Visage One: Hong Kong's covert jazz bar
Visage One: Imagine sitting in a jazz musician’s smoky living room as he strums a few chords on the guitar. Sinking lethargically back into his chair, he starts playing for real and the music surges around you. This is the vibe at Visage One, a hair salon by day and a speakeasy jazz and blues bar by night. It is so small and intimate, there is no separation between performer and audience.
Veteran hairdresser and jazz aficionado Benky Chan set up shop four and a half years, deliberately concealing it in a hidden alley in SoHo.
"Everyone has a secret garden where you go to find something, and I’m interested in that,” Chan says.
Seductive, moody, yet nonchalant, Visage One is Chan's secret garden where we can escape the mayhem of Central.LG/F, Po Lung Building, 93 Hollywood Rd, Central, tel +852 2523 8988
It's late afternoon at Visage One. Engrossed in a Hemingway novel, Benky Chan waits for his next client. The shop is a narrow, split-level loft -- like a shoe box with two layers. There’s no sign, just a simple scrawl on the door:
"For me, haircutting is not just about trends. Trends are about chasing something. When I was younger, I was also chasing something but now I want more than trends. I imagine people’s character and talk to them before cutting their hair," Chan says.
Chan works solo. Getting your hair cut by him is an intense one-on-one experience in his shop. Several clients have followed him for as long as 10 years.
“I think of my clients like a painter would of their model. The more time you have to find out about people’s character, the more interesting the job becomes.”
It's fitting that his hair salon looks more like an art studio, with mirrors resting on easels and paintings strewn about the place.
Twice a month an underground jazz and blues scene erupts in this secluded barbershop. Chan invites various musicians to come together and jam. There is no stage, no entrance fee and no mixed drinks. Chan sets the dates and the news spreads by word of mouth.
The place is small, but purposefully so. “I hope the audience can listen,” says Chan emphatically.
Blues guitarist Roy Stark starts up on the left, with Yank Wong on harmonica, Jeff Siu on erhu, and Neil Art on double bass.
You can saunter in any time after 10pm, but it gets crowded fast. Grab a drink and pull up a stool beside the musicians who usually jam until about 1am.
People squeeze in on the narrow balcony with their legs dangling off the edge above the performers. On the odd occasion a shoe drops, the musicians hold it hostage in jest.
Bill Lock, a blues and folk guitarist, pauses before the next set. Most of the musicians who play at Visage One are old friends but Benky Chan continues to scout for new talent in clubs and concerts.
Local jazz luminary Skip Moy starts playing while audience members listen attentively from the stairs. Chan says famous musicians like to come here because it’s more intimate and feels like going over to a friend’s place to jam rather than doing a gig on stage.
For Chan, jazz and blues is a way of life. He heads up a bar but refuses to make complicated drinks, only serving the basics: wine, beer, whisky and water. "I want to have time to listen to the music, if there are too many drinks to make I get very tired and cannot enjoy."