August 2008 Archives

Jia Ying Around Shanghai does rock

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jiayingWhile I was out front of Yuyintang last night there was a small film crew next to me. They had external mics and were doing an segment, seemed semi-professional. Later on, the presenter asked me for an interview to which I said no. They looked like a mainstream crew and who knows what context you're going to end up in. I must point out that they have no idea about me or my blog they were just doing random exit interviews. Then, on my way home I couldn't shake a feeling that I knew them from somewhere.

I spotted it on Facebook today. Sam (lao gao) from Yuyintang had shared a video from Tudou about the recent summer bash at Dream Factory. It was done by the same crew.

The show is a net based program where host Jia Ying goes around Shanghai checking out the arts an entertainment scene. Their Tudou channel is a featured channel with a banner, much like the partners on Youtube. They have a very cool intro animation too. 

Here is the show's channel Jia Ying out and about in Shanghai
And here is Jia Ying's blog (Chinese).

What can I say about the video itself? Alas, Jia Ying's intro is way off. This show was a celebration bash to wipe away the frustration of a three week ban during the sporting event that shall not be named. The intro doesn't mention this and instead opts to patronise the bands on behalf of Jia Ying viewers who may not be familiar with local rock. She says that we shouldn't be hasty to judge them if the performance is not very good, the important thing is that they are trying hard and following their dreams. Is she really talking about Yu Guo and Cold Fairyland?

Update: You can see Jiaying's YYt visit here

Watch her channel for signs of the next show which should be the YYT one, the Life Journey Show. And without further ado ...



Footnote for anticipated pedantry: The show literally means Jiaying Plays in Shanghai but play is never used in English to denote a grown adult checking out nightlife or museums or what have you.

Lu Xing Tuan live @ Yuyintang

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luxing tuanAnd so continues my adventures in post-rock slash shoegazing indie slash call-it-whatever-the-f**k-you-like I was born at the start of the seventies and know all about self-indulgent intrumental wank-fests, haven't you heard of progressive rock before ...

... sorry.

Finally I found some that I quite liked. Lu Xing Tuan (that's "lv", pedants) mainly hail from China's Guangxi province down south. Their English name is Life Journey and they are signed to Modern Sky records in Beijing. I managed to check out a couple of their songs before I went to the show. And you can too: here

Luckily, I have this habit of going to shows and night-time events on time. Lucky because this one was another case of the reverse curse. As I may have mentioned before, YYT have the habit of packing in extra bands and yet still failing to start any of them until a good hour late or so. Not a big deal for most people. This time, there were no support acts at all and Luxing Tuan kicked off at exactly the advertised time of nine. This meant that around half of the great turn out wandered in half way through the set imagining it was a support act.

Luxing Tuan turned out to be pretty good. I was a bit worried at first but once they settled and the sound got tweaked it turned into a good show. Their drummer gave them just enough energy to keep the crowd into it but not enough to break their dreamy atmosphere. The vocal lines and harmonies were on. The songs were good and the audience really enjoyed it. It was the reverse of what I normally get from this style, the live show was much more effective than the CD. The other example being Wang Wen whose CD was nuanced and interesting but live it was just toothless.   

I was there with friends and I've been a bit sick lately, so for the last part of the set I chilled on the couch in the CD shop part and did the hipster thing - watch people coming in and out through the door and judge them. What suprised me though was the amount of trying to get out of paying going on. It was quite funny with all the classic lines and hopeful looks. But just in case not every reader here is like minded: YYT are not rich and do us all a great service. Even if you are offered free entry for legitimate reasons, you should say no and pay anyway, they really need the money. If I got it all wrong and people weren't trying to scam in for free (because people never do that, do they) they why weren't you trying to pay double to show your support! 

Finally, here's a photo of the new mural on the outside wall. Complete with some idiot standing in the way of it. Some idiot with a blog. Don't forget to check the Youtube channel for tonight's vid.

some twat  

Just for fun: Jet Set Willy feat. Hedgehog

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I was f***ing around with my wife's Spectrum Emulator today in order to play my favourite game from 1985-86 ... when I was, ahem, 13 ... Jet Set Willy. So I made a video of Willy finding the secret entrance to the rooms under the house - the Forgotten Abbey. They eventually lead to the Entrance To Hades. However, it's rock hard and I couldn't get out the first room.

The video as I made it is clear and quite funny. It is set to a kick ass song by Beijing indie rockers Hedgehog. The song is appropriately about reliving your childhood.

However, after screen recording - editing, encoding ...then further encoding by Youtube - it is tiny and exceptionally bad quality. Watch it for the hedgehog song or if you are fond of Jet Set Willy. Look closely to see Willy's lives at the bottom, dancing to the tune. By the way, it's not as bad as the screencap in the player makes it out to be.



Magazines: Aug-Sep City Weekend

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city weekend onlineThey are not keeping up with That's Shanghai's amount of scene coverage from last month, but the latest issue of City Weekend features three columns on the music scene.

