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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 5:08 pm 
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Location: Pak Kok Village
Submitted by Nick the Bookman:

BC Unplugged session 20/8/09.

It's nearly 2100 and The Wanch is almost empty as I stroll past towards the nearby 7-11. Have I got the right date? Yes, it's Thursday, 20/8/09 and the blackboard outside is advertising the latest bc Magazine Unplugged Session. I'm here to see Reign Lee and Sue Shearman (a fellow Lammaite) in concert. They're supported by Jing Wong and Monday Faded. Reign and Sue's previous appearance last summer was exhilarating and I've been trying to see them perform since then. Without much success. Mostly due to conflicting schedules. But "Tonight's The Night" as Neil Young would put it.

Refreshed, I've left the 7-11 and toddle back to The Wanch. Going in, I'm greeted: "Hello, Nick. I'm Rachel". She's a senior staff writer for bc and tells me that Simon will be along soon. Actually, he's across the road at the Arts Centre watching In The Nursery perform the live soundtrack to "Man with a Movie Camera", a 1929 silent movie, depicting life in Moscow. I thank Rachel and bc Magazine for tipping me off about tonight's show. Considering they're a monthly publication, they're occasionally better informed than the SCMP Thursday gig guide. I add that I've got a ticket for In The Nursery's show tomorrow night when they'll play an original score to the 1928 French film "The Passion of Joan of Arc". I found out about this performance through bc Magazine as well. Keep up the good work.

Aside from Rachel, there's a teenage girl sitting at the adjacent shelf-cum-table. Performer or true-fan? She's facing the stage and the huge bc Unplugged banner tacked up over it. Simon arrives about 2115 and a small crowd gathers outside. Jing Wong is the opening act. He's wearing a Tom Waits style pork pie hat, glasses, a small jazzsters chinwig and is carrying an acoustic guitar. There's also a tiny box, called "the machine" with which he hopes to accompany himself by sampling, looping and replaying his strummings. Jing say's he's going to play "...original songs, See the reaction. Maybe do some covers". Opening number "Little Girl" starts with a sturdy strum of chords and some fine fey singing. By that I mean his singing voice is nore delicate and higher pitched than his speaking voice and pleasant to listen to. Rather like listening to old Irish folk duo, Tir Na Nog who once headlined the now tragically discontinued Hong Kong Folk Festival in the early nineties."The machine" refuses to co-operate. Some click-click-click sounds before machine malfunction occurs. Jing takes it all in his stride, making a joke out of it this electrical insubordination.

The second tune, possibly called "The Stranger", accompanies an inrush of lovely young ladies and a giant talent. Top local singer Ant(h)ony Wong is in the house to see Jing. Mr. Wong is not apparently the type of man to spend evenings carousing in The Wanch, but he's here tonight. bc magazine's description of Jing Wong as "Indie's next big thing' has merit it seems. The next two songs deal with a relationship breakup from two different perspectives. Hints of Al Stewart, Roy Harper and John Sebastian flicker and trammel through my brain. Local acoustic acts like My Little Airport and Clementine Is My Sunshine are also alluded to in regard to the confessional lyrics.

Jing plays for about 30 minutes. The later tunes are more robust. "Mrs. Nightingale" features a Roger Daltrey scream which doesn't quite get there, but is passionate anyway. More practise on that one. Another song "Icarus" was inspired by "a Victorian dressed man outside the Tate Gallery in London. I thought he was like Peter Sutcliffe" (the Yorkshire Ripper) and is accompanied by a jolting attempt to do the "Psycho" strings. The song ends abruptly as Jing says he"s a "bit unprepared". The final song is a cover of "Lucille" which sounds like Leo Kottke crossed with The Honeydrippers. At least that's what my notes say, but they weren't keeping up with my thoughts so well. Anyway, I enjoyed the opening act a lot. He's confident, not phased by any electrical tantrums, has an erudite mind and a confessional approach to his singing. He'll get better and I'd love to hear him jamming against himself with a fully functioning machine".

