Festival review by guest writer Carla Thomas.
“Picture yourself in a boat on a river/With tangerine trees and marmalade skies…” And with that bizarrely sedative tune, the Flaming Lips’ cover of Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds was the psychedelic swan song that brought Clockenflap 2014 to a surreal close.
The three-day arts and music festival, arguably Hong Kong’s premier annual music event, expected to see record numbers of festival-goers this year. The turnout was undoubtedly boosted by high-profile acts like Kool & The Gang and Tenacious D.
Friday night was all about letting Glasgow flourish, as both synthpop darlings Chrvches and post-rock heavyweights Mogwai performed impressive sets at the Harbourflap main stage (though the cringe factor was strong as Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry’s made the baffling decision to address the Hong Kongese crowd in Mandarin). It was The Vaccines’ infectiously high-energy indie rock blowout at Replay stage that earned the prize of best atmosphere of the night, or at the very least, sweatiest.
By most accounts, Saturday wasn’t widely anticipated as a lineup you simply couldn’t miss; yet with afternoon sets from French electronic duo Nôze in the Electriq tent, ska-tastic Sultan Ali & The Red stripes at Replay, and aptly named gypsy rockers The Turbans on the Your Mum stage, one would have been well-advised to make the rounds during the day.
Saturday evening proved to be a lesson in contrast between stages. Ambient rockers Jagwar Ma, the velvety voice of Nightmares on Wax, and the gloriously hirsute Travis all delivered mellowed out yet entirely moving sets, while larger musical ensembles like Latin-influenced Ozomatli and disco legends Kool & The Gang gave up a slew of up-tempo, hip-jiggling numbers.
UK genre-blenders Rudimental did the expected and ended the night on an impossibly high note with their own brand of beautifully crafted and sophisticated music – their end of the night sing-along to Feel the Love had Flappers young and old alike swaying arms in the air, eyes closed and smiles wide.
Sunday started off on the sunnier side of the bed, a welcome sight for the many who had arrived unprepared for the misty grimness of Saturday. Noteworthy performances included the virtually indescribable life force that is Dan Deacon – so vast and consuming was his sound vortex that scheduled acts on nearby stages could barely start their sets, expectantly waiting for a break in his flow of beats to summon a crowd of their own. Still, it was that brand of madcap musical mischief that produced one of the weekend’s unparalleled highlights, an interpretative dance mosh pit.
Britain’s Nitin Sawney was a welcome comedown from the participatory antics of Deacon, but it was homegrown talent that produced some of the better performances of the night. Oh! Nulla (an offshoot of post-hardcore locals The Lovesong) turned out a compelling show, while My Little Airport performed with an emotion and charm that transcended lyricist language.
Openly gay and leather-clad Le1f delivered his own unique brand of rap and grind, catering to the twerk-aholics of Clockenflap who may have been hoping for a Miley Cyrus cameo during The Flaming Lips’ set. Instead it was Tenacious D’s Jack Black who was on cameo duty, making a (not so) surprise appearance on-stage as the famously eccentric Wayne Coyne belted out that old Beatles ode to hallucinogens while confetti rained down on exhausted and contented festival-goers.
And while it was not without its hitches (the Harbourflap jumbo screen dying halfway through Tenacious D’s set, overpriced food, more boozed-up middle schoolers than you could shake a fist at – which I did, on several occasions), the 2014 Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival was a resounding success by any measure.