June 2009 Archives

Zhong Chi's web release Homeless

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Following hot on the heels of her entire first album, Zhong Chi has now web-released her new single through Douban and Street Voice.

You can hear it here:

It's about the plight of Polar Bears, which brings me onto why I like Zhong Chi. Zhong Chi's music is very much produced (by Soma's Lao Yao) and mainly electronic/ambient. I'm not into that at all. I'd go for Boys Climbing Ropes' Polar Bears. However, she sings about the plight of animals and the environment. Something people seem to be very much in denial about. 

There was even a recent seminar type thing, attended by all kinds of intelligent people who perceive themselves as liberal or caring, talking about how we can save the environment through the power of consumerism; a stark and brutal ideology where by the earth and its life are the playthings of the human elite. 

Just as I imagine many people appalled by animal cruelty are raving about the steak at 'M' is their next conversation. We may be mainly trapped in a global system where we can only struggle to make tiny choices. But embracing the destruction isn't going to help.

So there you have it. Listening to Zhong Chi makes you think a bit. And there's no harm in that.

Miniless showcase @ Yuyintang

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Miniless 2009 showcase flyer
Update: oopps. Loud music and shouting in each other's ears. The band with the Beijing mishaps was in fact 8 Eye Spy not Muscle Snog. Same end result.

So, the Miniless Showcase. Before I get into this lets have the intro and the band. Han Han is an unassuming guy from Hefei City in Anhui province. Without ever having been in touch with a 'developed' music scene or been in live contact with any bands from said scenes, he has single handedly put together a DIY label of amazing experimental bands as well as fronting the flagship act, Lava Ox Sea.

The line up:

Self Party

And still before we get to the show. Han Han has been excited lately by the release of two CDs which he says are 'high quality' releases. Well, I have both those CDs. One is Fading Horizon and the other is the new one from Lava Ox Sea. And yes, both of them are high quality and fucking amazing listens. 

The LOS CD was recorded up in Nanjing and produced by Yang Haisong. It has been skillfully put together and mastered with the highest quality. I just can't stop listening to Vertigo right now. I'm listening to it as I write this, in fact. 

So, the show was ... why? ... an STD co-production. I expected it to be bursting but it wasn't. It was still a full YYT, just not sardined like the recent run of shows. I arrived in time to catch Boojii's set, which was short and tempered by some sound hitches at the start. I can't wait to get my hands on their new CD, but tonight wasn't a Boojii night. Not their fault, average sound in general let the night down a bit. Also, I missed the opening set by Duck Fight Goose, a kind of Miniless super-group. You'll have to check out Jake Newby for that, he tells me they were excellent.

The first full set I got to see was from Fading Horizon. They took a couple of songs to get going but things took off from Twice. FH are quite conventional for a China experimental act and at times the pumping bass and mid-range clanging guitars remind me of eighties indie bands. They must be aware of this though, and they decided to finish the set with a massive long repetitive instrumental complete with drum sticks bashing guitars and their female back up singer screaming away.  

Lava Ox Sea came on last. Han Han emerged with a paper bag over his head and his glasses on the outside. He led into the set with a gradually building echo drenched riff and I thought this as really going to kick off. Alas, the sound was just too muddy. The vocals were barely audible at times and the instruments had no separation too. Usually I don't mind or even notice but after you hear how unbelievable the CD is and the sheer quality of the tracks and sounds, anything less is a bit dissapointing. LOS have set high standards for themselves now.

On a final note, the Muscle Snog CD is not out yet and has suffered a further delay. Not going to tell the full story, sorry, but their Beijing adventure has come to a sour and abrupt end. Look for that to be salvaged on Miniless. Then by that time you'll have FH, LOS Boojii and Muscle Snog CDs on your shelf and Han Han will have brought indisputable ruling quality to the Shanghai scene. 

Monroe Stahr CD release live @ Yuyintang

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monroe cd rel party
Michael Jackson. Well. There seems to be two camps on this, if my Facebook is anything to go by. People dragging up all the jokes and people who are sad about it. I'm not a pop fan and don't have much to say.

Walked into YYT ... playing MJ's music. Realised that I find a large part of it intolerable. It's tough when you peak at age 11 though and the rest of your career is based on gimmicky videos and concepts ... to be fair.

So. Tonight was newish band Monroe Stahr's CD release gig. And supporting them was Dragon Pizza. Dragon Pizza got on the stage promptly and ripped into their usual manic set of metalcore. They are excellent performers and great musicians. The music goes even beyond the usual metalcore mix. You have melodic punk choruses, thrashy screamed breakdowns, ska sections and even punchy slap-bass with chanting and disco rock beats. All in the breadth of one song. They were good here but the sound wasn't quite up to the last show I saw.

