December 2008 Archives

Marathon New Year weekend and Jue Festival

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flyer jue soundtoyThe shows are still not slowing down. A lot to see in January with ample back up from traveling bands. Well, to be fair, when people write/say that the scene has quiet moments they are talking about bigger shows by name bands but there's always something on.

Before we go on, let me ask: what's with the talent show rejects forming bands and invading the scene? I already noted my surprise when Wang Xiaokun, of Wo Xing Wo Shou fame, turned up at Indietop with a guitar band and a bunch of rock/indie songs. Next I thought we saw Wang while shooting the Pinkberry MV at Yuyintang but actually it was Yu Siyuan, another graduate from the same show. Now I see he's playing a 100 RMB per ticket show at YYT in January. Who's next ... f*cking Shi Yang (师洋) ? 

Ok, so here's what's going down near me this week (all at Yuyintang):

12/31 New Years Eve Party, 6 bands including Chaos Mind
1/1 Kongzhong Huayuan Cd single release party (jangly Coldplay-esque indie)
1/2 Soundtoy (highly rated post-rock band from Chengdu)
1/3 The Queers come to Shanghai with Pinkberry in support

It's a four day holiday marathon and I'll go to all of them. 

And also this month, Splitworks are putting on an urban festival of music and art that is split across several venues. I should start with the official link to the full schedule so check it out: Jue Festival. The reason I'm mentioning it here is that part of that festival is a Chinese bands punk show at Dream Factory featuring Demerit and Pinkberry on the 16th of January. Now, I know for a fact that Splitworks are bringing in international quality sound people and extra equipment for this. I'm not sure if the festival will attract punk people per se, but with those two bands, a good rig and a good crowd, it should be a wild show. As always, supporting shows like that equals more shows like that in the future. You know it makes sense. 

Youtube: Tianpin Dian "I Set The Trend"

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A quick reminder that despite my often odd picks for the videos you can usually find more at the channel and not everything I upload gets a featured post. However, I'm going to do it again. Tonight was the Jiao Ban collective's second show and first return to YYT since getting signed to Indietop. We had local heroes Crazy Mushroom Brigade, all girl pop-rockers Momo and power trio Little Nature all playing a mix of old favourites and new material from the CD ...

... and so I bring you ... the outro track from warm-up act Tianpin Dian's opening set.

It's called Wo Shi Chao Liu (I Set The Trend). In this track, the band turn down the dial a bit and let MC YKE and singer Melody Li lead the crowd with some vocal sparring and stylings. This was the first time most of the audience heard this but you will hear them frequently burst into cheers and applause. It's also funny if you know the language and showcases both the talent of the front pair and the band's knack for a great hook.

Jiao Ban Two live @ Yuyintang

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momo tuan jiao ban
I'm back in action. Tonight at Yuyintang, Jiao Ban night part two. First of all, if you haven't already, read all about the significance of this night right here. And secondly, here are the bands involved:

I was looking forward to this a lot and, as I thought, it turned out to be a rerun of the Indietop show except with good sound. And, err, not as many bands. 

First on the stage was Tianpin Dian (Candy Shop). Regular readers of the blog will know all about this band and have listened to their great demo track Wo Men. I also reported on their great new track that they debuted at the Winter Madness show here. The track is called Wo Shi Chao Liu (I Set The Trend) and I got it on video this time. Candy Shop played a good set here despite being the first of four bands and hence with the lower volume. The new song was received well at the end. Must point out though, it's kind of the semi-serious/playful song that they do at the end and is a departure from their other, heavier, material.

Talking of Tianping Dian, we'd been having a right laugh on Douban and had arranged to meet at the show. They are a great bunch and so laid back and friendly. Also, YKE shares my appreciation of MC Hotdog's first CD and the track 1030. Fair play to that. So next on stage were Momo. Their new material is very cute but I'm still impressed with how they've tightened up the live act. They had a loud and clear sound tonight and the audience really liked them. Ex-Mushroom's guitarist Jerry was also playing up there filling in the layered parts from the new CD. He appears to be the SOMA session guy lately. Jerry Lee does have a new project in the works called Triple Smash, more on that in the future.

