While here at Kungfuology towers we wax lyrical over arty bands and lo-fi indie, Beijing band Escape Plan, supported by Shanghai's Tinderbox, were playing to a full house at SH Mao Live - with only the same tools that are available to all of us in the China scene. Probably deserves a mention.
December 2012 Archives
Friday night and off to 390 Bar to see a night of duos playing like it was raining reverb. The line up:
The singer/songwriter from Hua Jiao recently moved from Xi'an to Shanghai and is building the band up from scratch. He plays as a duo with drummer Du Juan and they use loops, echo and reverb to fill out a distinctly China post-punk sound. Hua Jiao are tipped for future greatness by local musicians who know them.
Twos (2's) is the new electronica project from long time scene guitarist JMF Lee (Li Xing). Together with bandmate Robin,
Batman's Jay's guitar takes a backseat to the layered electronic sample mashing. They had a lot of equipment on the small stage space. The overall sound is polished and upbeat but they still manage avoid the conventions of commercial pop and utilize the early synth tones that are popular again today. The track If You Want To on the page is a good representation.
Alpine Decline formed in L.A. and then relocated to Beijing last year. Their music has always been a good fit for the post-punk / DIY scene here. They are a guitar / drums duo who use some synth backing and a lot of reverb soaked lingering chords. But the bands real strength is their sense of songwriting. Great vocal lines, lyrical turns and tight structures move them away from curious art-rock experimentation and into indie-underground greatness. They have just released a full length album called Night of the Long Knives. It is produced by China legend Yang Haisong and should prove to be a vital part of the scene here. Stream the band's previous work on their site here.
As if to answer the lingering questions about where Shanghai's most popular draws have buggered off to, Top Floor Circus and post-pop fan faves Sonnet have called their next show WTF! We're still alive! Of course, they're joking about the Mayan thing.
The TFC xmas show is a tradition and last time around they made a special movie to promote it and then filled Mao Livehouse. This time they have chosen 696 Livehouse. 696 has just moved to a new location ... and I hope it's bigger than their last place.
Saturday 22nd December
696 new address: 虹口区 四川北路1727弄11-8 （四川北路巴黎春天对面沿河步行街内，3号线东宝兴路站2号出口左转掉头，右转沿河走50米。）
Last weekend was eventful but extremely fragmented for me as I skipped between shows, late shifts at work, early mornings ... and beer showers, tired out of my mind the whole time.
Instead of full reviews I'll have to piece some stuff together ...
... I saw Gou Shen at 390 Bar. They are the new incarnation of Androsace following the old guitar-bass combo leaving. Smoothly played grunge rock has been replaced by a mix of hardcore punk and Sabbath style 70s metal. Providing this are the new guitar-bass combo - Lao B and Mian Mian from Bi Gong Bi Jing ...
... went to Brad Ferguson's leaving show on Saturday at YYT. Noted that Battle Cattle now have Fabi on drums and have levelled-up their ambition, equipment and professionalism. They have 80's guitar post-punk, a touch of modern production and perfect new-wave sounding vocals ...
... and birthday boy Ho-Tom the Conqueror gave me and Newby a beer shower ...
... was talking to some Jiao Da students down 0093 on the Friday daytime, seems like there are more and more bands down there now at the university's Minhang campus. Also I should point out that loads of newer and younger bands play Live Bar and 696 these days but I rarely go there, so someone will have to write about that ...
All previous attempts to make so-called "laowai" videos or funny takes on life in Shanghai can but cry on their knees as this video beats them down, eviscerates them then relieves itself on their still warm corpses.
And the winner is ... Death To Giants
Shanghai four piece Tinderbox (听盒) , formerly Biu Biu, play straight saccharine pop with no irony. However, the band members all came up through the independent scene in various bands and write and play everything themselves. They are honest. Longer term followers of the scene will know bassist KK from Bang Bang Tang.
Here is their latest vid.
Brad Ferguson has been active on the Shanghai scene for ten years. Now, Brad and Da Men, the accomplished drummer of Duck Fight Goose, will move to the States for a life of married bliss. A show is booked at YYT, it will feature a can't miss Duck Fight Goose show and also a Boys Climbing Ropes re-union of sorts (with G filling in for Jordan.)
Here's the event page and here's the flyer:
It is important to remember that the shows I go to or blog are not the only shows and the success of some does not diminish the success of others. For me though, it is always satisfying when something you choose to follow through on works out. The F.A.F. show was a highlight and it also gave perspective. The scene is still underground, we are still up against it when it comes to 'da man' and there is still no proper framework or industry to aim for.
Success, for many bands here is when everyone fights and works hard for two or three years to get to the point where we can fill a 200-300 people venue with real fans of a local band and spend a night enjoying a 'real' packed out and emotional rock show. The recently emerged festival silly seasons and the relative success of some international touring acts have not changed that basic reality for young local bands who live here.
click photo for large size
The photo is from an earlier show but I'm sure an awesome gallery of tonight's emotional gig is coming soon.
Visitors, ex-pats and some bands often ask where all the younger local fans are ... and the answer has always been the same, at the shows that they like. The thing is, that the more popular Shanghai bands have been in a lull.
But that run came to an end tonight at YYT when high energy emo group Forget and Forgive came back for their EP release.
The show had all the hallmarks of the legendary 2009 Mushrooms show. It was packed out with younger Shanghainese fans who sang every word of all the songs and created energetic yet responsible pogo pits for the favourite songs. Sang-hei-nin pride was a big feature of all three band's banter tonight. Back to the pogo. I lost my phone during 'Parasite' but got all three pieces back shortly after, thanks guys. It still works.
When the set was about to start I noticed that instead of a single keyboard, 小基 had a more sophisticated set up of midi equipment. The intro electronic music was really well produced and layered ... then the band came out and I realized they'd kinda physically grown up too. As their hard won fans went crazy for them and they went into the first tight emo-metal overture I saw a band that has taken big steps since their last round of gigs. It ended up being an emotional night that finished with one of those sitting down with back to the crowd commemorative photos.
As with all genre bands, some will be dismissive if they are simply not fans of polished emo, and that's normal. But, this was a landmark gig by a developed local act and the kind of Yuyintang night that has been too sparse of late. So anyway, congratulations guys: you earned that one.
The only thing missing was fellow blog scribe / partner in local emo shows Jake Newby.