"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Travel
January 10, 2011

Leaving Sydney

Today is my first day at work for 2011. It feels good to be back in the studio, updating software, clearing emails, pulling out project folders and getting back into “normal” life. Sadly I can’t say the same about being back in Hong Kong. It isn’t just looking out over the grey, polluted murk that […]

Today is my first day at work for 2011. It feels good to be back in the studio, updating software, clearing emails, pulling out project folders and getting back into “normal” life. Sadly I can’t say the same about being back in Hong Kong. It isn’t just looking out over the grey, polluted murk that has got me down. Right now there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than sound design, composing music, editing music and throwing a few words onto this blog – but, there’s plenty of places I’d rather be doing it from.

Let me take a step back. Saturday was the final full day of holidays and I was in Sydney. Despite growing up in Sydney, the city doesn’t hold a special place in my heart like it once did. Too many locations I once loved have become car-parks or shopping malls. Yet, the city still has a buzz and is clearly thriving as a tourist destination. Walking around the town on Friday and Saturday I saw (and spoke to) quite a few tourists who were having a great time. And, in contrast to Hong Kong, this wasn’t confined to bars or shops, but also there were hoards of people out walking, enjoying the view, the vibe and the wealth of outdoor, harbour-side eateries.

In fact, I was taken aback by how positive the general mood was; in cafes, or stores the service was upbeat and, for the most part welcoming. Along the sidewalks people were smiling – a lot.

The good times continued on Saturday night with the Sydney Festival First Night. Stages were set up across the centre of the city, in parks and plazas, to showcase live acts that will be performing at the Sydney Festival. Crowds didn’t reach the 250,000 expected, but it was still a vibrant carnival atmosphere. I had the chance to see Chinese folk-rock group HangGai in Martin Place and Eddie Perfect followed by Circa in Hyde Park (along with some great street stall food).

There was also some amazing percussion as TaikOz took over the intersection of Martin Place and Macquarie Street. They had a stage with traditional drums, then further groups on three other buildings down the street – the effect of which was to create a cavernous and imposing sound that reminded one of how fearful ancient war drums must have sounded in the age before electric amplification. This was a contrast to the subtle early films (i watched a couple from 1906) on show in the corner of Hyde park.

I caught the whole of the tribute to Ruby Hunter and had two chances to dance down Macquarie Street behind Orkestra del Sol (and after finishing the first series of Treme, was in the mood for anything that looked like a second line).

The whole night was a blast. People ate, drank, danced and treated each other with respect. Despite the crowds there was no stress, no-one pushing, jumping queues or losing their temper. There were kids in push chairs and old couples taking their time. Sydney showed me it was a city that had grown up and learnt how to have a good time, a stark contrast to the disastrous Opera House forecourt concerts I recall from my youth.

Upon getting back to my hotel it was time to pack and reading my email brought the good mood crashing down. It reminded me of all the Hong Kong angst and bad service that I left at the start of my holiday. I took one final walk along Circular Quay to the Opera House in something of a grey mood (perhaps reflected in the image above).

Comparing the street-wide party I had just enjoyed in Sydney to what Hong Kong has (or doesn’t have) to offer through up all sorts of questions and comparisons, few of them flattering. While I have no desire to move back to Sydney, I do want to live in a city that can come alive in that sort of way, that has that kind of love for music, dance, fun and being outdoors. I want to live in city where you can sit on the grass, walk without being pushed, find good coffee easily and put a camera tripod on the ground without being harassed by “security.”

But, most of all it was just great to hear fantastic live music and be surrounded by people who also really dug the music. There is nothing cooler than that.

Responses
Chris B 12 years ago

Hope you’ll make the trek to the dark side (whoops I mean Kowloon!) for some great Hong Kong bands on 21 January playing at the Manchester United Restaurant Bar. I promise you 4 very different HK bands and it might lift up your general opinion about HK bands. meanwhile HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

    Fernando Gros 12 years ago

    Chris, I was out last night checking out some Hong Kong bands. Sure, there is some live music here – and, there’s a decent Arts Festival or two. But, does Hong Kong ever come to a stop for live shows, ever shut down the city centre. or ever open up it’s parks to free concert going crowds? No.

Chris B 12 years ago

wooohoooo! So which HK bands did you see? What did you think? So your criteria for a proper scene is for the city centre to shut down OR to have free concerts in parks? Actually they already have free concerts in parks but they are not advertised in English. And whenever they shut down the two roads in Lan Kwai Fong or Soho for a carnival, its a HUGE pain in the ass to get anywhere. If you drive here you know its a huge one way system ahahahhaha yes public transport IS fabulous here but when you have more than 1 child, driving is suddenly much more of a necessity…..

    Fernando Gros 12 years ago

    Chris, I’m not sure why this post gave you the impression that I was laying out some sort of “criteria for a proper scene.” Different cities will express themselves in different ways. What Sydney did, as part of it’s annual festival was an expression of that city’s approach to the arts – not just local arts but also acts brought in for the festival. Hong Kong does not express itself that way.

    I admire the Hong Kong Arts Festival for their outreach programme (and they are not the only ones trying to break out of venue-confinment). But, the scale of the Sydney Festival First Night was something else entirely. A lot bigger than shutting down a couple of streets in Lan Kwai Fong and a lot more inconvenient for car drivers.

Chris B 12 years ago

So WHO were the Hong Kong bands you watched?

    Fernando Gros 12 years ago

    I was at The Wanch to watch the tentatively named Paul & Thomas perform some original material. I met Thomas, who comes from a French/Vietnamese background) last year and after we got talking about guitars and songwriting I suggested that the best thing he could do to improve his craft was get out and play live. Now, he is doing just that and writing some good material.

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