Beyond Structures
A photo taken by the writer with the band Omnipotent Youth Society on stage in front of dozens of fans and their phones with a textured backdrop behind all the musicians

Clockenflap 2023 Day 2: Atarashii Gakko!, Omnipotent Youth Society and more

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Day two of Clockenflap 2023 was a lot quieter than the opening day, partly because the Yoasobi devotees had largely dispersed (the opening day tickets were sold out the fastest). After grabbing an exorbitant hotdog from the festival grounds, which I paid around USD25 for, I continued on to some of the day two acts.  

 

Atarashii Gakko! (Japan)

Atarashii Gakko! is committed to being utterly rambunctious. Whatever music they craft — be it retro Jpop, rock, electronic, hip hop and even jazz — it just has to be inherently danceable. On stage, their songs simply coalesce into a great, exquisite sonic force, which is elevated by their intricate, heart-pumping choreography. Dressed in their iconic school uniforms for Clockenflap, the quartet was sprinting, leaping, cartwheeling and just performing incredibly energetic acrobatics — all while still singing and rapping to their own songs without losing their breath. And at one point, they even performed a coordinated, rapid-fire costume change to a matching, all-black outfit. I’ve honestly never seen anything like Atarashii Gakko, and the crowd’s thunderous cheers can only mean that all of us just couldn’t get enough of them.

A press photo of the band Atarashii Gakko! performing at Clockenflap in matching student uniforms holding microphones and dancing triumphantly

 

Omnipotent Youth Society (China)

A press photo of Omnipotent Youth Society with at least 9 musicians on stage and the fans documenting every second of it

Progressive rock has a reputation for being overwrought, complicated and perhaps just a tad decadent. But while the songs of Omnipotent Youth Society may incorporate some of the genre’s most recognizable components, they’re also particularly emotive and heartrending. From their set, it’s easy to see why the band has long been seen as a mainstay in the Chinese rock scene; they play with the ease of a seasoned musician, captivating the crowd with some of their most well-loved songs, including the seminal “Kill That One From Shijiazhuang”, a mournful tale about ennui and urban decay (a song that, interestingly, was repurposed by the Chinese Communist Party to promote a sense of joyful unity within the country). 

Er Qian’s plaintive, impassioned voice, buoyed by the jubilant hooks of trumpeter Shi Li, hit all the right notes for the chilly night, with the audience chiming in to every single song being performed. So enthralled was the crowd that towards the end of their set, they hollered incessantly for an encore — something I hadn’t seen happen in the festival so far, even for the headlining acts. A few nail-biting minutes later, Er Qian wearily emerged with a guitar, concluding the set with “Ten Thousand Hippies” to the fervent cheers of their fans. An absolutely perfect finale to the second day of Clockenflap.

 

Special mentions

A photo by the author of the band PREP on stage under the half shell and the neon buildings of Hong Kong

Given that day two was a pretty chill day with only two regional acts I wanted to catch, here are some stray thoughts on the others:

PREP: It’s impossible not to move to anything PREP plays. Admittedly, I wasn’t here to watch PREP — I was just on the way out to grab some grub for dinner — but I just had to stop and awkwardly boogie on the spot for a bit. The band’s electro-pop grooves were undeniably tight, and when set to a multi-hued backdrop of the sunset, simply translates to incredibly chill, dreamy vibes all around. But when the band played “Cheapest Flight”, their most well-known hit, Tom Havelock passed his vocals duty to the audience, who… unfortunately, didn’t respond as enthusiastically as they should have (and they really, really should have!). It was a tad awkward, but all was forgiven once more when PREP played their Harry Styles cover of “As It Was”. 

Novo Amor: Novo Amor’s songs tend to carry a sense of gentle wistfulness, but their set was a tad underwhelming here, lacking the intimacy that I thought many of his fans fall in love with. That said, the crowd absolutely devoured “Anchor” when Novo Amor played it as their closing song.

Pulp: Apparently Jarvis Cocker broke two ribs before the show because he fell down some stairs, but continued to perform the set with the rest of his band swimmingly. I heard someone ask why Joji couldn’t do the same, who cancelled his appearance here last minute due to health issues. 

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Khee Hoon Chan is a freelance writer from Singapore, and writes for publications like Polygon, Edge Magazine and Bullet Points. Ask them about the weather at @crapstacular

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