June 2008 Archives

Ark live house and photo books

| | TrackBacks (0)

stickerSome news that I read on Shanghaiist lately that made me think a bit. It comes from Abe Deyo in this post. There are two main points: Ark Live House is closing and a new photo book called Shanghai Soundbites is being released.

First of all Ark Live House. I didn't metion this in my last post called I Demand A Recount. This is because it hasn't been doing anything for so long that it hardly counts. Also, it is in Xin Tian Di. That's an upscale restaurant area made by Shui On with the highest prices in town. I went to Ark once and got charged 70 RMB for a can of coke (usually 3 RMB in a shop).  There is one possible repurcussion though. Zhang Haisheng who runs Yuyintang gets a lot of his income from working at Ark as a DJ.

I haven't seen the photobook yet but it made me think of how useless the scene is at communicating, so much is left to chance. Abe Deyo promotes gigs and meets the bands every week and I go to his Shanghaist post for the gig dates. Yuyingtang has a facebook page and Live Bar have just got a new website. In fact there's more in English than in Chinese. But anyway, I have been to the shows here for a few years and know a bunch of people in the scene and try to keep up with it - but the annoucement on Shanghaiist of the book launch on the same day it was happening was the first I'd heard of it in any way, ever.

As for the book itself. I read the blurb on the website. It suggests that people who have made the scene lately are leaving now. Hmmn, is that a reference to the VISA issues and transient nature of the ex-pat population? There's a lot of that opinion around but I don't think the bands have VISA issues, they are Chinese. If all foreigners were repatriated last week, the only difference to the Gala show on Saturday would have been 6 or 7 less people in the audience of 200+ I'm sure the photos are nice, though.

Gala live @ yuyintang

| | TrackBacks (0)

galaBeijing based indie rockers Gala are obviously quite popular. When I turned up at Yuyingtang on Saturday night it was so packed I could barely get in the door. A quick chat inside and I learned that they have a popular song Young For U that's all over the net. Hence the presence of truck loads of 'regular' students who would not usually come to rock shows. The guy next to me spent the whole show with his fingers in his ears. Coincidentally, another student friend of mine told me they don't like underground gigs because of the noise, but she had recently been to a L'arc En Ciel show at the football stadium. Obviously there must be an urban myth floating around colleges and their net haunts that your ears can be damaged at local gigs. You gotta love rumour panic.

So, after the final warm up band, everyone went out into the park (there's a park out back of Yuyintang) to chill and use the toilets. I took my chance to get a place in the main hall. They started with an intro/lights up track and burst into life. Great sound and enegry and the crowd were obviously 'mad for them'. They then played two Beatles covers and quipped "We're not a Beatles cover band" at the end. In fact half of the set was covers, including Suicide Is Painless. Also, I'm not sure about an underground band at Yuyintang playing two sets with a break and then an encore. The main problem being that the covers were much tighter than the original material.

I saw a bunch of friends/scene regulars there. Chun Shen is a local graphic designer and friend of Cameron's. I also talked to Sophia, Lin Lin and Yixin, who all work there in some capacity. I think everyone was pleased to have a sold out night with money coming in but were not that impressed with the band. The Beijing bands always seem to get a good turnout, even if they are not so much better than Shanghai counterparts, perhaps we've got something to learn from their scene.  


I demand a recount

| | TrackBacks (0)

live bar siteI don't often post on websites and venues in the Shanghai music scene as they tend to change quite often. Also, they seem to defy normal category as they cross over in both style and function. However, after reading a couple of things in the rags this week I feel like going through this.

First of all, how many venues do we have in Shanghai for indie, rock and punk etc? A venue purpose designed for such gigs that commits to weekly performances and looks and feels like a live music house ... there's two. Yuyintang is one and Live Bar comes second, but it only just makes it in on account of it being open all the time as bar and is not immune to the odd crossover event. Yup, only the two, and Live bar is miles away from me which explains why I nearly only post about Yuyintang.

