September 2008 Archives

Avril will ... ahem ... 'rock' you

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It's the end of the month and new magazine time. Well, that sounds like there are some English language music mags to cover. It may also imply that I translate articles from Chinese music mags covering the local scene. They'd all have to exist first. Yes, it's ex-pat mags time. Luckily for us, a lot of these mags employ writers who are trying hard to sneak decent stuff in there, between the ads and listings. 

Obviously though, I'm going to have a crack at Avril and horribly naive/mercenary perceptions of what 'rock' or 'punk' is. That said I'd better preface this:

This post is mainly inspired by City Weekend running a cover story on local rock and the music scene here. So before the Avril related sarcasm begins, good job! I should also point out that this came about due to the good influence of Abe Deyo who is responsible for the 'local' parts of the feature and is obviously excluded from the following jibes.

The feature is called Rock is Back but is unfortunately based around a big advert for Avril Lavigne's upcoming China tour. So the feature is basically saying one of two things. Either, "Hey, we are clueless about music in general" or "we put shallow marketing above any kind of personal standards." Luckily, the inner reaches of the feature showcase three Shanghai bands:

Did I mention that featuring and interviewing Avril for a 'rock' feature is dumb? Oh, I did. Then, I'll go on. Hard Queen we know all about at this blog. They now have a new Friday night regular spot at a bar called Bee Dee's on Dagu Lu. Correct me if I'm wrong, Brad, and feel free to post the proper address in the comments. Rogue Transmission have done a CD and are currently touring around doing a bunch of release parties for it. They will eventually swing by Yuyintang so I'll catch them there. The big news in the Sonnet section is that they are reforming. I last saw members of Sonnet moonlighting in Top Floor Circus. So did you, if you watched the TFC vid post I made a couple of days back.

That reminds me, the Rogue Transmission and Boys Climbing Ropes videos have stormed up my Youtube channel and into the top six. if people are linking the blog or the vids on other pages, please let me know. Just because it's interesting and a kind of blogging etiquette. 

So back to Abe Deyo. I felt vindicated when I saw Abe complaining on Facebook about something that was bothering me too. Now, everyone in this day and age takes pics and short vids at local gigs with their camera phones and compact cameras. For example, me. I keep it quick, do it from the back or side and limit it to one song. If for anything, this is because I want to pay attention to the gig. Often though, half the peeps in YYT are holding up their cameras for 50% of the set. This still doesn't bother me that much though. What does bother me is that this one guy is now turning up to 80% of shows at YYT with a large HD pro camera and bulky mono-pod and standing dead centre-front filming for the entire set. He seems utterly oblivious to the fact that some people might want to enjoy the show and that they do not pay to see him. Let's hope the novelty wears of soon. If someone is going to film an entire set with a large rig, then make an agreement with the band and venue then get a special position on stage or something. Blah blah rant rant.

Joker EP release @ Yuyintang

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It's a packed few days in the Shanghai music scene and I decided to break up the action with the most low key event on offer. Blues/rock band Joker were having a release party for their new EP. This turned out to be a really interesting night for many reasons.

First of all, the show was actually the next in the series by 0093 rehearsal studios. It was a five band bill and here's the line up:

He Yun Feng
Brunch (pictured)
Wang Yuezhe

From all of these, only Joker have a fully developed set of all original material. So before we go on, here's where you can check them out:

So. The reason we have an 0093 party and a CD release at the same time is that 0093 are moving ahead with their vision. I got chatting with Tian Tian (0093 founder) after noticing that he has discontinued the CD shop in Yuyintang. The CD sales could not cover the room rental and it is now a seating area in the style of a dive bar. he will continue to sell the CDs from his Taobao shop, that I don't have a link for.

The bands who rehearse at 0093 are now becoming 0093's stable, so to speak. They are getting involved more and more with the band's development. Tian Tian has a recording studio in Minghang and this CD is their first release. It is an 0093 brand CD. Also, he brought a load of them and gave away one per ticket, included in the 30 rmb cover. Good stuff! As long as there are no unforseen disasters along the way, I hope they develop into proper Shanghai indie label. Fingers crossed.

Despite staying away from cover bands in the commentary, I want to talk about Brunch a little bit. They took the stage and I immediately realised that it was my third time to see them at an 0093 night. Tonight was a bit different. The singer, pictured above and below, was on a mad one. As they performed their usual covers of early Radiohead songs, she was going into another plane of existence. What do I mean by that? I mean, that she was going into howls and screams, paying little attention to what the band were doing and generally acting like she had gone of her rocker. The general audience consensus was displeasure but I couldn't help thinking of two things. First, if you transplanted her to a more dark rock or punk act, such as The Subs, it would have been a crowd winning performance. Secondly, sometime in the future some people with their act together could come in have a field day doing management and development. There's all kinds of personalities and potential around and it's all so disorganised. 

The next band was Wang Yuezhe. They played a kind of atmospheric rock with good energy. I got a video clip but the sound was messy and I'm not sure it'll come across, stick with it if you check the clip. Joker came on last and late. They are a straight blues-rock outfit, leaning towards blues. They set out their intentions early by starting the set in straw hats playing an unplugged guitar and harmonica impro piece. The remaining crowd (five bands on the bill) really liked it and the frontman did a good job of keeping people in it between tracks. 

I'll leave you with some tasty info about tomorrow night. YYT owner Zhang Haisheng mentioned that he has to rent 'very big' extra amps at the request of Useless ID. Also, Sko can't make the tour so local prospects Pink Berries will have a crack. 


Youtube: Top Floor Circus - Haibao vs Fuwa

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The Top Floor Circus show on Thursday was basically a stand up routine about certain big events with a couple of songs thrown in. And it was very very funny. Due warning though, it's all in Chinese and mainly Shanghainese too. 

