Andy Best: November 2009 Archives
Ninety percent of the large fish in the ocean and 80% of the world's forests are gone. Eighty-one tons of mercury are emitted into the atmosphere each year as a result of electric power generation. Every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. Each day, 200,000 acres of rain forest are destroyed; 100 plant and animal species go extinct; and 13 million tons of toxic chemicals are released across the globe.
That's from the aptly titled There's No Time Like Now To Be Green and there's no time like now to be an extremist activist either. Here's another great short piece that is accessible and has all kinds of links to start you off. Also from Planet Green - Why Wait Till 2012. We need people to be activists. The destructive power is in the hands of nationalist governments and economists that preach big business and 'development'. All we have to do is opt out and start spreading the word. It's as much about challenging power as it is changing lifestyles. Changing lifestyles is just the very beginning.
For Mao we've drafted a basic photo guilelines list - for the audience. It's a double standard, but we have to give professional photographers shooting for press, for the venue and for the bands greater leeway - but we'll keep their ranks limited. So here's what we're trying out, and we welcome further input:
"Audience photography rules
1. No flash photography
2. Please only take photographs during the first three songs of each set
3. No tripods in the front section
4. Be respectful of your fellow audience members
Professional media photographers and videographers please register with the front desk to obtain a press pass. Be advised we have a limited number of free press tickets available each show for journalists and photographers who reserve them in advance - please inquire at the desk for details."
Great Friday night at Yuyintang and Candy Shop's first time to officially headline the venue on a weekend.
Check out their Douban page here and listen to the fourth track called 我们
So here was the line up for the night:
The turn out was great and, as predicted, mainly local. There were a lot of students down and they were equally up to see Forget And Forgive, who are emo. You see, local students like their metal and their emo. Trust me.
I only caught the end of Black Luna's set. They are an all-girl pop rock group whose singer and band leader recently joined Candy Shop to replace Melody Li. The first thing I noticed was that they have a new lead singer, signalling that Sammi's move is final. Next up was Lei Ren who, by their standards, played a fairly restrained set of TV Theme covers and parody songs.
The first band that people got excited about were Forget And Forgive. They played a four song set of emo-tastic material. They switched between thrashy riffs and screaming and catchy sung choruses, all in the emo style. They are a new band and were quite good, but not good enough yet to ignite the crowd which was big enough to break into a mosh.
Candy Shop have come on miles and miles. They have a full set of good material and an energetic show. For whatever reason, they really appeal to the local crowd and from the get go people were up for the show. After a bit of teething with the sound in the opening track, they ripped into their set and the audience went for it. The band were well prepared for the night with badges and stickers to give out as well as a couple of signed posters. They really gave the student crowd a taste of an energetic gig with jumping and dancing and I'm sure they won many new fans.
Most countries with music scenes have one or two industry centres or a defined main scene. Here it has to be Beijing with the most bands, the most developed bands and the labels.
Smaller city scenes that break out or get fame tend to be associated with a type of music. Take the Manchester or Liverpool sounds or the classic example of Seattle. Say "the Seattle scene" with no other context and people will think of the Grunge style. I'm sure there were other good bands playing but that's what people associate it with.
Of course, within the grunge scene and the Seattle gold rush there were diverse sounds, but that's how it played out.
So what I was thinking is: What about Shanghai?
There have been brief sparks that died again or have yet to really ignite. At one point Banana Monkey were going to lead the modern Brit-rock charge. Top Floor Circus are inspirational but they haven't inspired. Fans of legendary track Karaoke Forever (a local dialect play on words that means never go to karaoke) still go to KTV, they just think the song is funny. The Jiaoban bands signed with Indietop and haven't released a significant album between them 18 months later. There are many more examples.
So who is getting it together in Shanghai as poised to take advantage of a potential scene elevation?
I think it has to be the Miniless collective.
The reason: these groups have kept their eyes on their music and followed through. Now we have top quality albums, in both material and production, out from Fading Horizon, Lava Ox Sea, Muscle Snog and Eight Eye Spy - with Boojii not far behind. All these acts are different in their own way but they share organisation, images and philosophy. Most importantly they now have top quality recordings that can be accessed outside of the scene. After all, when a scene gets noticed or named it is by definition done so from outside and usually by the main hub.
If you were based in Beijing and were asked to comment on the Shanghai scene what would you say - as a kind of defining soundbite? Well, now they have those five CDs to get excited about and here's the thing. Muscle Snog, Eight Eye Spy and Boojii all went to Beijing to record - these are the bands getting signed up by the main hub. So think about it.
Perhaps this time next year Self Party and LOS may sell out a show at Yugong Yishan, full of fans eager to see a 'Shanghai sound' Miniless act.
Bon TV is the Blue Ocean Network. They make TV shows about China in English. Recently, China Music Radar have been watching.
First they checked out a talk full of platitudes and stereotypes that failed to even mention a single band in the first 45 minutes and were not impressed. Here .
Then they came across something much better.
Andrew Field is someone with a brain. That's an expression that means he is thoughtful. Obviously. He has made a Beijing scene based documentary called Notes From The Chinese Underground and appears on Bon TV to give an hour long interview about it.
Both parts can be watched at CMR here.
Watching the interview I was blown away to actually see someone who knew the scene properly and who blew off the types. He even made a point of saying that people always look for the Chinese-ness and judge the music on that, then makes a good case as to why that's misguided. This is well worth sitting through, although nothing new to people who know the scene well. We'll have to look out for the movie too.