[PICTURE: View of the stage through the umbrellas]
Clockenflap. What a name. I first heard of this festival back in September, when the legendary Die Antwoord were down as headliners. Now, if you’ve never heard of Die Antwoord, I’m tempted to say, don’t go in search of them. Please. Nana, Gran, or anyone else, please do not listen to their music or, heavens forbid, do not watch their music videos. Just know that they’re a really weird messed up music group from South Africa that have a cult following. They also made an appearance in the movie Chappie, which, I think is the only suitable place for you guys to whiteness them. So, when I heard that these crazy b*stards were playing the festival, I stored it away on my list of things to do: book tickets to Clockenflap 2016.
Candice knows of the band, she knows them more than most I’ve met, and even introduced me to them in a way. So she was my first port of call when thinking about a festival buddy. But, unfortunately, due to work etc. as the weekend came flying into view, we realised it wasn’t going to be possible for her to make the trip. Plus, tragically, Die Antwoord pulled out of playing the festival for unknown reasons. [Rumours are they’re in the process of making a new album.] With crazy work and my new life here I slowly forgot about the name Clockenflap (hard to do…) and went about my normal life. That was until, Nick, a Kiwi in my grade, mentioned in passing that he would be requiring a morning of “sick leave” on Monday 27th November. Please bear in mind that he stated this at the end of October. With a sheepish look on his face, and a sweeping hand motion that asked us to move on the conversation, I held him back after the meeting and asked what fun “sick leave” inducing activities he was planning 4 weeks in advance. “There’s a festival in Hong Kong with a weird name that I’m going to buy tickets for.” Low and behold, someone else had heard of Clockenflap and was planning on attending! Had I just found my festival buddies?!
He explained that him and a girl in KG were going for the whole weekend, him couch-surfing, and her staying with a friend. Well, there went my productive evening of marking papers about Main Idea and Details. My night (what was left of it after my meeting that finished at 8.30pm) was spent trawling through the Clockenflap website and weighing up my options:
Friday and Saturday? Saturday and Sunday? Just Saturday? Which hostel? How shall I get to and from HK?
By 11pm my decisions were made and I’d booked my Saturday ticket and was going to Clockenflap 2016!! I quickly messaged a few friends and told them I was going and made sure they knew that in the next 4 days the ticket prices were going up by about $50 HK. Much to my delight, I had a response from 3 others saying they would be soon booking their own tickets! Yay!
On Friday 18th November I grabbed a taxi (Sam the man) from my place to Hanxi Changlong metro (Line 3 of GZ), and met up with Mickey who was sporting the largest rucksack I’ve ever seen. This wasn’t the best idea as it was “going home time” on a Friday, in the 3rd biggest city in China. We crammed into the carriage and popped out the other end at Guangzhou East Railway Station. With Burger King as our team meeting point, Cassie, Carol and Carol’s friend Meghan arrived shortly after us.
Meghan wasn’t coming to the festival but was instead attending Hong Kong PRIDE Parade, which, crazy enough, was happening on the same weekend, and pretty much the same location as the festival. We made our way through security and onto our train heading to Kawloon. Due to the fact we left it so last minute to book our seats, we were stuck with 1st class, what a shame ey! The train arrived and up we went to our very fancy and comfy chairs. Yep, that’s right, up we went. It was a double decker train, and we were on top. The train only took about 2 hours, half way we lost all mobile signal and data and we knew we were on the other side of the Chinese Fire-Wall, where although Facebook etc. does not need a VPN, no Chinese sim-card works outside of the Chinese boarders. Thanks again for being so helpful China…
We got in pretty late and back on the metro we went. After a few changes we were wandering the streets of Causeway Bay, the shopping hub of HK. It also happens to be where me and Shelb stayed last year on my first (and epic) trip to Hong Kong. We were heading to Wang Fat Hostel, again, because we left everything so bloody last minute, we were very lucky to get beds anywhere, especially with both the festival and PRIDE being held on the same weekend. I was following the directions I’d got off Hostelworld and we came to a very familiar door; Paterson Building Block A. Having a serious case of Deja-vu, we went up the 2 flights of stairs, because Carol isn’t a fan of lifts, especially ones that are just wooden boards inside (again, I was sure I’d gone through this exact same process a year ago), and we got to the hostel reception. Me and Shelb stayed at Hong Kong Hostel when we came, and this was that exact same reception and communal area. Same orange walls, same fridge stocked with water and beer, same fish tank, and same bar table we met some friends. Turns out the hostel goes by a few names, not dodgy at all. Again, same process, when given the key card to our room, we were taken back out onto the street and into a different building. It wasn’t even the same different building me and Shelb stayed at, it was a different-different building. (How many does this hostel/hostels have?!) We’d been (I had been…) lucky enough to book a 4 bed private ensuite room, which we were very thankful for throughout the weekend!
