July 2008 Archives

City Weekend summer picks

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cold fairylandCity Weekend Magazine run a monthly column called The Beat. It covers the music scene but often strays into non music pubs and other digressions too. Columnist Aric Queen also keeps a blog of the column on City Weekend's website.

The latest print column, also available online here, picks five songs for the summer by Shanghai bands. And, ahem, one of the picks is mine. Aric also produced the column as a podcast - you can find that here

I picked "Love You So" by the Crazy Mushroom Brigade. Alas, they don't have either a CD out or a publically available quality MP3 of the song. Aric has tried to rip a live video but my pick is basically inaudible on the podcast.

The full list of picks:

Aric Queen: "Boogie to the top" by Pharaoh
Andy Best: "Love you so" by Crazy Mushroom Brigade
Ciga: "Happy dreamer on a small bed" by Muscle Snog
Archie Hamilton: "The Flood" by Cold Fairyland
Abe Deyo: "Synth Love" by I-Go

Obviously, this is a survey taken from the English language world. And ... I must make some clear disclaimers before launching into my comment: In the CW column Archie clearly states that Cold Fairyland are "not really rock and roll", so the following comment is not any kind of riposte to his pick. Secondly, Cold Fairyland are skilled and talented musicians who deserve their reputation, the following comment is not about that at all.

So, Cold Fairyland ... first up, you can listen to them here.

Now, Cold Fairyland are a popular, talented band with CDs out and a following. They often play in venues that I frequent. But, I won't be going to the shows or getting the CDs because ... I'm a rock/indie fan. I would no more buy their CD than I would buy Sounds of the Forest or K-Tel Presents The Mystical Pipes of Patagonia. I'm simply not into World Music

World Music, as most people know, is an easy listening genre that combines regional folk music with studio production. It does not mean and has never meant, bands from other countries than the one you're currently in. Excluding people who have never left mainland China, there is not one of you reading this blog who hasn't seen a World Music section in a large record store or doesn't know what I'm talking about.

So, when I hear (or read) other ex-pats talking about CF in the same breath as, say, Top Floor Circus I have to assume one of two things:

A) They are suffering from some kind of ex-pat culture shock thing.
B) They are genuine World Music fans and the CF CD is sitting on their shelf right next to An Ancient Muse.

I suppose it's a reflection on the realities of the scene. I'm not getting into any kind of judgement or analysis, but most of you will know what I mean when I say that ALL independently produced music is basically in the same boat so there is a lot more crossover between styles here than other places. Back home in Liverpool, a rock club is a rock club and it's unthinkable that a DJ playing anything other than rock would play at an event/show there.

There is some hope. I don't see the hip-hop crowd chillin at Punk gigs and I don't see skateboarders hooking up for street sessions with rollerbladers. If I did go to a hip-hop show (I am a fan), I'd hope it was it was rich, focused and produced by people with something to say who live for Hip-hop. I'd hope I'd be stepping into a world, not the world. 

Youtube: Self Party @ Yuyintang

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My post about Self Party was little more than an anecdote moaning about a headache. So, in the name of fairness to both the band and fans of this kind of music ... trumpet fanfare ... here they are playing the Miniless Showcase at Yuyintang.



Bonus Post: Self Party @ Yuyintang

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rylan mcpheeThis post is more of an anecdote than a gig review but I did get new vid material so it's worth doing. Earlier in the day I had been to see Hard Queen at Eno. I wasn't going to check out the Miniless showcase at Yuyintang but I got a call from Rylan McPhee, buddy of mine, who was already there. So I dragged myself and my tired, heavy head to the show.

I got there in time to see Self Party play. To be fair, they were not that bad despite an average to washy sound and the habit of repeating the same four bars more than thrity or so times in each song. Shoe-gazing fans will like them, I'm sure. The problem was my tired head and the end of the anecdote. Into their final song they got feedback and sound problems and when they looked to the desk they saw it was empty. The sound guy was off at the bar drinking. So, like any good experimental band, they openly laughed to each other on stage and proceeded to abandon the song in favour of continuing feedback and noise.

Unfortunately it was so loud that my prospective headache immediately jumped into nausea-pang-laced throbbing and sent me off home. So, I had to abandon the rest of the show and leave the Clansman of Cranbrook to continue his good work alone. That's clansman with a C, readers nursing a hangover. Yuyintang was packed again and it's good to see the venue get good crowds for all the different styles. A final point, just lurking at the edge of the photo is Morgan Short. Morgan is the bass player for Boys Climbing Ropes who have a CD out called Pleasure To Be Here. Check out the linked page.