It takes about 15 minutes or so for Reign and Sue to get set up. It's a twin accoustic guitar assault tonight with Sue providing the more lysergic licks to counterpoint Reign's passionate vocals. The bar is filling up fast, about 65% - 35%, ladies to men. Steve Cray has popped in to see Reign's set and is promptly overseeing the sound checks. He knows what levers to slide and buttons to push, being a veteran of numerous nights of performance in The Wanch. Steve says he can only stay briefly as he's off to see famed, yet unknown, blues rock guitarist Jimmy Gregory who's playing a special gig above Joe Bananas. And now the girls are up. up and away.

It's an eight song set, mostly from Reign's excellent "Broken Skylines" cd release of last year. The cd is now being remixed and remastered, partly because she felt it was a bit rushed and partly to have a heavier version available for her upcoming short American tour. The first song is newer. Entitled "Built to Last" (a nice Grateful Dead reference there) it was her most recent free download on myspace. A good tune, it kicks off like a slower introduction version of "Another Girl, Another Planet" by The Only Ones. Reign is right up to the mike, eyes closed, singing in lovelorn abandon. Sue is quite minimal in her solos. A few FX occur, but overall her playing reminds me a bit of Miles Davis and his "less is more" technique. Some plucking, some blip-blip style solos. Now and then, the guitar sounds like a clavinet or harmonium. A bit reminiscent of "The Park" by Uriah Heep.

The songs are broken up by witty badinage between Reign and Sue. Reign claiming "I'm your meal ticket" and Sue responding with frequent calls for "my free drink". The evening is turning into a mix of a concert and a stand-up comedy night. Now and then, the gremlins cause minor havoc, but these little mishaps are greeted with gaiety. Everyone is relaxed and having fun. Including Reign's parents, Debbie and Simon, who are sitting just behind me as the place fills up.

(Hang on a minute. Who's that over there? It's CeeBee, the Dark Mistress of SubTerranea. I know Reign played a recent set at her long running revue, but that was an electric showcase. Has she come to check out the unplugged session? And there's Manek, the hip young photo-chronicler of Hong Kong's groovy late night party scene, sitting next to her. No, they're leaving halfway through the set. Manek and I greeted each other when he came in, but there's no farewell from them as they leave. Probably because I've got my head down, scribbling notes. Or maybe she's too pompous these days to bother slumming with the hacks. I used to write reviews for her revue, but it didn't work out and rumour has it that I've been "Stalinized". Not part of the official history anymore).

The highlights of the set include a horripilatory (hair-raising as in goose pimples) version of "Summer Faded", "In Your Arms" and "Don't Close Your Eyes". There's another new song called "Weaker States" which is how I feel after hearing it. I can feel a shit-eating grin growing inside me.I've enjoyed this set as much as I did last time. I hope you both have a great tour of America and I can't wait to see a full electric gig. Until then....

The last intermission is over and Monday Faded takes the stage. Remember the young girl at the beginning of the story? Well, she is Monday Faded and it's her bc Unplugged debut. Maybe her public debut as well. The comedy/gremlin interchanges that are strewn throughout this evening show no sign of ending soon. She's a little bit nervous. A couple of false starts. Nothing to worry about. It's a charitable crowd tonight and bravo to you for having the "balls" to stand up there and sing. Public speaking and performance is one of the toughest phobias to overcome.

Monday Faded (I'm sorry I didn't chat with you and get your real name, but bc didn't publish it either and so we'll respect your privacy) opens with a cover of "Lady Madonna" and the other songs appear to be originals. The third tune has the chorus "...his back's against the wall, he'd better learn to crawl" Accompanied with some more robust strumming and plucking. The fourth number has not title and Monday asks the audience for their input. Someone shouts out "Kangaroo" and it's accepted on the spot. Job done. Miss Faded also sings right up the mike in an engaging mixture of timidity and defiance. The final tune about a one-handed monkey is the quirkiest number she performs. A fine little tale with a hint of eastern promise in the melody. Overall, another great night. Jing Wong and Monday Faded have nice tunes and lyrics (those that I could hear, but that's me being a bit deaf) The rhymes are a couple of levels above "moon, June, swoon" etc. I'll be happy to spend a night listening to you all again. Thanks for another excellently entertaining evening. I'll try not to let another year go by before checking in again.

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