shanghai music scene: November 2008 Archives
Oh-oh. This is perhaps the worst video clip I have ever produced for the blog in terms of quality. That is saying something when you take into account that they are bootlegs made with a compact cybershot and not an actual video camera.
Now here's the thing: despite this and the poor sound at the gig, the clip manages to capture a Subs show very well. Watch around the 2.27 mark when they go into the mosh-out chorus the second time and the diving and surfing breaks out. Also, if you know who you're are looking at then you can see Jake Newby getting stuck in there as clear as day.
The Subs have now played three shows here this year and, based on the previous turnouts, promoter Abe Deyo moved them up to the Zhijiang Dream Factory this time. The full line up was as follows:
I arrived pretty much on time only to find that the Molds were still sound checking. And so they did for another half an hour or so. It turned out that both Beijing bands needed ninety minutes each to sound check as they were not happy with the venue sound guy. Usually it's not a huge concern at smaller underground shows but Dream Factory is a more professional theatre and the ticket price is double that of the music bars too. Note to the Indietop show next Friday: bring your own sound people.
Once down in the hall it was an hour or so past door opening time and while there was eventually enough people to make the Subs fun and the usual mosh-fest, it was obvious it wasn't going to be the big turnout I hoped for. I met a bunch of people at the show. Aside from the usual suspects were Shanghai blogging duo Swiss James and Dingle. So, on to the bands.
Pinkberry took the stage and went into their set with confidence. The guitar was quiet and the drums sounded like they had a blanket over them but they didn't seem to care. I'm always impressed with how professional they are for a newer/younger band. Vocalist Xiao You really looked the part and, and as always, gave a good performance. My favourite song by Pinkberry is Mei You Shenme Da Bu Liao but lately they have taken to playing it double-time at gigs. But what do I know, Brad Ferguson commented that he quite liked the double-time style. Here's the original but it's only half the track, sorry.
By the time The Molds appeared there was enough people there to fill a Yuyintang. The Molds are a very interesting band. They claim the Cramps as their main influence but play it very straight. Their sound is like Eddie Cochrane or The Shadows with purposefully morose vocals. I was looking forward to it after hearing the demos on Myspace. Unfortunately the vocal sound was so drowned in echo and up in the mix that basically the whole of the band was masked by a kind of wet ghostly moan. The audience couldn't really latch onto the music and as the set went on, for quite some time, it sent the 'young uns' scampering down the street for convenience store beers. The Molds are a cool band, though, and quite distinct from the Nanjing psychobilly acts.
Right after I was explaining to someone how The Subs never play Drew The Line at shows anymore but play it's outro as the show lead in music - The Subs took the stage and went directly into Drew The Line. The sound seemed to get sorted a couple of songs in and a mosh ensued. Monopod guy was back and I spent a few songs unable to see singer Kang Mao past his huge rig. I think once the ticket price and venues get above a certain level someone is going to have to step in and say no unofficial huge vid cameras in the centre or flash photography at the shows. I was mellow all show as I'm just coming off four weeks or cough and cold. I went up the back to make the video of the encore track What More and you can see some crowd surfing action therein.
Today was the second part of the discussion/interview with female artists in the music scene set up by Jake Newby. Here is the first part.
Again, the feature is for SH Magazine and I was participating but can't undercut the feature by reproducing the interview. Sorry.
Today we had the following participants:
Vivian from Moongazer
Li Yefeng from Candy Shop
It was a fun time and there was a lot of talk to be had about both the woman's situation within the music scene and other stuff like who sucks and who rocks. There wasn't much to do on the interviewer side as all four girls are intelligent and articulate. The break time small talk was just as challenging and wandered into stuff like imagery in the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe. I came away feeling justified in having pushed these bands on the blog lately. Take Pinkberry for example. Their music is fairly straightforward pop-punk but when you listen to Xiao You's level of awareness and conscious choice behind the music, you know that they are going to stand out.
I will pinch one 'soundbite' as it happened after the end of the interview. Jia Die said:
When you perform noise it seems to be violent but when you are listening to it you can be taken to a calm place. I feel very calm and I used to listen to noise before going to sleep.
A couple of weeks ago or so I wrote about an amazing show at YYT. It was none other than the 0093 Rock party 'rocking in the free world'. Read the original post here.
I was just trolling around Chinese language web pages and vid streaming sites and came across some footage from that show on Tudou Wang. The video seem to be shot by people from the site Rock Shanghai. The huge logo gave it away. So here are two songs from Little Nature. It's rough but fun and captures the Yuyintang atmosphere perfectly.