Hard Queen @ Eno

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hard queen at enoHad a terrible night's sleep and knew I had no chance of lasting out tonight's gig at Yuyintang (Miniless Calling). It's one thing to go to a show tired and grab a coffee, it's another if the show is a showcase of 'shoe-gazing', experimental and long instrumentals. Lucky for me, there was an early option.

Eno is a clothing shop/cafe that promotes local artists and designers. They have a big space and put on local bands at events. Today was a demo for artist Popil and playing the event was Hard Queen. It was a cozy set up and one side of the shop, that you can't see in the photos, has a wide bank of large steps going up to the juice bar. That kind of forms mini stadium seating up one side of the floor space.

I'm used to dingy rock venues and darkness so I was disorientated at first. There was a good turn out and I spotted a bunch of people I knew and ... err, I dunno ... scene people. I don't want to say 'biz' because no one makes money. The great thing about Shanghai is that it's a small scene and all the active members are cool, open people who are happy to talk and are doing really interesting stuff. Hard Queen played the first half of their set and then I went down to say hellos.

The artist, Popil, has a Hard Queen T-shirt out and is also doing the artwork for their soon to be finished CD. One of the CD's producers, Scott, was there as was Brad Ferguson of Window's Underground. I bumped into Nial Ferguson, a super talented Australian artist who I first bumped into via the skatboarding scene ages ago. I also saw Sean Leow again. He is one of the brains behind Neocha.com which you'll see if you followed the Popil and Hard Queen links. Another Neocha guy, Adam Schokora, was there. It's worth checking out his vids over at Danwei.org as he often includes China scene bands.

I should just tag this post celebrity gossip and throw myself under a bus already.

Hard Queen played a couple of new songs and had a great sound. The second half of the set was tight and everyone liked the show. I even left with a signed Popil print although the famed PK-14 shirt was sold out in men's style. Next time.


eno interior

Britpop night @ Yuyintang

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empty gardenUpdate: I was turning out my pockets before washing my clothes and I found the ticket for this show on which I had the band names scrawled on the back of. It's not Kong De Huayuan but Kong Zhong Huayuan. So, a better translation of their name would be Sky Garden, not Empty Garden.

Friday night at Yuyintang with no one band headlining the show and a bunch of not so well known acts all falling loosely in the 'britpop' style. Didn't sound too promising but when I got there there was a good amount of people and a good atmosphere. Skulking around the CD shop I picked up the Kerrang Karaoke DVD - yes! - and chatted to a couple of Donghua students.

The first band on was 8mg. They were a new band doing mainly covers and hadn't rehearsed much. Once on the stage it hit them that they were in a proper club with lots of 'real' people with tickets looking at them. It was a shock. After a well received cover of Radiohead's Creep, they got themselves together and finished the set.

Next up was Kongde Huayuan (Empty Garden). They got straight into a solid set of plodding jangly-guitar laden indie songs. The crowd responded well, especially to the frontman. The frontman was looking like a bit of a hero with his flowing locks, crucifix ear-ring and unbuttoned white shirt. It's a fine line though, one step the wrong way and you're a member of F4. The set came to a premature end when one guitarist broke a string. For some reason he had neither a spare set of strings or a replacement guitar. When one of the other bands lent him a guitar to use it also had technical issues and they decided to call it a night as they only had one song to go. You have to think though, was it really technical issues with the new guitar, or was it that it was one of those China issue Squire Strats with the bright pink finish and the Hello Kitty head scratch plate.

Next up, Modern Cheese. The singer/guitarist of this band is a Beijing Midi Music School graduate. They burst into a high energy distortion driven opener and the crowd really got into it. I was impressed. Whenever I know a band was from a guitar tech or music college I'm expecting flashy playing and unusual key changes at the expense of a coherent style. Hey, music critic talk. Modern Cheese did add in some funk and jazz elements at times but they kept admirable control and everyone liked the show.