So yeah, Momo were tight and professional and went down really well. They came back to the small club setting but brought the best aspects of their Indietop show with them. There was one funny moment in the set. At one point, singer Ding Jia called out her number and offered a free Indietop CD to the first person to text her. The girl who won got up on stage and Ding invited her to say something into the mike. She said "I love Tianping Dian." It was taken in good humour.

Little Nature were up next. They had their original three piece line up and flat hair. The only sign of the Indietop show extras was the intro tape they played before coming on stage. They pulled out a good but not great (by their own standards) set that was a little bit sabotaged by a weak drum sound that ate up the snare completely. Last on were the Mushrooms. Their new line up still isn't quite there but this time it was enough to get the crowd moving and to make the old hits ring true. A good turn out and a solid night for Jiao Ban part two. 

Jiao Ban Two: Shanghai scene story of 2008

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It is fitting that we have the next Jiao Ban show at the end of the year, especially for this blog. I've watched and wrote about these bands since the start and seen their stories explode (in Shanghai scene terms). I have to admit that it's all got very little to do with me, mind you. First up, here are the four bands playing the show on Saturday 27th:

The original Jiao Ban show did not include Candy Shop. 

Momo have been around a while, previously under the name Happy Strings. I first saw them at the old Yuyintang and really liked them. I didn't get to see them so much near the start of 2008 and this whole story starts with the Mushrooms. 

At the beginning of the year, they had been working super hard and were playing some great shows. I saw them rock the crowd at an early 0093 Showcase and wrote about them early on here - live @ Yuyintang. I also documented their first breakthrough into the ex-pat-iverse here. The singer Pu Pu had awesome presence and guitarist Jerry Li was coming up with great compositions.  Next up was Little Nature. I first noticed them as a standout band and wrote it up for Shanghaiist here. They were tight and had catchy songs, immediately separating from the rest of the pack. 

The next development was that the three bands had become friendly after playing together and hanging out at Bar 288 on Taikang road. They formed a collective called Jiao Ban and decided to put on a show at Yuyintang. I came across the flyer and speculated about the show in this post. At this point Happy Strings had changed their name to Momo Tuan. I went to the show and it was amazing - here's what I wrote. I came away thinking that it was a pity the scene was underground and hamstrung by the political climate. I thought that at least one of the bands would have been signed or at least snapped up by professional management in normal conditions. Before we go on, take a moment to re-live the show (article continues below).

And here's the thing. Not long after the show, I found out via Lisa Movius that the show had, in fact, cemented deals for all three bands with Soma. Soma are an art management company and their label venture turned out to be the Indietop project. Here's how the news was broken at the blog - more magazines and Little Nature

In the run up to the Indietop extravaganza I caught the bands a couple of times. Little Nature played a great set at the 0093 Rockin' in the Free World show. Also playing that night were Candy Shop, who brought the house down with their signature track Wo Men. Here's a video of that too. Following that, I saw both Momo and Little Nature play at Gua'er in a low key afternoon show. Here's how that went - rock in the afternoon. And here's a video of Momo unplugged at the show - Momo. The Mushrooms played outdoors at the China Now festival but I didn't manage to get along. At this point I was still clueless as to the upcoming impact of the Indietop show, on the band's styles, that is. 

Now. Enter Indietop. The three bands had some CD tracks in the bag and an Indietop compilation CD was about to come out. I heard some samples, which sounded over-produced and very pop and I also got ready for the showcase gig at Dream Factory which was to be a landmark event in the year. Here's the first post on it, here's the line up on the CD, here's my call to arms over supporting the show and finally here's the show review. Jerry had left the Mushrooms and all the bands had extra members added or major stylistic changes put on them by the label. I wondered if it could ever be the same again.

