Clockenflap 2017 – 10 great things about the 10th anniversary edition of the Hong Kong festival

Hong Kong’s biggest music festival, Clockenflap, celebrated its 10th anniversary last weekend, and NME was there to take in the scene. Here are the highlights.

Probably the best festival backdrop ever

Clockenflap takes place on Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront, with the high rise Hong Kong Island skyline as its backdrop. Stunning enough during the day, at night the buildings put on a light show too, with the Bank Of China’s illuminated triangles, the HSBC building’s moving LEDs and a giant reindeer wishing you ‘season’s greetings’.

Arty happenings

As you might pick up from its name (it means nothing in any language), Clockenflap places great stock in the quirky. Alongside the musical programme there are art installations including a Robert Bose balloon chains, as seen at Coachella and Burning Man, and the roving performance piece Dazzle Room by Japanese artist Shigeki Matsuyama, in which a woman covered in zebra stripes camouflages against a double-scale zebra-striped sculpture of herself in a zebra-striped bed, while taking selfies using a selfie stick. What does it all mean? Goodness knows, but it looked cool.

A host of global talent

Clockenflap’s line-up is somewhat reflective of the cultural mix of Hong Kong, home to a large expat community and still retaining British peculiarities from its decades under British rule, which ended 20 years ago. The bill mixes local talent and artists from across Asia with a lot of western – and particularly British – acts, among them Slaves, Blossoms and Jungle, who previewed two tracks from their forthcoming second album. Most of them, understandably, seemed pretty jazzed to be playing as far away as Hong Kong to such an effusive festival crowd. “This is the first time we’ve played here and to see so many people out there is special to us,” Jungle told the audience. Elsewhere on the bill: Denmark’s MO, Australia’s Pond and many more.

Big name headliners

On the Friday, Kaiser Chiefs topped the bill, and finished with a cover of The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’. On Saturday, it was The Prodigy, whose hyper-energetic live show incorporated early hits (‘No Good (Start The Dance)’, ‘Poison’), Keith-goes-bonkers classics (‘Breathe’, ‘Firestarter’) and tracks from last year’s ‘The Day Is My Enemy’, ‘Nasty’ in particular, that prove they’ve lost none of their bite.

Stormzy

Wonder how grime goes down in Asia? Like a giant party, that’s how. The Croydon boy brought his show to the Harbourflap stage on Saturday night, and proved himself a major draw. ‘Big For Your Boots’ and ‘Shut Up’ got the crowd moving, the smoochy ‘Cigarettes And Cush’ had them swaying, but it was his version of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape Of You’ that had everyone dancing, much to Stormzy’s approval. “If you can’t dance, you skank,” he’d told the crowd earlier. “If you can’t skank you throw a moshpit.”

The Beatles (sort of)

The Beatles visited Hong Kong for the first and only time on June 9, 1964, when they performed at the Princess Theatre in Kowloon, and it’s an occasion that, according to many, kickstarted Hong Kong’s own English language rock ‘n’ roll scene, paving the way for the Cantonese pop that followed. The Bootleg Beatles’ visit probably wasn’t quite so significant, but they’re certainly a fun way to get Saturday afternoon going.

K-pop’s answer to Justin Timberlake

South Korea’s Dean – just Dean – played the FWD Stage on Saturday – a rare chance to see him in the flesh given his first UK show, at London’s KOKO in June, sold out in minutes. Dean’s being touted as one of the K-pop artists most likely to break through to mainstream success in the West, and his neo soul sound – plus collaborations with the likes of Anderson .Paak and Syd – suggest that might happen. Most of all, his performance revealed a stunning vocal range and mean dance – a package that brought to mind Justin Timberlake in his pomp.

Wednesday Campanella’s visually stunning show

Japanese act Wednesday Campanella, also on the FWD Stage on Saturday, brought a stunning live show to the festival, in which swathes of parachute fabric inflated on stage and unfurled over the heads of the audience, and the band’s KOM_I, who performs solo on behalf of the three-piece band, sung while standing on a ladder above the crowd and rolling over them in a giant hamster ball. Fans of Bjork and Grimes should check her/them out.

Blasts from the past

Dandy Warhols played the Harbourflap stage on the Sunday evening, and if – like us – you’d forgotten how good a festival anthem ‘Bohemian Like You’ is, this was a timely reminder.

Massive Attack’s epic finale

Massive Attack closed the festival on Sunday night, with guests and regular collaborators Young Fathers, who’d played earlier in the day, and a surprise appearance from frequent collaborator Horace Andy. The sweeping, percussive, spine-tinglingly epic ‘Unfinished Sympathy’, played out against that swooping backdrop, brought Clockenflap to a stirringly dramatic finish.

Photos: Kitmin, Chris Lusher