In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
– “Fern Hill,” Dylan Thomas
Clockenflap flew in and out of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District for a seventh time last week. And for another late November weekend, Clockenflap proved what an arts & music festival can be.
My friends and I purchased early bird tickets to Sunday for the lineup alone. When you see names like DJ Jazzy Jeff and Tenacious D on the schedule, it’s hard to justify not going. Monday’s 7:40 punch-in at work be damned. Ultimately, the music is nice and all, but Clockenflap is something more than music.
Clockenflap is community at its most youthful.
I’ve written before about my appreciation for community in its power to inspire and share the experience of wonder and creativity. At its core, this is what Clockenflap does for Hong Kong; it turns a piece of open industrial land into shades of expression and appreciation for the moment. And nobody does this better than the kids.
Teenage Riot is a raucous example. Technically a super group of premier HK bands, the seven-piece seemed rather unremarkable when I arrived in the middle of their set. Teenagers? Certainly looked so. But their soft shoegazing play felt more like a school recital than the riot I expected. Then the chorus repeated upon itself, cymbals crashed a little louder, and the unassuming lead guitarist with an axe twice his size shredded away with abandon. Meanwhile the bowl-topped vocalist spun his way dizzy, hitting the floor before the song’s end. They might bill themselves as a Sonic Youth cover band, but Teenage Riot is a great representation of the passionately vocal students of the SAR.
Maybe it’s because I’ve just turned twenty-nine, rounding the bend into thirty, where balding and a jutting tummy awaits. Dramatic as it sounds, I often wonder if I did everything I could with my youth. You know, taking those chances to not give a shit and stand proud as whatever I determined myself. This is where Le1f excels. With a DJ at his side and death grip on his mic, the New York native spat manic bars left and right, loosing himself from his shirt, eventually his sneakers. In a music genre where homosexuality is more often verbal ammunition, and performing in a part of the world where sexual preference is not much of an option, Le1f screams out his honest self by wailing through raw hooks. Does he give a shit? Le1f doesn’t give a fuck.
I could go on about the bands I came to see and the bands that surprised me, but like I said, Clockenflap as a festival really outdid itself in honoring the community its created over the years. Just look at the ones who weren’t around when the first festival opened its doors.
If a family is the community at its most intimate, most vulnerable, most powerful, than it’s easy to see why Clockenflap would value it as much as I saw. Children romped and roamed through grass and stage, exploring a gigantic playground with drums beating in their tiny feet and guitars buzzing in their chubby arms. Paint transformed little boys into Spidermen, little girls as lionesses. These kids were free to do as much as they dared, and their parents were left to catch up with their shenanigans.
Here, the tykes were at home and in charge. This was no truer than during Metal Detector. Between sets on the main stage, the adjacent ROBOT stage hosted DJs of different varieties. Before Tenacious D, two men threw on terrible wigs and began the most epic of rock playlists. And then this happened:
In a sudden spark of spontaneity and ability to slip through the railing, four kids found the inspiration to hop on the stage and well, show the adults who’s in control. Wild flailings of limb took over the rest of the set, led by the smallest and fiercest star in the pack.
The little calavera took center stage with her best taekwondo and slamdance to offer, even throwing in a stage dive. I’m not kidding. What the heroine and her gang did was nothing short of astounding. Partly because they completely owned a crowd for thirty minutes without warning. But also because I glanced at the two wigged men to gauge their reaction at such a surprise. Without hesitation, they threw high fives to foam finger and let the kids – including themselves – play. An energy was shared, and we have the little ones to thank for that.
Clockenflap serves as a shining example of the goodness of community. I wonder if that’s only because music festivals are fleeting. But if one impression from this year’s show lasts, its that among other purposes, the community is an overflowing fountain of youth for young and younger. Young at heart. Whatever you want to call it. I want to call it what The Flaming Lips flashed across the screen at the end of their amazing performance:
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