Then up came Monroe Stahr with their catchy blend of rock and acoustic folk. The band have played a lot of shows recently and the first thing I noticed was that their act has developed a lot in that time. The first half went through the best tracks on the CD with the regular line up. Then singer Nicky Almasy dropped his guitar and they played some different tracks that got the audience dancing in a different way. Bassist Andres took off his shirt to reveal We Love You Michael written on his chest and the band played, among other things, a new reggae version of one of their songs with balls-out ragga vocal from guitarist Nathan Denny.

People who turned up for this show had a great time. Yuyintang have also made some changes in the past week. There is now a large central aircon unit in the middle of the ceiling in the main room. This came in response to complaints from last weekend's Joyside show. There are some new wall fans for ventilation too. It all works.

Jake Newby interviews Miniless Records

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los Not so long ago in a galaxy not very far away, I linked some of LOS's stuff on Neocha and mentioned the upcoming Miniless showcase at Yuyintang.

With the gig almost upon us, Jake Newby has done an amazing interview with label founder Han Han over at Shanghaiist.

The interview is long and in-depth and provides an excellent insight into a more DIY philosophy. The interview and the show are the perfect antidote to all that horrible ideology and jargon being thrown around at certain recent conferences (and cropping up mercilessly in my Facebook feeds).

And here's an excerpt:

There seems to be quite a commitment to the music and the artist side of things - is that more important than being a successful business?

Actually in today's society or music industry, the power of promotion are far beyond music itself, and I think every people with a healthy-normal brain should understand that. But, well, maybe we all had a failed-brain so we think, at least at this period of miniless, we'll focus more on music. And if the music could inspire the others and ourselves, that's a successful business to us.

Hell United in Shanghai

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hellu old flyer
Sometimes I blog about metal shows. There are a few metal bands in town but they are not a coherent group and cover many styles. However, the Hell United collective want to change all that.

Let me paraphrase from the Chinese language home page (thanks David).

Hell United is the union of three metal bands based in Shanghai / Southern China:

Their aim is to form a powerful union of metal bands and attract more fans and artists alike. Hell United have had two successful shows already, in Shanghai and Hangzhou. This led to their opportunity to open for Suidakra at Dream Factory. A third show will take place in Suzhou soon. The ultimate goal of Hell United is to be able to stage China's first true metal festival.

Here's an amazing gallery of their Hangzhou show.
Here's the flyer for the upcoming Suzhou Show.

I for one would love to see a fledgling metal festival held in Shanghai, even a smaller one featuring the Shanghai bands. This kind of commitment to a genre and culture you love is exactly what we need. So for all of you metal fans out there, here's something to sink your teeth into. 

Douban: Brain Failure

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brain failure cover
Regular readers will probably notice the drop out in posting lately. There's many reasons, but fear not ... i'm doing my best :(

Here's some good news for fans of Rancid style punk and ska. If you click into Beijing scene band Brain Failure's Douban page they have six quality tracks there now. And they all rock.

Also, if you click on the albums under the MP3 player, you'll see a lot of those are availble to listen to online.

For overseas (not in China) readers, you might be pleasantly surprised to find their excellent stuff on Amazon, including a joint CD with Boston's Big D and the Kid's Table.

Ah, memories. In front of me ... a picture's worth a thousand words and i've got three, wait a minute, err ... fucking Big D! Thanks Trisha, wherever you are (Boston) for sending me their demo back in college and changing my life. 

Pinkberry video shoot photos

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Pinkberry have been recording music and making videos up at Soma recently. And when I was checking out some of the photos on Douban I spotted Shanghaiist music writer Jake Newby. That's him in the blue T-shirt.

Actually that sounds a bit different to the reality. I knew Jake was going to be there, in fact we were going to go together but I had la duzi. I didn't know the idea was to be actually in the video though. So ... anyway ... Pinkberry are not really on Soma's label so what's up with all this free studio time and development? Sonnet drummer and Soma employee Lezi tells me that he will start his own label to promote Sonnet, Pinkberry and 21G. It's all early days now but the resources are there for him to use.


Fearless live @ Yuyintang

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fearless maomao
Thursday night at YYT was Metal Night this week. It's not a regular thing, that was the name of the show. I went to see Fearless. Here was the full line up:

Chaos Mind
Death River

From those bands, Chaos Mind are the most experienced and have a quality page up:

I arrived to catch the tail end of a last minute addition band. I know, adding bands to the bill at the last minute in Shanghai gigs ... surely not. Never the less, they were solid thrash metal and I was pleasantly surprised to see a good turn out of the metal faithful. Next up were Orange, who turned out to be a one-off Oasis cover band formed just for the gig cos it's was Dan Dan's (YYT staff) birthday. 