We crashed pretty hard (it was gone midnight by the time we all settled into our bunks), and woke up late. We got ourselves sorted, contemplating whether to bring a coat or not, an umbrella? My FujiInstax? Anything else? … I took my waterproof jacked (now in its 4th / 5th year) and left my polaroid in the room, after taking a quick snap of the 4 of us at arm’s length. Carol had another friend from work who was hoping to meet up with us and join the festival fun. We met her at The Flying-Pan, a great breakfast/brunch diner I would highly recommend anyone with a hankering of “proper” breakfast grub to head there! I chose the “British Fly-up” full knowing this was going to be the main, most important, and probably the only proper meal of the day. My incredible brunch came with black-pudding, eggs, bacon, beans, toast, mushrooms etc… [and a strawberry & banana smoothie on the side]. It was just the start to the day (past 12 o’clock) that we needed before grabbing some booze and heading to the harbour.
We got off the metro at Central, expecting to be stuck like sardines with the amount of people attending PRIDE and Clockenflap, but nope, no busier than the usual HK crowds. This left us a little stumped, and also a little lost. We were hoping to just follow the train of people in festival gear and arrive at the entrance gates. So we wandered in the (what we hoped was) general direction of the arena and spotted some girls in sporty festival looking attire. Mickey caught them up and asked if we could follow them to the festival, just to be told they were just heading off for a jog… the festival was back down the road and to the left. So, about turn, and off we went. I noticed a group of teenagers who had stopped when we did, and were now looking clueless and worried. “Looking for the festival?” I shouted back to them… they nodded in response and I beckoned them to follow. The blind leading the blind…
We finally saw signs directing us down the walkway towards the entrance and we stopped on the side to quickly and quietly (now, family, don’t be mad) stash our alcohol on our persons so we could smuggle it in past security. Cassie went for a bottle of vodka in the bra, Mickey went for a couple of cans in his pants, and I went for a ½ sized bottle of wine in the back of my shorts. As we were secretly stashing, my mate Nick from work (the Kiwi) walked past and stopped for a chat. He shamed us on our last minute prep of the hiding of the alcohol (he was way ahead of us on this), and we all headed to the gates together. He had a whole weekend ticket so waltzed straight in, while we stopped to get our wrist bands.
Clockenflap was a totally “cash free” festival, meaning that on our wristband was a square piece of plastic which we had to “top-up” with cash at one of the allocated tents. From then on, when we ordered drinks, food or merch, we simply had out band scanned and the money was deducted. Pretty cool I must admit! But also a pain because the drinks weren’t $50, which would have made it easy… put on $200, get 4 drinks… no they were all $70 or an odd number like that.