First up, all these articles should now be available in the magazine section of CW's website: here

The Shanghaiology Small Talk feature is an interview with Brad Ferguson that mainly covers this old news. Having it in print will definitely help stick it to his old boss more, which is actually causing some regrets as a new overseas manager has been brought in who is innocent in all this. Then again, the new guy is doing dance music. The interview throws in the usual scene analysis questions to which Brad remains calm and measured:

The scene will develop at it's own pace.

Next up is a small feature in the nightlife section called Size Matters. In it, Abe Deyo goes over some issues with venues, or lack of them, in the city. This one is definitely up at the website now if you follow the link. And why not leave a comment? There's some good columnists hanging around the site and a bit of love will surely encourage them to write more posts on top of the print versions.

Finally, following Aric Queen's departure, The Beat column has been taken over by Dan Shapiro. Here's Dan's band The Rogue Transmission. When the column was first started with DJ Michael Ozone of Antidote writing, it was clearly a music scene column. When Aric took over it shifted away from electronic music and DJs and focused more on rock and indie. By the time Aric left it was mainly about bars in general. Dan had been presenting Aric's The Beat vidcasts and doing some writing at the site so in someways there's continuity. I hope that Dan's direct involvement in the scene as an artist as well as an organiser and commenter will turn the column back into a true music scene column. Of course, we just had August and something needs to happen again before anyone can write about it. 

More festival talk

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festival surfOpen commenting is new to the blog and I'm not sure how many readers are checking back in. The last post on festivals brought some excellent reponses from That's Shanghai music writer Lisa Movius and Spilt Works' Archie Hamilton. They definitely warrant a post for your consideration.

Here's Lisa:

You perhaps deliberately skipped RockIt and its offshoot the Summer Music Conference last year. One may - okay, everyone does - have issues with the sponsor/venue, Bonbon/Dino Beach, but they were nonetheless successful events with some great performances.

RockIt 2007 was a split-off of 1234 in 2006: two of the main organizers, Frank Fan and Wu Jun, amicably went separate ways. Both were very diplomatic about the split, and Wu Jun never claimed (to me at least) that RockIt was year two of 1234, but he got nonetheless some abuse from certain third parties. However, having interviewed both Wu and Fan, and covered both events, I think that RockIt can be as fairly considered 1234 v2 as the actually-named 1234 v2, given that it actually happened... Regardless, we'll see what happens to both in non-Limp Icks years, as well as what impact the Shibo ends up having on local culture - nourish vs squish.

The Shanghai Tourism Festival has done well sometimes, suprisingly so, like in 2003 when it opened with a line-up of Cui Jian, The Honeys, and Crystal Butterfly.


And here's Archie:

We're actually just about to send out a press release about the next steps for Split. Like everyone else, we've had the same sort of problems with getting anything licensed, so we've pretty much decided to write off 2008. We have, however, just come back from a road trip to 2nd tier cities with PK14, Queen Sea and local support in each city, which was pretty rad. Managed to fly under the radar until Xi'an, when the police caught up with it all. You can read more at and search for Converse Love Noise in English or for Chinese.

I live in hope that the next few months will be a return to the upward curve. We're trying to get some money together for the Rockkid festival at Songjiang which has been pulled through lack of funding, and as I said, there will be some more news on other stuff soon. Just someone give us a decent venue in Shanghai with reasonable management and we could start doing so much more. In the interim, keep up the great work everyone. It's a labour of love, but it will work for us eventually.


And here's Lisa again to end on a positive:

What matters now is that ther is a critical (probably too critical!) mass of musicians, fans, media, etc, who will strive and revive no matter what happens. For all my nostalgia for the intimacy of the late 1990s scene, I am flabbergasted and giddy about the energy today. The obstacles remain, but the momentum is ever greater.

Venues come and go. Bands come and go. That shit happens is kinda par for course by now. But the institutional memory is finally here, the community support, for bands and for venues is permanent, and developing really excitingly. Things are finally, finally congealing, and it is heart-breakingly awesome.

Festival talk 2008

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Yue FestivalOver the past couple of years, festivals have entered the music scene and then bashed up against the glass ceiling and dissapeared as quickly as they came. I recently read a bit of news and had a couple of conversations out the back of gigs.

The Shanghai scene is quite a different, and shorter, story than Beijing. Talking of Beijing ...

Most of the recent talk started with this post over at China Music Radar. I want to go through this step by step for non-China based readers. It is standard practice here for large events and also licenced (known) smaller events to be shut down during any national meeting of political importance. This is usually a tight window but this year we had the sporting event that shall not be named - which started to wreak its havoc from May onwards. So, the news at China Music Radar was that the cancelled Midi Festival in Beijing was to be revived in the October public holiday. Alas, this is exactly when Beijing indie label Modern Sky are holding their own festival in the same park. Read that link for more info.