At the beginning of the month I wrote this blog post that was reporting on Dan Shapiro's City Weekend article. The gist of it was that November was shaping up to be the peak month in the Shanghai music year. Dan was dead right, it has been great. What's more, this boom seems to be breaking right through December too. Over the next four weekends you can see the following bands/events all on different days, that is, you can see all of them:
Hua Lun (post rock)
Banana Monkey's new line up
And that's just my schedule. There are same day choices and other venues too.
Today I took part in a round-table type interview/discussion for an upcoming magazine feature on local bands. It is being put together by Jake Newby at SH magazine. After talking at recent shows about some newer bands and some bands on my blog, Jake saw a possibility for a feature on girl bands and female singers. He quite graciously had me along for the sessions too and it was a good time. Today was Momo and Bang Bang Tang, later in the week we'll see Torturing Nurse's Jia Die, Pinkberry's Xiao You and possibly Candy Shop also. Obviously I can't undercut the interview before it comes out but I can mention that in a light hearted part of the talk Xiao Bai from Bang Bang Tang let out that she had, in fact, had a semi-stalker at one point. Nothing serious, thankfully, but creepy all the same, especially if you're not a big star with security and lawyers. That's Momo guitarist Maya, singer Ding Jia and Xiao Bai in the photo above.
Finally, Lin Lin from Yuyintang has been busy with more photography down at 0093 this week. here are two great portraits of Vivian and David from Moongazer (Wang Yue Zhe).
Update: Still two free tickets up for grabs, don't be fooled by the number of comments. I should say a free ticket to the first three commenters who explicitly state they want the free ticket. Don't give up without actually reading the comments!
This blog's contents are dictated solely by where I go and what I read/hear about. I'm not in the habit of doing specific previews or listings. However, sometimes you have to break the rules in special cases.
This post is about the upcoming Indie Top showcase gig. Read about it again here. And my message is simple: you must go to this show and force everyone you know to go too.
And here's what I'm going to do: I will buy advance tickets this week and the first three commenters on this blog get a free ticket. Just leave any comment under a nickname. If you fill in the E-mail section I will see that and contact you privately.
Before I explain why, let me list the details again:
The Indie Top showcase and CD release
Friday 5th December at 19.30
Address: Zhijiang Dream Factory, The New Factories, 28 Yuyao Road, Shanghai
Tickets: 50 rmb, 40 rmb in advance
Ticket Hotline: 021 6227 7332
Crazy Mushroom Brigade
Now. I think all venues and bands deserve equal support and on principal we should go to as many shows as possible. What we have here though is the possible start of a genuine and regular indie label in Shanghai. Beijing has Modern Sky and Maybe Mars. An amazing turnout at this show along with everyone picking up the CD there, will really make the difference. It will give extra confidence to the newer bands and push them on and will also show the label that they are doing the right thing. We have the power to help make this a turning point.
The Shanghai scene has been booming after the summer break, yes. But the hard truth is that it is still small enough that leaving things to chance can sometimes result in great bands playing to near empty rooms. Another stark fact is that - whatever the reasons and excuses - some promoters and event groups always fill their shows, while others toss the coin. So here's the thing - we the fans should become promoters and plug this show in every way we know how. Create your own events on Facebook or Xiaoneiwang. Mass E-mail. Write about this show for sites and mags. Buy your ticket in advance too. Let's sell this one out.
If this works then do this for every band and venue you like in the future - this scene needs you.
P.S. See you in the mosh pit during Crazy Mushrooms.
P.P.S. If you are hard-core old school punk/not from Shanghai and sh*t on both indie poseurs and our fine city then The Shy Tall Mighty are back in town that day.
P.P.P.S. But really, go to Indie Top.
This was the third night of a three night show marathon of which I cried off the middle date. So, yeah, no write up for V-day and Hard Queen, sorry. I did hear that Yuyintang got well over 200 people in for that show despite going head-to-head with New Pants. Nice.
Also the title of this post is a bit misleading as this was a Moses Hazy show. Moses are touring from Finland and I only blog local bands. Needless to say that Moses were good and thanks for coming to Shanghai and all that. They are based in Finland and not China so fall outside of the blog.
And so, the main contender: Arrows Made Of Desire (Beijing)
Three shows in a weekend and the last one on a Sunday following two big shows. History tells us that the turn out was not going to be spectacular. But. Times they are a changing. It seems that Yuyintang is now known enough to pull in a hundred or so people on any given event without marketing. By the end of the night it was a half decent turn out and a full room. Not bad. Also, a few musician types were lurking around as they normally are when bands come down from the Beijing scene. Dan Shapiro was down again as he's often in Beijing scoping out the best bands and rightly championed the whole weekend. Yuyintang's Sun Lu was also hanging with his pal from Crystal Butterfly at the bar all night and plying all comers with rocket fuel bai jiu among other things.
