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Best Hong Kong live music venues
Get so close to the action, you get splattered by the sweat flying off the lead singer
Hong Kong now has a handful of venues that can host international indie acts that would otherwise pass us by in favor of Beijing and Shanghai. Here are our favorite six.
Drum ’n’ bass, Cantopop, Christian rock, Icelandic indie pop, punk, Goth, jazz -- Backstage has hosted them all.
Since its arrival a few years ago on Wellington Street, just around the corner from Lan Kwai Fong, Backstage has committed itself to hosting international and local live music from and for all walks of life -- provided patrons can stump for the cover charge, which is usually in the HK$100-$150 range.
The long, narrow upstairs space is large enough to cram in 200 people standing, or, for quieter shows, 50 seated.
In the early evening hours, the venue's restaurant subsidizes the late-night action. You'll pay at least HK$50 for a bottle of Heineken.
Who's played here? Ólafur Arnalds, Sham 69, Chochukmo, DP, Poubelle International.
Also on CNNGo: What's that sound? Chochukmo
1/F, 52-54 Wellington St., Central, +852 2167 8985, www.backstagelive.hk
Most of the time it’s serving pizza and pasta to business types, but for at least two weekends a month it’s the best indie music venue in town.
The Central location, mezzanine floor for great viewing, excellent acoustics and room enough for nearly 500 people, makes Grappa's Cellar the first choice for mid-sized shows and big indie parties.
Grappa’s is also proving to be a great supporter of local music, hosting numerous Hong Kong showcases.
It’s a favorite for promoters The People’s Party, who are responsible for bringing some of the best indie acts to town.
Who's played here? Yelle, OK Go, Handsome Furs, British Sea Power, Toe, Ratatat, Caribou, DJ Vadim, You Say Party! We Say Die!
Basement, Jardine House, 1 Connaught Place, +852 2521 2322, www.elgrande.com.hk
This place is tiny.
A favorite hangout of jazz types, most nights you’ll find a saxophone, a drum kit and an electric organ on stage, often with a guitarist or two spilling off the side to find room in the alley between the bar and the bathrooms.
Be prepared to bump elbows with the bass player on your way past.
Live music every night of the week can be had at Peel Fresco. Occasionally, the bar will host indie rock, country or blues bands playing toned-down sets to comply with neighborhood noise restrictions.
You’ll often find such legendary Hong Kong jazz greats as Eugene Pao and Ted Lo jamming with their friends.
A hot salsa band plays most Thursday nights.
Peel Fresco also boasts Chimay beer in bottles and a fairly extensive wine list.
Who's played here? Aside from the above -- Jezrael Lucero, Peter Scherr, Bone Table
Also on CNNGo: Karrisa Muse interviews jazz guitarist Eugene Pao
49 Peel St., Central, +852 2540 2046, www.peelfresco.com
Home to Hong Kong’s hard-core scene, this venue is located in a warehouse in the industrial neighborhood of Kwun Tong and is known for raucous shows.
While screamy and straight-edged is the focus here, Hidden Agenda is also known to host indie rock bands, such as Chochukmo and Poubelle International, who enjoy the energy of a mostly Hong Kong Chinese crowd.
Who's played here? Caspian, The Medullary Paralysis, King Lychee, Crazy Lion
Also on CNNGo: Hidden Agenda refuses to close
6/F, Ko Leung Industrial Building, 25 Dai Yip St., Kwun Tong, +852 9170 6073 hiddenagendahk.com.
OK, so the sound is crap, it’s a total dive and sometimes you’ll knock your knuckles on the bass player’s fret board when you’re walking through the door.
But The Wanch is a true institution.
Many nights, you’ll find standard cover bands churning out rock classics, but it’s the frequent and informal local indie showcases here that you should check out.
On these nights, friends pack the Jaffe Road bar’s hotel-room-sized confines and spill out onto the street, where the beer just seems to go down easier.
You might not notice, but the bar is also themed to resemble Hong Kong ferries, with ropes, life rafts, pictures and other nautical paraphernalia scattered around to make you think you’re at sea.
Who's played here? Peabody, Cambodian Space Project, The Lovesong, Elf Fatima
54 Jaffe Road, Wanchai, +852 2861 1621, www.thewanch.hk
Five years ago, the Fringe was the default venue for any visiting band, and most local indie showcases.
Now, the days when HK Magazine’s HK Live! series dominated a small scene are over, which means the most reliable source of indie music crowds have deserted the Fringe in search of new pastures.
That’s not a bad thing. The sound in the dingy venue is often subpar, the stage is always over-lit, and the viewing area is obscured by pillars.
Housed in an old cold storage warehouse built in 1890, the venue serves as a unique spot for live music, and there are still regular shows to be found here.
Who's played here? New Pants, Queen Sea Big Shark, Carsick Cars, The S.I.G.I.T
2 Lower Albert Road, Central, +852 2521 7251, www.hkfringe.com.hk.
Also on CNNGo: Visage One: Hong Kong's covert jazz bar
What is your favorite Hong Kong live music venue? Give props in the comments box below.