Hong Kong’s rock scene has come a long way. As little as ten years ago, gig options were few and far between – especially when it came to openings for smaller, local acts. But, thanks to the industrious nature of a few diehards and the advent of social media unifying the local enthusiasts, the live scene has become something the city can be proud of. It’s not been easy, with rent squeezing making it difficult for the creative arts to blossom – as we saw with the tragic closure of Backstage Live. Nevertheless, we’re slowly moving from the precarious and burgeoning to the exciting and envy-inducing with new swathes of music lovers attending gigs, attracting huge international acts to town. And, to cap it off, the city continues to strive to give a platform to some of the most exciting new local bands. Our city’s live music scene lives and dies on the success of its venues, so get along and show your support at one of these top rock venues. Rock on!
1563 at the East
Okay, so this place isn’t strictly a ‘rock venue’ (lots of places on this list aren’t, but shhhh), in fact, it could be argued that despite the wide breadth of musical genres it accommodates in its live shows, 1563’s bread and butter lies in the pop side of things. In fact, the name 1563 alludes to a popular chord progression in Cantopop. But a good, dedicated, new live music venue is something worth shouting about (and shoe-horning). Even more exciting about 1563 is that its live music policy is set by Vicky Fung – a local scene stalwart who co-founded Backstage Live (which was tragically closed after eight years through no fault of hers). It’s a huge, beautiful venue that has a seven-day-a-week program bursting with interesting shows. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
1563 at the East, 6/F, Hopewell Centre, 183 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai
A relative – and very exciting – newcomer on the scene. MOM Livehouse opened its doors late last year and has been working relentlessly ever since. With it’s opening seeing legendary local gig organisers Songs For Children bring together UK indie legends Yuck and local shoegaze darlings Thud, it was clear MOM means business. The venue itself is nice and shiny, but has an inherent, underground rock club feel – ideal because it means you get the authentic experience without worrying about getting hepatitis.
MOM Livehouse, B39 , 7 Seas Shopping Centre, 113-121 King’s Road, North Point
The original and best. The Wanch has been seminal for the Hong Kong live rock scene since it first opened its doors in 1987. Pretty much every local band in the city – big and small – has played here at some point. This small, intimate space has all the characteristics of a truly unique live music venue and has become something of a community hub for gig lovers. With a live show every single night of the week, and no cover charge (ever), there’s no doubt this should be your first stop if you’re keen on checking out what Hong Kong has to offer in terms of live music.
The Wanch, 54 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai
Read more! Is jazz more your thing? Check out Hong Kong’s 12 Best Jazz Bars.
Despite its reputation for the odd bit of cheeky soliciting, Amazonia more than deserves its place on the list. With live music seven-days-a-week, and no cover charge, it positions itself somewhere between a live music mecca and a crazy, all-night party bar. Amazonia has two stellar house bands by way of Filipino six-piece Rapunzel, who specialise in reggae, pop rock, alternative rock and punk rock covers and, the also Filipino six-piece Ice Box Band, who specialise in rock and heavy metal covers. If you like to mix your live music with some ridiculous dancing and heavy drinking, all while listening to anything from Soul Rebel to Master of Puppets, then look no further.
Amazonia, 15 Luard Road, Wan Chai
This Town Needs
Formerly known as Hidden Agenda, This Town Needs is surely the hardest working venue in Hong Kong. Despite repeated closures, due to everything from licensing issues to noise complaints, the venue still does its utmost to bring some of the best and most respected acts on the planet to Hong Kong at a reasonable price. It’s a testament to how respected these guys are in the scene when you consider that their previous iteration only happened due to the music lovers of Hong Kong raising $500,000 in under a week so that they could carry on. This Town Needs our respect for providing the city’s biggest stage for independent acts.
This Town Needs, 1/F, Commercial Accommodation, Ocean One, 6 Shung Shun Street, Yau Tong
Rock Angel Band House
With Hong Kong’s music scene setting up shop primarily further south, the New Territories has suffered somewhat in terms of live music venues, compared to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. As such, Rock Angel Band House may very well be the antidote for those who live close to the border. The owners have also decided to run the gamut of musical genres, hosting special showcase nights for everything from punk to gospel, with either no cover charge or a nominal fee. This is one venue well worth checking out if you fancy some eclectic live goodness.