What about Shanghai? Well, the history of Shanghai festivals is much easier to relate as there's hardly any of it. In fact there's only really been one indigenous festival of note - the 1234 Beach Rock festival - and that has only managed to appear once. The other festival was the Yue Festival organised by Split Works. Split Works are experienced international promoters and the festival brought in big names from abroad. No word on the site about rescheduling for this year ... Archie? Comments are open with no registering now. 

1234 started out down in Fengxian at the man made beach and was mainly organised by Frank Fen of Mortal Fools. It expanded last year and moved to a new site near Shangnan in Pudong. Alas, the date clashed with the National People's Congress in Beijing and the plug was pulled at the last minute. This year has been another write off due to the sporting event that shall not be named. Frank says it could be done late this year but that they simply don't have the money to get through the approval process. He will focus on smaller events in the future.

Now for a confession. I can't stand large scale open air shows. They suck. I don't drink and i'm not interested in the party atmosphere at shows. The best show I ever saw was when White Zombie showed up at Birkenhead Stairways - a little smaller than the Dream Factory here. They were touring for their major label release La Sexorcisto Devil Music Vol 1 and only played two UK shows, London and Birkenhead. Wierd. But, it set the standard for me. A legendary artist at the peak of his powers, right there in front of you and you're experiencing a connection. Also, most shows I saw ever were in the Liverpool Royal Court which is a mid-scale touring venue and about as big as I like to go. Another amazing small scale show I saw was Love/Hate at the Tivoli in Buckley. Donington Monsters Of Rock was the main event for my crowd at the time - but really, buckets of piss flying through the air?!   

Well, Saturday saw a huge all day show featuring Sunnet, Six Shot, Lollipop, Dragon Pizza, Screaming Jesus, Sound Illusion, Five Pointed Star, Chaos Mind, Yu Guo and Cold Fairyland. It was called Summer Nuts! and was basically a big celebration of the recent ban being up.

I was all geared up to go and video a song from each and write, like, a four-post write up of it for the blog. Alas, I had to move house on Saturday and come three o'clock I had barely packed 40% of my stuff. Lame me. So ... lucky for me, Sam had someone video his performance at the show and put it on Youtube. Without further ado - Chaos Mind.



Dissident Voice article

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dissident voiceJust a quick post to link to some writing I did which is now running at Dissident Voice. A quick warning - it's political. Maybe you guessed that from the Dissident.

Here is the article.

And here is a sample:


Whether life is imitating art or art is imitating life, mainstream society is in pretty bad shape right now. I am a self-confessed movie addict and 'nerd' and recently watched three movies that culturally literate society, and the media, have been very excited about: 300, Wanted, and The Dark Knight. What shocked me more than the movies themselves was the almost complete lack of outrage from the majority of people who saw those movies.

Youtube: Hard Queen @ Yuyintang

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Gigs are back despite the sporting event that shall not be named still running on a couple more days. I went to Yuyintang to check out Beijing indie band Gar but came away stoked with Hard Queen. So they get the featured post. Check the Youtube channel for Gar also.



Gar live @ Yuyintang

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hard queenTonight was a cautious foray back into the gig world. The sporting event that shall not be named has not yet finished and the official back to business show is tomorrow at Dream Factory. The headliners for tonight were Beijing indie outfit The Gar.

Check out their myspace page here: Gar

Abe Deyo had predicted a limited turn out at Shanghaiist. It turned out to be reasonable but the August ban has clearly knocked a hole in the great turnouts at YYT this summer when we saw shows packed to the rafters with the local student brigade. I got there in time for the support act Hard Queen and spotted a whole bunch of scenesters, even John P of Sinosplice fame.

Hard Queen played a great set and had a nice sound too. They have enough good material to play a full hour of mostly originals. When I first saw them they clearly had standout songs but now the rest of the material is up there too. At one point, Sheena (singer) pointed out a Hard Queen T-shirt being worn in the audience. It's what they deserve. The material is good, they have their own sound and they have come together live - a fanbase is sure to follow. Hopefully they can cement this with the speedy release of their upcoming CD. Song of the night: We Don't Care.

The Gar came on straight after. The timely start and tight scheduling was down to the sports event that shall not be named, no chances could be taken. I was a bit shocked at the sound. Hard Queen had a pretty good sound which then seemed to take a huge dive for the main act. Then, after three tracks of jangly indie type stuff they left the stage. Odd. During this sudden break there was no activity on the stage and no sound checking or repairing. The Gar are a three piece with all the hallmarks of the latest indie trends including long instrumental sections. I came away from the gig feeling like I'd seen a Hard Queen show. 

Youtube: channel review

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channelThe main idea of this blog was just to combine articles with links to the band's own pages. After having a think, I decided it was do-able to feature performance videos and post them via youtube. This is only possible with a true underground scene like we have here where such activities are seen as helpful. In the corporate world, bootlegging gigs could be slightly problematic. Ah, nostalgia. I remember when Metallica refused to do promos and even recorded a tribute EP to their favourite bootleg (Garage Days Re-Revisited). Look at the sorry mess now.

