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Jeremy H. Greenberg

Your guide to Hong Kong’s ultimate free live music festival: H2

Seven days, more than 80 bands, no cover charge

Written by
Graham Turner
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Formerly known as Handover Hallelujah, The Wanchs annual free live music festival is back for its ninth iteration. Expect another week of excellent live music featuring bands from across Hong Kongs broad indie spectrum. Whether you’re into blues, metal or popular covers, theres sure to be something youll like. Get to know some of the bands and you’ll see their take on the scene is as varied as the music they play.

Meet some of the bands

Tin Soldier

Tin Soldier

Tell us about yourselves. 
Two guitars plus bass and drums, playing mainly 1960’s British mod rock because it sounded great (then).

What’s your take on the H2 festival? 
Small but perfectly formed, immaculately organised with a friendly atmosphere in an iconic venue.

Thoughts on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?
Not much to say, really, except The Wanch.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 for the first time? 
Dip in and dip out. If you don’t, you could really wear yourself out.

Final thoughts? 
See you there!

Tin Soldier play on Tuesday, June 26 at 7.15pm.

Esimorp
Photo: Leon Che' Clark

Esimorp

Tell us about yourselves.
We're four idiots from all over the world who love good music and love making music. Our personal influences are all over the place, but our sound is a little like Coldplay meets Kings of Leon. Or of course, you could just come to H2 and decide what we sound like for yourself.

What's your take on H2 festival?
So. Many. Bands.

Thoughts on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?
A lot of talent, awesome people who give so much to help the scene succeed and a bit of adversity – a great place for new bands looking to perform. We just need venues and audiences to blow the roof.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 for the first time?
There really is something for everyone. Read some of the artist descriptions. Check out their Facebook, Youtube, etc. It really shouldn't be too difficult to find your new favourite band and get extra cool points for knowing them before they get popular.

Esimorp play on Thursday, June 28 at 7.45pm.

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Hong Kong Pipe Band

Hong Kong Pipe Band

Tell us about yourselves.
I think we could be considered a first for H2 as our music is very different from the variety of performers that will be there. When we last played in Wan Chai people were dancing in Jaffe Road and blocking traffic. We were booked to play for 30 minutes but ended up playing, in total, for over two hours.

What's your take on H2 festival?
A great idea and opportunity to showcase performers. Great entertainment for performers and audiences alike. There's nothing else like it in Hong Kong. A real diversity of music – seven days isn’t enough!

Thoughts on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?
It's spread too thinly across Hong Kong and is desperately in need of more support.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 for the first time?
Give yourself plenty of time – you’ll want to stay longer.
 
Final thoughts?
Really looking forward to H2 and hope it is well supported as it’s offering something very different.

Hong Kong Pipe Band play on Sunday, 1 July at 7.55pm.

Milkmouth

Milkmouth

Tell us about yourselves.
Wavy guitar tones on top of intricate bass work, while kick and snare produce a solid groove. Toms are rattled with intensity but get balanced out by an array of electric piano taps. Vocals come as calculated lines of melody and lyric, both passionately belted and rhythmically uttered. Tempos range from panicky musical zigzags, to steadily moving auras of the mellow and mystic.

More generally, we're a five-piece who have interests in genres such as dark pop, 80s groove, grunge, and modern electro, though we've yet to incorporate synthesisers in our live act.

What's your take on H2?
H2 is the perfect opportunity for all music lovers in the 852 to experience a sound bazaar like no other. This festival takes a music show, multiplies it by seven, adds a handful of unique and unheard-of spices, and tops it off with a slice of lime and a cocktail umbrella. And viola. Your entire week is sorted.

What's your take on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?
Still in its infancy, but it’s growing baby teeth and a head of soft hair.

When you think of Hong Kong music, what pops into your head?
Cosy live bars hidden within the concrete jungle where you can find sounds from all genres – loud and soft.

Any tips for anyone coming to H2 for the first time?
Bring so many friends that the Wanch bursts open, to reveal the vibes beneath.

Final thoughts?
This festival must continue to grow until it is the most sought-after music event in Hong Kong!

Milkmouth play on June 28 at 8.20pm.

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Mr Happy

Mr Happy

Tell us about yourselves.
Mister Happy consists of one happy drummer, one happy guitarist, one happy bassist and one happy singer. We started out as a barbershop quartet and then started including some reggae and yodelling into the act. Basically, it was a process of trying a lot of different styles to just see what sticks. After a few twists and turns, we’ve settled firmly into an 80s punk style (accented with occasional yodelling).

What's your take on H2 festival?
Can’t get enough of it. Our only wish is that we could play for three hours, not 30 minutes! The Wanch is our band’s home and we are fiercely loyal to the venue. The Wanch is the only venue in Hong Kong capable of pulling off such a festival with so many bands and we are excited to be part of it.

Thoughts on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?
The live scene in Hong Kong centres around the Wanch –everybody loves it. Bands at all levels – from amateur to pros – will always find a welcome audience there.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 for the first time?
Scream loud for your favourite band!

Final thoughts?
Mister Happy couldn’t be more happy to be participating in H2!

Mr Happy play on Friday, June 29 at 8.30pm.

