July 2013 Archives

I don't do these posts so often so give it a listen.

We all have different music tastes and different motivations and expectations for going to shows, sure. But. It should be in all our interests for younger locals to be breaking through in great bands and pulling in more interest and audiences from Shanghai's population. 

We all know there's little to play for on the underground scene and that bands in Shanghai can be short lived for a variety of reasons. So I now ask you to help provide a reason to two of the city's most promising and exciting bands by turning up to the their big show and making it great. 

Feima and Naohai are co-headlining Yuyintang on Friday and you should go - and you should spread the word and drag people along. Feima in particularly have just put out an album and are putting on emotive shows.

Shanghai band: The Spondees

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I am the wrong person to talk about spondees to. Like Edgar Allan Poe, I don't think they actually exist and can't be used in their absolute form without creating something distinct from English usage and pronunciation, to even attempt them for effect would require a pause that then makes the two-foot measurement wrong ...

... wait a minute. Sorry about that.

The Spondees are a Shanghai band made up of three heroic ex-pats. The band has been around for nearly five years with a few line-ups with Matt Saunders keeping things going. They have a good page at Reverb Nation and also a Douban page.

The Spondees are a hardworking, every-week-gigging, bar-band-style-band who play all original material. To be honest, I usually completely exclude what we think of as 'bar bands'. However, Matt Spondee is an awesome guy who has reached out to a lot of people in the, and I love this quote, "local pseudo-bohemian sub-indie anti-scene" ... or as we know it: the music scene. They take themselves seriously enough that we should too. Also the band are playing shows in Yuyintang and Mao and Matt comes out to support other people's shows. So give them a fair listen and look out for their continued presence on the gig circuit. Finally they are consummate musicians and performers, putting just as much into playing the old Fanfare location to twenty people (yup, I was there) as they would to a weekend night at a larger venue. 
Some serious news this week. Singer Wu Hongfei, whose Shanghai show I blogged here in 2009, has been detained over a Weibo post that is being called 'a bomb threat.' She is also from one of China's minority groups and has done activist work in the past.

Chinese language sources:

Phoenix (includes tweet)

English source:

Says the usually right wing rag Telegraph via AP:

Her supporters said the singer would never have carried out her threat and is being targeted for her critical views. Activist Hu Jia said singer Wu Hongfei was detained on Monday by Beijing police on the charge of "causing trouble". The two activists are friends. Shortly after a man set off a bomb at Beijing's airport, Wu wrote on her microblog that she would like to blow up government housing commission offices. Beijing police did not respond to a request on Wednesday to verify Wu's detention. New York-based Human Rights Watch said it was likely Wu's detention was political retribution for her past criticisms of the government.

Feima live @ 696 Bar

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Thumbnail image for feima flyer 696
This show was Feima's official album / EP release party. I previewed the album here, where you can link to the online version. The show was great and highlighted how much it sucks that they're are going away. Tonight's line up:

Early show tonight, 696 have to call it a night for live music at 9.30 and things were off at exactly the advertised time. Yin have been around a while now and they have original material on the page there. It's guitar based rock in the pop spectrum with some sentimental ballad stuff that their fans like a lot.

I hadn't seen Pairs play in a while and was struck by a major change in dynamic. Xiao Zhong used to get quickly through the songs with minimal explanation and a few funny / caustic comments in between. Tonight he was speaking in Mandarin at each break, thanking people for showing up, making self-depreciating comments, complimenting the previous band, apologizing for stuff ... and yet the personal tracks were even more intense than ever before, especially the new closing song which mentioned having to hold his abdomen while showering, presumably as a result of his hernia and follow up butchery surgery. And then F was cool and commanding, radiating presence without having changed much in the way of her stage positioning or general style. Fascinating stuff and a new album is not far away, although it seems that China has broken Xiao Zhong.