Next up are bars. Bars who, as part of their promotions, are commited to putting on live music. They are open general hours and have a mixed clientel who aren't specifically into the music. Gucci-wearing clubbers at rock gigs kill the experience for me, bah humbug. Top of this tree is Windows Underground. Windows is basically a venue that tries to make its money via the bar business model and seems to be between the two groups. But they have a proper stage and sound system. Down on Taikang Lu is Bar 288 (AKA The Melting Pot), their house band is Happy Strings. Forever on the lips of ex-pat hipsters and magazines is Logo Bar. Logo used to be the original Tang Hui music pub and is the same deal. This place is a muscially themed trendy pub with no visible pattern to the acts. Now and again they have a good band in but it's largely coincidence. I am partisan and prefer to see a rock/indie band surrounded by people who follow the sub-culture, it's half the point. 

Last one in the significant bar circuit is Gua'er (AKA Sus2). Actually, they were the first true venue in Shanghai way back when. They originally operated out of an old factory in Yangpu but now they have resurfaced as a half-cafe half-bar in Dingxi Road. No important bands have played there for a while though. 

Finally we have the occaisionals. Bands put on gigs in other places for various reasons but you can't see regular gigs at the locations. Harley's Bar used to be a great place and the gig area is quite good, now it's very on and off. Dream Factory is a proper theatre which gets used sometimes if Yuyintang wants a larger space. A band once played at The Shelter but that's a DJ place.  

This week I'm going to see a Beijing indie band called Gala.

What is (and is not) Edupunk

| | TrackBacks (1)

I had a few words with Jim Groom over at Bavablog via the comments after following up on his Glass Bees post in which he coined the term Edupunk. We realised, via some of the more negative replies, that some points are not clear. That is, the ideas and theory of the Edupunk discussion have been around a while and are not controversial at all. Labelling it Punk has just thrown some distasteful associations at the conservative element among us.

While studying drama at university I was pleased to find out that my long list of complaints and criticisms of secondary education were not simply adolescent tantrums. They had been covered by groundbreaking educators such as Augusto Boal's theatre of the oppressed and in Paulo Freire's landmark work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Through student centred work in these models I found that I could learn drama in a non-competitive atmosphere gaining real skills and awareness that all seemed relevant to what I wanted to do.

How does this help us understand Edupunk? Let's start with some Paulo Freire. The following is from his analysis of our 'banking system' of education where students are filled up by the teacher and must reproduce for tests or in jobs - the goal is to order the students in a big ladder to see how they fit into society.

The reason d'etre of libertarian education lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.

This solution is not (nor can it be) found in the banking concept. On the contrary, banking education maintains and even stimulates the contradiction through the following attitudes and practices, which mirror oppressive society as a whole:

(a) the teacher teaches and the students are taught

(b) the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing

(c) the teacher thinks and the students are thought about

(d) the teacher talks and the students listen - meekly

(e) the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined

(f) the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply

(g) the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher

(h) the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it

(i) the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which he or she sets in opposition to the students freedom

(j) the teacher is the subject of the learning process while the pupils are mere objects

It is not suprising that the banking concept regards men as adaptable, managable beings. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend to simply adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.

Whew! A lot in there and that's just one page out of 180 in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. So ...

Edupunk seeks to see the world and transform it - not to learn its system.

Edupunk teachers have equal human relations with their students, they exchange experiences.

Edupunk classes are democratic communties, that is - the true meaning of anarchy; small self governing community untis who shape their own destinies through freedom.

Edupunk groups do not enforce discipline - they explore their relationships and dynamics.

Edupunk teachers value the ideas of their group and listen to it, together they form the path of the course.

Edupunk groups are not afraid to improvise and explore without a pre planned end goal or pay-off such as a test or a piece. They grow as humans throughout the process and do not need judgement.

Edupunk respects human dignity, not authority.

Edupunks are seeking to build lives not choose one.

Still got no idea where this is going? Try this amazing book - Games for Actors and Non-actors by Augusto Boal.