And now - at the end of a whirlwind year, the Jiao Ban is back at YYT. Indie labels are small in a small scene and the bands seem to be free to do their own thing too. If you talk to various people on the subject you'll find that even the established Beijing labels require the bands to foot most of the bill in return for services of questionable quality. Anyhow, I'm excited again about this show. It's their chance to show if they've still got it. The addition of Tianping Dian (Candy Shop) to the line up is welcome. Whatever the outcome/effect of Indietop on the Jiao Ban bands - Candy Shop put on a great show at YYT and it'll be a great way to round off the year. 

Come along if you can and, come what may, let's give a final show of support to the most active Shanghai bands of the year. Think what you may of the music or styles, these are the bands who have advanced the scene this year through the fueling of a new label. 

The Worst Band Names / Happy Holidays

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av club article
Well, we had the Banana Monkey reunion show and tonight we have the Keep Loud Festa and the Miniless Showcase. Unfortunately the whole weekend is a write off for me as the time of winter and holidays is also often the time of flu and illnesses. For those who know Evans, she's doing fine now and is at home resting. The blog will be back in action next Saturday for the Jiao Ban Two night at YYT. If anyone goes to any of the above shows this weekend, do send me a mini review or photos by mail.

Here's a couple of photos from last night's gig courtesy of Schokora's 56minus1 blog.

So, here's my pick on the net for the holidays. When I first read this feature last year at the A.V. Club website I was crying tears of laughter at some of the band names. Here's the intro to the feature from the site:

Each year, The A.V. Club receives hundreds of albums, thousands of press releases, and several thousand more show listings for hundreds of venues around the country. At any given moment, our editors are besieged by information on bands, most of whom we've never heard of. Sifting through all that info, we inevitably encounter questionable band names. Actually, you could argue any moniker is questionable, but we keep an ongoing list of the worst and funniest ones we see. Then, come December, we whittle them down for our annual Worst Band Names feature. This list isn't a compendium of the worst names of all time--or a statement on the quality of their music--just the ones we encountered this year.
Put your favorite one in the comments (remember, you don't have to register just select anonymous) ... now read it! The Worst Band Names Of 2008.

Happy Holidays!
banana monkey bono
Well, the event gigs and big shows just don't stop coming lately.

This Friday at Yuyintang sees the return of Banana Monkey and their event brand Five Dollar Shakes. This one is Frankenstein and I'm always banging on about Wolfman at the old YYT to anyone who will listen. It was a truly great underground show and Banana Monkey rocked. So, first of all, why not check out the band's music directly:

BM at Neocha
BM at Myspace

So what's the big deal here? Here's my take. BM are a tight professional act and the Shanghai scene is so small that adding just one tight band makes proportionally big waves. And here's the downside. Sonnet, who also recently reformed and play on Friday, were slack at their comeback. For want of a better expression, they lacked match fitness. I hope that BM have matched the hype with a truck load of practice. 

Morgan of Boys Climbing Ropes wrote about this over at SmartShanghai. Couldn't locate the direct page but here's a lengthy quote:

Local garage rock supastahs Banana Monkey are back together after an uncertain future, an album on hold, a photo shoot with Vogue, a drummer change, and a management change, taking the stage at Yuyintang December 19 for their first show in several long months. 
If you're new to the city, for the last few years Banana Monkey have been Shanghai's success story in waiting, and were the only band in town able to bring it all -- they had the look, attitude, snappy dressing, sound, songs, technical ability, and could easily blow any band off the stage with their live performances. Detractors would complain that their influences were all too apparent (*cough* The Strokes *cough* *cough*), but no one could argue that for what Banana Monkey were doing, nobody could do it better.

And on a final annoying inside joke note, come back or no come back, Shanghai's hope or no hope, if it goes off I'm throwing down with Brad. 