The last band on were The Way. I got a surprise. They were really tight and good performers too. A couple of songs in I couldn't help wondering why this show wasn't billed as their gig rather than a britpop night. In fact by the end I realised I had, in fact, been at a The Way gig which had been horribly marketed. Then again, The Way are from Shaoxing and are not well known here - but I'm sure as many people would come to their show as would to a britpop night. Fans of jangly indie pop should definitely try to catch The Way and Empty Garden.

hard queenWell I don't want to jump on certain bandwagons, no matter how true they may be but there's a certain large sporting event looming near in China. Notice how I yet again started a post with a disclaimer. Anyway, the news is ... Sophia of Yuyintang told me straight out that there's only three shows booked for the whole of August at this time. Also, I asked Brad Ferguson of Windows Underground what was going on there and the answer was much the same - very little over summer. Live Bar have yet to update their webpage at time of writing.

There's still going to be some stuff going on. Frozen Street are yet to play YYT this month and Hard Queen will continue their regular slot on Fridays at Windows Underground. Talking of Hard Queen, they are playing at an art event in Eno this weekend. Eno is a large shop/studio/cafe that supports local artists, the launch is for Popil. Popil crossed-over into the music world with her famous T-shirt design for PK-14. Anyway, that's on Saturday at 3.00pm. I'll be there in case anyone wants to stab me stalk me say hello.

Talking of PK-14. I have been listening to their new CD, City Weather Sailing, this week. They have been abroad recording it. The scope/production of the CD is right up there, as good as anything produced by the scene as it's been for the past few years. Ironically though, it takes them away from the raw punk/indie feel that I like. Is that ironic? I think we're heading for an Alanis Paradox here. You know, it starts with noticing that there's no irony in the situations presented in the song ironic and it ends with finding no acceptable definition of Ironic except the traditional literature one - the reader knows something the character doesn't. Wait, is that a paradox?

Youtube: Lollipop at Rock 0093

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Here is one of three videos I just put on my Youtube page from last night's Rock 0093 party. This is Bang Bang Tang (lollipop). This is the band recommended by Lin Lin in her interview for this blog as one to watch. Beware though, if you look at the related videos on Youtube or search for more info on Bang Bang Tang, you will notice a T**w*n*se pop act of the same name.

This one is not too bad but I haven't had much luck with light recently. The Blues Room had no lights and the plan for Rock 0093 seemed to be put half on flash then bugger off for a smoke out back. Also on the page are Six Shot (a must for metal fans) and Tianping Dian.



Rock 0093 Party Six @ Yuyintang

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lollipopIt was pissing down raining quite heavily tonight as Shanghai prepared to catch the back of a proper storm, one with its own name and everything. Rock 0093 is a showcase of new and newish bands that all practise at the studio of the same name. So with bad weather and no well known acts on the bill, I assumed Yuyintang's sold out streak was finally coming to an end. I'd forgot about a certain phenomenon at 0093 shows, though.

The bill had been expanded to a marathon nine bands and gotten underway at 6.30. So, if you put each band and their group of friends into the audience it's actually quite packed. As each band is done, most of the members and half their entourage go home ... so the first bands on have a good crowd and the headliner has a half empty room. Of course, when else would the band i'd come to check out, Bang Bang Tang (lollipop), go on except dead last.

So as I got in a band were just about to go on. It was Six Shot, a traditonal thrash band with absolutely no rapping and no samples. At this point the hall was packed and everyone went nuts for it. I haven't been at a pure thrash gig for ages, especially one with proper moshing and headbanging. The singer was feeding off it, calling out the audience in the mosh pit and getting good responses.

I took a little rest for the next band. Wujiao Xing (Five Pointed Star) are a genre nu-metal band whose best song live is a Linkin Park cover. Next up after that was Tianping Dian (no English name but it means one of those Hong Kong style dessert houses). They had a female vocalist and a rapper and they launched into two tight and catchy pop-rock tracks that really surprised everyone. I was really blown away. But, right after that they fell away with a series of songs that weren't half as well rehearsed. Also, the dwindling crowd was really dwindling. If Tian Ping Dian stay together and work hard, they could be one for the future.

Next up - another hazard of 0093 showcases - the momentum was stopped by the introduction of a one-off-for-the-show cover band, Brunch. I decided to take a real break and have a sit down. Right about this time there was a nasty fight that started with broken bottles dispute between a couple of staff members right in front of where I was sitting. Evidently it had been a long night before and an early start today and tempers were running thin. Luckily it was broken up fast and no one was seriously hurt (i'm not sure how). So - finally - Bang Bang Tang (lollipop) took the stage.