Rock Angel Band House, 6/F, 607 – 608 Fonda Industrial Building, 37 – 39 Au Pui Wan Street, Fo Tan
Dusk Till Dawn
Another one of the Wan Chai old guard that forms something of an unholy trifecta with The Wanch and Amazonia. Named after the Robert Rodriguez vampire flick of (almost) the same name, Dusk Till Dawn sports a very different kind of nightcrawler. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, in fact, this is one of the best places in the city to just let your hair down and potentially make some bad decisions. Best of all, it’s live acts belt out the very best in rock, pop, and metal covers seven-days-a-week with no cover charge – so expect lots of joyously off-key singalong’s.
Dusk Till Dawn, 76 – 84 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai
If our previous suggestions sound a little too ‘earthy’ for your tastes, then perhaps the much more white-collar friendly Insomnia will appeal. Offering a trendier, more up-market space in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong, this chic wine and cocktail bar has live music almost every night (usually with no cover charge). It’s less intensive than some of the others on the list, with the music falling more into the ‘party pleaser’ category, and space in the back if you just want to relax with the music serving as more of a periphery.
Insomnia, 38-44 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central
Like Insomnia, this is more a bar that happens to have live music as opposed to being a dedicated venue. Thankfully, it’s an excellent venue – with its ramshackle – yet cool – décor and laid-back atmosphere, making it the ideal setting for a quiet drink and some serenading. Get yourself down there on a Sunday for some free live acoustic music with a very chilled feel – ideal if you were at one of our noisier suggestions the night before.
Rummin’ Tings, G/F, 28 Hollywood Road, Central
The ultimate musicians hangout spot. This secretive space is basically an open platform for anyone who wants to come in and have a crack at playing a drum kit, keyboard, microphone, harmonica, or acoustic guitar. Catch some of the city’s best untapped talent playing everything from bongos to whistling, at seemingly random times, at this quirky venue which is the very definition of grass-roots within the live music lexicon.
Sense 99, 2/F, 99 Wellington Street, Central
These guys are some of the biggest movers and shakers in the live music scene in terms of putting on shows – big and small. If you want to be in the know on what’s coming up, keep an eye on what they’re up to …
The Underground and its founder Chris B have been championing live music in Hong Kong for over a decade. With live music events almost every week, mini-festivals, battles of the bands, Hong Kong-based music documentaries, and everything in between, our city’s live music scene wouldn’t be what it is today without The Underground’s efforts. They’re unquestionably Hong Kong’s first – and largest – gig organisers. If you’re interested in seeing live music, getting involved in the scene, or maybe even playing yourself, there’s nowhere better to start.
Sporting probably the best name of any organisation – ever – Your Mum is in the business of putting on some of the best gigs in town, bringing massive international acts to town. From the creators of Clockenflap (Hong Kong’s biggest music and arts festival), this small team has built a reputation for really listening to the community in a bid to bring the acts that people desperately want to see.
Specialising in more niche acts, Factotum has brought some bands to Hong Kong that some of us would never have dared to dream would come to our shores. With over 200 live shows under its belt, Factotum seems truly committed to enriching our city’s live music scene.
Songs For Children
If indie music and all its glorious sub-categories are your thing, then Songs For Children is about to be your new best friends. Founders Jane and Mike are obsessional about bringing the coolest indie outfits to town – a mission they’ve been tremendously successful in thus far with bands and acts like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Yuck, The Drums, Carl Barat, and The KVB (pictured) to name a few, all playing amazing Hong Kong shows – thanks to them.
Getting your Tickets
Although lots of venues are happy for you to pay at the door, for some of the bigger gigs, you’ll want to get in early and sort your tickets. For the really big shows, head to HK Ticketing and for the smaller, indie gigs, and just loads of cool events in general, check out Ticketflap.