So, the video starts just as singer Lu Chen, as Haibao the Expo mascot, is taking down the Fuwa, the Ol*mp*cs mascots, in a face off. Then we go into the song. Each verse is a repeated line aimed at the Fuwa. The first, for example, is calling them pussies. Then the chorus is basically Haibao saying he will crush their balls. 

Sometimes you just can't go back to the moment ... but take my word for it, this was really really funny.

Top Floor Circus live @ Yuyintang

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Tonight's show at Yuyintang was a pre-show for Shanghai bands going to to play the Modern Sky Festival in Beijing. The billing was, in this order:

Top Floor Circus

I was going just to see Top Floor Circus who are a locally worshiped punk act. As it turned out, they ended up going on last for some reason so I get to legitimately name this post after them.

Great turn out. I got there dead on nine and there was a queue to get in. That's a rare sight. No sooner had I got settled than the first band came on. I wasn't too impressed with No. 33 Island's page and demo tracks from the CD. They are obviously good musicians and list Syd Barret in their influences, but it seemed more suited to lying on a beanbag than seeing live at a dive. But, I stand corrected. They performed well and had some good energy going. It was very much like early Pink Floyd and I enjoyed it. Seeing the bassist also took me back to a show in the old YYT by a band called Booji who did a whole set of trippy instrumentals with repeated phrases about rabbits. But that's another story. I'm also happy that they name-checked Barret rather than saying they were post-rock or something.

Next up was Cold Fairyland. So it was off for some food nearby for me. I'll try to summarize for people who haven't read much of the blog. Great band, great musicians and nice people - but 'world music'. Nothing to do with indie rock or alternative culture. Writers and fans who carp on about how they are more original because of fusing Chinese cultural elements should take a trip to Scotland and start telling local indie acts to put more bagpipes in there. I don't think so.

So, having downed a large tumbler of iced Ovaltine, oh yes, I got back for the start of Top Floor Circus. They were great, but, I'll have to explain it for those of you who didn't catch the show. They have been inactive for a while now and basically knocked a short set together not planning to headline the show. Also, they have now progressed from being a punk act with a funny front man (Lu Chen) into a Lu Chen stand up comedy routine with a backing band. The main set actually had only two songs and most of the time was the routine that included bring people on stage to play roles. It was, however, funny as f*ck.

The whole routine, and songs, were based around Lu Chen being Haibao (the Shanghai 2010 Expo mascot, pictured) and dissing the Ol*mp*cs and their mascots, the Fuwa. The first song, which you'll find on the Youtube channel soon, was basically chants of "the Fuwa are all pussies" with a chorus of "I'm going to crush your balls". The idea is that it's sung by Haibao. Before the song they actually acted out Haibao doing said ball crushing Manga style with the members of Momo playing the Fuwa.

Then there was another comedy/drama satire piece where audience members had to answer obvious questions about the expo for shit prizes. Then came the other song. I have to remind you at this point, Lu Chen is very good at this and everyone was in stitches and loving every minute. The next track was a satire of "Beijing welcomes you" ... Shanghai welcomes you. It had a really funny chorus. I'd love to recite it here but it totally does't rhyme in English, sorry. The gist was that Shanghai has no culture but we've got money and that the Ol*mp*cs have nothing to brag about. Take my word for it, in Chinese it was really really funny. 

After all this they made to leave but the surprised crowd didn't seem to happy about it so the band tacked on a couple of old favourites. I'd love to see if they try to get away with the same set in Beijing ... of course not. Also, we won't be laughing when all shows get closed down for the Expo - which is more than double the length of the Ol*mp*cs.
artem leibenthal
Update: The college caved under the pressure and basically couldn't name the 'charge' without embarrassing themselves. Here is the new statement from Artem:

The college's attempt to hold a hearing to expel Artem without telling him what he was charged with collapsed on Monday. When challenged the college was forced to admit it had no right to bully a student out of their education. The hearing has now been postponed until the college can put together a real case.

The college has given no reasonable explanation for the punitive measures Artem has suffered. Evidence of Artem's 'gross misconduct' amount to not removing a t-shirt reading "Newcastle College SWSS" questioning an Army representative and sending a text message inviting someone to join the anti-military campaign. This in the college's eyes was enough to justify punishment usually reserved for students who are accused of violent behaviour.

The college's reluctance to put such evidence down on paper is understandable - their disproportionate response is not. We are asking the college to drop the charges against Artem and lift his suspension. All students have the right to voice their opinions however inconvenient to the college management.

Regulars to the blog might note that this is not a music scene post and is in fact political. Now, for those of you who haven't run screaming for cover, this issue does not affect your side of the debate on war or your party allegiances, it should be a no-brainer for supposed Anglo-American society. It should be a no-brainer for all societies. 

This report concerns a college in Newcastle UK and was first broke in a local paper there:

Here's the basic gist. Army recruiters were allowed onto campus to conduct their business. A group of six students then decided to act as a Stop The War protest and confront them. The student in question, Artem Liebenthal, walked peacefully up to the recruiters and asked them "How many of our students would be killed?". When he repeated the question he was threatened with removal by security at which point he then peacefully left.

Three days later the college suspended him from campus totally and told him to await disciplinary measures, basically deciding if he should be formally expelled. 

This is completely outrageous. As you read in the article, the college has tried to deflect initial complaints by saying it was down to his affiliation with left-wing groups! What? Are we living in the McCarthy era united-states, or hunting anarchists in the Victorian days? I've been out of the UK ten years now - have our universities really turned into authoritarian lackeys of the military? If a student can't quietly ask a dissenting question at college without getting silenced then 'disciplined' for so-called shady affiliations, then why not invade ourselves and remove our regime.