Like all the bands, they are new and far from a finished product. But they played well and the whole reason I like the scene is for the DIY/punk aspect. I can see why some people write them off as more pop than rock though. I managed to get three videos including the promised Lollipop video so see for yourselves. Check the Youtube page in the blog sidebar. 

six shot

tianping dian 

Experimental heaven and 0093 Party 6

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0093 studio

Update: Jake has interviewed Torturing Nurse's Cao Jianjun here.

So many of my posts start with excuses disclaimers. I'm not going to get in the habit of doing listings and this blog is not about that. However, there's relevance to recent posts in some upcoming events so here goes.

So, in the interview with Lin Lin of Yuyintang, she mentioned two bands. Crazy Mushroom Brigade as a newer band that had 'arrived' and Bang Bang Tang (Lollipop) as the promising new comer. A couple of conversations later I discovered this to be quite divisive, especially the idea of them being 'rock'. Intriguing. Lucky for me - Bang Bang Tang are playing Yuyintang's Rock 0093 Party 6 on Saturday night. So not only will I be able to see what it's all about, I'll be able to video them for the blog.

0093 is a rehearsal studio and the 0093 parties are for new bands who practise there to get a chance to play live and get some experience. This is a very good idea that should be supported, but it obviously makes for mixed shows. Here's the line up, I don't have any links for these at the moment (they're new).

Six Shot, Red Brick, Black Romance, Brunch, Lollipop, 5-pointed Star, Dessert Store.

So, Lollipop are the one's to watch.

I also decided to throw in a post about the noise/experimental scene lately and I then ended up at a post-rock gig not long after that. The noise post even saw blogger Micah Sittig sign up and comment. So, by single response popular demand, here's more on the noise scene. There are in fact two major shows coming up. Over at Live Bar this Saturday is the latest from NOIshanghai. This event is billed as Torturing Nurse vs Vario Air.

Torturing Nurse's page is here.
Vario Air's link is to the Kunt page.
And here is the flyer.

Then, the following week at Yuyintang is the Miniless Records Shanghai Calling show. This is another noise/experimental show. The line up has Muscle Snog, Grace Latecomer, Monkey Power and The Los. So, all those of you who like to go out at night to an exciting venue and do some really deep listening all night - there you go.  

Battle of the bands @ the Blues Room

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flyerTonight I went over to the Blues Room to watch this Battle of the Bands show. I must admit very low expectations. Blues Room is basically an ex-pat bar on Tong Ren Lu with a token 'stage' area in the corner for cabaret circuit light jazz and blues acts. It has no sound system and no sound guy and is basically unsuited to rock or indie acts. Never the less, some good bands were going to play and Tonerider came in as the sponsor.

Aside from bands formed just to play the show one off, the line up was Hard Queen, Mortal Fools and Crazy Mushroom Brigade. I made a point of going to catch up with Hard Queen as I've seen the others several times already.

Well, there was a sub-standard drum kit, two free standing amps and a dark corner of a bar dominated by tables and non-rock people - but actually, it turned out quite well. Brad Ferguson of Window's Underground was on hand to tweak the sound and it exceeded everyone's expectations.

So, Hard Queen. They have a neocha page with earlier demos and pics right here. They went on first and made the best out of the set up. They have a good set of original material including great songs like We Don't Care and Fat Girl Slim Boy. They have a new CD in the works and me and Cameron are looking at shooting a video for them so after their performance I went upstairs to City Diner and talked to both Sheena Du, the singer, and Scott Mitchell who is producing the tracks. So, it turned out to be an interesting night, but I left before the 'winner' was announced. Anyone want to reveal that in the comments?

Here is a video from the Blues Room, but like I said, it was underlit, be warned. Not my fault. Honest.

hard queen blues room 

Post-rock night @ Yuyintang

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21 gramsI have to admit, I'm lost with modern music terminology. I have tried but it's evolved from a few genres into a complete system of jargon. So, I headed down to Yuyintang to see 21 Grams and Wang Wen in the hope of finding out what post-rock is all about.

Well, if this show is anything to go by it means long indulgent instrumentals that are atmospheric or ambient in feel. In Wang Wen's case there was a lot of crossover into jazz as well, especially some of the drum beats. Yuyintang just can't go wrong at the moment. This was a Tuesday night show featuring instrumental bands and yet again it was packed.

You can see vids of both bands at my youtube page

It was another interesting night for bumping into people. This time round was Sean from Neocha. Neocha is an online community for artists and musicians in China. Check it out. The best feature of the site, from the music point of view, is their Next MP3 player. You download it to your PC and then it plays random tracks from their complete database of songs. More importantly, Sean knows his soccer. Respect.

