You may have already heard the sad news that Hidden Agenda: This Town Needs will be closing down after hosting its final show on February 27, in which several local indie bands will perform. Much more than your average livehouse, this special venue has prided itself on hosting countless underground acts, off-the-wall events and hipster markets; making it a true hotbed of counterculture in our city. Ahead of the closure, Time Out Hong Kong sat down with This Town Needs’ co-founders, Joshua Chan and Hui Chung-wo, to gain some perspective on their journey up until now, and future outlook.
RECOMMENDED: Want to support live music elsewhere? Check out our list of the best live house bars in Hong Kong.
The two had a rocky start with music venues, Hui reveals, with their previous livehouse stirring up “quite the controversy” over working visa complications, and ultimately having to close. Fortunately, the duo’s passion to provide live indie music to a niche Hong Kong crowd didn’t vanish with this incident. After taking some time to view a string of different spaces – from factory units to commercial buildings – they opened a subsequent venue at Ocean One in Yau Tong.
Hui wanted this new venue, named Hidden Agenda: This Town Needs, to become a pay-what-you-want, self-funded venue, where musicians and organisers like himself and his colleagues enjoy what they do in a creatively nurturing environment. Unfortunately, recent events in Hong Kong have negatively affected this vision.
Image: Ashlyn Chak
“We mostly work with bands that we think can bring a good performance to our stage,” Hui shares. “But a lot of Hongkongers have this mindset that gigs have to be cool or popular if they are going to pay for entry, or they just ask their friends last minute if they want to go together. It’s a spontaneous ‘fast consumer mentality’ and it is challenging for us as business owners. I feel like there aren’t enough organisations or media outlets in HK that strive to change that mentality.”
While the venue has certainly found a place in the hearts of many a Hongkonger, This Town Needs announced on their Facebook page recently that the Yau Tong location was soon to close down, citing show cancellations, financial losses, and uncertain times as the main reasons.
Image: This Town Needs
Music lovers in Hong Kong collectively wish for them to relocate and reopen, but nothing’s certain for now. “We want to be able to get into a position in the future where we can sustain this business,” explains Chan. “We’ve all had a lot of hopes and dreams for how TTN will develop – planning for our future and everything. Yet, the truth is that we have to make sure we are able to support what we do, and it’s not an easy task at the moment. It’s not like we don’t want to dream bigger, but as a platform, the first and foremost thing is to keep this platform alive,” he ends, expressing hope to re-open TTN when the time is right.
What with recent social events and the new coronavirus in Hong Kong, it can be terribly difficult for small, independent businesses to survive. One thing’s sure, however: many Hongkongers are looking forward to seeing This Town Needs rise from the ashes again as a diverse and free environment in which to enjoy music. Until then, catch TTN’s last show on February 27, where several local indie bands will perform.
Thursday, 27 February Lineup:
19:00-19:45, Kimberley Road Union (facebook.com/kimberleyroad9413)
19:45-20:30, NiLiu (facebook.com/NiLiu.hk)
20:30-21:15, Sexyhammer (facebook.com/SexyHammer)
21:15-22:00, Sil Hung Mo (facebook.com/silhungmo)
22:00-22:30, Cryogenic Defilement (facebook.com/cryogenicdefilement)
22:30-23:15, Charm Charm Chu (facebook.com/charmcharmchu)