Youtube: Pinkberry "Run Away" MV

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Shanghai pop-punk band Pinkberry have rounded off an amazing fast rise on the scene by winning a place at the national finals of the Yamaha Best Band competition. They just got back from Beijing where, among other things, Toni Yu Zhuoran won best guitarist. You can catch them supporting legendary punk rockers The Queers at YYT on Jan 3rd.

Their first demo track Runaway showcases both their knack for a catchy, energetic tune and also Xiao You's strong vocals. As I blogged here, we recently shot a video to go with the demo MP3. I originally wrote a little bit about the sharpness and look of the video but after Youtube have encoded it, it looks like someone added a blur effect anyway so what's the point. If anyone can give me tips/Youtube hacks on how to avoid that they're very welcome.

So here it is, Pinkberry as moody too cool for school students in the iconic (if you live here) blue tracksuits with a scene in Shanghai's own Yuyintang too:

Youtube: Mo Xie live @ Yuyintang

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This was a packed weekend in which I saw a whole range of performances. This included the latest 0093 showcase, Beijing folk singer Mimi Liang, Boys Climbing Ropes' best show ever and Hedgehog, one of the best live acts in the country. So, without further ado, I bring you an obscure death metal band from Suzhou. They are very good and student metal fans here knew them enough to make a trip away from the university neighbourhood and pay entrance to see them (an extremely big deal on average student budgets). Mo Xie have great arangements, stick with the track. Death to false metal.

Also. At the risk of making my wife think she's in a sham marriage, will the guy I met at the Hedgehog show who knew me from the blog and was about to video the show please get in touch via e-mail or the comments. thanks. Due to the loud rock band playing, I only caught 50% of all conversations I had.



Hedgehog live @ Yuyintang (Dec 2008)

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hedgehog flyerI made it to the third show in two days. Also, this is Hedgehog and it was a packed show. I made the decision to enjoy this one to the max so no photos, sorry. Or videos. Just to round off this preface, monopod guy was absent and photographers don't get much of a look in when you have over 300 people in YYT.

Amazing turn out as usual at STD promotions. Hedgehog's last visits were packed out mosh fests and they are a genuinely good live act. The only annoyance was that STD DJs decided to play Dance music before and in between the bands. Err ... don't, thanks. I for one come to YYT to watch rock because I am consciously avoiding that sort of music. After the bands is fine, I can go home.

Both tonight's bands have good pages with several quality tracks for listening to:

Boys Climbing Ropes

BCR came on to a packed room and did not dissapoint. Great sound and for once you could clearly hear both the singers. Little Punk now has a distinct stage persona and all the songs went off great including the new material. It was great to hear a band with an original sound playing intelligent music with a soul in Jordan's lyrics. Especially after almost an hour of techno over the speakers while we were waiting. In what was to be a pattern for the night, though, they didn't play my fave track Dirty Bots. Hedgehog didn't play Wink either, you see. 

Hedgehog have evolved a lot since they last came. They have a lot of material and are very self-aware. They knew exactly which tracks were the favourites and seemed to have planned their set carefully to build and build as the night went on. Toy61 Festival sent the room into action and it remained that way for the rest of the set.  It's becoming a cliche to say this now ... but ... the drummer, Atom, is surely one of the best around. She is both imaginative and in perfect control of the dynamics. That fact that she looks like a elementary school student (she really can't be anything over 4'10") still elicits a ton of superlatives from newcomers to the band.

So many interesting people down tonight I have no idea who to mention. Frank Fen of Mortal Fools was down plugging this show like crazy. Sean Leow of Neocha was there as was fellow Web 2.0 guru George Godula. Brad Ferguson was down with Hard Queen drummer Da Men (Shanghai's own female drum powerhouse). It was Super Sophia Wang and Jake Newby's birthdays, so, yeah ..happy birthday again. Actually, it must be said that over the three shows this weekend I met a lot of people from distinctly different groups and heard quite a few not-for-the-blog stories - so you'll all have to say hi in person next time to hear them. 

flyer winterBusy day today. I just got back from an afternoon show and then it's Hedgehog later on back at the same venue. Including last night, by midnight, I'll have seen nine bands in 24 hours. Just like my own private festival.