Just as Arrows Made of Desire took to the stage there was a single bizarre moment. Two or three high tables with bar stools had been left in the main room, over by the sound desk, from the previous night and a bunch of people had sat at them. The staff were too nice to evict them and remove the offending objects. Tables stuck in the middle of a live house floor just seem to attract table people. After Arrows frontman Joewi (originally Dutch) welcomed the crowd in Mandarin, one middle aged sweater wearing type blurted out that he needn't speak Chinese just use English - accompanied by a smug guffaw. He seemed totally unaware that the rest of the crowd were fine with the intro and there was a deserved beat down an embarrassed silence for a moment there. So let's not leave the a*shole magnets floor tables out next time.
The band played a tight set. The songs were punchy indie rock, not unlike the Friday night acts, but with more complex arrangements. It was a treat for muso fans as Joewi covered the whole range of guitar technique during the set without compromising the appeal of the songs. I picked up their CD and also put a video on the youtube channel. I have to say that I'm impressed over all with the Beijing post-Strokes group of bands, represented this weekend by three acts. But I'm still focused on the prize - the Indie Top showcase at Dream Factory where we get to see what Shanghai can really pull together. Not to forget Pinkberry playing with the Subs at what will be the mosh-fest of the year.
Updates galore: Due to the popularity of the Douchegate scandal this video has now been reposted on three major Shanghai blogs. I won't link the exact posts because they are just links back here but thanks must go to Shanghaiist, Danwei and I Love China.
Two weekends back, I missed an entire weekend of shows due to illness. So, now I bring you an exclusive look into the the life of a Shanghai hipster douchebag when they are not at shows or some cafe, reading a really really clever book. Set to Joyside's anthem Sunday Morning, follow me on the usual adventures like heading out to the store and making abusive phone calls.
Quality - be nice, it's partly shot on phone-camera and partly on a two year old Cybershot.
Content - if you live here and follow the news as well as blogs like Shanghaiist and Danwei, then watch away. If you don't then you might want to check this out - story.
Content - if you live here and follow the news as well as blogs like Shanghaiist and Danwei, then watch away. If you don't then you might want to check this out - story.
Beijing indie rockers Casino Demon came to town last night and lived up to all the expectations. Read all about it. Even more apologies than usual for the YYT blinking lights on auto thing. They did start off doing it properly but poor old Sam the tech guy had spent all day with food poisoning and was passed out on the desk for half the show.
Anyway, this vid managed to capture the energy perfectly, so if need be, just listen and look at their picture at the same time or something. This is the ruling track Wa Ha Ha. Sit back and weep beeeatches James Pants choosers.
I have to start by apologizing for the photo for this post. It is a classic in the genre of nondescript afterthought pictures that Andy puts on his blog. Believe me, I'm actually very into photography but my main priority at shows is ... shock ... watching them. We're coming back to that later. Besides, don't the pictures and bootleg style vids add to the underground atmosphere?
So. Tonight's headliners were being talked up big time by scene people who are up in Beijing a lot (Dan). They did not disappoint so fair play. Let's start with the line up:
Fire Balloon (Beijing): myspace
This show was another S.T.D. production which meant a later start. But that also means a good opportunity for me to chat and find out what's going on. Not much to be honest, although I did witness a funny scene where by someone related to one of the bands just decided to take advantage of the free guest entry and bring about twenty people in unannounced. Certain managers were obviously a bit miffed at having the p*ss taken out of them and must have asked for a list to be made. Someone in the back must have then found that request a slight on their grandeur amusing as the list came back with names like Jesus, Barack Obama and Mao Zedong on it. It was funny. Really though, free guests, at a (poor and small) YYT show? Where's the Brad-inator when you need him?
So, on came Fire Balloon. Fire Balloon are a modern rock three piece in the mold of The Libertines. Well, you know, the style that the Libertines made popular again. They had some good songs and the singer/guitarist had a definite artist feel about him as he rambled off into some excellent guitar work and often seemed to be in another place (in the good sense). That got them through a clear but very support act sound and a broken bass string. There was another excellent turn out and the crowd seemed pleased. Behind me, Sam the sound guy was constantly face down on his lap top due to illness, but this didn't seem to cause any major problems either.
Next up are local favourites The Rogue Transmission. Since the summer break this band have played a lot of shows and put out their first CD. They have been working hard and the result is clear to see. People know the songs and come ready to have a good time. Prior to the show I was reading over at Layabozi that A.B.T. had become the anthem track for the Rogues. They were right. By the time they played the song, second from last in the set, people were dancing and going for it and there was a definite reaction there. The only drawback was the curse of the photographer who has no respect for the audience. I have moaned about this so many times before. This time, some girl who I haven't really seen there with a camera before was taking it to the next level. For the second and third track of The Rogue's Set she got up behind them on stage, pointed her powerful pro-flash at the crowd and proceeded to blind me over and over again.