So, now my youtube channel is six weeks old - birthday July 6th - and we have 19 videos on there.

Why not have a look now?

Not all the videos there get their own featured post on the blog so you may have missed some. The views aren't massive but they definitely indicate popularity. Having a featured post hasn't always meant much more views than others. Suprisingly for me, Self Party are leading in that respect. It's the blog's most popular video at the moment. With over fifty visitors in a day now, there's no way some vids should only have around five views. So, come on, check out some of the bands you may have missed.

Start with a high quality winner first: my favourite vid on the channel.

Youtube: Wang Juan @ Dream Factory

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Indie-folk artist Wang Juan and her band play Dream Factory in Shanghai. The show is part of a tour to promote the release of her second CD In Distance. Enjoy the opening number from this low key Sunday afternoon show. The scene goes back to work next weekend.



Wang Juan and her band live @ Dream Factory

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wang juanSome classier venues, such as Dream Factory in the Tong Le Fang development, have managed to get around a total ban this month. And so, we have a show in my neck of the woods before the official restart next weekend. Dream Factory is a really good venue that is cursed with being in an expensive up-market corporate venture. They only get people at shows when events there are promoted by other people in the scene, such as Abe Deyo or Yuyintang, who have more idea how to do it. Brad Ferguson has his rescheduled PK-14 show coming up there and Yuyintang also have a big back-to-business multi band party there next week.

Wang Juan is a gifted indie-folk artist with two CDs out now. I add 'indie' to the genre there because the term folk here is a bit of a casualty. I'm not going to divert into some history thing but needless to say that Wang Juan is a guitar act that writes their own stuff and has no patriotic opera songs or old instruments - but they are still making music that represents a more traditional side of their own cultural experience.

And with that, why not just have a listen - here.

The turn out was not so good but enough to put a few seated rows in front of the stage. It was a diverse crowd that included Zhang Haisheng and Gemnil Lin from Yuyintang (the organisers) and artist Popil. I previously blogged about Popil's Eno show with Hard Queen here.

Wang Juan and her band are excellent musicians and they did a super tight set of beautiful compositions. I've been playing music myself since I was 13 and at one point was hypnotised by a duet that featured Wang Juan's Chinese classical singing chops and some virtuoso guitar magic. But aside from the appreciation factor, as i've said before, I'm a rock fan. It was guitar-ish enough to keep me going till the end but when it comes down to it - I get more from a song about breaking up then realising your favourite sweater is trapped at your ex's house than I do from a song about a small bird flying over the Xinjiang landscape or what have you. 

Brad Ferguson already back on his hoss

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controlI have open commenting now, does that mean I might end up with those people who comment on spelling errors? Err, I can spell horse, Brad is from Texas ... it's one of those really really funny jokes ... really funny.

I recently posted on Brad Ferguson's split with Windows Underground right here. Just two weeks later he's already back and promoting a new series of rock shows in Shanghai. This time Brad is branding himself with a catchy name Control. Not literally of course, oh thoseTexans.

The first show is going to be at Dream Factory on the 13th September and Brad's doing it by himself and out of pocket so Shanghai based readers should get along and support the show. Here's the line-up:

Boys Climbing Ropes
The Rogue Transmission
Hard Queen

The release of their excellent CD City Weather Sailing has established PK-14 as pretty much the top punk/rock act in China now. The CD quality, production and conception is right up there and you can even get the CD details via I-tunes - oooooh. That's rather flash for the China underground scene. They are worthy headliners.

I should also mention that when I was following up with Brad on the details for this post he was careful to say that nothing's planned beyond the first show. PK-14 had already been booked for Windows Underground. So, let's have a repeat of the Tembo Subs show - get to the show make it a success and a good time ... and maybe it'll lead to more shows. Also, if you don't go, those spelling-nazi commenters are going to hunt you down.

Open comments enabled

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Aeriola JrWe interrupt your usual programming with a service announcement.

After a bit of consideration, I've decided to open up commenting on the posts. So, you no longer need to register. Select 'comment anonymously' and the usual form will appear with spaces for name, e-mail and an optional link to your own blog.

I haven't really promoted the site much aside from posting to my facebook page but now, in month three, i'm getting close to 800 individual visitors per month. I think some of you might comment if you didn't have to register. Also, I think it's not enough readers to include a bunch of bigot type commenters. Well, I hope not. To keep things in perspective, when I posted music reviews at Shanghaiist, they had 200 000 individual IPs on a bad month. To be fair, Gothamist is just a tad more established than a three month old personal blog.

In other site news, the kungfuology main site has been very slow lately. This is unfortunately down to the well documented ex-pat woes this summer. My partner in crime for that site has been jumping through hoops for weeks and making vids about kung fu has been way down on the priority list. Hope you all understand. Talking of ex-pat woes, let's finish with this disturbing update on the previous post ... gulp.  