Today was a special treat. I hadn't really looked into the show much. It was during the day, Candy Shop were headlining and the other bands' names sounded like metal bands. I got there and was suprised to see a good hundred or so people inside of which I was completely alone in two categories (everyone else being Chinese and under the age of 22). Well, if you don't include the staff.

So, the university scene metal fans were down for the day. I must say, they were hardcore and made the regular scene feel full of party obsessed posers by comparison. I met some people from Douban, took a while to sort out IDs mind you as most people on Douban use aliases, cartoon avatars and have no indication of their real details on their profiles. I was pretty easy to spot though so it worked out just fine. Cool to meet 'Challe', 'Datou Junjun' and the guys from Fearless (who share my appreciation of early Sepultura).

The bands:

Mo Xie (Suzhou)
Hai Gu Si
Jing Jiao Ji Du
Tianping Dian (Candy Shop)

Only Candy shop have a page and they were musically the odd one out on the bill.

So, the first four bands were relentlessly hard death metal bands whose super tight songs were peppered with gothic keyboard riffs that mimicked church organs and some haunting half-time riffing. The ultra fans soon made a front row headbanging zone and even whipped off their shirts to do so. Guitars were shredding and the singers all used the gargling/screaming style very well. I don't want to paint too broad a male metal sterotype here, it must be mentioned that a good half the people here were female and just as into it. Challe's Douban pics are of her made up as a corpse. 

The metal highlights were, firstly, the entirety of Suzhou band Mo Xie's set and then when Fearless ripped through an amazing cover of Iron Maiden's The Trooper (made my weekend). Tianping Dian have gotten really good. They were last and completely different to the other bands so they lost about half the crowd before they'd even taken the stage. This didn't bother them at all. They ripped through their now well known surefire hits and got the remaining people jumping away. Saw a couple of other foreigners (2) wander in for the Candy Shop set and all who were there got treated to a new track. Melody and MC YKE showed how far they'd developed their act/talent. The first half of the new song was a half rapped half sung battle between the two, intermittently changing roles. Neither of them missed a syllable. Everyone loved it. Great day.  Death to false metal.

0093 female singers night @ Yuyintang

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chen gong
Saw some good news floating around right before I set off for Yuyintang tonight. I previously wrote about how the peak month of November was not going to drop off and that every weekend of December was loaded too. Well that schedule gets rounded out now with the announcement of a second Jiao Ban night on the 27th. This also answers my question regarding whether the Indietop bands were going to continue playing small impromptu shows.

So, tonight was the next in a now long line of 0093 parties. Tonight had a theme of female singers. Wang Tian Tian and Jiang Shaoqing were both there manning a merchandise table. The line up:

Sui Guang Pan
Mimi Liang (Beijing)

I got there not so long after the doors opened, but just in time for the start of Moongazer's first song. Good turnout of younger locals, a lot of students supporting Bang Bang Tang especially. Moongazer played a shortish set of four songs and were well received. After a brief glance around I saw that a large portion of the crowd were made up of band members. Too many to go through here. The 90's generation rock people are becoming a regular presence at YYT now. Having made contact at Indietop, Lisa Movius decided to come along tonight and eventually got Shanghai-ed by the 90's people (her crowd).

Moongazer are settled now and the next step is to work towards a longer set. I'm all for that as I'm a big fan of gothic metal with modern influences. Bang Bang Tang were next and they played their usual selection of tracks. The night was quite low key and the band were solid but not really putting their foot on the gas, so to speak. Mimi Liang is a solo folk artist. She played a set by herself with an acoustic guitar. As with a few of these acts I've seen lately, great voice but seemingly no sense of the guitar being horribly out of tune. I have a feeling that they're not bringing their own and the stand in guitars are junk.