Feima were so good and so relevant and vital to the scene, and relevant to the major musical movements of the greater scene that it sucked - because there's basically one more show after this. I don't know where to start. Firstly the set was a full rendition of the album, in order. They were totally in command of their performance and confidently mixed the dreamy instrumentals, the upbeat anthems, "people in this city are hard to be seen ... all the people, hiding in cars and buildings" ... and the experimental jams. The set closer Feedback Tide was especially good, with Belo and Xiao Tang providing a framework for Jun Er to take centre stage and go crazy with the noise. He used sticks to hit things, an oscillator and pedals to create the feedback and noise loops and also Bebot on the iPad for bleeps, synths and swells. At one point he had all three going simultaneously, operating the touch screen of the pad with his foot. The sound was perfect and they knew exactly what they were doing. Xiao Tang got the bass exactly right both for the style and for the underground set ups here: he used an EQ pedal to boost the mid range and produce a tight, metallic sound that didn't wipe out other instruments or get lost in the mix. Residence A also use this very well and it's a trademark sound of China post-punk acts. 

Next Friday, August 2nd, is the last big show with Naohai at Yuyintang. Be there.

Video: xLost in Painx live @ Yuyintang

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Here's a ten or so minute set from Shanghai's xLost in Painx taken at Yuyintang on Sunday. They are joined on stage by Before The Daylight's Moli about halfway through.

Pic: Tension Music 2 year anniversary

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Saturday was the two year anniversary show for Shanghai collective Tension Music, the brainchild of Wang Tian Tian AKA Wang TT. Here's their page. TT has been supporting and organising on the scene for years and is one of the two people behind the 0093 rehearsal space.

He's in the middle of the shot wearing a dark blue t-shirt. The bands are Da Xifu, Joker, En Route, Moshu Shi and Guts.

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tx music group

Some stuff this weekend

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feima flyer 696
I have a bit of a holiday this week, about ten days or so. But, due to many factors I won't be going out much. So here's some stuff going on this week across four of the venues in town - and I'll have to live vicariously through your reports and stories the week after that.

I don't want to endorse one show over another, and we all have different tastes anyway. But there's a glaring clue to the right of which show I'll go to if I can choose only one.

Friday 26th July

Yuyintang: Girl Rock, feat. Must Be Red (SH)

Live Bar: 聚光下的少年 Youth in the spotlight

696: Feima EP release show

Saturday 27th July

Yuyintang: Fuzzy Mood (BJ) album release

Mao Livehouse: Genohmang 19 free show (Mao's only mainstage evening show all weekend.)

Live Bar: Shake Your Body feat. heavy bands + En Route

696: 小垂直 Xiao Chuizhi 

Sunday 28th July

Yuyintang: Made In Shanghai 6, feat. Prank

696: Guancai

Brands, competitions and insight

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This pic is about art competitions run by corps but I feel its main point is widely applicable across all art and music scenes. It also gels with a lot of what I'm usually saying on the topic here.

The cartoon is by Jeannette Langmead ...

... and I am reblogging it via Twin Horizon

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Regrouping Shanghai bands this summer

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guts gezi
Many younger local acts in Shanghai have a hard time keeping a line up together for more than a year. That's not news. A couple of bands are pushing through though.

Pictured are Gezi Tuan (格子团) English name Guts, although the name translates to 'grid'. After a reasonable start then losing members (sound familiar?) they are back in action. I was rehearsing in the room next to them this week and we all remarked that they sounded really together. So if regular indie stuff, but with a bit more distortion and a bit less irony, is your thing then try to catch up with them I should note that the demo there is from the old line up, I think. 

Monkey Shines are on round three. They are a combination of uptempo pop punk and emo, but the demos can give you the full picture. They have just released a new one with their third singer in three years. Drummer Xiao Zhong ( 小钟 not 小中) has been around the block, starting out with the original line up of Little Nature. Anyway, check out the new demo at this page, it's the first one 《无恶兄弟》. 

Reminder: re-TROS

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Recently the unique IPs per month stat for this blog got (in context) really high and I'm not sure who the readers are exactly. I'm assuming that the majority are new to the scene and not Chinese, or outside the country.

That's one reason to justify this post. The other is that after a semi-recent conversation with a Shanghainese friend, I was reminded that a lot of ex-pats and visitors at shows are unaware of the importance of the ReTRoS to local fans, and also of just how amazing they are. They same goes for PK14 but I already post about them a lot.

So ReTRoS are amazing and really important to local fans. How easy was that. 

You can listen to both their albums here:

And seriously, Watch Out! is a world class post-punk album and if you like it, start listening to PK14 more and also Feng Yi, SKSA and so on. These bands will stand the test of time on the scene here. I was also really excited by the debut album of London post-punk sensation Savages, but on comparison they have a way to go before they produce an album like Watch Out! 