So. Finally the show got going proper. Fearless took the stage and singer/guitar virtuoso Mao Mao (Evilmao on Douban) led us off into an amazing set of fast, hard melodic death metal. There was an impressive first row of hardcore head bangers and when Fearless went into their barnstorming cover of Iron Maiden's The Trooper a proper metal slam and mosh broke out. Great sound, great gig. Fearless are much tighter than the last time I saw them and they are well loved by the metal crowd here. 

Alas, I had to leave after their set and couldn't stick around for heavyweights Chaos Mind and Death River.

Full disclosure: I spent ages 13-19 as a full blown metalhead with long hair and everything. I've seen Slayer live more than once. I'm a long term follower of the Yangpu university district metal scene. Death to false metal!

Zhong Chi's entire first album online

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zhong chi easyworldBefore Soma started their Indietop label and got into venue management they had Zhong Chi.

Sarah Zhong Chi is a protege of Soma head honcho Lao Yao and months before signing the new bands he wrote and produced her debut album Easyworld. Of course, they then were faced with the fact of there being no industry for the album to go into.

It is pop music that is inspired by ambient and trip-hop sounds with lyrics that focus on the environment. It's quite good, especially the title track. And now, it's available in its entirety on her Douban page - for listening, not downloading.

Check it out

Since forming Indietop, Soma have been promoting Zhong Chi again. When doing shows, she is backed by the rock trio Triple Smash. This band feature ex-Mushrooms guitarist Li Xing (Jerry Li) and David Chiang of Six Shot. This is a bit of a strange reversal for Soma as Lao Yao has taken most of their acts in a more commercial direction.

Bill Hicks vs Shanghai's The Factory

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Update: A lot of people get turned right off by the pop-vox style or 'quote' approach. So here's David Cox writing for the Guardian about the movie 'Somers Town'

Recently Dan Shapiro reported on The Factory project that recently opened in Hongkou's 1933 development. Dan knows what's what and this post is in no way attacking his post per se. Dan's blog has been ruling lately. Ha. 

The Factory aim to sign and develop bands strictly for use in the ad industry:

"The main idea is basically this whole factory is being underwritten by [local advertising agency] Profero. It's all about content, content, content," explains Sean Dinsmore, The Factory's Creative Director. "Looking at it from this angle it makes it a lot more manageable. Looking at it [ just] from a music label point, it's fiscal suicide.

"It's totally transparent for musicians," says local singer / guitarist Dave Zhao, whose interest was piqued by The Factory's unique approach. "They can record the songs here and then bring the songs to the advertising company to see if they're interested in them."

That's right.

I'm sure most of my readers are familiar with Bill Hicks. Maybe not. He was an American comedian who was tragicaly struck down by cancer at just 32 years old. Anyway, Bill was big on music, especially rock and independent music. He paraphrased this many ways during his shows but we can get the basic gist here:

Rock stars doing Pepsi commercials? Are we living in Reagan's wet dream? Let me say this, just once so we can set it in stone. Anyone who advertises a product on TV should be struck off the artistic register for ever. I don't care if you are shitting Mona Lisa's in your sleep, you have made your fucking choice. You are sucking satan's cock. You can't be trusted anymore.

If there is no existing structure, industry or community for music in your city. Build one. People are doing it. Accept that there's no chance to 'make big money' from it at this time and just make your music.

Just stay away from that big scaly member.


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Hi all, quick note to say that my blog server has been down lately hence the lack of posts. They made a back up so the site could be viewed but I have been unable to write to the database (ie make new posts) for a bit. This was due to power outages and maintenance. 

So, I'll try to be bothered to go back over the seven posts I would have done, had I been able to get in. I may well fail and just continue from this weekend. Let's have a try. 

Here's the other video I took at the Dream Factory show on Friday. I'd like to say it's some kind of a look at the new lights and sound there since Soma took over the venue. But I don't really think my little Sony DSC stills camera is a good judge of that. Saying that ... here it is.

Soma managed girl group Momo have come a long way. From underground garage rock stylists to slick indie-pop performers. It doesn't seem like yesterday that I first saw them at one of Banana Monkey's five dollar shake parties at the old YYT in Long Hua. They are still around should have a debut album out any day now.

This one is for the cutesy fans. 

ding jia somalive
It's been a month or so since all this controversy and for the first time since taking over, Soma put on a show at Dream factory that featured all local bands. So I went to check it out first hand.

