Despairing over the cancellation of this year’s Clockenflap?
Well, dry your tears. Even without the city’s preeminent live music event, there are still plenty of places to get your live music fix.
Hong Kong’s music scene sometimes gets a bad rap, with people often lambasting the SAR for being nothing more than a soulless financial hub with no kind of music scene to speak of.
It’s true that high rents and stringent regulations for live music venues have made it difficult for the local indie circuit to be as big as other cities’, and the closing of famous underground music venue Hidden Agenda certainly left a lot of people under the impression that the SAR truly is a cultural desert. That said, though, it is still possible to find good live music in the city. Whether you’re into ear-splitting punk or smooth jazz, here’s a round up of some of the best music venues in town.
This Town Needs, or TTN, is probably the most well-known and venerable indie music venue in Hong Kong. After Hidden Agenda announced that it would close its doors for good at the end of October 2017, it wasn’t long before the founders announced in January 2018 that they would open reopen and rebrand at a new location in Yau Tong. While the venue is best known for hosting indie rock and punk bands from Hong Kong and abroad, it also does host some very good hip-hop nights.
1F, Commercial Accommodation, Ocean One, 6 Shung Shun Street, Kwun Tong
+852 9869 7865
With its focus on social change and activism, Eaton HK, which opened in early 2019, is unlike any hotel in Hong Kong, and its bar and live music venue Terrible Baby is quickly becoming one of the best places for live indie music on the Kowloon side. Terrible Baby — named after Jean Cocteau’s novel Les Enfants Terribles — has more of a music lounge vibe, with its carpeted floor, low ceiling, comfy leather sofas, and plasma globe lights, but it hosts a number of live music performances from acoustic pop artists like Julie Byrne, to loud and angry post-punk music by David Boring.
4/F Eaton HK, 380 Nathan Road, Jordan, Kowloon
+852 2710 1866
Sun-Thurs, 11am-12am; Fri-Sat, 11am-1am
This Tsim Sha Tsui pub and bar is known not just for being dedicated to the famous Australian bush-ranger and outlaw, but also for being home to one of the liveliest jazz nights in the SAR. The bar’s house band — the Chinacoast Jazzmen led by Colin Aitchison — plays dixie, swing, ragtime and jazz. Performances are free (and loud), and guests can grab a beer while listening to the band play some Cole Porter or Benny Goodman.
11A Ashley Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
+852 2376 0562
Since it first opened in 1987, this Wan Chai live house has made a name for itself as being the place to go if you want to pound some beers while dancing to loud rock music. It’s a tiny bar, with some old Hong Kong tram-style seating to one side, and no stage, which puts the performers right in your face. While The Wanch does host acoustic nights, it’s better known for its regular roster of live rock bands performing original material, cover, and tribute acts.
54 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai
+852 2861 1621
Mon-Sun, 6pm to late
A friendly place that’s more about the jazz than the scene, Peel Fresco has a real New York vibe, regulars say, and most recommend the Tuesday night open mic jam, where you can watch — or play — many different styles of jazz. Fans of the place rave about the good drinks and helpful staff, and say that it’s one of the rare places in the Kong where you won’t be considered a freak if you make small talk with a stranger. We love that.
49 Peel Street, Soho, Sheung Wan
+852 2540 2046
This speakeasy has style to spare, so if you’ve got a waistcoat and bowtie at home, then this might be one of the few places you can rock them. With upscale cocktails and a classy crowd, Foxglove focuses on the details — from the jazz (with a focus on modern and free-form), to the style, to the sips. They also have a full menu and quieter tables available if you want something more intimate than the front row. Remember to dress smart.
2/F Printing House, 6 Duddell Street and
18 Ice House Street, Central
+852 2116 8949
If you love Hidden Agenda and This Town Needs, you’ll love MOM Livehouse just as much, and the venue also boasts a regular roster of local indie rock and hip-hop acts. This Fortress Hill spot can hold up to 200 guests, and it’s perfect for people who want to book a social or private event as well.
B39, Seven Seas Shopping Centre, 117-121 Kings Road, North Point
+852 6360 7676
Mon-Fri, 4pm-11pm; Sat-Sun, 9am-11pm
An arts center with regular big band jazz nights, this spot is all about the full band and dancing, so wear your most comfortable shoes. The style is Gatsby-esque and the crowd gets as big as the sounds. This is the spot for a crazy night out, when you want to burn some energy on the dance floor but repetitive dance beats ain’t gonna cut it. The dance nights here have been going since the 1980s and are supposedly just as cool now as they were back then. Don’t know the moves? A friendly regular is bound to take you under his or her wing.
2 Lower Albert Road, Central
+852 2521 7251
Live music venues that serve food and drink are a very tricky thing. Sometimes the diners jabbering around you makes it difficult to enjoy the music, while the music can make it difficult to enjoy your food (which often tastes like an afterthought anyway). But this Tai Kok Tsui live house has threaded the needle, serving great Western food and hosting a roster of great local artists performing a mixture of music that includes pop, rock, and jazz. As a music venue that serves food, there are some house rules: the shows are divided into three sections, orders will only be taken during the 20 minute breaks in between these sessions, guests are also advised to stay seated, and should refrain from talking or lower their voices during performances. Fair enough.
G/F, shop 506, 11 Li Tak Street, Square Mile, Kowloon
+852 2337 6728
Sun-Thurs, 12pm-11:30pm; Fri-Sat, 12pm-1am
Those who have lived in Hong Kong for a while may recognize the BB Jazz Lounge as the former home of the Orange Peel club. After a rebrand, they are still home to high-quality blues and jazz acts, but now they market themselves as being upscale and indulgent, so expect a place that’s as much about the appearance as the music. The food and drinks tend towards wagyu and champagne, and fans call out the place for its “beautiful people” and “classic jazz lounge” vibe.
2/F Ho Lee Commercial Building
38-44 D’Aguilar St, Lan Kwai Fong, Central
+852 2641 2880
Cocktails, meat, and underground DJs and bands. If that sounds like your kind of evening, then this Tsim Sha Tsui live music basement is one for you. With a maximum capacity of 150 people, it’s also perfect for private parties. The venue is also headed by Prince Edward craft beer spot Bound by Hillywood and CRFT PIT so music lovers and foodies will be happy.
Basement, 152 Austin Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
It’s only one year old, but already this LKF live house has cemented itself as one of the best places to go to for live music (that is, if you’re not the kind of person who likes the usual LKF soundtrack of 20 bars shoulder-to-shoulder blaring different songs at the same time).
L/G, 57-59 Wyndham Street, Central