Obviously, Newcastle College must be shamed into reversing this action. 

The is an online petition here. But more importantly, you can write to the college using this address: linda.moore(at)
midi festival old promo
The Beijing festival news/ongoing thing has become relevant to me this week. In case you haven't got a clue what I'm talking about, you can follow the whole thing on China Music Radar. Basically Modern Sky is on and there's going to be a preview show in Shanghai. What that means is that the three bands going up from Shanghai will play Yuyintang on Thursday before they go.

They are: Cold Fairlyland, Top Floor Circus and No. 33 Island.

I'm going specifically to see Top Floor Circus, a punk act. I'm a little bit wary though. Top Floor Circus have been on a semi-permanent break for ages. When members have had the time to perform, they have done so solo or in side projects - Lu Chen solo and Zhong Ke in Muscle Snog, for example. No. 33 island are new to me. They list Syd Barret among their influences and it shows:

No. 33 Island - myspace

A few posts back I did a round up of my Youtube Channel (available via the side bar). I got to this from selecting see all and then ordering them by views, just for fun. I have low views there compared to major channels or Youtube celebrities but they represent a more discerning readership of people who care about our scene. Reading of the top row gives a top five but I went for six in the post, seemed better for some reason. 

Anyhow, looking at it today we have a new entry into the top six. It's post-rock group 21 Grams. Who is reading my blog and checking out all the post-rock/noise? Ben Houge, do you read this? Curses! Micah, you too.

By the way, since there are obviously fans of this kind of music lurking here, you should check out Ben's stuff too: Ben Houge.

Another fast mover is the Boys Climbing Ropes vid from the Control show. In fact, they are only one view behind 21 Grams at time of writing and could break the top six anytime. It is also worth noting that they have double the views of show headliner PK-14. Come on everyone, let's turn this into a reality-show fiasco. We need new IPs checking out your favourite vids. 

I blogged of a potential adventure to Bar 288 on the weekend. I'd love to tell you how it went ... really. But, I want to keep the focus of the blog on the weekly reviews and vids of shows. I'm keen to avoid a total breakdown into slagging off and complaining. Needless to say I was praying for Yetis. Come back Mummy Three, all is forgiven.

Bug fixed: Blog theme music

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Just a quick note to tell you all that I fixed the bug in the mp3 player for the theme music page. It works now. Did I say bug? Maybe I meant that I went into the code view and saw the stupid mistake I had made myself ... and then I fixed that.

So now it works.

So, when you come to the blog you should first go to the sidebar link for 'Blog Theme Music' and open it in a new page or tab or whatever. Then, select one of the two songs there. Then ...leave it playing as you read the blog. Done.

Other people's Youtube: Hedgehog "Wink"

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We are all very lucky. I surfed into a full music video from Beijing's Hedgehog while trawling Youtube. Not only that - it's my favourite song of theirs "Wink". I have a very short clip of this being played live at Yuyintang on my channel. It was the best song from a great gig. 

Update: I noticed that Hedgehog have made their first CD available for free download on their page. This is Chinese language so I'll link the direct DL page. Underneath the Google ad bar you will see the file name Happy Idle Kid.rar, then the first sentence under that is the start DL line with the highlighted word meaning 'here'.


Adventures in cabaret

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bar 288
Yesterday I watched The Mummy Three in the cinema. Yes, I paid to see it on the big screen. This will tell you two things about me. I love good ole fashioned adventure and I love torturing myself. This is quite coincidental.

This weekend's line up at my usual haunts is just not for me. The show of the weekend is going to be Motek at either Yuyintang or Live Bar, depending on which day you want to see them. Motek are from Norway and they play post-rock. Check out their blurb:

Every great passion ends in the infinite... Likewise, Motek is driven by instinct and the thirst for sultry recollections of forgotten emotional states. Sticking layers of effect-laden guitars, underpinned by a needy bass and entrancing drums create the texture of great music for the best moments of your life. This sonic dream closes the gap between wishes, wants and imagination with melancholy, madness, consolation and hope.

... and their link (to be fair) - listen here

I'm only going to stick out more post-rock shoegazing if the band are local and relevant to the scene. Not because I have something against polished, signed acts from abroad - because, as a personal entertainment choice, I have something against post-rock. 

So what am I going to do? I'm going on an adventure.

First of all, I'm going to get a sandwich at Kommune cafe in the Taikang Lu arts area. I swear down it's nothing to do with trying to be hip or a true scenester. It happens to be near the bar and their build your own sandwich deal includes baked beans on the fillings list. Baked beans. Other Brits abroad know what I'm talking about here. After that I'm going to Bar 288, The Melting Pot, to hang out and watch whoever happens to play there. 

Why is this such an adventure? Their house bands include Little Nature and Crazy Mushroom Brigade. They are famed as a local muso hangout. Check out this recent news/endorsement of their credibility, talking about the China Now event: 

This free festival being organized by the people behind Taikang Lu's 288 Melting Pot bar is part of the Shanghai Tourism Festival. According to Head Organizer Ruby Hsiao, "It is the government's intention to support original music, and to earn more attention from the younger generation in Shanghai - Chinese or expatriates."

Well, did you read this earlier post on when I was last there? They filled the dance floor area in front of the stage with tables and let people play dice games with their backs to the great band who came all the way from Korea. They delayed the show start an hour and fifteen minutes because someone there had a birthday and wanted their friends to perform some pop hits to a backing track. They are not trying to support local music, they are treating it like a background cover band and even bumping it for a keyboard guy. And I hope that quote was added in by enthusiastic newspaper editors - letting two rock acts play a park for tourist day does not compensate for the past three months. Unless support actually means kill in the above case.

