shanghai music scene: June 2008 Archives

Ark live house and photo books

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stickerSome news that I read on Shanghaiist lately that made me think a bit. It comes from Abe Deyo in this post. There are two main points: Ark Live House is closing and a new photo book called Shanghai Soundbites is being released.

First of all Ark Live House. I didn't metion this in my last post called I Demand A Recount. This is because it hasn't been doing anything for so long that it hardly counts. Also, it is in Xin Tian Di. That's an upscale restaurant area made by Shui On with the highest prices in town. I went to Ark once and got charged 70 RMB for a can of coke (usually 3 RMB in a shop).  There is one possible repurcussion though. Zhang Haisheng who runs Yuyintang gets a lot of his income from working at Ark as a DJ.

I haven't seen the photobook yet but it made me think of how useless the scene is at communicating, so much is left to chance. Abe Deyo promotes gigs and meets the bands every week and I go to his Shanghaist post for the gig dates. Yuyingtang has a facebook page and Live Bar have just got a new website. In fact there's more in English than in Chinese. But anyway, I have been to the shows here for a few years and know a bunch of people in the scene and try to keep up with it - but the annoucement on Shanghaiist of the book launch on the same day it was happening was the first I'd heard of it in any way, ever.

As for the book itself. I read the blurb on the website. It suggests that people who have made the scene lately are leaving now. Hmmn, is that a reference to the VISA issues and transient nature of the ex-pat population? There's a lot of that opinion around but I don't think the bands have VISA issues, they are Chinese. If all foreigners were repatriated last week, the only difference to the Gala show on Saturday would have been 6 or 7 less people in the audience of 200+ I'm sure the photos are nice, though.

Gala live @ yuyintang

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galaBeijing based indie rockers Gala are obviously quite popular. When I turned up at Yuyingtang on Saturday night it was so packed I could barely get in the door. A quick chat inside and I learned that they have a popular song Young For U that's all over the net. Hence the presence of truck loads of 'regular' students who would not usually come to rock shows. The guy next to me spent the whole show with his fingers in his ears. Coincidentally, another student friend of mine told me they don't like underground gigs because of the noise, but she had recently been to a L'arc En Ciel show at the football stadium. Obviously there must be an urban myth floating around colleges and their net haunts that your ears can be damaged at local gigs. You gotta love rumour panic.

So, after the final warm up band, everyone went out into the park (there's a park out back of Yuyintang) to chill and use the toilets. I took my chance to get a place in the main hall. They started with an intro/lights up track and burst into life. Great sound and enegry and the crowd were obviously 'mad for them'. They then played two Beatles covers and quipped "We're not a Beatles cover band" at the end. In fact half of the set was covers, including Suicide Is Painless. Also, I'm not sure about an underground band at Yuyintang playing two sets with a break and then an encore. The main problem being that the covers were much tighter than the original material.

I saw a bunch of friends/scene regulars there. Chun Shen is a local graphic designer and friend of Cameron's. I also talked to Sophia, Lin Lin and Yixin, who all work there in some capacity. I think everyone was pleased to have a sold out night with money coming in but were not that impressed with the band. The Beijing bands always seem to get a good turnout, even if they are not so much better than Shanghai counterparts, perhaps we've got something to learn from their scene.  


I demand a recount

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live bar siteI don't often post on websites and venues in the Shanghai music scene as they tend to change quite often. Also, they seem to defy normal category as they cross over in both style and function. However, after reading a couple of things in the rags this week I feel like going through this.

First of all, how many venues do we have in Shanghai for indie, rock and punk etc? A venue purpose designed for such gigs that commits to weekly performances and looks and feels like a live music house ... there's two. Yuyintang is one and Live Bar comes second, but it only just makes it in on account of it being open all the time as bar and is not immune to the odd crossover event. Yup, only the two, and Live bar is miles away from me which explains why I nearly only post about Yuyintang.

Next up are bars. Bars who, as part of their promotions, are commited to putting on live music. They are open general hours and have a mixed clientel who aren't specifically into the music. Gucci-wearing clubbers at rock gigs kill the experience for me, bah humbug. Top of this tree is Windows Underground. Windows is basically a venue that tries to make its money via the bar business model and seems to be between the two groups. But they have a proper stage and sound system. Down on Taikang Lu is Bar 288 (AKA The Melting Pot), their house band is Happy Strings. Forever on the lips of ex-pat hipsters and magazines is Logo Bar. Logo used to be the original Tang Hui music pub and is the same deal. This place is a muscially themed trendy pub with no visible pattern to the acts. Now and again they have a good band in but it's largely coincidence. I am partisan and prefer to see a rock/indie band surrounded by people who follow the sub-culture, it's half the point. 

Last one in the significant bar circuit is Gua'er (AKA Sus2). Actually, they were the first true venue in Shanghai way back when. They originally operated out of an old factory in Yangpu but now they have resurfaced as a half-cafe half-bar in Dingxi Road. No important bands have played there for a while though. 

Finally we have the occaisionals. Bands put on gigs in other places for various reasons but you can't see regular gigs at the locations. Harley's Bar used to be a great place and the gig area is quite good, now it's very on and off. Dream Factory is a proper theatre which gets used sometimes if Yuyintang wants a larger space. A band once played at The Shelter but that's a DJ place.  

This week I'm going to see a Beijing indie band called Gala.