So, we’d made it into the festival! (Nick’s friend/host was slightly unfortunate/stupid. He took off his jacket going through security and one of the 4 bottles on ½ sized wine he’d tried to smuggle in fell and smashed on the floor… rookie mistake!). We headed straight for the bar and were very happy to see a cider on tap! $70 HK later and a scan of the wrist, we all had a pint in hand and went to explore the arena. We’d heard that you could get a free water bottle (a fancy mental one not plastic or disposable) but, annoyingly, you could only register for it if you had the companies app, which you needed internet to get, which you can’t get unless you have a HK Sim card in your phone. One of the MANY reasons it sometimes sucks to be a Mainlander…
There were a total of 9 different stages, ranging in size and theme. There was the Acorn Stage which was surrounded by giant inflatable tentacles and was a stage just for kids. This was also placed next to the art section, craft fair (which had a grand total of 4 vinyl record stalls), the silent disco arena, and the cider tent. We spent a good while hanging around there taking in the whole event and the surreal feeling of looking up at the huge crazy buildings, the stunning hills and great harbour of Hong Kong, while in a little festival bubble, cider in hand. We decided to check out one of the bands that were on the KEF stage which was under a tent. Fantastic Day, a British inspired local band, were playing and we enjoyed them, bopping along, finishing our drinks, and cheering until they came to the end of their set. We started to stroll back towards a bar when the rain started… When it started it was a few measly spits and drizzles. Then, it just kept coming, and coming, and coming… and it never stopped. We went to seek shelter in one of the bar tents (obviously) and grabbed another pint or two. I was thankful for my waterproof jacked as I had both hands free, and was actually managing to keep (mostly) dry. Whereas Cassie and Mickey had nothing to shelter themselves from the elements, and Carol and her friend were stuck huddled like penguins under one umbrella.
Bracing the rain we went to explore some more and to listen to some different music on the bigger (wetter) outdoor arena stages. We waded into the crowd that had formed in-front of the FWD stage, taking our positions amongst all the view blocking umbrellas. If this had been in the UK, no one would have brought or used an umbrella, and if they did, it would have been taken from them by other angry festival goers. In Britain, you go to a festival expecting to get cold and wet, if it happens to be sunny the whole time and you stay bone dry, then that’s an unexpected bonus! In Hong Kong however, even though they have their fair share of tropical downpours, the people don’t seem to be as keen to spend their day in the wet stuff that falls from the sky. Very few people were wearing waterproof coats, and no one was even selling crappy ponchos, something which Cassie was largely relying on… Everyone was well equipped with umbrellas of every colour and style. Although it would have made for an awesome areal shot, the view from down on the ground wasn’t much to boast about. So, we stood there in the rain listening (I don’t think I can say watching as I probably only caught a few glimpses of them through the wall of umbrellas) to a Taiwanese band who “fuse post-rock with indie and metal” that were actually pretty damn good. No Party For Cao Dong, unusual name, but I’m sure there’s a story there…
We lost Mickey to his friend Margarita (no not the drink or the boring pizza), and it was just us 4 girls. We bumped into Nick and his couch surfing host as we were heading back towards the bar (via the porta-loos). I stopped to chat to Nick, discussing plans for the day (is it worth going to dry off and then coming back? Is it worth the risk of leaving to get more booze and then get through security again?). As we were chatting I noticed a poor girl who had come even less prepared than most. She was wearing flip-flops and was stood in a giant murky puddle. I looked down at my own feet. My black high-tops were already way past the “damp” stage. Unfortunately, they were literally the best option I had for footwear for the weekend. To say my shoe collection here in China is limited would be an understatement. Before I left Nick and headed to find the others he let me have a swig of his mysterious Chinese (very very strong) liqueur, which, I was a little dubious of but gave it a shot anyway (hahah, literally, bottoms up!). It was definitely strong, but also pretty nice as far as spirits go! It tasted exactly like Christmas; a mixture of spices, brandy, cake and who knows what else. It gave me a few seconds of warmth as I headed through the crowds in search of my friends, and for that, I was very thankful!
So, I’ll be honest. This is where it all gets just a wee bit blurred… I remember the day fine, [I swear I do], I’m just not 100% sure of the order or timespan… So I’ll tell you the general details of the rest of my rainy and cold Saturday in Hong Kong.
We caught some of José González on the Harbourflap Stage (that was genuinely its name… even the tickets were called Ticketflap…), and this is where we all started to loose each other. Me and Cassie were together, Mickey and Margarita, and Carol and her friend Katherine. We’d unintentionally paired off and lost each other in the crowds that had now formed from nowhere. After grabbing another drink, using that last main chunk of money on our wrist bands, me and Cassie headed to Club Minky [a comedy/theatre indoor stage and seating area] to catch the end of Yeti’s Demon Dive Bar, a group of performers that have supposedly been described as:
“Musical comedy and psychedelic vaudeville collide.”
