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The Coolest Weekend in Hong Kong

It’s been a few days but I’m still buzzed from my Clockenflap experience. Kil Sun Moon, Rachael Yamagata, The Skatalites, Clean Bandit, Earth, Wind & Fire Experience, Swervedriver, cold beer, good food, best friends, EO and YO having a blast. And I haven’t even mentioned Sunday night! Oh Lord.

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A certain je ne sais quoi and a pocket for your vodka. (photo by therockmom)

But before I get to that thrilling climax, let me tell you about a group of très intéressant folks I met at the festival. I spotted them as soon as I arrived on Saturday. Dressed all in black, they stood looking out at the harbor away from the crowds before wandering over to the Yamagata show. There they sat on the ground, passing around  bottles of Smirnoff and playfully photo-bombing the family snap occurring in front of them. They seemed to inhabit their own little galaxy of urban style, as if they had landed in Hong Kong from another, cooler (and colder) clime: the West Village, Rue Bichat, Shoreditch, a Fellini sound stage?

Maybe I don’t get out much (truth: I don’t), but this foursome exuded a confidence and panache I don’t see very often in HK. Yet they didn’t strike me as posers. Who were they?

So I asked.

Ashley, Anthony, Carmen and their shy friend all grew up in Hong Kong and range in age from mid-20s to early 30s. The chatty ones were best friends Anthony and Ashley who met at Clockenflap two years. Anthony runs his own clothing store specializing in Korean and European fashion while Ashley is a graphic designer interested in branding and typography. The duo said their coordinated look was not actually inspired by Paris but it was designed for impact. As Anthony explained, “Maybe it’s too hot and no one will wear a long coat today so you think we will look more outstanding.”

When I asked what’s been the reaction so far to their collective chic, Anthony laughed and said people wonder, “Do you feel hot today?”

Style knows no pain (or heatstroke).

In a town where business dress rules, you’ve got to admire the modish quartet – celebrating, enjoying and perpetuating the long relationship between music and fashion. And by the way, Yamagata was also dressed in all black so they were in good company.

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Ashley & Anthony in solidarity with Rachael Yamagata, a singer-songwriter who ROCKS on stage. (photo by therockmom)

I saw a lot of great bands over the weekend, and judging by their comments, they had a fun time here too. Many acts were Hong Kong newbies, and they seemed a bit surprised and overwhelmed by the dramatic setting as well as the enthusiastic crowds. The festival was incredibly well-organized, and the staff super friendly. I mean, if the beer sellers are still smiling at 9pm on Sunday night then you know some positive vibes are permeating the Clockenflap grounds. My only complaint was that I couldn’t be in two places at once!

But as the sun set on Sunday evening, there was only one place I wanted to be: as close to the front as possible at the Harbourflap stage. That’s where Nile Rodgers and his talented, airtight band were tearing through dozens (and I do mean dozens) of songs that he wrote, co-wrote, produced, played on and/or infused with his magic disco touch. A collection of hits and acts that span four decades: CHIC, Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Daft Punk. Rodgers spoke of surviving cancer and realizing every day is a gift, and he was generous in praising his bandmates. When he introduced the last song, ‘Good Times’, he said the tune always inspired a disco party on stage. And then he brought out Unsung Heroes, a Hong Kong domestic worker choir, to dance, sing and take selfies with him and his band. It was a party, absolutely.

I had a half hour to grab a beer and a box of Vietnamese noodles before the last act of the weekend, New Order, took the stage. My day had started at 5:30 in the morning, and my knees were aching from a.m. hiking on DB and p.m. dancing to CHIC. But I didn’t want to go home early because hey! how many times will I get to see New Order? My hardcore-fan friends made their way to the front, but I moved over to the left with another friend, strategically close to the exit, and on a set of stairs where I could rest my weary legs. The location afforded us a view of the stage, the crowd and the entire HK Island skyline across the harbor. The pano function on my phone camera just couldn’t do justice to the surreal and wondrous night.

When New Order gifted us with an encore of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Blue Monday’, we ascended to another plane of existence – somewhere between the suburban innocence of the ‘80s and the vibrant metropolis that is Hong Kong, 2015.

I haven’t witnessed this much ecstatic mopey-head dancing since prom night.

Thanks Clockenflap and see you again next year!

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Okay, this photo is crap but if you were there you’ll remember the awesome scene. Thank You and Good Night! (photo by therockmom)

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Happy Rock Dads’ Day!

Father’s Day is this Sunday, so in honor of rock Dads everywhere I thought I’d talk to some actual musician Dads and get their take on music and parenting. I sent them some questions and was amused, surprised and most of all honored by their heartfelt answers. My guests are from all over the world, but briefly I’d like to welcome:

San Saba County, a gem of a band from Austin. That's Tyler second from right.

Tyler lives in Austin, but hails from Moscow, Idaho. He plays bass and sings for a band called San Saba County. I’d call them a very Texas band; they use the term: post-alt-country. You can check them out on their MySpace page. Tyler’s daughter, Evie, is almost two, and she’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. Tyler’s married to my good pal, Christie, whom I’ve mentioned before as one of my main music-loving resources.

Click here for San Saba County’s website.

Kevin lives in Hong Kong, but is originally from the U.S. His son, Jonah, will be three years old in July. By day, Kevin works as Asia Business Editor for CNN.com International and at night he plays bass in a couple of local bands, including Transnoodle. He describes their music as “original ska, punk, funk, Russian folk music “. For proof, you can check them out on YouTube:

and

Kevin also plays with the trio New Tonic Press, featuring singer-songwriter Sue Shearman. You can listen to New Tonic Press at:

And last but not least is Bill, my brother, who lives in Paris and has twin boys – Felix and Louis – aged eight. Bill works a very white-collar job as a management consultant but also plays guitar in a cover band called The Outliers. He’s as fanatical about music as I am. And he’ll be pleased to know that after many years, I finally have a keen appreciation for Paul Simon.