The show was a Douban promoted singles event, odd, and here was the line up:

Before I go through some stuff - this was essentially a good show. So do read on.

As well as the singles night promotion, there were sheets of construction card handed out from which you could make a little model robot/monster thing. More misplaced weirdness. The turn out was a reasonable YYT show but a two-thirds empty Dream Factory. After a year of managing these bands you'd think Soma would build on their fan base and appeal but apparently it's 'marketing by numbers' all the way. Another fatal mistake was opening the doors at nine and then not starting until ten - with the promotion. First band was on at 10.30 for an all local crowd (except me, Jake Newby and my mate Steve). There was no way we'd get to the end with even half the people still around.

One more thing before we get onto the show. I hadn't seen Pinkberry for a while and we hung out before the show got going (while Sonnet's Lezi hosted the promotion bit along with people in panda suits). So ... remember the Pepsi Incident? That's getting stirred up again. After PB guitarist Toni Yu joined in the angry denouncing of the Pepsi sponsored TV show, the band decided to stay on and compete - they only ones to do so. And ... being the only true experienced band left in the running, went on to win the whole thing. Douban netizens are crying conspiracy. Anyway, you can see the whole thing on TV tonight if you're interested. On STV's E-music show at 9.30.

candyshop somalive
So, on to the show. Momo took the stage first. Since joining Indietop they have gone more cutesy but put on a tight professional show. First thing, yes, the sound was a massive improvement. Still had problems, if you stand right at the front of the stage, like first two or three rows of people, you get behind the PA and the vocals/drums disappear leaving you with the roaring guitar amp only. We'd heard rumours of Soma asking the Momo girls to lose weight and do the idol thing and singer Ding Jia did in fact appear wearing a lightweight tank top and shorn of a few pounds. You can't really tell from Jake's photo at the top of the post as it adds lines cos of the lighting etc. 

Anyway, a great surprise was to come. At the end of the layered indie-pop set, Dingjia ditched her acoustic guitar and the band played two of their older songs, garage rock style - with the new tight playing and great sound quality. The band were visibly uplifted and we got a glimpse of what could be if the management went with the band and not the brand. So to speak. 

Next up, Da Fresh played well and their musically layered songs benefited from the sound quality. It was however, ballad after ballad, kind of jangly brit-pop meets boy band. A bit much for me. Also. With 11.00 having rolled around already for this younger local crowd, the room was visibly thinning out already. Little Nature got on next. When they first appeared at Yuyintang they were a standout act. An energetic pop-punk three piece with catchy songs and punchy, tight playing. They still haven't quite got it back since adding a member and going through a Soma makeover. Also, strangely enough, I think even the Soma staff had gone home or switched off at this point as the sound quality started to disappear.

So, the advertised event finish time rolled around ... and it was time for the last two bands, the  one's I had come to see. Candy Shop took the stage to a sparse looking hall, but that never stops them giving 100%. They launched into the first song but were bemused to find the sound so out that half the elements couldn't be heard at all, to us or the band. The second song was all about the sound guys waking up and trying to sort it out and then by the third it was on with the show. The bands front people are excellent. Melody Li, apparently trying to appeal to the Soma male management with her own weight loss, and MC YKE  are full of energy and charisma. Standout songs 4TT, Wo Men and Wo Shi Chaoliu had most of the remaining crowd jumping and excited for the first time that night.

And then there was Pinkberry. Pinkberry were professional, the sound rocked, the songs were all dead on. They had the new bassist (who also plays guitar in Sonnet). Toni rocked the punk rock riffs with his Les Paul and Marshall stack combo. Xiao You strutted around the stage with energy and confidence. But, it was 12.30 at a Douban 'promoted' event and there were really just 30 of us left in the deserted hall. Pity, it was a classic Pinkberry performance.

Lava/Ox/Sea on Neocha and more

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With the Miniless showcase coming up this month it's time to check out some the bands. Lava/Ox/Sea have just uploaded a new track to their Neocha page called Catty Cat and it rules.

Also playing that show are Shanghai's Boojii who have just been up in Beijing recording for Modern Sky. Was speaking to Brad Ferguson lately, he was up there for the sessions. Advance word is that the tracks are going to be great.

Meanwhile, over at CW, Dan Shapiro writes about ex-pat/mixed/foreign legion acts on the scene. Actually there a lot of overspill going on between the two worlds lately. I don't mean foreign vs Chinese either. Let's clear something up for people who are not really immersed, so to speak. 

A band like Rogue Transmission have all foreign members but they formed here, play true rock venues, practice at 0093 and make original rock music. They are a Shanghai band and part of the local scene 100%. The true dividing lines are between cover acts/light music playing bars for cabaret entertainment and people on the underground/indie scene who are making new music and taking part in that culture. Anyway back to the cross over. 

