Well, it finally came around, the Indie Top show. So much to talk about that this may be the first post where I have to split it and have the main body 'after the jump'. Let's get the formalities out of the way first.
This was an important show and you should read why here: A call to arms
Next, here are the bands who played, along with links to their sites:
There were so many people I bumped into and so many shout outs that I can't possibly list them all. I usually include mainly other English language writers when I do this because to mention everyone at, say, a YYT show who's part of the scene or a band would be to make the whole post a fifty name list each time. Met Lisa Movius for the first time and then Shanghaiist blogger Wee Ling Soh who I got to take one of her famous eyes closed photos of me and Jake. Yes! Talking of Shanghaiist writers, me and Archie bumped into Cameron Wilson at a restaurant later that night and ate with Detroit techno guru Bone (so that conversation went right over my head).
Quick special mention to my three ticket winners who all came. Thanks guys and I hope you enjoyed it. Lost Mimi at one point but I'm sure I saw you meet up with a friend.
So, here we go. First of all, this was a well organized pro-event that got a great turnout and a bunch of support. Plenty of CDs and merchandise on the scene and they even had custom made Indie Top ads to play between acts and an MC for the night. Great atmosphere and definitely a success for Indie Top. The buzz at the event lived up to all the hype I was giving it ... phew. So, onto the bands.
Pre-amble. I previously listened to the CD samples and worried that the production had pushed the bands in the pop direction a lot. And here's the thing - I came thinking "Little Nature, Momo and Mushrooms" and left thinking "Zhong Chi and Sonnet". Weird stuff. While the theme for the night appeared to be rock acts getting signed and then lightening up, the lighter acts actually rocked it. Weird weird weird.
Out came Sarah Zhong Chi whose CD is full of dreamy tracks about environmental disaster. The first thing I noticed was the decidedly straight rock backing band that included Jerry Li, formerly of the Mushrooms, and David from Moongazer on guitar and bass respectively. The songs were good and the band gave it some bite live. Zhong Chi doesn't really appear on the regular live circuit in town and I had no idea what to expect but she's cool and the songs worked fine live. Good start.
Next up were Sonnet. Sonnet are not on the label and were filling out the show. They played a straight set of their regular material and were kind of separate in feel from the rest of the night. They didn't benefit from the sound, which was loud enough to give the show atmosphere but a bit muddy and way short of truly professional. Sonnet have recently reformed and seem to be just about getting it back now. The last two songs they played really came together and seemed to win the approval of the crowd. They play modern indie rock in the vein of post-Strokes stuff like Casino Demon here.
Little Nature were next. These are a pop punk trio that I have followed from the start at this blog. The sound reminds me of a mid-career Green Day and they were instantly popular with Shanghai rock fans. It's really quite amazing that they were about to come on as a signed act at a big show less than one year later in a small scene like Shanghai. Alas, being signed has changed them a lot it seems. They came out with an extra guitarist and some pop star hair-dos. When I watched these guys at Yuyintang a couple of times they were full of energy with deceptive songs that seemed like three chord rock but had some great hooks and breaks that made them stand out. They were flat here and the label is obviously pushing the pop/idol side of things.
Momo next. Same story, The label has really got these girls to push the cute appeal. But, for Momo, that side has always been a part of them, even when the music was very garage rock still. It's not my thing, but they seemed to suit the new style and performed well. Singer Ding Jia was made to play guitar the whole show too, which is not the norm at their shows. I suppose the label were pushing for a more filled out sound or something. It never seemed to be a problem before. I wonder if these bands are going to keep playing the smaller places now?
Then came the biggest shock of the night. Wang Xiaokun was a mainstream pop star with vids on the telly and everything. I knew he wrote his own stuff and had gone indie, but I was planning to skip him if he went on last. He came on now. And WTF, his backing band were rock and he wasn't half bad. He had a Manchester thing going on. Bowl cut, psychedelic sweater, singing his indie rock vocal upwards into the mike while swaying and breaking into falsetto. He was quite good. It was a total headfuck as his previous incarnation was a talent show idol. He had the good sense to not play any of those 'hits'.
Anyway, on came the Mushrooms one of my favourite bands and an amazing live act. They lost the original guitarist and got two replacements. I don't want to talk about it much. What can I say. This was a kind of coming out party for Momo, Little Nature and the Mushrooms to showcase their new looks and styles. LN lost their punch, Momo's Ding Jia usually has a bit of power and depth behind her voice but it's all cutesy now and the Mushrooms have lost their mojo too (they should get Jerry back). It's part of a planned move by the label to sell these bands. The weird thing is the sudden change, I have seen some of these bands live between getting signed to Indie Top and tonight's show and there was no indication of the change then at all. Who's the Shanghai Mick Jones and when can he start producing?