So this is farewell, Aric Queen

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anthony and aricThe same time I was reading City Weekend music scene columnist Aric Queen's official last column in the new print edition - takes breath - there was also an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond playing in the same room. It was an episode where Ray, a writer, gets caught writing an obituary for his still living father for practice. So, I'm going to blog Aric's official departure from the scene as if he was dead/gone for good.

Aric Queen was recently known as a scene pundit of sorts through his column The Beat. Despite it being on the English speaking periphery of an already small scene, the column still managed to provoke debate and a few storms in teacups along the way. A notable example of this was the column following up on strong shows at Tembo that asked if Brad Ferguson was the saviour of the Shanghai music scene. A lack of experience with English expressions and journo-hyperbole led folks at Yuyintang to take it as a slight on their own efforts.

After taking over the column from the DJ-centric Michael Ozone of Antidote, Aric brought his local live music agenda with him. Recently, though, burnout settled in and the column increasingly fell back to generic posts on the ex-pat bar scene. With only one print column a month, most of this year was spent wondering why girls kiss each other at parties and other related topics. A column wondering if it was "gay" to cry at a Black Eyed Peas show caused a predictable (and justified) ruckus. Around this time, Aric also broke onto Current TV with his Shanghai Diaries v-log. This was not music related. This month's final column announces his departure into greener pastures. 

Now for what a lot of newer arrivals to the scene don't know about Aric. Aric Queen was an extremely talented, and professional, voice artist/presenter whose Gig Shanghai project is the sole largest missed opportunity the scene ever had. I still miss it. It's easy to start a website or blog and write about the scene, just ask me. It's not easy to maintain a good one. You need the time and resources to create a strong lead feature and publish it often. Gig Shanghai had it all.

Aric was working for Ken Carroll at Chinese Pod as an English presenter for some of their podcasts. Gig Shanghai was then started within this professional environment. They had their own studio and employees at the company to do research and bookings. The site was simple and effective with good branding and a simple clear style. They had a single strong feature, the podcast, and produced it every week. And it was good. After a few weeks it hit it's stride and expanded to include a Chinese language program too. The future looked bright and it all hinged around Aric's considerable skills in the host's seat.

It all collapsed as quickly as it had taken off. The process of expanding into a fully fledged video show in effect killed the podcast. The new show Giglive didn't pan out and had been funded through a venue as a promotion, a move away from the Carroll stable. Everyone walked away and the greatest web project on the scene died a quick death.

When Aric resurfaced with the CW column and a freelance producer mantle, he was already jaded. But, the skills on show during Gig Shanghai stuck in my mind and we (me and Cameron Hirst) approached him to present a demo project of our own - FNU. We made it to use as a demo and involved Aric in all parts of the process. We had a good time and got to see the Aric skills in action, reminding me again of what could have been. It was a joy to work with a pro and I finished the project wondering what had happened to this guy who was now mainly know as "The Columnist You Love to Hate - Mostly Hate". Attempts at a low rent revival of the pod/vid cast in the CW blog of the column just seemed to underline the transformation.

Of course, Aric is not dead and I for one hope his trip brings him back to us refreshed and recharged. It takes all types to make a vibrant scene even people you love to hate.

I am (an) expendable

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mickey zI am (an) expendable. What the hell does that mean?

With the forced downtime in the music scene here, I warned of some other category posts being on their way. I now they have arrived, tremble in their presence ... mwa ha ha ha.

... yes ... so ...

Something quite important hit the blogosphere today. Blogger Maxwell Black made his way up to New York City from his native DC and taped an entire presentation by radical writer Mickey Z for public consumption on the net.

So, before I get to my own ranting, you can find all five youtube videos in one place at the original post here.

Back to the expendables thing. 

Ever since I was born I have been around activism and radical thinking, we all are but we have varying levels of awareness. As I became an adult I have hung around - both in person and 'virtually' - various groups and communities who are commited to social change, justice and freedom. But I've never felt more comfortable than I have 'hanging out' at Mickey Z's blog. This is because of the difficulty people have accepting what I think of as the true radical position - constantly putting yourself outside of what you know and putting yourself in the place of others. The majority of so-called liberal spaces on the net are simply caught up in arguing the toss within the system/discourse allowed to them by the people they supposedly oppose. Did that make sense? I hope so. 

Even at Mickey's blog, I was initially cautious as other semi-regulars were sometimes too caught up in the allowed discourse and thinking, for example, trying to fight nationalism with nationalism. But after a while I saw a core of people there who, to me, appeared genuinely sane. Of course, I was jumping the gun by judging people in the first place - we are all at our own point in the journey of enlightenment and realisation, me too. This brings me to what I want to say:

Becoming more aware than before and increasing your knowledge and perception of the world around you is not actually 'enlightenment' at all and it doesn't need any external help or any kind of epiphany. Enlightenment is the natural state of the human mind, a continuous process. If you are not experiencing it then you are in a state of suppression, oppression or outright denial. Daoists in China articulated this a long time ago - to enable enlightenment you simply have to do nothing. That is - don't stop it.