Since they seem to inspire annoying critical rants in me, I'm going to try again.

I will conquer my fears and my hate and head out of my immediate area at night. Then again, I've just had a thought, perhaps it's some kind of psychological thing. The closer you get to Taikang Lu, the more you start to think and behave like a dismissive, holier-than-thou hipster. Well, lets see what happens on my adventure. Will I actually come back with a good report from a great Mushrooms gig ... or will it all go down the pan and I have to be bailed out by yetis - my god, that film was s*%t! I mean ... yetis! 

Old Doll live @ Yuyintang

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pink berries
If we start back at Gua'er on Thursday and include all the China Now festival shows too. Then last night's show at Yuyintang, featuring Nanjing punk outfit Old Doll, was the end of a six day gig marathon. I managed to see shows on four out of six days, not bad. It was a pity however, that the last band on the last day was the most awesome but was playing to twenty people in an otherwise empty room. It was inevitable that there would be some burnout. The TooKoo show and the Control show were 'big shows' with big turn outs and high energy. 

I don't have a page for Old Doll so you can watch the video clip I made here: Old Doll.

So, I arrived at Yuyintang about fifteen minutes before kick-off to see only three people other than myself in there. As the first band got ready, some more people came out of the woodwork but aside from the bands themselves, their friends and the staff, I think there were about twelve other people tops. I got a small surprise when the singer of the first band introduced himself to me and the others at the bar and handed out a questionnaire that included their song list for the night. It turned out they were a J-rock band from Niigata.

So, Sappie Toy took the stage. They are Japanese musicians who live and work in Shanghai, and again, I don't have a link for them but if you google the name there's a couple of shortish clips and articles. They were a typical J-rock outfit. They had a great sound and played catchy pop rock tracks punctuated by flashy guitar solos and acoustic sing-a-long middle eights. Yes, journo speak! I really wanted to get a song on video but I was confounded by the YYT lighting thing. That is, if the bands don't have a specific lighting request they use that auto function where all the lights flash on and off like strobes to the beat of the sound waves. There is no constant back or front lighting at all so the flashing goes from dark to light ad nauseam. It completely scuppered my TooKoo vid from Friday. It's like a war on epilepsy and headache sufferers, and people with hangovers. 

Next up was Tony Yu of Mortal Fools and his new band, Pink Berries (pictured top). Tony is an old school punk fan and his new songs mix that Ramones sound and approach with some memorable song writing. The singer was cool and she gave an energetic performance. Unfortunately the songs were lost a bit in the bad sound mix, especially the vocals and the other band members don't have the same experience as Tony himself. But, if they stick at it they are going to be a great act on the Shanghai circuit soon. 

Finally it was time for Old Doll. And they rocked. They had a great sound, great songs and were professional performers. The sound is very similar to early Rancid, which suits me fine. Despite the near empty room, they were ripping and going for it as if they had a couple of hundred moshers in front of them. They were on in every way. I was watching the best performance of the week of shows for sure, with almost no one else around. Upon hearing the opening song, the staff all came in to the room to watch. At one point, the back lights were on long enough for me to get a half decent video too. 

Great week. I saw eleven different bands in six days. My highlights have to be:

1) Seeing BCR play Pleasure To Be Here live to a bigger crowd with atmosphere.
2) Getting an early listen to Pink Berries, if they stick it out and get tight there's going to be some great shows in the future.
3) Old Doll taking me back to listening to Rancid and Op Ivy CDs in my bedroom.

old doll

Youtube: Boys Climbing Ropes @ Dream Factory

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I uploaded three videos from the control show on Saturday: BCR, Rogue Transmission and PK-14. I wasn't sure about making a dedicated post for one of them. But, looking on the channel today, I saw they've been watched a bit and sitting at the top of the leader board is ... Boys Climbing Ropes.

So here is their excellent track, Pleasure To Be Here, performed live at the 'Control' gig held at Dream Factory. It may be my imagination, but it seems way faster than on the CD. You don't have the CD? I'm sorry, what kind of hipster douche bag are you? Without this track on your I-Pod you might as well throw out those tight pants right away.

Long weekend blather

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two cool
It's the mooncake-tastic mid-autumn festival which means a public holiday long weekend. I'd love to throw in the words wish and happy in there somewhere but it's a miserable grey day with intermittent rain and thunder. I did get a chance to read around the English language sites and mags and find some stuff on the scene. I've recently put up a lot of reviews and vids so why not throw in a chat? Warning: it's inane and uninformative, you might want to bail now.

First, I was reading SH magazine which has a big feature on live shows and festivals this month. The feature is written by Jake Newby whom I met via a brief stint at Shanghaiist. Jake is a good guy. So before I start the blather, who not read it online:

So the article is saying how that after a quiet summer, now everything's back with a bang - so to speak. First up - the JZ festival. Oh, wait a minute, Jazz. 

... flips ahead ...

Avril ... something happening in Beijing ...

...flips back to correct feature ...

World Music ... Nordic experimental DJs playing in a greenhouse ...

Well, there were a couple of bands in there somewhere that I liked. China Now is not too bad, I suppose. What was the other thing I was looking at today? Ah yes, that new website I mentioned here. Spicy Duck Neck (dot com). Today I saw they posted a review of both TooKoo and Control. Well, they also cover Jazz and anything remotely musical but now I have the first evidence of crossover. This is good - now readers have a chance to see a contrasting viewpoint. And, as usual, read what I'm talking about in full first:

Yes! We have a discrepancy. Where I felt that people 'got' BCR by the end of the set and there was a good response from the audience. Layabozi doesn't share my view. So is this an indication that I see the scene through rose-tinted glasses? Will you ever really ... care. I'll tell you who won't care: BCR. I recently bumped into them at shows a bit and have a confession to make. Bassist Morgan's appreciation of Iron Maiden makes me a convert. In fact, if anyone ever wants anything from me in the future, start by mentioning your belief in the far reaching influence of the Dave Murray/Adrian Smith partnership.