Pics: original YYT mural and 2009 gigs

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Here are some pics from summer of 2009 in Yuyintang. They show people who performed there posing with the recently completed mural in its original black and white as painted by Kaine. It's an interesting glance back for me anyway, not too far back though.

People in the pictures: Pupi of Da Bang, Wu Zhuo Ling, Mai Mai of Muscle Snog and AWU, Self Party and Boojii.

yyt bw pupi

yyt bw wzl

yyt bw maimai

yyt bw self party

yyt bw boojii

Ready made China tour plan

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PK14 have just put their tour details online and it's awesome - not only because they are touring and they are great, but because the map image and list of dates / venues is basically a ready made tour plan for anyone else who wants to do it. Here's the photo and the venue list (in Chinese) ... and look, they are even playing in Xi Ning, Qinghai Province. 

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tour map

时间 城市 演出场所 
8/28/13 济南 盒子酒吧 
8/29/13 青岛 Downtown Bar 
8/30/13 南京 古堡 
8/31/13 上海 Mao Livehouse 
9/1/13 无锡 大门文化 
9/2/13 苏州 Wave Livehouse 
9/3/13 宁波 CMK 
9/4/13 杭州 酒球会 
9/6/13 武汉 Vox 
9/7/13 南昌 黑铁 
9/8/13 福州 海峡摇滚 
9/9/13 厦门 Real Live
9/10/13 珠海 现场酒吧 
9/11/13 深圳 B10 
9/12/13 台北 The Wall 
9/13/13 香港 蒲吧 
9/14/13 广州 凸空间 
9/16/13 长沙 4698 
9/18/13 重庆 坚果俱乐部 
9/21/13 成都 小酒馆 
9/23/13 兰州 葵Livehouse 
9/24/13 西宁 南墙 
9/25/13 银川 铜管 
9/27/13 西安 光圈Club 
9/28/13 郑州 7 Livehouse 
9/29/13 新乡 Ark Live House 
10/1/13 北京 愚公移山 
10/3/13 大连 赫兹 
10/4/13 长春 重走青春音乐酒吧
10/5/13 哈尔滨 开往春天的地铁酒吧
10/6/13 沈阳 旋转木马俱乐部
There's been a lot of talk lately of Death To Giants' great live performances and the extended versions of Sick and Elastic where Mike Corayer joins them in the middle for a scat vs. trumpet duel. Well, the band recently played some shows in Chongqing and Chengdu and Chengdu's Little Bar made a good video of it. Enjoy.

I saw this album being passed around on the internet a bit lately and it's well worth reposting.

Low Wormwood are a Chinese folk-rock band that, like all independent bands in China, are part of the underground and naturally pick up tones and turns that surprise, and that you wouldn't expect from the genre.

You can get the album digitally through Oz based distro Tenzenmen, there's a lot of other amazing stuff there too:

You can listen to the whole album for free at that link also.

Lanzhou is the city in China where the band comes from. It is in the northwest by the Gobi. Liu Kun's voice is distinctly northern Chinese folk with hits of the hard-folk growl and the music is always surprising. Among the regular roster of folk sounds familiar to all guitar folk and world music fans are those touches I mentioned earlier - like the dirty, reverb-ed, yet still rounded guitar leads that come through in the second half of the title track. Another example are the tremolo effect distorted guitar chords in the middle and end  of Gone With The Wind. Check it out.

Made In Shanghai Vol. 5 @ Yuyintang

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Pic: Sonnet frontman Zhu Baixi in the festival season

What started as getting out of my house to catch up with the Stego guys ended up being an oddly nostalgic night ... the line up for Made In Shanghai Vol 5:

Despite the on-off heavy rain YYT slowly filled to a respectable amount of punters. Fire Scene are a new band of young local guys. They play slap bass and funk driven pop-rock. They got some good energy going and did a good job but undercut themselves slightly over-explaining things between tracks. The bassist has the skills for the slap riffs. 

Stegosaurus? were playing without guitarist Levi and had a more stripped down feel but Josh's guitar filled the space adequately and the set had some good peaks that won over a lot of local fans. The vocal pairings were on point and I enjoyed hearing some of the older tracks. 

