Andy Best: February 2010 Archives
Update: See the comments for discussion about the accuracy of the Guardian article relating to the location of the demolitions/incident
The Guardian have reported on a shocking story from Beijing that brings home a certain issue here to the arts community.
Basically, landlords came to parts of 798 and told studio owners that developers were getting the land and they had to evict immediately. The artists, of course said no as they had contracts and leases ranging from 5 to 30 years on the buildings. They wanted to check the details first. Finally, fearing that the buildings may be demolished during the night on Sunday, they stayed over - and a gang of 100 masked men showed up with bats and knives. The photo shows the current situation.
I have recently written about the Expo and Top Floor Circus -
- and one of the big issues in Shanghai regarding the Expo has been accelerated gentrification and demolitions. The band brought the song in question back partly as a reaction to the forcing out of 0093 studios.
Let this story be a reminder, again, to those of us writing about the Expo and related issues, who also claim to support the arts here. There is a wider context and many issues. It is irresponsible and dangerous to report it while ignoring the negatives. Shame on anyone who is buying the hype and enthusiastically backing the brand.
Where to start with this?
The day has finally come.
OK. Fei Yue shoes are Shanghai made canvas shoes that are simple, affordable and have for years been the staple shoe of sports practice in the area.
It is important to point out that while they look dated to us, they are not retro. They have just stuck with the same design from the start increasing price only with inflation. There has never been a break in production or a conscious choice to keep or exploit a dated design. Retro implies that a new product is made with an intentionally dated design because it gives it a unique look. Anyone who tells you they are retro is just lying.
I came to Fei Yue shoes through kung fu clubs, starting with when I trained at the Jing Wu centre in Hong Kou from 2001. However, I don't want to add on yet another misleading association. We should think of it more like this: I came to Fei Yue shoes through playing sports at local clubs with people on working class wages. Back then a pair was less than twenty CNY and now they fall somewhere between twenty-five and twenty-eight. That's fairly restrained when you look at other indicators for the same period.
I don't like to think of Fei Yue's as cheap exactly. I think of them more as sane. They are locally made and don't feature by products of the meat/factory farming industries. This accounts for low prices and gives them the bonus of being the greenest shoes you can buy here. All this in a world where large shoe companies continually find nasty ways to keep their costs at all time lows while charging more and more to the customer.
Now for the next chapter. For a while and from many different sources, Fei Yue have been the target of unscrupulous entrepreneurs whose eyes lit up with dollar signs when they saw the cheap prices. Some connections were fairly obvious, like the kung fu connection. People who trained kung fu here and found them to be cheap and practical started importing them to their club after returning home. In the early days though, this was considered no more than a sideline to the Fei Yue factory. A lot of that, you may be surprised to know, was with Japan. Next up though were those who wanted to resell them as a kind of designer retro brand and make big money from it.
As soon as this happened the first time, a few years ago now and still kung fu themed with custom versions called shaolin and mantis, I could see the future. These guys were selling them overseas for upwards of 200 Euros. That's right, more than sixty times the Shanghai price. For a start. It's simply a microcosm of gentrification or any kind of yuppie plague. Come in on some cheap land or product and exploit it, eventually driving prices up and cutting out the original users who can't afford the new prices. Those working class wage people, you know, the majority.
As a relevant aside here, my high street real estate agent was firebombed by Welsh activists for the same thing. That time involving holiday homes in North Wales.
The problem, or tipping point, was obviously going to come when these re-brands started to catch on or be available in Shanghai itself. Even that was going to be tolerable as long as you could still dismiss the whole ridiculous situation by just buying them from local shops for true prices.
So. Here's the news. And this comes from three sources. My friends in the kung fu clubs who order direct, my local branch of East Sports (Dongfang tiyu) and Culture Matters on Dongping Road. The original design pictured above with the green triangle in the bottom are now no longer being made. Once they run out, they are out. The staple shoe of Fei Yue is now being replaced with the red circle in the sole model. It looks basically the same but has a thicker sole and supposedly better quality laces. This is taken directly from their export model.
The result - an immediate doubling of the starting retail price to over 50 CNY.
Who knows where it will go from here. That's Shanghai just ran a huge cover feature on Chinese retro brands, predictably free from any kind of analysis or wider context. I personally think it's a sign that the last vestiges of sane cheaper living in downtown Shanghai are going. Not that there's much left.
I just want to mark this occasion with a message to all of those who participated in the gentrification of my shoes. From the people who took Fei Yue's and re marketed them as a retro brand at sky high new prices to the writers and blogs who big upped these new brands ... ...
f*ck you all, there are people here who need those shoes to be cheap, you selfish w*nkers
End note: I have to star out all my curse words because of my spam filter. If I didn't have to, I wouldn't.