Enlightenment leads to right action, and not doing that which harms others. Hence the famous paradox in the same Daoist philosophy of finding right action through inaction. But I digress ...

In our world of corporate mass media and communications, language is a battlefield where words are captured and abused. Over at Mickey's blog, the community struggled to find a word outside of this, one that could describe people who strived to stay outside of the mind games and to stay radical. They (we?) settled with ... Expendables

So, follow the link, listen to Mickey's talk and hear some sanity while the Ol*mp*cs bashes us over the head with nation states and competition.

A reminder: August, Wang Juan

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wangjuan flyerAs if anyone could forget, we are in the middle of the world's greatest sports event propaganda showpiece for the nation-states system we live under. As I previously reported, this has had a big effect on the music scene here and hence this blog.

The next show in the scene, and thus the next one I'll be attending, is on the 17th of this month. It will be put on by Yuyintang at the alternative venue 'The Dream Factory'. Playing is Wang Juan and her band. You can get a preview of her music here. Then, normal service resumes on the 22nd with a show by Gar.

In the meantime you will see some posts in the other category popping up, maybe some stuff on education or pop culture ... that is if Jim can stop actually doing his job for just one minute and post on movies. I might have to bore the pants off readers with a comparison of industry standard script formats for film vs. comic books.

Finally, with Aric Queen on his holiday and not posting much on his Beat column, City Weekend have recruited a mystery writer to post on the music scene in their nightlife section. The new writer goes under the anonymous handle Punknotjunk and has a fake photo too. They've put up five articles since August 1st and it's a paid gig over at CW. But what is with the secret identity? Is someone I know really this superhero by night? Is it someone known as a scene commentator moonlighting and not wanting trouble from other employers? Or perhaps they just enjoy being all Mysterio. Either way, it's another newswire type service to check, I suppose.   

Summer Picks Redux

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hard queen yuyintangSo, not so many posts ago, I mentioned the City Weekend summer picks and the fact that I was one of the pickers. These five songs by Shanghai bands represented the ex-pat pundit/fan's choice and led me to rant on about Cold Fairyland.

With three weeks of no shows at the moment, I have decided to follow on from Aric's picks post with another five - this time from 'locals'. Lucky for me, they all have pages where you can hear the music, but not every page has the exact song. Sorry.

It should be mentioned that Frank Fen and Kevin Zhong had their tongues firmly in their cheeks for their picks (themselves) and the E-mails/texts were punctuated with laughs and groans. They are both great guys who don't take life so seriously.  

So here they are - five songs by Shanghai bands to listen to during the summer 'break'.

1) Evans Zhang - local muso and previously researcher for Gig Shanghai
    Mortal Fools: Yang Rou Chuan (Shish Kebab) myspace page

2) Sheena Du - singer with Hard Queen
    Banana Monkey: Drunk Daddy neocha page

3) Kevin Zhong - guitarist with Top Floor Circus and Muscle Snog
    Muscle Snog: All Tomorrow's Parties myspace page

4) Frank Fen - singer with Mortal Fools
    Mortal Fools: Age Of Assholes myspace page

5) Sam Dust - sound guy at Yuyintang and singer with Chaos Mind
    Yu Guo: Chunxiao (Spring Dawn) myspace page

SvD Shanghairock article

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SvD feature montageA while back I wrote this post about taking a freelance journalist from Sweden to a Yu Guo show.

Mirjam and photographer David work mainly with Swedish newspaper SvD. They were touring China and putting together some features, including a piece on the Shanghai music scene. We went to the Yuguo show and took a bunch of pictures, you can see one of the montages from the spread just here. Yes, I'm in there.

So, the article just came out. There is an online version of the article but it's in Swedish. But non-Swedish speakers should check it out anyway as it features a slideshow of the photos from the print article.

Here it is: Shanghairock

svd feature cover


svd sample text

More Rockpile picks

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that's shanghaiImage from Wang Jian Shuo

So, we lose a venue and all the others are banned from putting on shows until the Ol*mp*cs are done. My reviews and vids have come to a sudden halt for the next three weeks. Does this mean I have to go out and do interviews or does it mean I will simply rip other people's stuff?

Lucky for me, it's that time of the month when the ex-pat mags come out. First of all, it's important to remember that China doesn't have any good magazines in English or Chinese dedicated soley to indie/rock music. Some that try are basically there to intro 'western' scenes and have an occaisional feature on a Chinese band. Think you know one I've missed? Make a comment and I'll ridicule it for not being a 'real' rock/indie cultural product. My wife quit writing for China's Rock Magazine when it ran a cover story on Britney.