Back from Hong Kong

| | TrackBacks (0)

hong kongI just got back from a hectic VISA run in Hong Kong. I got my VISA with relative ease and from the CTS branch right in the train station, however, people around me were getting knocked back or restricted to one week single entry.

The Hong Kong papers are reporting a 40% drop off in business and tourism in Beijing already as a direct result of the new policy. This more than cancels out the expected revenue from hosting the olympics in the first place, leaving it as what it is - a bunch of boring non-spectator sports used to rouse a bunch of patriots.

Also, the whole trip made me miss three QF games in Euro 2008 and the Demerit gig at Logo in Shanghai. What's more, I've a sneaking suspicion the immigration official entered me on my old VISA by accident (it's still got three days) as there's a large slash drawn through my new L visa - perhaps to show that its single entry has been used? I'll find out Tuesday when I go for my upgrade in Pudong.


banyan treesBanyan Trees on Nathan Road 

Box of Shaw kicks off, Hong Kong

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

kungfuology logo smallFollowing our first two vidcasts, I have now kicked off our Box of Shaw feature. The first movie is 1982's Human Lanterns.

check it out

I will be doing a movie a week in the live blogging style (but not technically live) on each Sunday. With around 90 movies in the box, it could take some time.

In other news, I have to go to Hong Kong tomorrow to sort out my VISA for next year. It's the first time in 6 years that I have to do the infamous Hong Kong run. We are in the middle of a VISA crackdown too so I hope it goes alright, otherwise I could get stuck there. I'll be there for about 5 days so no posts until I get back.

Shanghai vs Nanjing @ Yuyintang

| | TrackBacks (0)

overdoseYuyintang had a great show on tonight ... Shanghai Punk vs Nanjing Punk. Representing Shanghai were Loudspeaker and Mortal Fools. Representing Nanjing were Overdose and Angry Jerks. I hadn't seen either of the Nanjing bands before and Angry Jerks are a psychobilly group. Loudspeaker are a special fixture on the Shanghai scene having been together for over nine years now.

Alas, once again, the curse of the badly planned show struck me down. With four bands on the bill the show was billed as an 8 pm start. Mortal Fools were supposed to go on first and a band member was missing so rather than adjusting the running order they put the whole show back to 10 - only to decide on putting MF on last, after all that.

I have to run off to Hong Kong this week and have had little to no sleep due to Euro 08 matches finishing at 4 am in China, so with the first of four bands only getting done after 11 in a show advertised with an 8 start I ran out of steam. Loudspeaker did their usual thing and I managed to catch most of Overdose.

The real highlight of the night was Mortal Fools singer Frank's get up. Combining the MF band official shirt with a MF stickered sailor hat. Yes!



Cartoon Time

| | TrackBacks (0)

This post is a response to xkcd number 435, a mainly excellent web comic.

Click for full size. Note: I'm British, 'state' means nation state.


response to xkcd 435

First vidcasts done for our new site

| | TrackBacks (0)

zhongshan parkThis morning the rain finally held off and we filmed our double header of vidcasts for our new site.

Pu Laoshi and his student Shaun Hogan were really nice and open and no one bothered us at all during filming. Pu Laoshi was worried a bit about the look of it and that they didn't have performance clothes but we soon got the idea over to him.

We had a funny moment when he called me by my Chinese name when I very first arrived, but he has such a strong Shanghai accent that I didn't catch it. He then ribbed me about not knowing my own name for ten minutes.

You can find the vidcasts here:

part one
part two


shaun hogan


cameron hirst

yuguo myspaceA few weeks back I met Mirjam Johansson and her photographer, David. Mirjam is a freelance journalist from Sweden who was touring China working on several stories at the same time. We met each other through the Couchsurfing message board for Shanghai.

As well as writing about Couchsurfing itself, Mirjam and David wanted to do a piece on the Shanghai underground music scene. So, the weekend they arrived in town we went to Yuyintang to see Yu Guo play and after the show Gemnil Lin hooked us up with an interview.