Shanghai vs Nanjing @ Yuyintang

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overdoseYuyintang had a great show on tonight ... Shanghai Punk vs Nanjing Punk. Representing Shanghai were Loudspeaker and Mortal Fools. Representing Nanjing were Overdose and Angry Jerks. I hadn't seen either of the Nanjing bands before and Angry Jerks are a psychobilly group. Loudspeaker are a special fixture on the Shanghai scene having been together for over nine years now.

Alas, once again, the curse of the badly planned show struck me down. With four bands on the bill the show was billed as an 8 pm start. Mortal Fools were supposed to go on first and a band member was missing so rather than adjusting the running order they put the whole show back to 10 - only to decide on putting MF on last, after all that.

I have to run off to Hong Kong this week and have had little to no sleep due to Euro 08 matches finishing at 4 am in China, so with the first of four bands only getting done after 11 in a show advertised with an 8 start I ran out of steam. Loudspeaker did their usual thing and I managed to catch most of Overdose.

The real highlight of the night was Mortal Fools singer Frank's get up. Combining the MF band official shirt with a MF stickered sailor hat. Yes!



yuguo myspaceA few weeks back I met Mirjam Johansson and her photographer, David. Mirjam is a freelance journalist from Sweden who was touring China working on several stories at the same time. We met each other through the Couchsurfing message board for Shanghai.

As well as writing about Couchsurfing itself, Mirjam and David wanted to do a piece on the Shanghai underground music scene. So, the weekend they arrived in town we went to Yuyintang to see Yu Guo play and after the show Gemnil Lin hooked us up with an interview.

Yu Guo
myspace music

band page

The guys from the band were really nice and Mirjam had a range of good questions to ask them. There was a little confusion. Mirjam speaks no Chinese and we hand Gemnil on hand to translate, however, the band were happy to try doing it in English. Mirjam was especially interested in if the Chinese indie/rock/punk scene mirrored other countries in it's rebellious attitude. The guys skillfully went around those questions but didn't take offense at the mention of politics.

The most insightful answer of the evening was the band's claim that they are the only full time band in the scene. They have no other jobs and make all their money from music. I was hard pressed to come up with another band from Shanghai who do it.

Mirjam's questions made me think about some negative aspects of the scene and we talked about it after we left the show. Back when I first discovered shows here, the whole anti-Japan drive was in full swing. Many bands had songs about it, bashing Japan for the war and big upping their country etc. No one does it much these days but I hope awareness rises in this area.  


Joyside live @ Windows Underground

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rogue transmission warm upI went down to the recently moved Windows Underground bar last night to see the famous Beijing punk band, Joyside. This was part of a special event called Get in the Van and features a three band bill then a free minibus over to another bar for dancing and DJs. This was the second van event, both organised by Dan Shapiro who fronts the band, Rogue Transmission. As well as Joyside and Rogue Transmission the line up featured folk-punk act Boys Climbing Ropes.

Joyside are huge here and the venue filled up. However, my night was basically ruined by the curse of the 'bar gig'. It's a strange affliction that affects normal 'venue' gigs in the underground scene too. They seem to operate by different rules that may suit some people but just not me.

Why can't shows start on time? Coming late to a show and missing some of the support act is normal and not a big deal. This one was door at 9 then start at 10, but they waited until 10.45 presumably until it filled up more. So, i'm fine with multi act bills, especially in a smaller local scene - but - it drives me nuts when they become triple headliners or sometimes quadruple and more. Have a bunch of support acts but don't hold back the whole show for them to get more people in and, for god's sake, don't let them play full sets.

So Rogue Transmission plays a solid traditional rock set but it was basically 12.00 midnight, Euro 2008 about to start on TV and me starving to death. Yes, 12.00 at a show where the door opened at 9 and the second support act was just warming up. So I missed half of Boys Climbing Ropes getting something to eat then came back in time for Joyside.

And ... the sound was awful, I couldn't hear the lead vocals or the guitar, and Joyside were wasted and all over the place. Let down. Not to mention that half the people there were from the 'party crowd' who looked ready to hit the bund clubs after the show. Joyside are huge, like I said, and their real fans still loved every minute of the show.


andy dan xiao punk

Me, Dan Shapiro and Little Punk of Boys Climbing Ropes.

Crazy Mushroom Brigade @ Yuyintang

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Went out to Yuyintang last night to see one of my favourite Shanghai bands, the Crazy Mushroom Brigade (Fengkuan Mogu Tuan). They are one of a handful of Chinese underground rock/punk bands that are in total command of their instruments, sound and performance. Watching them is a religous experience, but, as they are native to the Shanghai scene, they haven't made the step up to play to a good sized crowd like they deserve. The scene here being quite small still.

The headlining band was actually a Japanese industrial act called God Deadalist. For some reason they opted to go on first out of a 5 band bill despite being billed as the headliner. A singer and a guitarist played live to a backing tape of the drums and bass. I dunno, it was pretty good but more like looking at a piece of art than watching a good band live. photo at the end of the post.

Evans stayed at home so I hung out with Lin Lin who's a manager there, and also Evans' old classmate, Flower, from her high school days. Also met a couple of Fenebache fans from Istanbul. Cool guys. Last night I also checked out Hard Queen at the new Windows Underground venue. I'd love to see the Mushrooms play there to 4 or 500 people. I should harass Brad Ferguson, the manager, about it, he lives by me.


About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the shanghai music scene category from June 2008.

shanghai music scene: July 2008 is the next archive.

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