By Hans Ebert
It’s really about seeing and finding the potential before investing the time to take things forward. It’s like any relationship. If that thunderbolt doesn’t hit you where it matters after three goes at bat, it never will. Same with any business. If it’s been struggling from day one, it’s going nowhere.
The news that the venue Orange Peel has changed hands is interesting purely to ask, And now what?
When the venue first opened much was expected- much of which remained a mystery. But after having visited the venue around five times, it was obvious to at least my group of friends that it just wasn’t for us. And the more we spoke to others, Orange Peel had turned sour to them as well. It had become a regular haunt for self-indulgence by usual suspects.
As we’ve always said, people make any venue a success- restaurants, clubs, coffee shops, hair salons, art exhibitions etc etc. We’re always looking for like-minded people and, especially, new like-minded people. Especially in a small city like Hong Kong, this becomes tougher and tougher as familiarity doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It just makes everything boring- the same old conversations in the same old surroundings, and when it comes to music, the same old same old from the same old same old that has many of us travelling more and more out of Hong Kong to maintain our sanity. Soon, many won’t return because we have found our happy hunting grounds elsewhere.
We need constant change. We thrive on constant stimulation. And this is pretty much impossible to find in Hong Kong. So, Orange Peel under new management begs the question, where and how it’s going to attract an interesting customer base, especially when one really can’t see the music being performed changing as this is a city where the same old performers go from one venue to the next with their usual repertoire. Hong Kong is desperately in need of something new, but what? Not more of the same.
Let’s just say venues for ‘live’ performances are not a problem. Where’s the talent- not the usual suspects, but where’s The New that will attract a new audience? Where can one go without fear of being bored so shitless you need to get legless to think you’re having a good time. The next two days you’re sleeping off the night you want to forget ever happened.
Last week, some of us attended what might be described as being an experimental mix of sounds and people in an off-the-beaten path location. Then, again, nothing in Hong Kong is really off the beaten path. Standing there watching a DJ busily create some beats and wondering if I belonged here, I thought about pop-up shops and how, more and more, people are cooking and entertaining at home. Small is beautiful while the economics of scale are being factored in. But this night and at this gathering, the whole pop-up idea kept dancing in my head- especially when it came to how and where to make music regularly and without missing a beat- financially.
Forget concert crowds and clubs and how size matters along with the stupid affectations that go with all this. That’s fine in small doses. But there’s an entire customer base out there who simply wish to meet new people without the desperation of advertising one’s self on, let’s say, Tinder.
Here’s a regular customer base wanting good music playing in the background and a chilled atmosphere where one can meet different people actually in person and not through some app- maybe a different meeting place whenever these get-togethers take place- small venues like a school hall, hell, a church hall, and even a recording studio that becomes an exclusive place to chill out for a night and lay down some music. Mort?
Let’s also not forget all those tea dances that were once all the rage in Hong Kong and where Bruce Lee was once crowned this city’s cha cha king.
Here’s another idea: on Sunday afternoons, where back in the day, there were extremely popular Jazz Sessions at the Dickens Bar of the Excelsior Hotel co-starring a great curry buffet, surely could be resurrected and given a new spin- pun intended?
Forget about another venue for ageing jazzsters, but create different meeting places for now hipsters and mix it up.
What’s happening at the Dickens Bar on Sunday afternoons these days? Or any of hotel lounges? When there are the races at Shatin, and there’s cross-betting at Happy Valley, couldn’t at least one of the venues at that racecourse- Adrenaline would be perfect- be opened for a small gig that attracts a customer base still to discover what is easily the best venue for ‘live’ music in town?
Often, the small players can’t compete with the big names for notice. However, if there’s a coming together of fashion brands like G.O.D, recording studios when there’s not much going on, very good venues that are empty because no one’s thought how they can work in a new way, and perhaps with some help from the HKJC, we just might have something new and relevant and creative on our hands.