This was also a CD shopping night at YYT's in-house shop. I got PK-14's new CD and also CDs by Sko and Wang Wen. I also picked up a copy of Pleasure to be Here by Boys Climbing Ropes. It's really good and I'm quite taken with their song Dirty Bots. To finish off, I was amused to see that some cheeky bastard has started to sell their own CDs outside the venue. Then again, they had badges (buttons in USA English) and T-shirts that YYT don't have in their shop.

Next up, got a tip off from Abe Deyo about a battle of the bands tomorrow night that includes Hard Queen. 

Second Kungfuology shoot completed

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wu mao guiMe and Cam were in People's Park today shooting our second film for the kungfuology mainsite. We got the orignal lead from an old kung fu training buddy of ours JQ Whitcomb. JQ also happens to be a celebrated jazz musician here in Shanghai. Check out his site here.

JQ was hooked up with his current teacher through the Double Dragon Alliance. This organisation does cultural exchanges, focusing mainly on martial arts. I met the boss, Rose Oliver, and one week later we've completed a shoot with them.

Rose is a Taiji teacher from the UK who came to China to improve her knowledge. In the shoot we will show her training Tong Bei Quan with master Wu Maogui in People's Park. It was a scorcher, temperature in the upper 30's and their class at 2.30 in the afternoon. The video should be edited and up within a couple of days.

wu mao gui two

Noise and midweek madness

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noise sceneThis blog is not exactly an academic exercise or full representation of the scene here in Shanghai. It revolves a little around the fact that I live near certain venues and my own taste. I'm going to try to right that a bit this week. To be fair, when bands are gigging in Shanghai, they usualy play all the venues and I rarely miss out on anyone by sticking with the West Side.

So, first I want to talk about the noise scene. Shanghai has a whole bunch of acts who do experimental and noise music. What's more, they are very good at organising and promoting themselves. You could start on their net trail with the NoiShanghai home page - here. The most famous noise act in Shanghai is Torturing Nurse and you can listen to their stuff at their Myspace page. It's a diverse scene: Nurse describe themselves as Harsh Noise while you also have acts like Xu Cheng (sound art) and also Ben Hogue who moonlights from his job as a sound engineer for Ubisoft.

I'm busy this week with two mid-week shows at Yuyintang. And I just want to say that I'm going purely for my blog. Tuesday is Wang Wen who describe themselves as post-rock. I'm just listening to their page now and it seems they do 7 minute long ambient instrumentals. Also, a surprise gig just popped up in the listings tonight for Wednesday. The night is called Hotter than Teppenyaki and the only info is that it's an impromptu metal night put on by ex-pats. Any band that plays a gig with original material is part of the scene - but I won't write up utter piss takes or cover bands. Also, the first show of the weekend at YYT is called "Watch, Bag, DVD" - a famous joke among ex-pats (it's what you hear when you are foreign looking and enter a market). So I think I'm off to Window's Underground to watch Hard Queen instead.


Carsick Cars @Yuyintang

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muscle snogCarsick Cars are one of China's biggest acts and have played shows with Sonic Youth in the states. Unfortunately, industry people and journos were confounded by a bizarre turn around of the usual scheduling. There was one support act only, and they played on time and suitably briefly. Then Carsick Cars went on right afterwards, also on time, and played a short set. This really scuppered a bunch of folks who used their common sense turned up fashionably late.

Check out Carsick Cars' myspace page here.

I had no idea who was supporting until I got there but I was in for a treat. Yuyintang has been really picking up lately and are getting a lot of new young local fans in the doors. As I made my way into the hall I overheard a trendy young couple telling the staff how it was their first time here and they were really excited. How pleased they must have been when the support act kicked in - two members of Muscle Snog doing a 20 minute experimental/noise improvisation. I don't mind noise and its related genres too much but it's probably a good idea to bill it in the flyers as some kind of warning to indie fans. I videod it as part of my new dilligent approach to this blog.