On Sunday we have two local rock bands playing by Jing An Temple for the That's Shanghai Magazine's Best of Shanghai weekend. Yes. That's Shanghai, the magazine whose tongue is so far up luxury brand and yuppie arse that their response to the global financial crisis -

- where thieving bankers near crashed the economy, putting millions out of work or onto the streets, created whole ghost towns around China and who robbed billions of public money to keep doing it ... causing riots and demos around the globe - 

- takes breath -

- was to run a front page jokey feature about downsize work, supersize lunch, go eat a 100 RMB gourmet burger.

So anyway, Candy Shop and Monroe Stahr are both playing on the Sunday. Also Monroe Stahr and Black Luna will play a Music Matters show. That's not the internationally known Asia music conference in Hong Kong but the Shanghai pub night run by Tony Caw. He's now branching out into larger events putting on a Longest Day show at Red Town for the night of the eclipse. Don't want to sound shallow but there'll be a bouncy castle that will stay up for adults later into the night. 

Make this a good 'un

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Just trolling around Neocha and came across this at the Loudspeaker page. Both of these nights could be an absolute riot if they are packed and it gives you the chance to check out ten good Shanghai bands in one block. I would quit my job to make sure I got to both of these unhindered.

Note to those who don't know me or the blog well: I don't get anything from YYT or do any promotions, this is a personal blog that reflects what I'm doing myself. 

night fever

Children's Day party @ Yuyintang

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The 1st of June is Children's Day in China so Yuyintang decided to put on a show despite it being Monday night and everyone having to work the next day. It was a throw together line up but one that featured some interesting elements especially new projects from Lin Di of Cold Fairyland and also Lu Chen of Top Floor Circus.

Here was the full line up:

Elephant Makers
Bad Himo
Dragon Pizza
Zhi Wang

None of these acts have quality online music available sorry. 

Everyone got free red neckerchiefs on entry which made it feel like a costume party to some extent. Unfortunately the carefree fun attitude also extended to the general organisation and tech quality. Back when YYT first opened it was par for the course, and slightly romantic almost. Bands added randomly to the line up after the show had already been advertised ... organisation and timing all over the place, sound quality completely different from band to band etc. But after a long run of top quality shows at YYT it just seemed annoying. Maybe I've been spoiled. 

First up were 8MG. Having been amused by the Douban thread 8MG are the most ignorant band I have ever met, I was really interested to see them. They have a large line up with arena rock keyboards, guitar shredding and big epic tunes. The crowd were a bit confused as how to react at first but the band gave it their all and had consistent style. By the end of the set they got a genuinely pleased reaction. The band seem serious about what they do so let's see where it goes. Following them were another young, new band called Elephant Makers. Their set was mainly covers and was strictly in the mould of Sum 41 and Blink 182. Again, they gave a good performance and did the job and people appreciated it.

By this time it was apparent that Zhi Wang, whom I came to see, were not going to get on until midnight due to the expanded line up. Midnight on a weekday. 

Next up was Bad Himo. We were then witness to Lin Di and Seppo of Cold Fairyland playing a multi-media experimental set that was completely about their cat and it's bad behaviour. Moving on. At about this time the considerable section of the crowd who were attached to 8MG and Elephant Makers in some way started to filter out. Just like the old days. Bafang, already wound up about having to wait until midnight to get on, could be heard muttering 'buyao zou' by the door as they left, although half jokingly. 

Next on was Lightninger who proceeded to compound the scheduling problem by playing a full length set despite there being two more bands to go. They came on in masks and did a kind of Lu Chen tribute show, reading out poetry in Shanghainese and playing mainly covers of TV theme tunes. Then ... out of the blue came the saviours - Dragon Pizza. These guys are a kick-ass hardcore punk band that mix up the styles a bit. They were the first band to have a loud and clear sound and they ripped into their set like lunatics. Bassist Yuki was on top form and drummer Wang Lei (also of Loudspeaker) beat the hell out of the drums. Alas, there was only about 50 people left at that point. 

Midnight had come and gone and it was finally time to hear Bafang and Lu Chen's new project. Ba Fang is an outstanding rock and punk performer formally of the Fuckn'drolls. Hearing that she was back in town and starting a band was big news. As they set up, I was puzzled to see them fill the front of the stage with tables and chair then cover them with effects, desks and a lap top. The drums were then not manned. Finally they played a set of strung-together experimental noise stuff with no conventional singing or arrangements at all. I imagine this was a kind of subversive/punk act in itself. Or something like that. I was too wiped to take it in. 

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