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Clockenflap's 2023 return raises the bar for side-stage action & afterparties

A second 2023 edition has been announced for December 1, 2 & 3

  • WORDS: Arun Ramanathan | Photos: Ainsley Myles & Adrianna Cheung
  • 13 March 2023

After a four-year hiatus and to the elation of many Hong Kongers, Clockenflap finally made its long-awaited return to the city’s harbourfront. Set to the backdrop of Hong Kong’s iconic and dazzling skyline, the three-day event yielded a total attendance of 87,000, the largest mask-free gathering Hong Kong has witnessed since 2019.

Within an hour of the gates opening on Friday at 5pm, the FWD Stage and Park Stage were quickly filled for local live acts like dream-pop outfit Tofu Kingdom. For those witnessing the rush but choosing to cruise in, a welcoming groove of bouncy deep house was flowing from the intimate Topper Stage, delivered through its eco-friendly-driven production, and courtesy of Solar Soundsystem founder Aymeric.

Whilst Day 1 was seemingly highlighted by headline shows from local rapper YoungQueenz, French duo Phoenix and mostly new material from The Arctic Monkeys, more fervent energy levels were really to be found down at the Electriq Stage with Kim Ann Foxman, and then HAAi, laying out a steady dose of hypnotic house and luscious techno. A few steps away at the Robot Stage, local DJs Anthony2, Music Director of oma, and Darka, simultaneously threw down effortless sets filled with techno varieties.

Three afterparties ensued Clockenflap’s first day back: Magic Room at Cassio, Omni at Soho House Hong Kong and Mixmag Asia taking over the intimate basement space of Quality Goods Club. Supported by Helen Ting and yours truly, the Mixmag Asia night was helmed by Pantai People’s Marc Roberts who took us down a hazy, nostalgic path with classic house and disco cuts.

Day 2 was no different when it came to opening the floodgates in the early afternoon — avid festival-goers filled the multi-stage layout that sprawled the Central Harbourfront in just a matter of moments. As sundown approached, Kings of Convenience took the Harbourflap Stage on a riveting journey, which was soon followed by the jazzy, electronica-pop sounds of multi-instrumentalist, FKJ.

On the other end of the Clockenflap site, the Electriq Stage was going off to bumping afro and sunny house grooves from French producer and United Music Records honcho Hallex M; he laid the groundwork for an exceptionally electrifying set from New York-based The Illustrious Blacks, who dropped house classics galore in between multiple costume changes. Local crews Eclectica and Bunker teamed up to deliver a Janette Slack Tribute set, aptly served on the breakbeat and electro tip, who were followed by deep-frequency maestro, Dee Montero.

It goes without saying Electriq’s neighbour, Robot Stage, delivered a healthy variety of broken beats, electro, bass and disco to its intimate amphitheatre all night long. Standout sets came from Mengzy and her bass princess attire, who was followed by an all-vinyl back-to-back from Acadana’s JayMe and Jeremy Cheung and a sensual stage closing courtesy of Mihn Club’s takeover with Sunsiare and Sam Futura, also with a commanding back to back set.

Those who stuck around the side stages till the end of Day 2 got a chance to experience the high-octane frenzy put on by local electronic-post-punk outfit N.Y.P.D. (Nan Yang Pai Du). One of the festival's more off-the-cuff highlights, N.Y.P.D.'s meteoric impact on Hong Kong was seen over the last three years through their debut album and subsequently remix compilation, both released on Silk Road Sounds early last year.

Only one official afterparty was held on Saturday: Mixmag Asia's takeover of Soho Studios at Soho House Hong Kong. Turning the pristine white room into a broody red and stacked with a booming hybrid system using L-Acoustics and Void Acoustics sound, the DJs definitely stole the night!

Opening the event were newcomers VNWave with their signature deep and robust bass-influenced house, followed by the effervescent ‘disco doctor’ JayMe. Open-format DJ Fergus of Yeti Out took the room into a frenzy with a mixed bag of UK delicacies, and Immuno of Unchained Asia closed the party with a slick selection of funky and liquid drum’n’bass.

For those who paced their energy output, Day 3 was packed with high-voltage and bass-fuelled affairs, with rolling drum’n’bass, reggae and dub vibes reigning heavy on the Electriq stage. It took Sister Nancy less than a matter of seconds to raise energy to ruckus levels — the words “what a bam bam” could probably be heard across the harbour!

Magnetic Soul, who celebrate 17 years of drum’n’bass in Hong Kong steered the way with smooth live vocals from Kutoff alongside MC Dan Stezo, followed by the city’s Chinese reggae don, Mouse FX teaming up with Heavy Hong Kong. The bass frenzy continued as Lovely, DJ Fu and Serum almost tore the roof off Electriq, with the support of MC Dan Stezo back on stage for the last two sets.

As Moderat wound down their evocative set at FWD Stage, it was clear that everyone's weekend would culminate at the Harbourflap Stage for Wu-Tang Clan. Led by RZA, the clan on stage included Masta Killa, Cappadonna, U-God, Inspekta Deck, DJ Mathematics and Divine, their stage presence was nothing short of legendary, especially given how monumental their debut is for the city’s hip hop community.

In between rolling through classics with the crowd, including ‘C.R.E.A.M.’, ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’, ‘Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit’, ‘The Ruckus’ and even throwing down a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, the crew were advocating for hip hop education whilst also highlighting Hong Kong’s new CBD ban.

Clockenflap has already announced its second edition for 2023 to take place from December 1-3.

Arun Ramanathan is Mixmag Asia’s Director. Follow him on Instagram.

Ainsley Myles is a freelance photographer. Follow him on Instagram.

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