The holidays are over and it's the new (lunar) year. Things get going again this week.
There's a bunch of non indie-rock stuff going on. I'm not interested in writing about it but you can always find that stuff out at layabozi. So off you go.
Thursday is Forget and Forgive and Candy Shop at Yuyintang for free. We've already written about that quite a bit as, you know, we organised it.
The big gig of the weekend is the next Maybe Mars showcase at Mao Livehouse. You can read all about that in detail here courtesy of Dan Shapiro (pictured). The headliner is Carsick Cars.
Talking of Dan, he has just penned a piece for CNNGo's Shanghai page introducing Han Han of Duck Fight Goose. If you're over at Jake's Blog and/or read things he put's in mags then you might be on DFG/Han Han overload. However, that's not a bad thing. Han Han is great, his music is great and we can't get enough of him.
As an end note, you may well often read the posts like this and be wondering why I've not reported your own blog post/article on local music. The reason will certainly be that I just haven't come across it. So if you're going to shows or doing some writing about the scene. Link it in the comments and our readers can surf on over. Use the a tag in html to create the link.
I find the new year here to be boring. There's no real, decent festival action, traditional kung fu, temple fairs or anything like that. You'd have to be in the exclaves for that. Anyway, I'm bored.
Enter an e-mail, from a newly arrived blog fan looking for noise gigs. I direct him to the Torturing Nurse page and the info for the next NoiShanghai meet. I check the page and think it would make a good post to show some of their highly entertaining live show gallery.
Then I find the real gem. The vids there are mainly recent but right at the back is a classic 2008 gig featuring, in my mind, the classic line up when Jia Die gave them the extra visual/psychological dimension. It's the one with the hot wax SM and the primal screaming.
Really, never mind the obvious stuff like the candle lit SM/nudity (ruined mainly by the flash photographers who would blatantly wet their pants if they saw merely an ankle anyway) - the real high point of this performance is three or so minutes in when Junky smashes the guitar and they go into sustained primal screaming.
In a few hours we'll have the Year of the Tiger. Last night we went to the Yuyintang New Year show, that's the flyer, and here's what Jake wrote about it:
While there we found out that Top Floor Circus were supposed to play, but the man has extended their ban until ... the end of the Expo. Here's the latest of three posts on that story, which links the others:
Finally, the Year of the Tiger is a perfect metaphor for the whole situation with biodiversity and the environment. Culture is full of sayings and symbols featuring animals, especially animals like the Tiger and no one likes to overuse them more than leaders and nationalists. In reality though, animals are sh*t on and these people do next to nothing to halt the assault on the environment.
Tigers are 99% on to not be here for the next Year of the Tiger, there are less in the wild than in captivity:
Photo: Andy and Cam at Kungfuology HQ prior to hiring Jake Newby and beefing up our image a bit.
Here's something of interest to the geeks among our readers. But first, in the interests of scientific method and disclosure: the stats quoted here come from the Google Webmaster Tools tool. In order to know the method, parameters and limitations of these stats, you should first go there and check.
So, obviously, more people search the net for Brad Pitt than they do for stuff like Shanghai rock or bands like Little Nature. So, if you have a tag or high incidence of something like Brad Pitt, you are going to come up in more searches.
However, you may be way down in that search and you might not even be seen let alone clicked on. So, using Webmaster Tools I had a look at clickthrough. That is, what searches I came up in where people saw it and then clicked in.
Most of the results are low incidence and featuring obvious stuff like Yuyintang, but the top three separate themselves.
1: Query: low shoulder %: 17 Position: 43
2: Query: simon pegg %: 15 Position: 63
3: Query: low shoulder band %: 10 Position: 7
2: Query: simon pegg %: 15 Position: 63
3: Query: low shoulder band %: 10 Position: 7
Low Shoulder is the fictional indie band from the movie Jennifer's Body. If you combine one and three then that's 27%, assuming it's proportional, of all Google searches that threw up my blog and were then clicked into.
This is the post that would have been thrown up: Thoughts on Indie Rock
Position 43 potentially puts it onto the third page too. All the other clickthrough stats represent about 2% of queries each.
Further down the top 20 we also have Low Shoulder pictures and Low Shoulder Adam Brody. The next significant group, taking up a 10% chunk between them is Misandao, Skinheads, skinheads england and division skinheads. Misandao are the Beijing based skinhead band. Rounding out the list of top clickthroughs are more obvious terms like Brad Ferguson, Boys Climbing Ropes, Yuyintang live and Jackson Guitars.
To end on a triumphant note, a Google search of Shanghai music scene throws up me and Jake at number one.
I recently posted about the rise of indie-folk artists on the pages of Douban. You can read that here. I featured an artist called Zhang Qianqian.