Finally something a bit more serious. Yan Shuai, the singer from TooKoo, was interviewed for SH magazine's 60 Seconds feature. I'm sure it will come online shortly. Here's a quick sample featuring his picks for mainland China bands:

Banana Monkey are good. Their style is more indie than us, but I like to listen to indie too. ReTROS are really good live too. They are really professional, on an international level almost, and I like their attitudes towards music and life - they're very low key.

'Control' PK14 live @ Dream factory

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rogue transmission
So, ladies and germs, may I now bring your attention to the main event. Well, something like that. It's been a while since Brad Ferguson had The Subs and PK14 down to Windows Tembo and tonight was the first 'big show' since then. I had a personal mission to finally get a BCR song on video for the site. This is my third show in three days and I'm coming down with something or other. I almost didn't make it. However, I was determined not miss a patented 'big show'. Can I say that just one more time ... 'big show'.

There were four bands playing tonight so without further ado, lets have the contenders:

I arrived an hour after the door time and completely missed Hard Queen. Luckily for me I saw them last night. I went down into the stage area and was happy to see the place filling up nicely. Now was my chance to see these bands play with a better sound to a decent crowd who were ready to mosh, dance and go nuts. 

I last saw Rogue Transmission play at Windows Underground. From where I was standing that night, the sound was terrible and I didn't come away with much. It was a different story tonight. While not perfect, the sound was clear and loud. The melodies and colour in the material came out and the energy was certainly there. Front man Dan Shapiro is a real rocker and the crowd were really up for it as the band put on a good old rock show. The 'big show' was all going to plan. 

To be honest, I was not sure how Boys Climbing Ropes were going to go down. The crowd were warmed up and had just flipped out to rock. PK14, the headliners are also punk rock. BCR are more experimental and nuanced. Looking around the hall I saw mainly international students and ex-pats, most of which had probably never seen or heard BCR before. The band also have a hard time getting their sound across at times, due to the shit heaps equipment in smaller Shanghai clubs. The audience stuck with the first couple of tracks while they figured it all out and then got the payoff for tracks like Dirty Bots and Pleasure To Be Here at the end. The sound was ok and people around me were getting into it with dancing up front. Good stuff.   

So, finally PK14. They were solid. People didn't go as nuts I thought they would at first. Again, with a crowd of mainly ex-pats, a lot of who haven't followed the band, there wasn't much awe/excitement as there normally would be with these veterans of the scene. It all got going a couple of songs in though. The sound was percussive and full of middle most of the night, but that just seemed to suit PK14's choppy guitar style. I didn't make it through to the bitter end as the thing I'm coming down with started to sap my energy. I almost accidentally blanked Archie from Splitworks on the way out as he'd shaved off his trademark beard. Archie has just come off a national tour with PK14.

So, readers, were you at the show last night? What did you think? Who did you like? The comments section is open and does not require a log in. 

Spicy duck and spicy prose

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I'm going to start this post with an excuse a preface - just for Aric. I really just like to focus on the shows and bands here and it's just my personal blog. I have previously mentioned that covering other sites is futile as they disappear quickly and blah blah blah ... but, I have become a post whore.

Let me define that. 

Post Whore: Someone that posts something only vaguely related to the usual content, or perhaps something they previous swore off on principal, in order to obsessively maintain a high monthly post count on their blog.

Okay. So, this month I surfed into a brand new Shanghai Music Scene website while googling TooKoo. It's called Layabozi (spicy duck neck) and you can find it here:

It's thoroughly modern and combines elements of traditonal web layouts and blog/2.0 features. I was just reading their post on tonight's PK-14 show when I thought to make a post of my own. The first thing I noticed about it is that mysterio thing a lot of netizens do. Someone who makes a site like this is obviously a regular on the scene but declines to give away their real identity anywhere on the site. I do suppose though, that to anyone who knows them "Chilean amateur flautist" probably makes it pretty obvious. In fact now I already have an idea that I met them at TooKoo last night. The real drawback is that you may write something they don't like, having no idea who they are, and be heading to your doom at the next show.

The site itself is more into the China Music Radar territory and wanders into several scenes and genres, also the 'biz' in general. It covers Jazz and has a review of a Joy Division CD along side reports on underground rock shows. Another sign that the site aspires to 'magazine standards' is the writing style. Here's an excerpt from the latest post:

This is the pagan celebration of music, the dancers around the fires of creation celebrating the force of live music, turning on the inspiration, the hearts and the engines. For all of those about to say there's no rock in Shanghai, we recommend extreme care before pronouncing these words, you may be slapped by one of the dark wings of the demons flying over Shanghai. It's as simple as if you don't feel it, it's just not for you. And for those chosen to participate, join the lines and spread the word: Rock is striking out Shanghai. Hell Yeah!!!!

Here is a description of Brad Ferguson:

Ferguson is one of the demons of Rock, who as many custodial demons, has been called to protect and feed the fires of Rock&Roll and during this present age Shanghai is the proud designated zone under his dark wings. 

So, if you're into this style, perhaps Layabozi is the music mag you have been missing, check it out.

