It’s a little past 1pm on a Sunday afternoon in early October, and the warehouse space echoes with odd bursts of guitar tuning, violent but short-lived drum fills, and “testing, one, two, threes”. Moment Hung is squirming uncomfortably on a backstage sofa.
“Oh my god, no one is going to come to the show,” he says, anxiously passing both hands through shoulder-length hair. The gig, featuring local indie darlings Silhungmo, Prune Deer, Serrini and more, is due to begin in less than hour, but in typical fashion for this indie venue, no one is on time.
Yet time has run out. In less than a month, Hidden Agenda would have been forced to leave this industrial space on Tai Yip Street, Ngau Tau Kok, its much-loved home for the past four years and already its third move. Today isn’t just a normal gig; it’s a special goodbye Moment has put together.
Moment isn’t a rocker. The self-described “failed instrument learner” wields a camera; plastered on the walls around him today are more than 500 of his photos, all part of the “Hello Stranger” exhibition Moment has curated. They tell a story both of city’s favourite live music venue, as well as the man who, as his name suggests, takes immense pleasure capturing these moments.
“I’m quite weird – and so are my pictures,” says Moment. His photos fixate on little details, hidden intimacies.
We see gig regulars dancing in ecstasy, band members slathering on makeup before a show, couples making out onstage and then breaking up off camera, a little girl asleep on a couch. It’s a tribute not just to music but to those who love it. “I think this is where the life of the live show lies… I want to show the whole storyboard.”
Moment’s introduction to the world of live shows and indie music was a bit of an accident. He was accompanying a girl – he then repeats and stresses, “a girl!” suggestively – to a show where Silhungmo, New Youth Barbershop, and Jing Wong were playing, and he was hooked.
Right on cue, Silhungmo’s vocalist pops her head into the room. “We’re talking about you!”
“What, you’re badmouthing me?” she teases.
It’s a good illustration of what the place means to Moment. He believes Hidden Agenda was unique in that the audience and the band were just separated by one door. The crowd could stay after the show, they could chat with musicians and get their autographs, and the bands could really be themselves here; there was a lot of freedom. And for Moment, and many others who frequented the livehouse, Hidden Agenda had been a sanctuary.
There were times when Moment came to shows at Hidden Agenda almost once a week. He didn’t like all the music – My tastes are quite mainstream,” he admits, adding that his first CD had been a Nicholas Tse album. “But no one was born listening to Pink Floyd!” The range of music the venue exposed him to satisfied his curiosity, and when one finds something they do like, it’s a great feeling, he says.
“Loads of people initially come to shows at Hidden Agenda on their own, then maybe they made friends here and gradually develop their sense of belonging.”
But at Hidden Agenda, there were not just hellos – there were also goodbyes. Moment was there when Chock Ma had their last performance, and one of the photos in the exhibition shows the band members huddled together, crying. This was one of Moment’s most unforgettable gigs.
This was a bad year for the indie scene. Perhaps no incident was more telling of this than the death of Gary Chan, the manager of local rock heroes Supper Moment and indie legends Chochukmo. Many in the community were devastated by the news, and Moment was no exception, but soon he also realised that he had immortalized precious snapshots of Gary’s life in his photos.
“He was backstage at a show with other bands, and I caught a moment when he was really happy. And I was thinking, when I see him again I would introduce myself and tell him hopefully in the future I’ll have a chance to take pictures of the band. But unfortunately, he passed away… With some people and some relationships, they may be different the next time you see them.”
And so it is with Hidden Agenda.
A nostalgic mood permeates the space today. Moment has brought in an old-school “flash card” dispensers; such cards were very popular in the 1990s and normally bore the faces of pop idols in Hong Kong and Taiwan. These custom-made ones, however, feature photos of “indie goddesses” or other pictures from Moment’s archives – souvenirs for people to hold on to after Hidden Agenda’s relocation, as they come to terms with a past and for a now that was quickly disappearing.
Moment acknowledges that this loss can be painful. Here’s a warning that he put up:
(The contents of the exhibition may involve past lovers or stir up unhappy memories, please try your best to find joy in the venue – apologies for the inconvenience. Meeting people is (not) easy.)
But people do not seem to be shying away from these photos. Instead, as we walk through the exhibition, we see a group of friends pointing at a photo of an ex-couple, laughing and exchanging private jokes amongst themselves.
And it brings Moment joy as well.
“It’s not going to bring about any great changes or have any real significance, it’s not going to make you famous and not a lot of people are going to look at these photos,” Moment said. “I like taking pictures because every time you see someone happy, it’s like their energy rubbed off me and my own emptiness is filled in a little…” After all, taking photos is about absorbing the nutrients of other souls, as Moment comments on his own Facebook page.
Moment does not know most of the people he photographs. Sometimes, he merely stalks them on social media after the concert-goers tag each other on the pictures he posts. As the name of Moment’s photography page suggests, “meeting people is (not) easy.” However, Moment says, there are also many in the scene who work hard to make the word within the parenthesis disappear.
“For example, Hidden Agenda’s [Hui Chung-wo], other organisers, or independent bands… a lot of them don’t ask for anything in return, and I want to document the process of them going after their dreams.”
Hidden Agenda successfully raised sufficient funds following a charity sale and has reopened at a new venue on G/F Hung To Industrial Bldg, 80 Hung To Road, Kwun Tong.