It was Rock critic Jon Landau who famously or infamously declared in Rolling Stone many decades ago how he had seen the future of Rock And Roll and that his name was Bruce Springsteen.
Though not prone to making sweeping statements like this as I detest cheese whiz and cornballs, when it comes to ‘live’ music in Hong Kong where the choices are hardly new nor bountiful, there’s something very special about the four piece soul-funk outfit known as Indigo Town.
Even if having to perform onstage under the Hong Kong government’s stupidly stringent law after law after law that has taken the fun out of nightlife, the energy of the band is not sapped.
What makes them special are the dynamics between vocalist John Gil and guitarist Brendon Gold.
There’s an originality and dexterity- I know, I know- big words- to Gil’s vocals that I hadn’t previously heard from a band in Hong Kong.
He and the band perform covers, but the arrangements avoid comparisons. They’re cleverly original.
Quite frankly, just how many full-time bands are there in Hong Kong with something approaching an onstage personality that doesn’t fall into the area of old school showbiz shtick?
This is what works at least for me with Indigo Town- the unabashed fun and soul funk vocals of John Gil presented with a vampy rolling of the shoulders- Gil is openly gay and married- and the very much Nile Rogers/Chic and “Good Times” led rhythm guitar work of Brendon Gold.
As a guitarist, he is about restraint with no need to be heard unless really needed. He doesn’t wish to be Slash. It’s about how Less Is More, and, with Gil, forming a musical unit that feeds off each other.
Whatever it is that they’re cooking up in their soul kitchen with the rest of the band- drummer Thomas Vantheemsche and bass guitarist Rob Kilvington-Shaw - they’re very much in sync with each other and know where they wish to take their music...and under their own terms.
None of this is to say that Indigo Town are divaesque. They’re simply confident about what they’re delivering and continue to fine tune this.
When catching them performing at the enigma that is Adrenaline of the Hong Kong Jockey Club last Wednesday, and not exactly the coolest venue in town- is there one?- Indigo Town somehow gave this venue that’s still trying to find its brand personality at least something approaching a vibe that’s, well, cool. And here’s someone who doesn’t find many things in Hong Kong to be “cool”.
Cool is often a state of mind and which clicks and kicks into place when seeing how something connects with its audience.
Gawd knows, there are a number of venues around town today trying to work within all the parameters of today’s locked down government manifesto that have set out to be “cool” and fallen at the first hurdle. Attracting practically no customers is a sure Duh sign that things are not working.
Adrenaline, meanwhile, is a strange beast that’s been around for around a decade and was part of the very very successful Happy Wednesday brand.
This brand, led by the ‘live’ music outdoors, themed nights, horse racing every half an hour, promotions, and a wonderfully international group of regulars at the always buzzing Beer Garden- especially some very attractive females in their twenties and thirties, definitely had a rub-off effect on Adrenaline.
Here was a venue that was there, but kinda wasn’t and which no one really cared about enough to improve things as there was so much else going on. It was like a horse with no name galloping into the great unknown.
During these times, however, where the fish aren’t jumping and the cotton is fluff and where there’s a stampede by many to be seen in the instaworld as being coolness personified, Adrenaline is a weird combination of what could be, but isn’t because of still not having found its mojo and brand personality.
Somehow seeing and hearing Indigo Town there last Wednesday worked, and at least showed what something could be when the pieces fit. It’s very different to throwing anything and everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. Usually, nothing does and ends up looking like an episode of “Lost”.
What Adrenaline has going for it today are some spicy nachos with a few dips- no other food is allowed because it’s not categorised as a restaurant- drinks and some ‘live’ music between the races and after the last race has been run.
Somewhat surprisingly, this is enough for those who appear to be regulars- and when there on Wednesday, there was a fun crowd and some absolute stunners strutting their stuff.
This wasn’t some staycation Hello Kitty crowd looking for the cheapest deal and turning five stars into two. The venue is full every week. But this shouldn’t be the end game.
Crowds move in packs and there’s no loyalty to any brand, especially one with no personality.
This brand personality for Adrenaline is finally taking shape. It’s no longer going to look lost and confused despite Hong Kong’s locked down mindset rules and regulations. Django needs to be unchained enough to work in this environment and think creatively.
I honestly believe that the venue is going surprise itself- and many others.
Watch this space. Or space this watch.