Yu Guo
myspace music

band page

The guys from the band were really nice and Mirjam had a range of good questions to ask them. There was a little confusion. Mirjam speaks no Chinese and we hand Gemnil on hand to translate, however, the band were happy to try doing it in English. Mirjam was especially interested in if the Chinese indie/rock/punk scene mirrored other countries in it's rebellious attitude. The guys skillfully went around those questions but didn't take offense at the mention of politics.

The most insightful answer of the evening was the band's claim that they are the only full time band in the scene. They have no other jobs and make all their money from music. I was hard pressed to come up with another band from Shanghai who do it.

Mirjam's questions made me think about some negative aspects of the scene and we talked about it after we left the show. Back when I first discovered shows here, the whole anti-Japan drive was in full swing. Many bands had songs about it, bashing Japan for the war and big upping their country etc. No one does it much these days but I hope awareness rises in this area.  


Ken Carroll vs edupunk

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)

Jim groomJust a few weeks ago, educator Jim Groom coined the term Edupunk in his blog post about the novel The Glass Bees. There's nothing new to understand here. Jim rightly took progressive community/student centred ideas about education and applied them to the recent boom of Web 2.0 products and technology. In doing so he has provoked a much needed storm of debate on the subject.

Leslie Brooks writes at BlogHer:

In short, edupunk is student-centered, resourceful, teacher- or community-created rather than corporate-sourced, and underwritten by a progressive political stance. Barbara Ganley's philosophy of teaching and digital expression is an elegant manifestation of edupunk. Nina Simon, with her imaginative ways of applying web 2.0 philosophies to museum exhibit design, offers both low- and high-tech edupunk visions.

I studied Drama at university and have since worked in writing, drama and language teaching. These ideas are nothing new to me and especially during my time here in Shanghai, I have found plenty of space to inject the Edupunk ethos into my work. However, I often slip into a dream world where I assume that all educators are progressive by nature.

Enter Ken Carroll.

When I was first at Shane head office in Jiang Ning Road back in 2001, Ken's school Kai En was just across the way. He made a success out of it and then launched Chinese Pod, a web 2.0 service for mp3 language lessons. It was a huge success and host Jenny Zhu is a genuine star here and abroad. Lately, Ken started a blog where he uses his position as a successful edu-business man to discuss learning 2.0.

In his latest posts Ken gets to grips with Edupunk, starting off with Edupunks Need to Grow Up. I wish it was a debate on the subject, but - unfortunately for Shanghai based educators like me - it is little more than a conservative man having a reactionary moment when meeting something 'leftie':

Am I the only one to find this Edupunk meme ridiculous? The adolescent ethos, music, etc, are matched only by the adolescent narcissism,  anger, wilful non-conformity,  sanctimony, and tirades against authority. Fine, except this is all coming from teachers

And, as usual, if you try to expand these moments into points or debate, it just goes worse from there:

No seven ages of man here. These guys look intellectually and emotionally indistinguishable from their students.

Ouch! Way to indirectly stick it to your own students. If any educator disagrees with student led learning, progressive, humanistic politics or community owned culture then debate Edupunk all you like, but can we leave the 'grow up' insults out of it? 


Kai's birthday

| | TrackBacks (0)

kai's birthday twoToday was Kai's birthday. Kai Uwe Pel is my Kung Fu teacher and every year on his birthday we go to Paulaner Brahaus, a German brewery and restaurant. Kai is German, you see and it's his yearly treat.

We usually go to the Fen Yang Road branch near my house but this year we went out the 'Bin Jiang'. Bin Jiang Da Dao is the tourist riverfront strip on the Pudong side of the river. It has a riverside park, walking area and a selection of bars and restaurants with river views. I actually liked it. The Puxi side of the river where the older buildings are is packed with touts, vendors and assorted annoyances. The Pudong side was quite relaxing.

All the usual crowd were there and afterwards me and Phillipe, my couchsurfing guest, went back across by ferry.

    kai's birthday

Above: Diana, Vanessa, Mel, Helen, Kai, Cameron and Nathan.

