Kong acts –including live favorites Chochukmo, rounds off the list. “Why would we not have Asian acts,” responds Sweeting when asked about the large local line-up this year. “We’re proud of where we’re from and it feels logical and beneficial to draw from the incredible talent right on our geographic doorstep.”
It may be hard to fathom that some people may come for the atmosphere instead of the music, but the event caters to those attendees too. Foodies and restaurants have now copped on to the event’s possibilities, so the site will be teeming with pop up restaurants. Clockenflap veterans will also be long familiar with the popular “Silent Disco”, with headphone wearing dancers blissfully bopping away.or the “Craft Market”, which offers 30 stalls with handmade goods. But there will also be “Footprints”, a mirrored cavern which can be explored, “Balloon Chain”, an ever changing sculpture consisting of helium balloons, the “Cave of Denial”, installation made from Hong Kong trash and “Quantum”, a Spanish body artist who will roam the grounds. Sweeting, who cites that the event now features nursing stations, magic shows and workshops claims that this is all part of the effort to make the Hong Kong event family friendly. “We’ve always wanted Clockenflap to be as accessible as possible and enabling families to come and enjoy elements of the Clockenflap experience both together and separately, makes perfect sense to us,” he says.
So, 10 years on, after numerous venue changes and obstacles (funding, government red tape and the list goes on), the event will now a boast at least one headliner (Massive Attack) bringing their complete audio-visual production for a show Sweeting claims will be “spectacular”. And while the Clockenflap crew will likely be too busy making sure everything runs smoothly to celebrate, they’re proud of this milestone – and look forward to keeping this Hong Kong mission alive. “The vision for Clockenflap hasn’t changed since day one, only the scale has,” says Sweeting. “It’s never being about just one act or thing, and more so being about the collective sum of the parts. If we stick to these principles, we should hopefully stay on the right track.”
Clockenflap takes place November 17th-19th at Central Harbourfront in Hong Kong. Tickets range from $640-1,830HK and are available at the gate or via Ticketflap (worldwide). Children under 12 years old are admitted free. For more details visit www.clockenflap.com
Over the past two decades, Scott Murphy has talked to many of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, in addition to vital up and comers. As a long-time producer at MTV-Asia and Channel V, he created several programs and produced many long-form documentaries on such acts as U2, Metallica, Madonna and more. He’s also been published in many newspapers and publications around the world. Currently, he’s a Creative Director at Dragon 8, a Hong Kong based auction house.