What we have are columns in decidely non rock'n'roll publications aimed at ex-pats in general. Shanghai Daily has a music feature in its Scope section. The latest feature it ran on live music was about Music Matters. Music Matters are a bunch of English teachers who decided that music is, like, really important and should not be absent from the community. They organise a monthly night at Mural Bar where they play covers and rap and all sorts of things. Is it possible that they have completely missed the fact that there is a music scene here with venues, shows, rehearsal studios, muso hang outs and ample opportunity to hear original music or form a band and make your own? The article certainly reads like that. Shanghai Daily, finger up its ass on the pulse.

So, onto That's Shanghai magazine. I just got the new one and must note that their music section - that covers the local scene - now covers a couple of pages and a few columns. Lisa Movius has the Rockpile column. Ben Hogue has Shanghai Live. Also, the two of them plus some staff writers put in a couple of pages worth of Musicology features.

The Musicology features - not yet posted at their website as far as I could see just now - are about the closure of Ark Live House. This is older news that I blogged about here, but you can't blame the monthy magazines. It happened right when last months mags went out which means it had to wait until this months to come out, obviously. Lisa Movius rehashes the debate of the past month but follows up with a good mini-feature about other venues that went the same way called Hello, Goodbye. She lists U-like, Ark Live House, Tribesman, Gua'er, Tang Hui and 4Live. The reasons and stories are varied but there's a pattern which is found in many industries. A project is started by people who love what they do and they get it into the black, not huge profits, but it's running fine. Then, when it starts to pick up, an ego-maniac manager or owner steps in with a ridiculous ignorant ingenious idea to make it more profitable and sinks the whole operation.

Next up in the Rockpile column, Lisa goes with a pick for the second month running. Last time it was Crazy Mushroom Brigade and this time she has gone for Loudspeaker.

Loudspeaker have a new CD out and good quality recording on their myspace page: check it out

The column focuses on the fact that they are one of the scene mainstays at nine years and counting. I have seen them a few times and you can find a brief clip on the blog youtube channel. I have an image stuck in my head from one gig as an overheated, sweating Zhang Jian (the singer/guitarist), straight off stage and on a high, went directly to a quiet corner and spent the next ten minutes carefully and lovingly wiping down his guitar. I immediately wished there was some way I could apologise to my own guitars down the years.

I wonder if Jimi Hendrix is plagued in death by the spirits of his ex-guitars that he not only smashed, but often burnt in on-stage rituals?  

Windows UndergroundBreaking news over at Shanghaiist that I'm going to rehash here as some of my blog peeps don't go there.

Here's the original article.

So, here's how the story of Friday night went - that's last night. Brad Ferguson, the manager of Windows Underground turned up to work to have his boss tell him that he was now forbidden from booking Chinese bands.

Some background, the Windows family has three popular bars in Shanghai. One of them, Tembo, was not doing much so the boss, a local Shanghai woman, hired Brad to manage in the general sense and to turn it into a live music place. After a great start they moved the whole bar to a bigger location and fitted it out with a good sound system, finally re-naming it Windows Underground.

Here's Brad telling the story from the Sha-ist interview:

My boss forbade me from hiring Chinese bands, saying that Chinese people only want to see foreigners, and that rock is a western thing so westerners do it better. She said she herself would rather see a bad foreigner band than a good Chinese one. We argued about it for a while last night, but didn't make any progress. So, I let Hard Queen, our regular Friday night (Chinese) band, do their final show. The accountant warned me that they wouldn't pay for Chinese bands, but I agreed to pay out of my own pocket. The band are friends of mine, so I also told them why they were being replaced. At the end of their set they said some stuff about the bar and my boss -- all true -- then kicked the drum kit over. The crowd cheered and people seemed to be having a good time. I finished out the night, but when I got home my boss called me from downstairs. She yelled at me for a while, then she called the police. I politely explained the events of the night, and the cops agreed that as there were no damages, no one was injured, and no one broke the law, there was nothing they could do. So, I only got fired.

So, Windows Underground is out of the scene. I'm sorry, but cover bands and cabaret don't count. As Brad says in the article. 

Also, this is not that suprising in some aspects. Windows bars are notorious for barring locals from ticketed events for allegedly not drinking enough. And coincidentally, a few years back when Windows Too was still in Jing An Plaza, I popped in on a New Year's eve and saw the very same owner turning away locals herself at the ticket table in the hall. Bar owners. Again, not surprising. 

No soup for you!

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soup naziWell, first of all my friend Tina who runs Sofa Cafe was mentioning that she may have to cancel her in-house guitarist for the month and maybe even close the bar during the Ol*mp*cs.

Then I saw this article.

And finally today it all started to come horribly true: Yuyintang have officially announced that all shows from tomorrow are off until next month. That is, they have been ordered to close, as opposed to some kind of voluntary wish to not take one viewer from track and field. Yes, we are officially forbidden from having a good time until after the Ol*mp*cs are done.

No soup for you! 


Update: Abe Deyo just confirmed over on Shanghaiist that Windows Underground has suffered the same fate. Live Bar must be the same, but I haven't confirmed yet.