Left: Bo, Kai, me, Phillipe and Helen. 

Joyside live @ Windows Underground

| | TrackBacks (0)

rogue transmission warm upI went down to the recently moved Windows Underground bar last night to see the famous Beijing punk band, Joyside. This was part of a special event called Get in the Van and features a three band bill then a free minibus over to another bar for dancing and DJs. This was the second van event, both organised by Dan Shapiro who fronts the band, Rogue Transmission. As well as Joyside and Rogue Transmission the line up featured folk-punk act Boys Climbing Ropes.

Joyside are huge here and the venue filled up. However, my night was basically ruined by the curse of the 'bar gig'. It's a strange affliction that affects normal 'venue' gigs in the underground scene too. They seem to operate by different rules that may suit some people but just not me.

Why can't shows start on time? Coming late to a show and missing some of the support act is normal and not a big deal. This one was door at 9 then start at 10, but they waited until 10.45 presumably until it filled up more. So, i'm fine with multi act bills, especially in a smaller local scene - but - it drives me nuts when they become triple headliners or sometimes quadruple and more. Have a bunch of support acts but don't hold back the whole show for them to get more people in and, for god's sake, don't let them play full sets.

So Rogue Transmission plays a solid traditional rock set but it was basically 12.00 midnight, Euro 2008 about to start on TV and me starving to death. Yes, 12.00 at a show where the door opened at 9 and the second support act was just warming up. So I missed half of Boys Climbing Ropes getting something to eat then came back in time for Joyside.

And ... the sound was awful, I couldn't hear the lead vocals or the guitar, and Joyside were wasted and all over the place. Let down. Not to mention that half the people there were from the 'party crowd' who looked ready to hit the bund clubs after the show. Joyside are huge, like I said, and their real fans still loved every minute of the show.


andy dan xiao punk

Me, Dan Shapiro and Little Punk of Boys Climbing Ropes.

Zhongshan Park Kung Fu

| | TrackBacks (0)

parkoneMe and Cam went down to Zhongshan Park at 7.30 this morning to follow up a lead for our first Kungfuology vidcast. My friend Sharon Tan tipped us off about a traditional teacher there called Pu Laoshi.

Pu Laoshi is 70 years old and teaches among the racket of radios and millions of Taichi and dance groups that fill out Shanghai parks in the mornings. His style 'cha quan' was traditional and he showed us weapons, hand forms and even a two man set.

Of course, you can't just demand a teacher to perform for you as strangers then make videos so we had to oblidge with performances and a bit of training ourselves first. No worries, it was a beautiful morning and the locals largely left us to it. We took turns in between his other students, Sharon trained some straight sword too.

Next week his overseas student comes back and we will film for our first vidcast.


parktwoMe and Sharon











Me, Cam and Pu LaoshiCam, Pu Laoshi and me

Crazy Mushroom Brigade @ Yuyintang

| | TrackBacks (0)

Went out to Yuyintang last night to see one of my favourite Shanghai bands, the Crazy Mushroom Brigade (Fengkuan Mogu Tuan). They are one of a handful of Chinese underground rock/punk bands that are in total command of their instruments, sound and performance. Watching them is a religous experience, but, as they are native to the Shanghai scene, they haven't made the step up to play to a good sized crowd like they deserve. The scene here being quite small still.

The headlining band was actually a Japanese industrial act called God Deadalist. For some reason they opted to go on first out of a 5 band bill despite being billed as the headliner. A singer and a guitarist played live to a backing tape of the drums and bass. I dunno, it was pretty good but more like looking at a piece of art than watching a good band live. photo at the end of the post.

Evans stayed at home so I hung out with Lin Lin who's a manager there, and also Evans' old classmate, Flower, from her high school days. Also met a couple of Fenebache fans from Istanbul. Cool guys. Last night I also checked out Hard Queen at the new Windows Underground venue. I'd love to see the Mushrooms play there to 4 or 500 people. I should harass Brad Ferguson, the manager, about it, he lives by me.


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2008 is the previous archive.

July 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.