There’s something hauntingly bizarre in the air tonight. Not that this city is virgin to such feelings, often seeming to play host to the insane and the twisted, but tonight holds a very different set of sensory mayhem. The sights seem to be blurred and impressionistic, lacking the crispness, clarity, and vibrance that have long defined its unique aesthetic. Skyscrapers stab upwards in innumerable numbers, arranging themselves as a bed of nails to scare away the gods. The smell of street food that always pollutes the nostrils of those at ground level has been overpowered by the metallic and mineralic scent of steel and concrete construction, making all who dwell here aware of their minute value. And the sounds… there are hardly any – the strangest of all traits that tonight has to offer. In a city that tends to be too loud to focus on simple thoughts, I currently find myself in the throws of a complex conversation with my subconscious. Realizing early on the dangerous thoughts that arise in such self-discussions, I decide to escape the environment pushing me towards madness, and skip into a local joint where at least I can decide to drive myself mad with cheap saké and expensive beer.
One of my favorite things about Hong Kong is the quick, cheap access to all of the world’s culture. It’s like a cliifnotes publication on the globe. You don’t get much substance and what you do get is not the best quality, but there’s enough to understand the foundational ideals. Tonight, Japanese culture by way of cliché drink choices sounds good to me.
Like most establishments here where there are many people and little land, it feels less like a bar and more like the hallway leading to one. Maybe it’s because of my timing or maybe it’s due to the plethora of available choices, but I find myself nearly alone seated at the bar. To my left, the only other patron appears to have been sewn to his chair long ago. He is an old Cantonese man, too distraught by his age, his experiences, or his saké to be of any harm or of any use to the world, so instead, he chooses to exist only in his own.
Fine with me. I’m in no mood for conversation. I skip the carafe option and order a bottle, but halfway through, I feel I may have made a poor decision. The drink’s effects have me not feeling drunk, but lucidly hallucinating – the last sort of mental place I wish to find myself in the haunted carnival atmosphere of this off night in Hong Kong.
Maybe I just need to stretch my legs. I push back from the bar, reach for the floorboards with my boots, and brace myself with the untrustworthy inebriated strength in my arms. I slowly walk towards the back of the corridor in search of the bathroom. The place is too narrow for any sort of obvious door so I press against the wall for a sign of movement. When part of the wall budges, I slide it to its left and pull myself into the miniature water closet. A few splashes of sobering water and a long look in the mirror help me to regain a sense of composure and reassurance, until I here a faint, unnatural noise coming from the opposite wall of the one that I slid out of the way to enter. I cock my head, bring my ear closer to the wall and listen for more. A faint, muffled, yet unmistakable sound meets my ear. There must be live music next door, but it sounds oddly aggressive for a small eatery. I lean my head closer once more, this time placing my hand on the wall for support. Under my weight, the wall shutters. Another trick door.
I would normally shy away from such unknown but something about the untrustworthy liquor and the untrustworthy night has me believing there’s no such thing as risk, only levels of reward. I discover the latch for the door never meant to be opened and slide it out of my way, exposing a dark room filled with dark-minded individuals too enthralled by a stage to notice me crawling through a hole from another dimension.
Looking around, I realize I made good choices in my outfit tonight. Black seems to be the theme and I’m sporting it head to toe. Black beanie, black scarf, long, hooded, black coat, black denim, black boots. I thought I chose it because I was too lazy to come up with a more creative arrangement, but it turns out, the color chose me, knowing what my night had in store.
I’m still unable to get a clear view of the stage, but the music is intoxicating. Harsh, experimental sampling and vivid production is fighting against clean, comforting keystrokes from two men dressed in black. But the music is nearly lost behind the powerful, soulful voice of a figure at the microphone. He comes into view and looks like a villain from an old kung fu movie. Shrouded by a strange, lengthy robe belonging somewhere between a Buddhist monestary and a high fashion runway, he belts poetic lyrics in a ghostly tone. Where the man’s head should be is instead a bizarre take on a rice farmer’s hat that hides his face entirely, turning the whole of his figure into a dancing lamp when he sways to the frequent instrumental solos. Again, I wonder whether the saké I consumed earlier was in fact something with much stronger sensory effects. Nothing about this seems real. But then again, nothing about an Alxndr London show should seem real at all.