A final note about the Hedgehog show tomorrow. Tonight was definitely a last minute statement of intent from arch-nemesis monopod guy. Tonight he brought a full tripod and had it set up dead centre for all of Moongazer and Bang Bang Tang. He also kind of walked around it while taking stills. I was headed off at the pass by Zhang Haisheng who told me he'd have a word for sure. So I'm not sure how it's going to go tomorrow. I leave you with a photo showing how he single handedly turned the front row into a front semi-circle around himself.

monopod guy in action

Youtube channel top views for December

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It's that time of the month again where I round up the blog's Youtube channel. So, for all those who just check the featured posts and have not surfed the back catalogue, I now have 63 videos there to look at. 

Now, the top six has been a little bit skewed because of this: douchebag scandal and video. In the name of science it's safe to discard it as it's clearly not one of the band's live vids. However, the Sunday Morning video does give us some more interesting insights into the world of blogs and Shanghai. 

Youtube views count only individual IPs and thus give us a direct figure on how many different people watched it. So, the Douchegate scandal was a big blog story here and then my video on it got featured posts on Shanghaiist and I Love China. We must be wary of the link at Danwei as it was a small link added to the main post when the article had long been buried on the page. Moving on, all that attention and posting translated into around 1 500 views. So there you have it.

And now - the current top six at my channel:

1) The Rogue Transmission live @ Dream Factory: 302 views watch
2) Bang Bang Tang (Lollipop): 222 views watch
3) Boys Climbing Ropes live @ Dream Factory: 220 views watch
4) Self Party live @ Yuyintang: 218 views watch
5) Hard Queen live @ Yuyintang: 182 views watch
6) Crazy Mushroom Brigade live @ Yuyintang: 168 views watch

Self Party are still holding out for post-rock and experimental while the Mushrooms bump Modern Cheese out for the first time. Watch the Mushroom's vid and sigh - the altered line up I saw at the Indietop showcase has a long way to go in recapturing the level you see in the vid. 

Youtube: Chaos Mind live @ Yuyintang

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Including Indietop on Friday, there was the possibility for me to catch twelve different bands this weekend just gone. I got a few videos and uploaded just a couple. The blog has put a lot of attention on certain types of band lately. Don't forget, it just reflects what I'm doing and there's no editorial choice involved. But, saying that: I thought I'd mix things up a bit by showing one of the 'heavier' moments from the weekend.

So, without further ado, here is Shanghai's Chaos Mind playing their epic lead out track Amanda. Stay with the video as it purposefully starts out low lights with the singer facing away from the audience and then builds up to the end. 

Pinkberry shoot wrapped

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pinkberry shoot
I have lately been working with Gemnil from Yuyintang and the band Pinkberry to produce a music video. It's a zero budget type thing shot over two two-hour shoots but we wrapped today and I must say the results are quite good.

We had a lot fun with it, shooting a classroom scene and then a 'live' scene at YYT (where we also bumped into singer Wang Xiaokun and promoter Abe Deyo). Gemnil released some of her photos today so I thought I'd throw a couple on the blog. Special note to Micah, we shot the class scene in Zhangjiang Gaoke then ate lunch in the mini mall next to the station. Oh yes, that mall is one happening place at 11.30 on a Sunday morning.

pink two

pink eight

pink one

It's a Wee Ling

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I met Shanghaiist blogger Wee Ling Soh at Indietop One on Saturday and there was one thing on my mind from the get go. Wee Ling posted some event photos there a while back and everyone's eyes were closed. I was told it was a "Wee Ling thing" and thought it very cool. So now I'm proud to present, just for fun ... from the Indietop show on Saturday night ... Andy Best (hood) and Jake Newby (blue) by Wee Ling Soh:

by Wee Ling

Indie Top One showcase at Dream Factory

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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:

Zhong Chi 钟茌
Momo MOMO乐团
Little Nature 小自然 
Sonnet 十四行诗
Wang Xiaokun 王啸坤

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? 