Great crowd of genuine fans for the Cars. They got stuck into tracks off their new CD and everyone nodded along, holding it in for the big single, Zhong Nan Hai. Between two tracks Shouwang managed to change guitars and tune the replacement without breaking the feedback and effects that linked the tracks. A great feat worthy of Hansel's underwear removal trick in Zoolander. The real fun was yet to come though. The Cars broke into Zhong Nan Hai sending the crowd into jumping mode and suddenly the air was full of cigarettes. You see, Zhong Nan Hai is a Chinese brand of ciggie. This could never happen at a club gig in my hometown of Liverpool as a riot would breakout as various scallies and students rush the stage trying to pick all the cigarettes up.

Met loads of people at the gig. Archie Hamilton promotes larger shows with Splitworks. They put on the Yue Festival last year but have an olympic related kick in the groin break this summer. In the meantime they have been busy with their website China Music Radar. Check it out.

I'm adding more videos to my youtube page this weekend. I guess I should dilligently try to get a good video of each act (there's usually 3+ bands at any given event here) in order to get the youtube channel going - but - I really prefer to enjoy the gigs for myself as a priority. Sorry about that. Also, I feel odd taking so many pics as it is because I frequently deride people who seem to be at gigs solely to test out their new digital camera. Bah humbug. Although, recent events show that some of those people may actually be working on their books. Small scene in a big town sometimes means that half the crowd are there for other reasons than pure enjoyment.

So here's the first vid of the weekend. Check back to the page for Car Sick Cars. Without further ado, more Crazy Musrooms.



Jiao Ban night at Yuyintang

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jiao ban nightJiao Ban: Well, having gotten a bunch of varying and confused answers from a selection of Mandarin native speakers it seems that SH magazine got it right in saying it's the name of a collective that includes the three bands playing. They are: Little Nature, Crazy Mushroom Brigade and Momo (formerly Happy Strings).

Continuing on from the Gala show, it seems that school's out for summer. The place was packed again, which is great for the venue and great for the three bands who all deserved a high energy crowd. Little Nature have really come along and have built a genuine following. Everyone sang along to their songs and even I managed to overlook the fromage factor for their now famous closing anthem track Happy Birthday to my Friends as the crowd waved their arms to the chorus then demanded an encore.

Update! I found the Little Nature song on Neocha here

Momo and the Mushrooms have an established fan base and a lot of playing experience. For the Mushrooms set the packed venue turned into a mad mosh zone. The atmosphere was so good that between songs the Mushroom's lead guitarist was able to spend a good five minutes doing a complete comedy bit on Edison Chen and the photos scandal. Did I mention that the temperature in the upper 30's here at the moment? The bands threw water out over the fans between tracks causing whoops from half of them and causing the other half to franctically wipe down their new digital cameras. Nice.  

Zhuo Danting hangs at Live Bar

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zhuodantingShanghai Talk magazine ran an interview with tattoo artist/alternative icon Zhuo Danting this month. Well, even rags aimed at people living in serviced apartments or gated communities need to fill that pesky space not taken up with high-end advertising. Also, it probably comes off the back of this video about her from Current TV: Shanghai Tattoo.

Here's the link to Zhuo Danting's studio.

In the interview Zhuo plugs rock scene venue Live Bar and later cites metal as her favourite style:

I like listening to bands at Live Bar. Second Hand Rose are great and I like older Chinese bands. Most of them are too commerical these days though. P.K.14's lyrics are so obvious - times are changing, people are getting richer, all that shit. 

Live bar is on the other side of town to me and this interview made me think. There are two proper venues with a real culture of rock people who hang there: Yuyintang and Live Bar. So I think I basically only know one half the scene and it's people . All the bands that play Live Bar also play YYT and I simply have no reason to drag myself out there when YYT is round the corner from my house. There a metro stop now but the metro infamously stops running at 10.30.

More from the interview:

I like pretty much all heavy metal. Metallica, Pantera oh, and Carcass are tebie hao.

Carcass! Hooray. Carcass is Bill from Napalm Death's second band and both come from my home area of Wirral, UK. They are from the exact same town as my best mate James - Heswall. For those of you not familiar with Carcass you must immediately rush out and find their CD "Symphonies of the Sick". 

gemnilLin Lin is a manager at Yuyintang, the mainstay venue of Shanghai's rock scene. Having spent a few days sick in bed lately, she found time to answer a couple of questions for me.

Who are your favourite bands in Shanghai? Yuguo, I respect them for keep trying to write rock songs in Chinese and really show how beautiful the language can be. Their new single 'Chun Xiao' Spring Dawn combines rock and roll with Beijing opera, really amazing. Also Cold Fairyland. I always wondered what it would be like to mix rock with Chinese elements/traditional instruments. Cold Fairyland answer this and left me with more.

