Hong Kong independent live house Hidden Agenda staged its farewell show last Sunday, having hosted hundreds of local and overseas bands over its eight-year history.
The embattled Kwun Tong live house was forced to relocate to its fourth venue last December after being continually accused of land lease violations, owing to the fact that it has always been based in industrial buildings.
But in May, owner Hui Chung-wo was arrested along with four overseas musicians in a high-profile raid, which saw them charged with immigration offences.
Several overseas bands scheduled to perform at Hidden Agenda were subsequently unable to obtain work visas, and cancelled their shows.
Politicians including Jeremy Tam, Roy Kwong and Clarisse Yeung petitioned the government to relax or reform regulations on the use of industrial buildings.
Hui said he suffered over HK$100,000 in losses due to performance cancellations and an encumbrance order from the Lands Department, while monthly rent for the industrial unit exceeds HK$60,000.
On July 2, Hidden Agenda staged its marathon farewell concert from the afternoon late into the night, featuring almost a dozen local bands such as hardcore group Maniac, electropop band Ni.Ne.Mo and shoegaze group Twisterella.
The event was formally a “dress rehearsal,” charging no entrance fee and involving no commercial activities. It was named “This Town Needs Live” – a reference to This Town Needs Guns (TTNG), one of the bands arrested for performing in May.
Between every “rehearsal,” concert-goers evacuated the venue, simulating a fire drill to show how quickly they could leave the building.
Former secretary for security Lai Tung-kwok had said in May that industrial buildings should not host large crowds due to fire safety concerns. Lawmaker Jeremy Tam countered the argument with a Facebook video showing he could exit the building from the performance venue within 10 seconds.
“For the time being I’m going to stop holding all Hidden Agenda events,” said owner Hui at the end of the night.
“I don’t want to cause hassle to any other bands. The previous incident isn’t over. TTNG needs to come back [to Hong Kong to report to the Immigration Department] on July 17.”
“What we need to do, we’ve basically done. We’re just waiting to see whether the government will do something and help us… If not, then I don’t know.”
Hui added that he would stage occasional concerts elsewhere in Hong Kong if he had the opportunity to do so, but was uncertain about Hidden Agenda’s future.
He previously told the media he would turn the current venue into a multi-purpose space for public rental as soon as July.
“I don’t know yet what’s going to happen to this location,” he said on Sunday. “I’m thinking of opening it [to the public] in August.”
Hidden Agenda’s history at each of its four venues since 2009 will be memorialised in a photographic documentary book by seven music scene photographers including Vic Shing, Enzo Cheung and Moment Hung.
Hidden Agenda: The Book will be released later this month.
See also: Vic Shing, the photographer quietly documenting Hong Kong’s underground music scene