Meet four Wan Chai house bands
Live 8 was touring around Asia before they became the resident band at Carnegie’s last November. Long-time friends who met while playing in different bands back in the Philippines, the members’ closeness infuses their performances with a sense of easy camaraderie that often leads to spontaneous bouts of dancing and, on one occasion, a show conducted in their underwear. Lead vocals are shared by married couple Ira and Mark Evangelista but the other four members are also talented vocalists in their own right. While they consider alternative and classic rock to be their comfort zone, Live 8 are just as adept at covering late 90s pop, contemporary R&B, electronic dance hits and everything in between. On whether they miss the days of touring, Ira says, “We’re not young anymore. In Hong Kong, the contracts are longer, the pay is better and there are more opportunities for residencies. We can settle down here.” Then there’s the local fanbase. “Some of our regulars have been coming to see us for years, following us from bar to bar. To us, they’re not customers anymore, they’re family,” says Mark.
Favourite song to cover: Rosanna by Toto
When they’re on: Mon-Tue, Thu, Sat 10pm & Sun 4pm
Despite often and ably drawing from the well-trod cover band repertoire of classic rock songs (because, as singers Daisy Meano and Chelou Ignacio Leung put it, “expats love rock”), 24K Band’s smooth harmonies and carefully choreographed performances are perhaps more reminiscent of R&B. Priding themselves on their showmanship, the members have dubbed their polished style “total performance”, which consists of synchronised dance moves, a constantly changing LED-screen background that lends a karaoke-video vibe, and sometimes even matching costumes. Though they’re no longer fazed by drunk or belligerent customers – “We just smile and call the bouncer,” Leung remarks – they’re still amused by streakers, with singer Mark Cronico admitting, “I tend to laugh. I can’t keep a straight face.” The funnier aspects of working in Wan Chai aside, Meano and Leung lament that the district’s reputation for late-night partying means having to keep much later hours than their counterparts in Tsim Sha Tsui and even Lan Kwai Fong.
Favourite song to cover: I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
When they’re on: Mon-Sat 10pm
Named after the tropical cyclones that hit Hong Kong and the Philippines every summer, Typhoon 7 is comprised of – you guessed it – seven members. It’s led by frontman Addhy Alcaraz, whose soulful, gritty voice lends itself well to the AC/DC and Bon Jovi covers he favours, and female vocalist Aura Bien, who has a personal preference for gender-bent covers of Queen and Metallica. To shake things up, the band will whip out the occasional Korean, Chinese or Thai song, and have been known to break out a saxophone or harmonica during sets. What is most memorable about Typhoon 7, however, is their affable stage presence, even after weathering personal hardships. Alcaraz, in particular, has had to live apart from his family in order to pursue a musical career here in Hong Kong. He says it’s worth it though since he’s now able to make a better living and support his young son who, as it turns out, has inherited his gift for singing.
Favourite song to cover: Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses
When they’re on: Wed-Sun 10pm
Rapunzel was originally a well-established hard- rock outfit in the Philippines. Faced with an over-saturated music industry, the members left their native country years ago in search of greener pastures. Following a two-year stint in Bahrain – where they played jazz in hotel lounges – the group chose to settle in Hong Kong, attracted by the “much, much higher pay” and appetite for rock music. The band has since performed thousands of sets, their unique blend of reggae, hard rock, punk and metal finding a welcoming home on the rowdiest stretch of Wan Chai. That’s not to say that they don’t play outside of their wheelhouse. “We’ve been asked to play Justin Bieber songs. And the Pokémon theme tune,” says keyboardist Darwin Sloane Rilles. Rapunzel has been at Amazonia for the last seven years, due in large part to the continued stability the gig provides for their families. Ultimately, however, the members hope to achieve worldwide recognition like their idol Arnel Pineda, who fronted cover bands in Hong Kong for years before becoming the lead singer of Journey.
Favourite song to cover: Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine, Psychosocial by Slipknot
When they’re on: Wed-Sat 10pm