Two Finger Salute

Two Finger Salute

Tell us about yourselves.
Street punk slash oi! Born in the UK, based in Hong Kong. Working class heroes. Council estates, Fred Perry’s, Doc’s and British sub-culture. Based in the heart of Asia and playing shows in Hong Kong, Philippines, Malaysia, China, Indonesia and Japan.

What's your take on H2 festival?
It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the musical talent we have in Hong Kong. Multiple genres mix together across the event. If you don’t find something you like, you’re just fucked and lost in this city of shopping centres and smartphone zombies.

Thoughts on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?Challenging. There’s a lack of venues and support for live music. For us in general, there's an ignorance of the genre we play. Bands spend too much time trying to be arty and dressing the part, they forget that it’s a show for the people who paid to see you. Play loud. It’s about having a good time and enjoying it. Be interesting. Don’t just stand there looking at your shoes while playing. Make a connection with the crowd.

When you think of Hong Kong music, what pops into your head?
Brainfreeze.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 for the first time?
Stick around. Don’t just turn up five minutes before your mate's band plays and then leave five minutes after. Grab a beer and have a good time. Check out the bands. You’ll see the widest range of bands available in Hong Kong. Nowhere else does this.

Final thoughts?
Have fun. Hang out with the bands. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. Support your local scene.

Two Finger Salute play on Saturday, June 29 at 12.15am.

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Rockstars Anonymous

Rockstars Anonymous

Tell us about yourselves. How would you describe your music and who are some of your influences?
Rockstars Anonymous is a cover band from Hong Kong playing rock music from the 80s and 90s like Journey, Bon Jovi, Guns 'n' Roses, Def Leppard, Queen and Aerosmith to name a few. We play all the hit songs that everyone knows and loves.

What's your take on H2 festival?
H2 always acts as a great showcase of local talent here in Hong Kong. It gives bands the chance to play and it helps to promote live music in Hong Kong.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 festival for the first time?
Come with an open mind because H2 definitely has a wide array of bands to suit any taste in music.

Rockstars Anonymous play on Wednesday, June 27 at 9.45pm.

Wan Chai Warriors

Wan Chai Warriors

Tell us about yourselves. 
We play original rock music that which’ll keep you on your toes and have you begging for more. Some of our influences include Soundgarden, Nirvana, Metallica, Pearl Jam and Led Zeppelin.

What's your take on H2 festival?
It’s a great opportunity for people to view a wide range of local bands that they wouldn’t usually get the chance to see. For us, it’s a great way to expose our music to a new audience.

Thoughts on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?
The live scene in HK is dying because of sky-high rents and greedy landlords. If it weren’t for The Wanch and the few live venues left, we wouldn’t have a chance to perform in front of a live audience.

When you think of Hong Kong music, what pops into your head?
Beyond, of course! Paul Wong is the man! I love 24 Herbs! Can I include Soler? These guys have a big heart and have also been a big influence on me during my time in HK. Also, I must mention Chris B from The Underground and Shazza Music Showcase (last Thurs of every month at the Wanch) who is the Mother of Rock in HK. If it weren’t for her the live music scene wouldn’t be as good as it is now.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 for the first time?
This year it is really difficult to tell you which day is the best day to go because there are so many awesome bands lined up every night.

Final thoughts?
Support The Wanch and live music!

Wan Chai Warriors play on Thursday, June 28 at 9.45pm.

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Samuel Alexander Barbour

Samuel Alexander Barbour

Tell us about yourself.
My musical style is acoustic guitar slash easy listening and accessible to all ages. Some influences include Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and José González as well as a wealth of classic songwriters like James Taylor, Jim Croce and Paul Simon. 

What's your take on H2 festival?
I'm very grateful for the wealth of opportunities that H2 has given me to share my music, meet new people and listen to a wide range of music from locally based artists. It's a great platform to build on, get performance time and have fun whilst playing music.

Thoughts on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?
The local live music scene has certainly become more diverse and lively since I first came to Hong Kong in 2006, which can only be good for the city. The younger generation is embracing music and live performance and there are more events and artists around now than there used to be. As a result, this can help to push Hong Kong forward and raise the profile of the region as a growing cultural hub.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 festival for the first time?

It's a very friendly event, people are very welcoming and supportive of all acts and there’s a sense of team spirit among all the artists. It's a place where you can expect to see a lot of diverse performances, so keep an open mind and enjoy the festival vibe!

Final thoughts?
Long live The Wanch and H2! See you there!

Samuel Alexander Barbour will play on Tuesday, 26 June at 6.15pm.

Cameron MacDonald

Cameron MacDonald

Tell us about yourself?
It’s just me this year [MacDonald often plays with his band, The Scaffolders]. Me, a guitar and a harmonica, doing my songs. I’m into the lyrical singer-songwriter types. 

What's your take on H2 festival?
I have fond memories of festivals at the Wanch – going all the way back to the Wanchai Folk Festival as it was. There’s something about being able to catch a number of great acts back-to-back in such a setting. There’s a real community feel to it. Sort of makes you want to stay out late.

Thoughts on the live scene in Hong Kong in general?
Much better than it was.

Tips for anyone coming to H2 for the first time?
Don’t go too hard the first few days. It's a marathon not a sprint. 

Cameron MacDonald will play on Monday, July 2 at 4pm.  

Hear some of the bands

We've put together a little playlist to give you a flavour of what to expect during the week-long bonanza. Enjoy!

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