No more soup for you, come back one month! 


The school of D20

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This post is continuing from Jim's post that carries on from a comment I made in a discussion of the movie Clash Of The Titans. I want to start on my entry into the world of table-top gaming and fantasy literature through the game-book Forest Of Doom. Then I want to touch on the split in fantasy literature between the traditions of Orientalism in the English language novel and the New Wave authors. Finally, I want to rant on the merits of Dungeons and Dragons in education and how it has open-source ideals (bear with me) - a fact recognised in the industry and solidified in it's D20 movement.

... time passes as reader catches up with huge amount of background ...


forest of doomIt may be a bad analogy but one day in the final year of elementary school, a butterfly flapped it's wings in the life of Andy Best. Puffin Books had a 'book club' scheme. Twice a year a small catalogue of books, glossy and colourful, was passed around the class. We took it home, chose one, and returned the next week with our order forms. A few weeks later you picked up the book at school.

I had chosen 'The Forest of Doom'. It was a 'fighting fantasy game book'. Not in the tradition of the Choose Your Own Adventure, the series was created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone who were dedicated to spreading the table-top gaming hobby to the UK. This industry was based around the flagship game, Dungeons and Dragons which itself came from the fantasy literature tradition and borrowed heavily from the achievements of two major authors. Tolkien is obvious, but also H.P. Lovecraft, who wove esoteric lore into a complete fictional universe with demons and planes of existence.

As you can see already, from picking up that first book I was immediately led into reading a diverse literary canon and to playing the games each week. Importantly, this meant creating our own material and playing through it with our peers. I did this devoutly without the need of any further prompting or encouragement, ever. The seemingly living world of the book, the tower of Yaztromo on the edge of the forest, the thief stuck in the bear-trap, the talking crow on the signpost, catapulted me into the idea of other worlds that lived in an abstract dream space where you could play out scenarios and expand your experience without limits. Much like we try to achieve in educational drama.

Then I read Michael Moorcock.

Up until the age of sixteen I had absorbed a huge amount of fantasy and sci-fi literature and started to form more critical opinions but I hadn't been able to put my finger on something that bothered me. This was down to lack of awareness of the history of the world and current affairs. And that analysis of literature beyond identifying characters and narrative structure was not encouraged at school. But what I did know at this point was that, unlike most of my friends, Tolkien bothered me, along with 'hard' sci-fi, and Michael Moorcock was the man. 

MonsterManual-v35-CoverWhat I was unaware of at that time was the split between traditionalists who were still bound by the ideologies of English literary tradition and the New Wave authors like Moorcock and J. G. Ballard. One one hand you had Tolkien, who set out to create a fantasy world that would put across his Empire era worldview to the next generation in a non-didactic manner. One the other hand you had Ballard and Moorcock, and all the authors centred around New Worlds Magazine, who saw fantasy sci-fi as an absract art form with which they could explore the world around them and ask questions of it.

From Jim's description and anaysis of the Monster Manual you can see the influence of the old-school, both in its contents and in its attitude to the other. But, the key to the game was always that the players could create their own adventures and worlds. More in the tradition of the New Wave. The rules heavily catered to this giving countless generation tables and help to get you started. Eventually, the industry, whether concious of the depth of meaning behind it or not, came to realise that the game would die with its era unless they focused on this key aspect. They identified the D20 system ... basic game mechanics that underpinned all their systems. New versions were adjusted to follow this and you now had a game split into an engine and its mods

Here is where it gets interesting. Firstly, I have never stopped playing some form of table-top game. I simply can't. Once I got off into teaching I realised early on that the game - R.P.G.s of the table-top variety - was an amazing participatory tool. The players create thier own worlds. Each time you play, the story expands based on the input of the group, each session naturally leads to the next. As you write and expand your gaming universe, you have to actively research it, and the act of playing through it kills dead ends and reinforces strong lines. From D20 you could go into any setting - or any course, so to speak. 

This worked immediately for me on many levels due to my background training in Drama and Education. As with drama, the D20 game provides you with many tools for participation that can be utilised in part as well as in whole. The most recent use of these tools was to play through a story/event based D&D game with some of my advanced language students and later introduce the idea of devising and improvisation in story writing. During the game play, the students had learned skills of testing work through use, rejecting weak points and running with parts that were working. This was a welcome change, they are turing 13 at the moment, from their school model of being told to write a story in isolation, then having it marked, or worse still reading it out and having it appraised (euphemism of the week).

Obviously, D20 products are not free and there's a nice big semantic debate out there as to whether it's open source in the way a wiki is. However, the game is written to be modified and customized by the players and offers huge scope. It is a platform for open participation that contains many tools. And opening that first book turned me onto art and helped me eventually get out of the ideological maze I was been run through at school. And lets not forget, it's a social activity in which people happily come together with their peers and think and create - without any kind of prodding or educational structure or goals.  

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