What was the best show at Yuyintang so far? I'd say the mini festival of everyday shows in the May 1st holiday. All the biggest Shanghai bands played and the venue was packed all the way through, as we'd hoped.

Which new band will be big in the future? Crazy Mushroom Brigade maybe, but they've won two local awards and are not really new anymore. For real new comers, I'd say Bang Bang Tang (Lollipop). Their vocalist can really sing and they already have a fanbase.

Why do you work at Yuyintang? Oh, this is tough. I love the atmosphere and great shows at Yuyintang and basically I love rock music. Yuyintang is the oldest and purest rock house in Shanghai and is well established. There is a family of rock and roll fans here and when you stay around people just like you, you don't feel like a freak anymore. Besides, I have my performance manager license from the government now, so it's really my proper job.

I don't read Chinese so well, what is everyone talking about in the Chinese language world of the Shanghai scene? The news is that Ark Live Bar has closed. It was run by the manager of L'arc en Ciel and was the very first live house in Shanghai but it hasn't done many rock shows for years. Rock shows don't make money in Shanghai and the rent in Xintiandi is too high. Pure rock and roll houses can't survive. For issues, as I said, money is the biggest problem. Living in Shanghai costs more than other cites and everyone has pressure. Band members can't make enough and they all have their own full-time job and make music part-time. The issues then become not enough time to write and rehearse, they focus on quick success and don't take time to hear other bands in the scene. Bands are formed quickly but rarely last.

Do many people use neocha.com? Not so many, but I checked the site a few days ago and loved the updates. I hope more people will catch onto it.

Media: News Corp vs Medialens

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medialensI decided not to blog about media stuff too much here as I usually write in contribution to other blogs and sites as part of direct action campaigns. But this recent story has send me scrambling into my other category.

Medialens.org is a site that discusses the broadsheets in the UK. That is, the intelligent free-press such as the Guardian or even the BBC, and not the tabloids. They analyse articles and write them up on the site, encouraging readers to engage the journalists in debate. The site has two editors, one of which is a committed pacifist and Buddhist. The site does not tolerate abusive E-mails sent out by readers and is the model of non-violent resistance through dialogue.

Just this week though, there was a chilling development. The latest alert on media performance in the build up to a possible conflict with Iran has provoked legal threats by Alastair Brett, head of legal matters at News Corp's UK wing. News Corp is a huge corporation that owns the Times, the UK paper in question, and is run by Rupert Murdoch. Legal action that would surely crush the site has been threatened if the site's article doesn't remove all quoted material from their writer Bronwen Maddox and Medialens readers must stop writing in to the Times about it.

This is an unprecedented attack by corporate media power on indymedia sites, basically to enforce non-accountability in the face of their involvement in oiling the war machine. So extreme is this incident that reaction is appearing within other corporate media bastions:

Here is the Guardian write up by Peter Wilby: Publish and be Damned

And here is the original alert by Medialens: Selling the Fireball


No. 1 Korean live @ Logo Bar

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no. 1 koreanYup, I went to see No. 1 Korean again, the very next night. This was due to the Bar 288 dissapointment that I just blogged here. This time I had a choice of Live Bar - excellent dive venue but miles away - or Logo bar - an ex-pat party crowd hangout, size of a postage stamp but round the corner from my house. Laziness won out and I went to Logo.

Listening to comments in the crowd, both last night and tonight, it became apparent that a lot of people there had no idea that these guys are a fully pro big band who have been on the telly an' everything. Check this video out.

So, the band started up and were amazing, just like the previous night. The aforementioned postage stamp area in front of the 'stage' was half filled with narcissist socialites obliviously blocking the way and standing on people's feet etc. But, thankfully, they all buggered off to different parts of the bar after a couple of songs and a half decent jumping/dancing area got underway.

The band are excellent and I picked up both their CDs after the show. Now I will have ska-tastic memories in the comfort of my own home for many days to come.

logo bar  


My video clips

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Over at kungfuology.com I'm making 'pro' videos with Cameron, although compression for online streaming takes a lot of the quality away, boo hoo. I also try to get clips of gigs. These are just done with the video feature of my Sony Cybershot DSC-N2. Half the time I accidentally covered the mic with my finger or something equally idiotic and I upload them to Facebook.