“The boisterously offbeat lovechild of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Mighty Boosh.”
“A high-powered feminine Flight of the Concords dipped in acid and drenched in smut.”
They were weird, wonderful, awkward, and a welcome relief from the miserable weather! While we were laughing along, thoroughly confused as to what was happening on stage (and off stage on a poor random guys lap), Mickey and Margarita came in. We flagged them down and they found some seats in front of us. We stayed ‘till the end and headed back out. This was, again, when we lost Mickey and Margarita. Me and Cassie wandered around some more, checked out the mini Adidas sponsored stage called Robot Stage, and then decided it was time to head to the mall just outside the festival to grab some food and warm up/try off a little. There were food stalls within the festival, but as we’d already used up the money we’d put on our bands, and they were all crazy expensive (even though there was chips cheese and gravy and it totally would have been worth it), we decided to find somewhere cheaper, warmer and dryer to get some grub!
After queuing for ages for the hand dryer, Cassie changing her tights and socks, and getting a Maccies, we headed into a shop to find Cassie either a plastic poncho or an umbrella. 15 minutes later, we left the store with umbrella in hand, but also armfuls of British crisps (BLOODY QUAVERS and prawn-cocktail Walkers), and a bottle of Rose… We were pretty damn excited to find such things after our life on the mainland only offers “Classic American Flavored Chips”, or “Spicy Numbing Meat Flavour”. We decided to make camp by one of the Christmas trees in the enclosed walkway outside the shopping centre. We sat there for a good while, hoping to dry off even more, munching the heavenly cheesy light and fluffy curls (Quavers), and drinking the wine. Now, looking back, we can’t of looked like the most civilised or classy pair that Hong Kong has ever seen… but hey. It was PRIDE and Clockenflap weekend, I can 100% guarantee they saw worse…
After finishing off and getting a fair few photos (and a sneaky memento from the tree) we headed back to the festival in time to catch the main and final acts on the Harbourflap stage. We managed to get to the front to see some of M.I.A’s set, which was absolutely awesome. Still super surreal to be stood there, in HK, at a festival, watching bands and musicians I know from home. We got into a bit of an argument (the first of two…) with some guy who decided out of all the 100s of people with umbrellas, he would scream and shout at us for having one up. Like I said, there were LITERALLY hundreds of other people in the crown, around him, and in front of all of us (we’d moved back a little at this point) who had their brollies up. Look, I get it, in Britain, everyone would have a go at the one or two people who had them if they were blocking their view of the stage. But this A-hole decided to pick on just us two out of a crowd of 1000’s. After a bit of a heated shouting match we decided to leave and grab (yes, another) drink and see if we could get some (yes, more) food.
At this time, the whole festival was close to packing up, so we headed to the bar to find out how much we had left on our bands: $20 on mine, $35 on Cassie’s. The very friendly bartender sadly told us that all I could afford was water, and Cassie could splurge to an orange juice… This wasn’t really the kind of beverage we were after, and we told him so (very nicely, just chit chatting here). Like I said, he was very friendly and pretty chill. As I also said, a pint (of beer or cider) was $70, so even if me and Cassie clubbed together our bands (which apparently was not allowed) we still couldn’t even afford a pint. However, in true Clockenflap spirit, the bartender told us he’d help us out, and put our drinks through as the water and orange juice that we could afford, but handed over 2 pints of Carlsberg. What a legend and a genuinely cool fella! After this, we sat in the picnic tent (the rain was still going) and got chatting to a few different groups of people as they came and went. This was when our 2nd piece of good luck and fortune landed in our laps, we got given 3 (half sized) incredible burgers, absolutely FREE! Hell yes Clockenflap you beautiful festival!