Metal Night @ Yuyintang (December 4th)

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andy in beanie
Hardcore metal band Corrupt Absolute were in town tonight which meant it was time for a metal night. I'm not sure why but metal nights generally go down at Live Bar. Tonight it was Yuyintang's turn. 

Just want to start by saying that's a photo of me and Yuyintang founder Zhang Hai Sheng holding the new SH Mag. The light makes it look like we both have black eyes but we weren't slugging it out earlier. 

So, aside from Corrupt Absolute, the rest of the line up was as follows:

Wu Jiao Xing (Five Pointed Star)

Great turnout for a Thursday and loads of metal people in the house. Great to see Yuyintang's high turnouts just keep going and going. My wife had arranged to say hi to Levi Wang from Mortal Fools and we ended up bumping into a bunch of people including members of Rogue Transmission, Pinkberry and the MOFOs themselves. Without delay, Wu Jiao Xing took the stage and got going.

Wu Jiao Xing are a nu-metal band who rap their way through the verses and grind their way through the choruses. When I last saw them a few months back, they had their one famous song that got everyone going and the rest seemed to be just average. This time they had several standout tracks with good arrangements and hooks. The crowd of metal fans were up for it but as the first of four bands their sound wasn't quite up to the challenge. These guys have improved a lot and you can check out the video on the channel.

There was a bizarre moment in the break. I was hanging out near the door and was vaguely aware of some kind of commotion outside. Next thing I know there's the sound of a bottle smashing against the door and I look round to see the girl doing tickets holding the door shut. It turns out there was, and i'm serious about this and not mocking, a homeless schizophrenic guy out front in the middle of an episode. Anyway, at the height of it all he broke the bottle against the doors then hit the doors again, but with a running headbutt and then tried chewing some of the glass. The sad thing is there's no official help available.

Distraction over and Chaos Mind took the stage and played a crowd pleasing set of their own brand of metal. They kept it short but finished on their popular track "Amanda" which I got footage of too. That's a good quality vid from closer in than usual, watch it all the way as it has a protracted intro with darkness and other such stuff. Next up was Loudspeaker who have been around for years and used to be skate-punk. I was a bit perplexed at their inclusion in the metal bill but everyone I asked assured me that their newer material was more hardcore. It was. After a couple of solid openers they riped into the signature track "Loudspeaker" and the audience got to moshing. 

Interesting end note. I saw the Rock SH people coming in, including monopod guy. After getting a positive ID on Douban I left a message about the relentless view blocking. After a ... err ... heated exchange about the Subs show he stayed completely to the sides this time. Could be coincidence though. 

Magazines: Rock Dolls in Shanghai

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rock dolls
I previously blogged about a feature I was helping Jake Newby with for SH magazine. Read the original posts here and here. The article is not online just yet so links are going to be added in later.

So the magazine is out, along with the news that the magazine only has one more issue after this before folding. That's shame as Jake was really fighting the good fight there and putting in a bunch of music writing and other good stuff that appealed to people who don't live in gated communities in Jin Qiao.

So the article asks six female artists in the music scene about their experiences. They are:

Melody Li from Tianping Dian (Candy Shop)
Xiao You from Pinkberry
Ding Jia from Momo
Xiao Bai from Bang Bang Tang
Vivian Chiang from Moongazer
Jia Die from Torturing Nurse

There's a bunch of insightful and intelligent stuff in the feature but I'll quote Vivian who seems to have a similar life experience to me:

"A lot of my friends don't even know where Yuyintang is," says Chiang, "but I practically live there!"