TooKoo live @ Yuyintang

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hard queen
The TooKoo show tonight had 'the buzz'. They're a solid band that have been around seven years and the English language sites were picking it as a good show. No one, including the band themselves, seemed to be able to describe the music though. The word Emo was making a regular appearance which just makes me think of My Chemical Romance. The buzz led to a swollen crowd, which is great for decent shows - but it's not without it's drawbacks. The hall was peppered with people who could have just as well been walking into Volar and Attica or where ever. As well as the dress shirts and trendy club night outfits there was a bit of attitude. One ex-pat formal dress and grooming guy tried to start a fight after being basically bumped into by a dancer/mosher at a rock gig. Give us a break ... no, on second thought just fuck off. 

I started paying attention to the gig when support act Hard Queen (pictured) came on. I'll be seeing them again tomorrow at the PK-14 show. They did a solid set and the track of the night was definitely Loser which singer Sheena Du announced as their fav track at the moment. In the break I picked up TooKoo's new CD. It's a retrospective called "seven years". Echo Rush played next during which I milled about and talked to some people. I even got chased around the park out back a bit by an over zealous guard. I mean really - you have an entire moonlit public park, with lakes and bridges, at your personal disposal and they really expect you to not leave the area immediately behind the club. 

Before we get onto the main act:

TooKoo on Myspace: listen here.
TooKoo Offical Site: here.

So, just before the gig Morgan from BCR was trying to put me off, humorously, by pointing out their good grooming, Emo tendencies and flashy intro tape. I admit, my heart did sink when the bagpipes started playing Amazing Grace and Morgan shot me the 'you see' look. However, they turned out to be pretty good. And no Emo ... not that there's anything wrong with that.

TooKoo brought a banner, intro music and they were good performers too. Like all good bands they had a singer with style and charisma. The music turned out to be up-tempo indie rock that became popular again after the likes of the Libertines. The singer even had on a pork-pie hat. I will put a video in the Youtube channel - but it's a bit spoiled by the habit of Yuyintang to just flash all the lights simultaneously for entire songs. Anyway, they're a good band and are famous as Midi festival veterans in Beijing. With PK-14 playing Dream Factory tomorrow that'll be two 'big' shows in one weekend, a rare blessing for our tiny scene.

Youtube Channel top views

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The continued dominance of Self Party on the blog Youtube Channel and the swift rise of the latest Modern Cheese video has confirmed a couple of suspicions. If I put up a post basically begging readers to check out a certain video, they will. Thanks. Also, bands that have their shit together pass on stuff and get others to check it out too.

Lets have a quick perspective check though. My blog readership is up to about 1000 individual IPs in a month. The top rated video on the channel has 140 views. Now, some videos on have thousands of views. Some videos of cats slipping on a polished surface have over one million views. On the other hand, this blog is for, about and by people who like counter culture. My readership and views are actually above the average attendance for the shows I cover. 

So, whatever It might actually mean, here's the current top six viewed videos on my Youtube channel.

The channel itself is here.

1) Self Party play the Miniless Records showcase at Yuyintang. 140 views  watch
2) Bang Bang Tang at Yuyintang. 111 views watch
3) Crazy Mushroom Brigade rock out. 76 views watch
4) Modern Cheese perform with new singer. 72 views watch
5) Hard Queen back at Yuyintang. 64 views watch
6) The Shy Tall Mighty old school punk. 58 views watch

Why not show support for your favourite video by introducing it to your friends and pushing it up the chart? I encourage that sort of behaviour. 

Bonus Youtube: Momo moments

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Little Nature got the dedicated post from tonight's videos (see one post down) ... but, after re-watching a couple of times I've decided to do feature post on support act Momo too. They play guitar music, distortion guitar, garage rock with their signature melodies sung in a consciously cutesy fashion. 

Imagine my surprise when they started tonight's show by setting down the instruments and coming to the front of the stage together to do an unplugged style sing-a-long show intro. I was even more surprised when I noticed just how into it everyone there was. It's a small pub gig, but listen to the reaction when drummer Cici takes the mic at 1:05. By the end everyone was clapping along and I realised it was a 'moment'. 

Youtube: Little Nature live @ Gua'er

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So. Little Nature. I first wrote about them as a standout among new bands back in march here. They played as part of the Jiao Ban, joining the other members at Bar 288. And recently they've even been 'picked' by Lisa Movius in her That's Shanghai column. They are still a new band and this is the opening number, the rest of the set was way tighter. But ... without further ado, here they are playing live at Gua'er Music Bar. 

Little Nature & Momo live @ Gua'er

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I am loving it - living in my hipster's paradise. Well, so says me: check it out. Lisa calls it the F-visa Ghetto. I like that. Also, when I say 'paradise', it's relative to the city i'm in. Dan Shapiro put out a tip on a Little Nature show at Gua'er Music Bar over at his CW blog. Gua'er just happens to be opposite the end of my lane, two minutes walk from my door.

Little Nature are on the up at the moment and I really wanted to see them (for the fourth time). The support for the night came from Momo. These two bands are Bar 288 regulars and they'd brought a lot of their crowd over to Gua'er. There was a good turnout of genuine music fans and I didn't recognise many people from Yuyintang gigs. I did see Little Punk, singer with Boys Climbing Ropes up at the front. Momo got things started as soon as I stepped in.

I first saw Momo as Happy Strings in the old Yuyintang down in Longhua. I was really impressed and have seen them a few times over the past couple of years. They play garage rock mixed with their own brand of playful melodies. I always like their shows but they haven't really done much in all this time, just maintained a respectable level. I would like to see them take it up a level with a full set of new originals. I did get something new. Since changing their name, Momo now open the shows with an unplugged style sing-a-long intro track. I thought it was strange at first, but the audience were really into it. It'll be up in the video channel soon.