But now, by one off request popular demand, I'm going to put them on a Youtube page and link them here. I'll kick things off with my current favourite Shanghai band The Crazy Mushroom Brigade playing "love you so" at Yuyintang.

No. 1 Korean live @ bar 288

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no. 1 KoreaI missed this band at Yuyintang last night so I decided to catch them at Bar 288 (AKA The Melting Pot) on Taikang Road. No. 1 Korean are a ska band from ... Korea, and they are pretty good.

Check out this Youtube clip of them performing live.

So, I rolled up to Bar 288 with Evans at around 10.00 thinking we'd be right on time only to be told the band went on at 10.30 ... not too bad. But, we were about to experience the curse of the Shanghai local stylee club/pub. Let's be clear, there's nothing inherently wrong with the Shanghai local stylee clubs, as long as they don't mix with my rock gigs.

The first sign is when you enter and the whole area in front of the stage is filled with tables and young cool looking people are all playing parlour games such as dice. In fact, as someone was setting up the stage, the air was filled with the sound of dice shakers, not unlike crickets chriping away in the tropical evening. Then we found out there was a warm up act.

The warm act was in fact a crooning KTV guy singing pop hits to a backing track. Why? Whhyyyyy!!?? Because it was someone's birthday party. Yes, they let someone have their birthday do at the bar on a gig night and put they show back to 11.45 to accomodate a round of KTV crooning and some announcements etc. This is totally normal in the local stylee bar environment and dice shakers continued unabated.

When the band finally did come on they kicked ass. High energy ska, professional and a wicked horn section. But still the tables remained. We kicked ourselves for not seeing them at Yuyintang and being able to have a good dance or whatever. They are doing Live Bar tomorrow night, so who knows.

bar 288 

challengematchI was looking for some info on up coming gigs here in Shanghai when I came across this flyer. I don't usually do listings or promote up coming gigs, I just find this one interesting.

The flyer (pictured) says that Crazy Mushroom Brigade and Little Nature will play 'together' in a challenge. I have no idea what that means and I'll be happy to tell you all about it next week after I check it out.

The other interesting news is at the bottom of the flyer. It seems that Happy Strings, who me and Cameron made this video demo about, have changed their name to The Momo Brigade.

I may have to stalk them at Bar 288 on Taikang Road to get a scoop on this. I'm not sure if they remember me from our shoot.

Flyer originally found here.

pupuAs I have mentioned before, my favourite Shanghai band to watch lately is the Crazy Mushroom Brigade. I was won over by a series of amazing shows despite me not usually getting excited about that style of music (rap-nu metal/insert pretentious, near meaningless word here). As I skipped around, as giddy as a seven year-old with a new smurf, I found that not everyone seemed to share my beliefs. That's enough journo style writing.

Other locals, Shanghainese band members and venue staff shared my excitement and were happy to blab on about the band and how they were getting good but it was a different story in the ex-pat-iverse. Over a few weeks I bumped into a number of ex-pat scenesters, band members and writers for English language columns. They all politely listened to me speaking, then either hoped to change the subject or countered with the dismissive "really? I don't think so" rejection. There was only one notable exception. Tim Anderson of Mortal Fools confirmed that the band are always practicing non-stop down at the studio and are really tightning up.  

I was reading That's Shanghai today because I love pain reading a magazine on the weekend. I was surprised to see the Mushrooms finally break into ex-pat thought - but in the most unlikely of places, the Rockpile column of Lisa Movius. 

Before I get into this, the column itself is available online here.

Lisa has been around Shanghai for a while and her column is the longest surviving English language column on the scene. The column itself tends to focus on the people and places of the previous 'generation' and draws a fair amount of criticism for being out of touch with the present or even snobby. However, in endorsing the upcoming Mushrooms show at Yuyintang, the column has now re-invented itself as the finger on the pulse. Well, that's what I say. It's a dubious honour. 

What other truly regular columns are there? The Chai Le blog and wiki has been defunct for 2 years now. The last time I read the City Weekend print column it was reviewing great cafes and bars for 'pre-summer' and waxing lyrical about drinks on the Labella balcony turning into a great glass of wine. To be fair, the columnist, Aric Queen, has been suffering burnout lately and has just buggered off for a couple of months on holiday. His old project, Gig Shanghai, was the last really good English blog and podcast on the scene but that's been defunct for a while too. The Chinese sites are not in much better shape either. It seems that Pu Pu's comment quoted in the article about the need to work together more is on the mark.   

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