Dirty beats, clean fun: Hong Kong’s unmissable music festivals

Dirty beats, clean fun: Hong Kong’s unmissable music festivals

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Most of us associate Hong Kong with gleaming skyscrapers, bustling industry and frantic markets. But a succession of homegrown and international music festivals are turning it from staid metropolis into a city of song.

Clockenflap

First and foremost of Hong Kong’s music festivals is the whimsically named Clockenflap. Starting out as a humble techno club night in 2006 and then a one-day festival in 2008, in a few short years it’s exploded into a three-day extravaganza of music, art and culture, pulling in global names while retaining an endearingly indie soul.

Clockenflap takes place right on the Hong Kong harbourfront, with the skyscrapers of Central towering above festivalgoers and musicians alike, as the waves dance just metres away. It’s a festival that’s always championed local arts and music just as much as the international drawcards, working hard to deliver a genuinely eclectic lineup to its diverse audience. Big names such as Massive Attack, the Chemical Brothers and New Order have all graced the stage, alongside homegrown favourites such as indie rockers Chochukmo, quirky all-woman “math-folkers” GDJYB and instrumental math rockers Tfvsjs.

Perhaps best of all, Hong Kong’s concentrated size makes it easy for you to go hard all day – and then catch a taxi home for a full night’s sleep before doing it all over again. It’s a festival for all comers. A miniature Glastonbury – without the mud.

Clockenflap’s silent disco in full swing.



Clockenflap’s silent disco in full swing. Photograph: Lee Kitmin

“Clockenflap has grown from a wonky acorn into a similarly-wonky Big Friendly Giant,” says Justin Sweeting, who co-founded the festival. “It is one of a very few events here which authentically celebrates culture and creativity, encourages social cohesion and in my humble opinion makes the city more vibrant and liveable as a result.”

Hongkongers have fond memories of Clockenflaps past – from the lunar eclipse during Bombay Bicycle Club’s set in 2011, or Fran Healey of Travis opening a yellow umbrella and crooning Why Does It Always Rain On Me in the middle of the 2014 umbrella revolution that divided the city, to 2017 and south London grime artist Stormzy’s delight in the harbour-front setting – and bafflement that anyone in Hong Kong had any idea who he was.

“My favourite moments are always stepping back and watching the crowds,” says Sweeting. “Those times I get to move around the festival, catching different collections of people all enjoying these joyous shared moments across the site. It’s an immensely rewarding feeling having any kind of involvement in something which brings so much happiness and connectivity to people.”

And while recent years have seen an influx of new music festivals in the city, he sees his festival as occupying its own special place in the ecosystem. “Clockenflap has always been about the sum of the parts,” he says. “The coming together of music, art, people, food, silliness and so much more, all set against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s iconic skyline. You couple all of that with the most positive festival crowd in the world, and it all adds up to something unique and very special.”
This year’s festival takes place on 9-11 November. Early bird tickets now on sale

Clockenflap is no longer the only game in town. Spurred by its success, in the last few years a wealth of other music festivals have cropped up in the city. International festival brands have discovered that Hong Kong is willing to embrace the full festival experience – with the added benefit of being able to get home in half an hour.

Sónar

Gilles Peterson at Sónar Hong Kong.



Gilles Peterson at Sónar Hong Kong. Photograph: Chris Lusher/Lusher Photography

Barcelona’s Sónar festival celebrates its second instalment in Hong Kong this year, brought to the city by the organisers of Clockenflap. Sónar’s emphasis on electronic music and creative technology makes it Clockenflap’s younger, hipper brother. The initial lineup has been announced, with acts including French deep house legend Laurent Garnier, tech-house act the Black Madonna and Japanese post-rockers Mouse on the Keys.
This year’s festival takes place on 17 March. Tickets now on sale

Road to Ultra

Road to Ultra is the smaller brother of Miami’s massive Ultra EDM festival, which has been spreading its beats across the globe in recent years. Billed as a setup for Ultra China – which takes place in Shanghai – last year saw Hardwell, Kygo and Zedd headlining.
Stay updated for news of a 2018 event

Shi Fu Miz

Shi Fu Miz moves the party away from the bustle of central Hong Kong to a beach on Lantau Island.



Shi Fu Miz moves the party away from the bustle of central Hong Kong to a beach on Lantau Island. Photograph: Flavien Prioreau

Most of the other festivals on this list all take full advantage of the city’s glorious skyline, but Hong Kong has other, more hidden assets. The two-day Shi Fu Miz festival takes place on a beach on Lantau Island, with a distinctly hippier vibe – think yoga and meditation workshops as well as world and electronic beats.
Look out for events in 2018

Creamfields

One of the world’s largest EDM festivals made its Hong Kong debut in 2017, pulling out all the stops with big names including Tiësto, Above & Beyond and Marshmello. The lineup drew in the crowds – and the organisers are promising bigger and better this year. Unlike the other festivals, Creamfields is an indoor party – meaning Hong Kong’s temperamental weather doesn’t have to be a concern.
This year’s festival takes place on 15-16 December



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