Little Nature ripped straight into their melodic punk set that reminds me a bit of Green Day prior to the Dookie era. They are brimming with energy and confidence at the moment and it makes for a good high energy live show. This was the first time I saw them playing their own show and not buried down in a multi-band night. They were certainly up to the task. Alas, I often moan about their 'Happy Birthday' song being out of place in an otherwise great set and now I see it's a real fan favourite. People were singing along and, to be fair, there was more than a hint of irony from the band as they belted it out. They don't have a myspace style page at the moment so you'll have to make do with my video, which is a bit raw sorry. Check the channel or the next post.

Gossip Week: Brad's back (again), who is Emma?

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anar bar
I saw a couple of posts on the City Weekend blogs just today that constitute a post. Surprisingly though, they came not from 'Punknotjunk' or Dan Shapiro but from their general nightlife editor, Jessy.

The first post is about Emma and China West. They are both large scale ticketers and promoters that put on shows in Shanghai and all over the country. The article is about one poaching management staff from the other.

Original post here.

Jessy is reporting on an article first published at China Music Radar here. I must explain something to fans of the rock-indie scene in Shanghai. Emma and China West are the companies responsible for bringing Celine Dion here, and soon Avril Lavigne. So here's a question: what does a Celine Dion stadium gig have to do with the underground rock scene? Nothing ... and so on to the next item.

Brad Ferguson's latest comeback is actually a show he had booked while at Windows Underground. There was no plan beyond the one show -which is this weekend. However, stop the press, here comes a real comeback. CW blogs reveal that Brad is getting back to together with former boss Zooma. Brad and Zooma worked together putting on shows at the ill-fated venue 4-live. Now they will be reunited at Anar Bar. Anar Bar used to be Shuffle bar a while ago, where Brad also worked putting on shows. I myself saw a Subs gig that he put on there.

This makes me crack a smile as the latest venue to join the scene is in fact in my newly defined area for hipsters ... i.e. where I live. Check it out. If things go well, i'll add it in to the Google map soon.

Lets finish with a listen to PK-14, the biggest show coming up this weekend. Here they are.

0093 Rock Party 7 @ Yuyintang

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0093 rock seven
Tonight was part seven of the 0093 Rock Parties. And a quick explanation: 0093 is a rehearsal studio. The 0093 nights at YYT are a chance for really, really new bands to play live and see what it's like. It is therefor normal to expect six or seven bands in the line up most of which could be playing mainly covers. Occasionally, a more experienced band pops in ...but not tonight.

So, first a confession. I mentioned previously that I was attending the show mainly to see the band Kongzhong Huayuan. They were the stand out act at the recent Britpop night. Alas, I didn't make it that far. I had been there almost two hours and the second band were still going. Like the first band, they did mainly covers and went on for ages, talking to the crowd at length between songs as if they were Iron Maiden playing an arena show. I did have a partner in crime for the night though, Abe Deyo. I have gradually discovered that Abe shares my passion for self inflicted pain checking out the very newest bands at multi-act shows.

Anyway, why not checkout an older video of Kongzhong Huayuan here. It's good.

The line up for the show was:

1. Brunch
2. Jiaoke Yuedui
3. Wang Yue Zhe
4. 8 mg
5. Kongzhong Huayuan
6. Death River

I'd like to finish with a bunch of rumours and tidbits. Abe tells me he's all but finalised his next event - bringing DOA and The Queers over to Shanghai and Beijing. Also, I was at a hotpot place with a bunch of YYT people and heard that Zhong Ke has already left his new band Muscle Snog. They were also talking about Crazy Mushroom Brigade losing guitarist Jerry Li. I hope not, he's the lynch pin of my favourite Shanghai band and they're supposed to be recording this month. I hope he didn't leave to form a shoegazing experimental post-rock band, that would really ruin my week. If anyone wants to confirm or deny any of that, the comments are open.

I was just checking the Youtube channel and noticed that the Modern Cheese video was getting a few views already. So, why not give it a post. It's good quality and more close in than the usual vids I do. Self Party still leads the view count on the blog's Youtube Channel though, by double the next closest challenger.

You also might note that at 2:52 you can hear Jordan from BCR shout "oh ... big solo!" That's exactly what I was going to say except that I knew there was a mic running right by my head. Excellent.

Anyway, check out the musicianship right now!


Shy Tall Mighty live @ Yuyintang

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new sign at yuyintangTough choice tonight with one of my favourite Shanghai bands Hard Queen playing in a new venue across town. Finally I was tempted to Yuyintang by the words old school punk. I will see Hard Queen at Dream Factory next weekend. I must admit laziness playing a big part too. Since moving house last week, I am now literally five minute's walk from YYT.

Special mention: Upon arriving I was very impressed with the new sign. Check the photo. A professional looking light-up sign to go with the mural. You see, I hit all the important, insightful details when reporting the scene, like who has the nicest sign.

As support act Modern Cheese were setting up on stage I had a chat with Abe Deyo (promoter) and Jordan Small (of Boys Climbing Ropes) that was quite interesting. I'm hesitant to talk about it for fear of starting something off that may not be that good for the scene here, but I will anyway. We were talking about indie labels in Shanghai and how much they can financially support a band, or not. Jordan mentioned that he'd rather just self finance as it was comparatively cheap for foreigners. The Boys Climbing Ropes CD is good and they have a track playing on radio back in the USA in some capacity. The CD cost less than 8000 RMB to record. Strolling back later it occured to me that a good way to get your band noticed would be to come over and be based in Shanghai. You could play shows at will, headlining any venue you like, when you like and make a CD and marketing for ten times cheaper than back home.