She has been on the TV in a documentary that features two intercut stories. One person comes to Shanghai from the west of China, the other goes back to Qinghai. That second person is Zhang Qianqian, who popped back to her home area to shoot a music video.
It's all subtitled in English and her MV is shown in full right upfront from just before the three minute mark.
The Mushrooms are the most popular home grown rock band in Shanghai. We recently saw them headline at Yuyintang on New Year's Eve, a show that got so packed that there was an inevitable visit from the rozzers.
Well, it's time for round two. It's now the lunar new year and The Mushrooms will headline YYT again. Also featuring on the bill are DCW, Momo and Little Nature.
It's on the Friday (12th).
The Mushrooms also cropped up in the Shanghai Daily lately, although in a generic and suspiciously out of date article. Despite it's publishing date being Jan 29th of this year, it talks about one of the guitarists having just joined the band. A year ago now.
I feel weird linking any of those papers. Their writing on the subject of culture is inconsequential. They spend more time committing things to the memory hole than reporting. We can always play a game of guessing why they chose to recycle this now. Slow day at the office?
Who cares. Go to the show.
Huanyin, Andybest. Indeed.
So. Poor Jake has no life right now for various reasons and I'm going to start up some extra posts like I used to do. This is the reporting on other music writing around the Shanghai scene blogs type thing.
Firstly Douban. We've been talking a lot about Douban lately and how it's like Facebook or Kaixin but with no annoying apps and has feeds for your bands and books and movies etc.
So logged in just now to see it has adopted a Facebook style combined feed frontpage. That's it on the picture. It's good. It will always be good because all the items are related to music, bands, books and films. They have added something new though, a kind of status update like on regular social sites. The new look is fine - but I hope it's not a precursor to it adding
happy lobotomy Happy Farm games and stuff like that.
Dan Shapiro is still flying the flag at City Weekend, trying to keep some kind of interest going there. Lately on his blog we've had an informative post on the city's recording studios, a review of the BCR CD and a preview of the upcoming Jue Festival.
Zack Smith is still plugging away in a lonely room at Layabozi. Lately he's written something about us, thanks. Check his weekend picks too.
China Music Radar are still wound up about festival organizers just plain lying about their line ups at official press conferences. I would be too, read it, it's outrageous. Now the CMR people are aware of this they find it happening all over the shop. Check out the latest installment.
Main Photo: Sammy Sheng of Candy Shop poses for PETA's 81fur.com. Shot by Tim Franco. Studio provided by Splitworks.
Not that long ago I wrote this post and briefly mentioned some photos we shot for a project supporting PETA's China website. I also mentioned that Jake was writing it up for Time Out.
So. It's mainly for Chinese language mags and sites but we are holding off to avoid the wrong type of attention to the show, which hasn't happened yet. Believe me, if we didn't have a strategy of gradual roll-out, I'd have been talking about nothing else on the blog.
Well, the Time Out feature is now public. Also, a friend of mine based in New York, Mickey Z, wanted to write this up and submit it to some editors he writes for. He shot high first and went for broke. It paid off and Discovery Channel have run it on their Planet Green website. Check it out.
They will also send a China based writer to cover the show at Yuyintang later this month. But for now - please tweet/link/repost/write the sh*t out of that link. Like now. Do it. This is Discovery Channel's site reporting on going's on at Yuyintang and linking local bands.
More photos after the jump.
So, we've just finished recording the 3rd Podcast of the second season, look out for that at Jake's blog soon.
We mentioned a couple of things. We talked about Douban and 'following' your bands there to create a feed for them. Also, we mentioned Schwarzenegger's viral phrase girlie men and how in the China rock scene the girls were often way cooler and more badass than the guys.
No sooner had I finished that, I logged into Douban and caught some new pics by bands that feature girls.
Shanghai all-girl rock band Second have just uploaded this 'backstage' gallery. Despite a brief break to find a new guitarist, they still appear to be active. That's bassist Xiao Zhu pictured to your right.
Boys Climbing Ropes have finished adjusting their Douban page. As well as the CD liner bed shot they have settled on songs Whale Song, Dirty Bots and Night Boy. They are all available for download, if you are signed into the site.
And while we're on the subject of cool gals on the scene why not throw in these ones. It's Xie Han from Ourself Beside Me and then the undisputed queen of China rock Kang Mao of the Subs. So what's wrong with that, Arnie?
Finally got my Friday footage uploaded. This is from the Playful Warrior show at Yuyintang.
So. Fans of proper heavy music rejoice. OK, the quality is not so good. But, stick with it as it goes through to a second song. I was taken with their new grind sections with slow but punishing beats and a guitar that sounds like it's tuned right down ... right down to hell.
Sorry. When I get into metal, all writing bets are off and out comes the cheese and cliche. By the way, death to false metal, satan's minions await you.