Pictured: Kang Mao and Zhu Lei playing with Subs around 2005
This month marks a year off for this blog. During which time I've done some thinking. It is also late 2014, making it about ten years since the Shanghai music scene, the band scene, got going properly in the downtown area.
Just to throw in all the info, I've been here continuously from 2001 and hanging around the band scene since about 2003. I just didn't start writing about it until the spring of 2008.
What prompted me to write about this was a recent quote from Dostav Dixit of Splitworks, who used to run Vox in Wuhan for a time. He mentioned that 2004-2007 is starting to emerge as a kind of golden time for China bands. I started to think about if there was any real difference in amount and quality of local bands with local members. Then I realised there wasn't ... and that this simple fact was very revealing. There should be a difference: there should be a lot more now.
After that golden age was cemented, by very simple things such as the existence of venues and rehearsal spaces that were affordable/viable for locals without tons of money, we came to the dubious period of 2007-2009. Actually, the scene went on much the same at first, but the roots of 2009 were appearing in 2007. Across this time, the following things started to come into play:
Involvement of brands and ad agencies
Brand/mall/corporate shows and festivals as a model
Bringing over more foreign touring acts
Large and sudden influx of ex-pats, audience or otherwise
All of these came with issues and impacts. In a smaller scene, it was immediately apparent that their activities were not adding to the scene but replacing things in the scene. What's interesting though, in the case of the first three areas I mention, the people involved went out of their way to claim that their activities would help local bands and the scene develop - and they argued that this was a sincere part of their intentions. I could go on and give examples but it's all moot now ...