That's my brother on the right. Kind of a continental T-Bone Burnett, n'est pas?

There were so many interesting and honest answers to my questions that I’m going to post this in two installments. So read on for Part I of my Q&A with some way cool RockDads:

Do you have any specific memories of what music your parents listened to?

Tyler: There are three bands that stand out from my childhood and they all were mostly played on a cassette boombox on the beach during our summer camping trips: ZZ Top, Huey Lewis and The News and John “Cougar” Mellencamp. My parents were always music listeners but not music lovers and I would never say they had a taste of their own. It was always whatever was American Top 40. They divorced when I was around seven, and I remember soon after the divorce my dad buying me John Cougar’s “Scarecrow” album. He looked me in the eye, handed me the cassette and said, “Listen to this, son,” as if it held the answers of the world. I’ll admit that I have tapped my foot to one or two of the ‘Coug’s’ songs.

Kevin: My parents were teenagers on the wrong side of the 50s — Dad listened to classical and Perry Como, Mom liked easy listening, so the radio was often tuned to muzak. That changed for me when John Lennon died when I was 12 and suddenly all the stations were playing The Beatles: I had heard every song before in lame elevator form, but never actually heard them do it. I listened to the Beatles non-stop for a full year. My dad and I connected more on music in high school when I studied music and he was surprised to hear Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” on my stereo.

Bill: I have many, many memories of Dad’s music: Herb Alpert’s “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” and the other Tijuana Brass LP with the airplane are primal memories because of the A&M Records logo. Dad was keen on the 50’s-60’s white jazz guys like Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, Stan Getz and the funky instrumental space age bachelor pad records he had. Later, when I began playing saxophone and got serious about jazz, he would bring home bargain records of these guys that he remembered from his college days. He got me Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits (with Dave in the world’s greatest horn-rimmed glasses), which has been a very important record to me. He got me an obscure Bud Shank record that I played to death. All sorts of curious things. He also got me my first Charlie Parker record (a Verve collection), which opened up a world that has been absolutely fundamental to who I am.

What’s funny is that I don’t recall him listening to many of these albums in his free time. I don’t know that he really connected to this music in the way you and I have connected to our music. My memory is of TV at home and talk radio in the car.

Who are the top three artists you want your children to know/listen to?

Kevin: Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and John Coltrane — great composers (though John and Jimi were also virtuosos). Listening to them at 18 is different than listening to them at 42, but somehow the music grows with you. It’s music we could listen to together.

Bill: I am very, very proud that Louis and Felix have a) responded so well to music I love and b) have surprised me by exercising their own judgment on what makes their bedroom playlist. They are huge Beatles fans and love “Help!”, “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver”. They could stop there and I would feel my work is done. But Lo! and Behold! they have jumped on my copy of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Greatest Hits Vol. 1”, my Buddy Holly collection, Lemonheads “It’s a Shame about Ray”, REM “Green” and all sorts of things. They are only eight years old but they already have their own tastes and their own agendas in terms of why they listen to music. Louis is very rhythm-oriented, likes to dance and wants a physical rush from his music. He instantly connected to the opening riff in The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”. Felix also likes a good hook, but is more sentimental and lyric driven. He is the frustrated romantic who needs another to sing his heart. He’ll be living with The Beatles all his life and will no doubt be passionate for bands that “stand for something” — a U2 or REM ten years from now.

So, to answer your question, here is the list:
1) The Beatles — check
2) American R&B and Blues — they’re deep into Motown already and I am optimistic that this will lead to blues and the rest of that wonderful world of black music that I believe is their best anchor to American culture.
3) Miles Davis, specifically “Kind of Blue”.

Tyler: In a perfect world, my little girl will like every band that I push onto her. I do know that this will never be the case. I would hope that she could at least respect bands like Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Neko Case for their classic guitar and vocal-driven song craft.

Performing in bands can offer all kinds of temptations that go hand-in-hand with a late-night lifestyle. Would you encourage your child to pursue rock-n-roll? Why or why not?

Kevin: I’ve gone down that road and did a U-turn. I quit drinking a week before I learned I was going to be a father. For me, the partying part of music just became boring, depressing and dangerous. Still spend time in bars, but it’s Coke (Coca-Cola, that is) for me now. If my son picks up the guitar I’m sure I’ll worry, then remind myself what I was doing when I was his age. Then worry even more.

But I met my wife by playing music — she asked me out after seeing me at a gig. So in a way, Jonah owes his existence to my nightlife pursuits. I suppose I’ll need to give him room to make his own mistakes. I mean, really — do I have a choice? But if he falls into that trap, at least I’m better equipped now to help him get back.

Tyler: If you’re referring to drinking, smoking and the like, I cannot condone it but I know what kids will do. I’m still a kid myself. But playing music is much more than getting loaded and banging on an instrument. It’s the one constant in my life that I will always love and never quit so if my kid can have a focus like that in her life I will never stand in her way.

Bill: I would encourage them to pursue rock-n-roll. Drugs scare me, but they will pass that gauntlet no matter what. What’s important is that they have something meaningful and enriching to their self-esteem. Plus, it may help them get girls to a degree that I could only dream of as an adolescent.

Stay tuned for Part II where we hear the Rock Dads talk about their favorite lullaby’s, how listening to music will be different for their kids, and what they would do if their son brought home the 18-year old incarnation of Chrissie Hynde.

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