Then two things happened. When Sonnet got on stage I was struck by a wave of nostalgia and then I also bumped into Xiao Bai, former vocalist for Bang Bang Tang and fellow scene goer for many a year. It took me right back. Sonnet have been around on the Shanghai scene for years. I've seen them on and off since 2005 here. They rose and rose until early 2011's release "14." This capped their growing popularity with local fans and they played to full (7-800) crowds at Mao Livehouse, with video screens, lights, the synth lines and samples, the full line up and everyone singing along to the anthem tracks like 了了上海伐老乱哪能立得牢脚. It's the first track at the page, go and listen now. 

The track name is Shanghainese and translates to something like "Shanghai, come and have a go if you think you're hard enough" - with tongue firmly in cheek. Shortly after though, there was a falling out within the band and they went quiet for a while, there haven't been any new demos in two years now. At the show they played as a stripped down rock three piece, with Yang Fu moving to bass. Singer Zhu Baixi has still got it though and the set focused on the older rock tracks like Sexy Model Queen and Rejection. The band have been through a lot, and I was thinking I'd love for them to sit down and produce a new record that reflects on all their history. 
hardcore tour pic
Update: Tyler says: "all the guys in my band are as straight edge as they come!"

Pic: group photo in Wuhan from the Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013

It's way past time for a catch up from the world of hardcore music in Shanghai.

I'm going to run through two areas here: The Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013 and the band xLost in Painx. Let's start with a bunch of relevant links.

So. Shanghai hardcore band Spill Your Guts recently played on the Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013. Also with them was Loudspeaker a punk band from Shanghai who have been around since 1999 and who were the first band I ever saw live in China. Here's a video of Spill Your Guts on the tour:

In other news: Spill Your Guts drummer Tyler Bowa has joined a Chinese straight edge band called xLost in Painx. Yes, a Shanghai based straight edge band. It's interesting for me because I am technically straight edge by default due to my general life habits. We're probably talking musical style only here, or are we? Why not check them out. Here's a bootleg vid that Tyler shared today.

Video: Guren live @ Uptown

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I see a bunch of touring cultural stuff here and I usually separate it from 'the scene' and therefor mostly from the blog. I saw these guys on three separate occasions this week, including some collaborations that have prodded me to write a post, coming up shortly, so here's a taste of their stuff in its purest form.

DJ B.O. brought them down as part of his ongoing Rock Nadaam series. Altan-Od is a Khomeii expert (Mongolian throat singing) from the town Darkhan. Khongor is a specialist in the Morinkhuur fiddle and is from Ulaanbataar. Together they are Guren. The video has two short sections.

PS: I have laid out my definition for 'the scene' in regards to this blog many times, but most clearly in here.

glm kevin
Pic: Kevin Wright of Girls Like Mystery

This gig was a week ago Friday and I am a dirty procrastinator. There you go.

Also, I only caught two full sets out of five bands. This show was the School's Out Part 2 gig with five bands on the line up:

Daydreamer (空想家)

I arrived to catch the very last song of Daydreamer's set. The band have a good local following and promising nihilistic song titles like Fuck The Rest and 玩手机 (play on my cell phone) but the songs tend to be big tracks with classic blues-rock conventions as the base. They had a load of fans/friends in the crowd, who all left the venue within one or two minutes of the last song ending. I always harp on about this, but it reminds me of the 0093 showcase days where a six band bill would start out full then lose like thirty or so people after each set - literally within seconds of the last song - until the last band had about twenty plus staff to play to. Singer Chen Li (陈粒) had a good rapport with the fans and her solo folk page also has a good Douban following. 

Death To Giants, as well documented now, are a great great band and consummate entertainers live. This set featured appearances from Threshold of Forest and Mike Corayer. Bassist Nichols and Corayer did their scat vs trumpet duel (scat as in the vocal style - get your minds out of the toilet) and it really went off. Super.

I haven't really written about Girls Like Mystery here but this show really pressed home to me how they have developed into a good band on the scene. GLM are Kevin Wright (vox, bass), Micheal Herd (guitar), Mike Arone (keyboard), Adam Poole (drums), Mike Corayer (trumpet) and Todd St Amand (cello). The style is big tunes Brit-rock. Kevin is humble and open about the band's beginning, jamming out some covers with himself, Arone and Poole but now they have a live presence and play a good set of cathartic original rock tracks. Wright's look, voice and personality is a perfect fit for the style and he credits Arone's greater involvement with songwriting for the development of the material. 

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