Of course, if you do bring your band over to Shanghai, be sure to live here

So Modern Cheese kicked off and I immediately noticed the line-up change from last time. They have added a singer. At the last show, the guitarist was also the lead singer. With this addition, the songs now have some good back-ups and harmony vocal parts. It made a difference. Their first two tracks are their usual strong ones but like the previous show, the rest of the set lacks the same energy and focus. I often talk about how support acts play on way too long here and don't seem to get the concept of supporting. However, I mellowed and like the idea that YYT gives new bands a chance to play and that's what's important. I didn't, however, count on Modern Cheese. The set ended with the guitarist bringing on a stool and launching into an intimate monolgue with the audience - followed by what amounted to a second, solo set. Anyway, this band do have chops and ability and they are still worth checking out in the videos.

The Shy Tall Mighty took the stage next. No one seemed to have heard them before and there weren't any CDs knocking around the door or shop. I was mildly surprised to see the two frontmen apear - two middle aged British geezers. They just went straight into a high energy old school punk set, London accents and all. The crowd, who'd been very patient up to this point, instantly took to it. They never dropped the energy level and did a solid enjoyable show. They are not based in Shanghai though, and I'm not sure we'll see them again anytime soon or have cause to follow their development. Fans of good ol' Punk should definitely catch them if you have the chance. 

To finish, I want to mention that Kongzhong Huayuan (Sky Garden) are playing Sunday's 0093 Rock Party. I mistakenly reported their name as KongDE Huayuan last time. I really want to catch them again and see if they've improved any. Fans of Coldplay-esque jangly guitar bands should come too. 

Modern Cheese 

New Map Feature: the place for true hipsters

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map sampleI just created a new feature for the blog, a google map with photos and info of my neighbourhood. Check out the pages sidebar immediately. Not only that - I am about to lay out the case for why it is the ultimate neighbourhood for true hipsters. As you will see, this area includes Yuyintang and other significant scene spots too.

First of all. Yes, you can play with the map from the page and it's cool and embedded. But, I've got to be completely honest, it's much better of you click the link to the larger version.

So, what's the deal with this Xinhua area? First of all, it's downtown - inside the inner ringroad and a desirable part of town. Then, it's off the tourist map so mercifully free of tourists and ... other hipsters. I have lived around here for six years. The places I'm about to describe are all within walking distance of each other. This is a small sampling.

We have:

Yuyintang Live House the premier venue for local rock, indie and punk.
Logo Music Bar the premier hipster hangout
C's Bar the premier dive bar and spiritual home of Antidote
Sus2 Music Bar the originals, now running a laid back cafe version right here
Rehearshal Rooms one of the famous band rehearsal spaces is on the east side of the block at Huashan lu/Huaihai lu

Sofa Cafe modern wifi hangout with great food
Marco Polo Cafe and Bakery small ultra hip place on the Xinhua garden street
Banyan Tree Cafe Chinese style wifi cafe on Fahuazhen road

Xinhua Road conservation area and lanes (Xinhua Bieshu) Our beautiful tree lined main strip and surrounding lanes. Former British and German suburb that includes the former home of J. G. Ballard - this area was also a playground for neo-colonial fetish of the month, architect Laslo Hudec. Perfect for inspirational literary strolls and free of tourists. You can live in them too, I spent two years in a beautiful terrace right on the strip for 1500rmb a month (shared). 

Affordable Housing my friend Anthony had a perfectly good place here for him and his GF (now wife) for 1500 rmb a month all in. And this is a nice downtown area. You can even get a modern style two or three bedroomed place for 2000-2500 rmb a month in the infamous Fanyu Dasha ghetto towers. Split three ways that's cheap. And Anthony's 1500 place could house two people, or even three with a room share of the big room - if you're young and struggling. Ideal for hipsters and young uns alike.

Come and check it out, live here even. Who knows what the place will be like even two years down the line - this place changes fast.

Endnote: this is my 50th post in the music scene category. Hooray.  

More magazines and Little Nature

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little nature That's Shanghai September 2008 edition just came out and you can see the articles I mention here.

Not as much good coverage as last month, but that's OK. Last month was especially good ... remember?

Before I get to Lisa Movius' Rockpile column I should briefly mention the Wang Wen review on page 29. I quote

Unlike the band's high energy live performances, their recorded material ...

Hmmn. Has the reviewer been to one of their shows? I have, and quite recently too. They were typical of a meandering post-rock band. Low energy. That's not a criticism, it was a reasonable recreation of the energy levels on the CD.

Now, I was impressed with the Rockpile column for a third month in a row. Let's be honest, I'm always impressed with anyone who appears to agree with me on bands and music. Equally, if you don't agree with my picks - you don't know anything. Ahem. This month is another pick, this time Little Nature. I have seen this band three times and wrote up the first time for Shanghaiist back in March here. They were the standout band that night despite their Happy Birthday closer. I most recently saw them at the Jiao Ban night at Yuyintang where I was happy to see they had stayed together and started to get a following.

Lisa talks about that night and reports that all three bands (Momo, Crazy Musrooms and Little Nature) met with Shanghai based Soma Records and walked away with deals. This is amazing news for me as they are the three bands I have been relentlessly tipping all year. I especially want to have the Mushrooms on CD. It does however beg the question, who the f*#^ are Soma Records? Obviously not the Scotland based dance label. Hmmnn, Lisa any chance of a fill-in in the comments? If not, I may have to do research, oh no.

These are good picks from Lisa. The Mushroom's CD will be especially good and these are all bands who have room to improve, mature and produce great songs given the chance to record. Let me finish by re-linking (sorry older readers) the demo we did for CW with Aric Queen that features two full songs by Momo (then Happy Strings). The demo that was followed shortly by Aric and CW manager Colin leaving the country. We will still make it if another host and backer come in ...anyone ... sniff.

Momo play live for FNU

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

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