We eventually all got ushered to the exits as the festival was closing its gates, and we headed to the streets to find ourselves a taxi back to the hostel. We had all planned on going to the infamous (but totally awesome) Lan Kwai Fong, the biggest and best bar street in HK. But, due to the weather, the cold, the wet, and the fact we had no idea where two thirds of our party was, we decided it was best to leave it and return to our 4 bed hole. This was when we met a 21 year old Londoner fella; and so preceded the 2nd totally unnecessary argument of the evening. We got chatting; he seemed like a nice enough guy who was also waiting for a taxi heading in our general direction. We decided to join forces and hunt down a ride home together and split the fare. We asked where he was from, what he was doing here etc., all going smoothly, until he eventually asks where me and Cassie are from. [I can feel myself getting worked up already just thinking about this bloody t*ss-pot] Cassie is from Newcastle, and is, rightfully so, proud of where she’s from and isn’t a fan of people talking shit about it; which is exactly what this uncultured 21 year old posh-twat did. He called Geordie’s many very unfriendly things and none of which I care to repeat. After Cassie stood there, in shocked silence (it takes a lot to silence her), he turned to me. I braced myself for some sheep jokes and a stab at my none existent accent, and told him, with pride, I’m from Wales. His response was way beyond what I had prepared myself for, as he looked me dead in the eye and said: “Oh, well Wales isn’t a real country is it. So you’re from England. Wales isn’t actually its own place, it’s just a like a county of England. You don’t actually think your “country” is a legitimate excuse for a country right?” Now it was my turn to stand there in shock. Any time I tried to get a word in to defend my beautiful home, he would just say: “But it’s not a country though is it.” I literally had my mouth hanging open, shocked and bewildered. There was absolutely no tone of jest, sarcasm, or ‘banter’ in his voice or statements. It was clear he actually believed the bullsh*t he was spouting to two random girls he’d met in Hong Kong. This was when Cassie kicked back to life. I bet that poor A-hole wishes he’d never stopped to talk to us. She completely ripped him a new one (figuratively speaking of course. No actual violence occurred here, but my got I would have loved to punch him in the face.) She asked how he could be so uncultured and insensitive to other people when he’s living in a different country. He replied with “How dare you call me uncultured. I’ve been in Hong Kong for 2 weeks and I’ve been to somewhere in Japan. I’m probably more cultured than you two put together.” HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH AHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH ok mate. It was at this point we realised there was absolutely no point in even wasting our breath on this guy. We hailed a cab and left him out in the cold to get home on his own, like the big “cultured” boy he is…
The next day me and Carol headed to Pacific Coffee for some breakfast, and to get some fresh air out of the room we had been festering in for 12 hours. Carol and her friend had headed home at about 7pm, sick of being damp and cold, Carol had got changed and done some shopping instead. At about 1.30pm we jumped on the metro and started our separate journeys home. Getting from Hong Kong to the mainland, you’re almost spoilt for choice of how you’d like to travel. Bus, Train, Ferry, Flight. Carol had opted for the bus (meeting up with her friend) as it drops her off right outside her apartment (after a change or 2). My preferred choice was the ferry, but with only 2 ferries departing to Shunde after 2pm, I was a little apprehensive that I wouldn’t manage to get a seat. I took what I thought would be a short cut to the China Ferry Terminal/Shopping Mall from the metro, but ended up getting a little lost in Kawloon Park. But, honestly, I really didn’t mind. The weather had done a complete 180` on us and it was a lovely day, and there are definitely worse places to get lost in.
I finally popped out the other end of the park and waited to cross the street at head up to L3, where I hoped I could get a ticket for the 3.20pm ferry, if not, then the 5.30pm one would be my last chance. To my luck and surprise, I easily got a seat on the 3.20pm ferry (even if it was way more expensive than it should have been). The journey back was fine and easy, the ferry is 100% the best way for me to get to and from Hong Kong, it takes about 2 hours on the boat, and only about an hour or 2 for security and boarding, plus the free bus to and from Country Garden is a hell of a bonus!
My Sunday night was pretty chilled and because I could feel the start of a seriously bad cold coming on (I wasn’t really surprised by this), I did a load of washing, drying and headed for bed pretty early!
So, it’s taken me all bloody week to type up this monster of a blog post, but now it’s done, and I’m not sure when my next one will be.
I’ll have to wait for something amazing to happen…