At the back of the magazine is a First Person interview with Jiang Shaoqing, the co-founder of 0093 rehearsal studios. After wailing on bands for leaving his studio a mess and for being mediocre he leaves us with this nugget:

To me, Rock'n'roll means being independent. And being independent means setting one's spirit free.

old thats cover
It's around this time that I get a hold of the latest monthly ex-pat rags and check for any music news. I previously wrote about how That's had a well developed music section that included Lisa Movius' long running Rockpile column and then several supporting features and new writers. I then got a little concerned when a refit and redesign seemed to back on this and dropped the Rockpile column in favour of individual features. I got a bigger surprise this week.

So, this month it was all gone. No Rockpile column and nothing by Lisa in there at all, and nothing to replace the missing column inches. Not only that - I went to the also refitted online version of the mag and found that searches for 'Rockpile', 'Rock Pile" and 'Movius' return no results at all. To be fair, the old That's site is archived via a link at the bottom of their new page, but does this mean the regular column is really gone for good?

How much of an effect the English language mags actually have on the scene is another point for debate but we can also add to this the now public news that SH Magazine will close it's doors in two issues time. That leaves only City Weekend who make any kind of regular nod to the indie/underground scene and that's down to Abe Deyo and Dan Shapiro's personal efforts.

Talking of City Weekend, did anyone catch this blog post?

It caught my attention by opening with the following broadside that could only be talking about 3 or 4 people, two of which are his colleagues at CW, and another which is me:

OK you're a pseudojourno writing about Shanghai's underground (in quotes dripping with cynicism) scene

Then it kind of meanders through several 'types' simultaneously attacking and defending them before ending with a plug for a show at The Shelter. I had to read it six times to try and understand exactly what the through-line/point was. I still don't know. Anyone care to hazard a guess in the comments? Does anyone have inside knowledge as to what the post is referring to?

RockSH videos: Pinkberry and The Subs

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These videos are hosted by a smaller streaming site here in China called "". I'm wary to embed them because the smaller vid upload sites tend to get shut down fairly often for a variety of reasons. So, watch them while you can.

So, anyway. RockSH have posted up two longer videos. Each one is an interview (all in Mandarin). Don't despair if you can't speak Chinese though, there is an insert panel playing clips from the live shows all the way through. Hmmn, another thought: are RockSH's video team and monopod guy one and the same? Judging from the Subs footage (From Dream Factory this weekend) it's him.That could be painful in the future.


The Subs:

xiao youRegular readers may have noticed that when I link reviews and articles by other English language writers that it's the same small group of people. That'll be because there's only a small group of writers covering it in English. You may also notice that I am supportive and diplomatic in the main. Sometimes, though, another writer will just say what they think and it happens to sum up what I was thinking too. Then I can quote them and they get all the blame if someone objects. Yes!

Jake Newby was at the Subs show with me and threw out some observations in his SH Magazine blog. He starts by mentioning Sub's singer Kang mao's hilarious opening line, referring to the other Beijing act in town that night (indie pop act Milk @ Coffee):

"We're the beer band," joked Kang Mao as she took the stage at Zhijiang Dream Factory.

But it's his observations of the support acts that really hit the mark: 

Before them, The Molds had disappointed with their Lou Reed-like post-rock and out of tune, echo-laden vocals. Having delayed the start of the gig due to an hour and 45 minute soundcheck, they were completely upstaged and made to look amateurish by opening act Pinkberry. "All four of us have got colds today," declared Pinkberry lead singer Xiao You, but it didn't seem to affect their performance. It's not often the crowd demand an encore from an opening act, but Pinkberry are no ordinary band.

Jake also lays down a tip that might see this blog do it's first report from Live Bar. Upcoming act Tianping Dian (Candy Shop) are headlining there on Sat 6th which gives me an alternative to Hua Lun who are post-rock. Laziness may well win out so don't despair, shoegazers.

Finally. Yuyintang have just announced a 'Winter Madness' all day show on the same day that Hedgehog play in the evening. So, on the 13th there'll be a bunch of bands playing from 1.30 in the afternoon (including Candy Shop) and then the Hedgehog show in the evening. Football in the park behind anyone? Jumpers for goalposts?

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