When Casino Demon took the stage I wasn't entirely convinced. It's not like when The Subs take the stage and there's an air of expectation. They don't have a strong image and are very humble, unassuming guys. However, this doesn't matter when you have excellent tight, punchy songs with great hooks and a room chock full of people who are up for it. The dancing, jumping and moshing got under full swing and the band were very good at keeping the energy up and getting into next tracks without delay. Again, this band lists The Libertines among their influences and it shows. Zhang Haisheng tells me that this is very popular in the Beijing scene at the moment.
People who are not physically in the scene here might wonder why I have to make special mention every time a show has a lot of people and goes of well. That's because in this small scene, a show could equally be twenty people loitering in a near empty room. Good shows here are the result of hard work from everyone involved and are to be celebrated. The band were called out for an encore but had played all their material. They left us with a Joyside cover - always a popular move in China. Err ... should I say this? Despite the star factor of the real Joyside I felt that Casino Demon performed this much better than the real guys (who are always completely wasted).
So. This month's top hot off the press gossip story featuring New Pants gets one more round. The show is tomorrow and two magazines have run interviews with them.
Here's the first installment: snub
And here's the follow up: handbags
And, before I go on, the interviews in full.
Jake Newby at SH magazine: read
Punknotjunk at City Weekend: read
Jake's interview is fairly sober and I can reveal that the questions were sent off and done before the scandal broke. By the way, I'm never, ever, going to use the phrase "I can reveal that" again. I just wrote several posts on gossip stuff lately and wanted to throw it in there once. Here's a sample from the interview:
Punknotjunk happens to be the same guy who started off the whole scandal, getting his article pulled from Shanghaiist, where he is the music editor. He starts off by immediately bringing this up and then asking them about it. If you've been following this then you'll note the irony when you read the intro. I still want to know where the 'heat' came from. Shanghaiist are near immune to complaints and last time they altered a post that was already up was when it contained snuff pictures. Just who did Abe piss off?
Here's a sample from the interview:
New Pants seems to be gaining in popularity.......any chance you might soon be breaking into the world of Mando Pop? Maybe a duet with Joey Yung?
A: In China, today, our music still isn't accepted by mainstream audiences, but we have a great fan base in the relatively small underground scene. Fortunately the scene is expanding. Given the chance we would love to work with Joey Yung.
So, after the show tomorrow, this will be put to bed. Must say it's been refreshing to have someone speak their mind regardless of social relationships etc. It hasn't exactly been bad for the blog either.
Upcoming Shanghai band Tianping Dian are getting it together lately. I've been catching them at gigs for a while now and was really happy to see them rip out a great show in front of a decent crowd at YYT recently.
Video of Tianping Dian at YYT: watch
So now I'm happy to see that Tianping Dian have now recorded a quality demo track and opened up a Neocha page. The song Wo Men (we) is their show stopper right now and I have to admit a soft spot for the style. Although I must admit, if you come to this track knowing they are called Candy Shop, you're in for a shock when you hear it.
In other news, this is the so-called peak weekend of the peak month this year. Over at his City Weekend blog, Dan Shapiro has posted up a summary. Read it. I just want to add to that though. Those three shows are the three big shows. At the same time as New Pants there is an indie night at Yuyintang that features Nanjing's V-day and Hard Queen. There's always stuff going on in the 'old' music district at places like Live Bar and 021. So yeah, this is a super packed weekend with choices. Talking of big shows we have The Subs and the Indie Top showcase to come at Dream factory.
As an end note, there may be yet another addition to the hipster paradise. It's too early to make any map edits yet, but the bar on Fahuazhen Road to the east of Dingxi Road has been bought out and is going to put bands on. They have installed J-rockers Slappie Toy as their house band. And since there is a lot of confusion about this in the Shanghai mags I want to say: good venues put on original music. No one with half a brain would count a pub that puts on a cover band on Tuesdays as part of a scene. So lets wait and see.
Update: I just noticed that this is music scene post number 108 (hugely significant in Chinese numerology). Did Tianping Dian just get heaven's mandate to become the ruling band on the scene? You know, if you're into that sort of thing. Er mi tuo fo.
Recently I have blogged a bit about a new Shanghai indie label called Indietop (part of Soma). A lot of this came courtesy of scene writer Lisa Movius.
There are 13 bands signed to the label including blog favourites like Little Nature, Momo and Crazy Mushroom Brigade. Talking of the Mushrooms brings us to the reason for the post. Mushroom's frontman Pu Pu (
So without further ado here it is (a lot of Chinese, sorry international readers):
I would strongly recommend going to the show and getting a CD too. The inside word is that the label boss needed a fair amount of persuading to sign the younger bands and we should send a message that it's a good decision by supporting and spreading the word. If the label keeps going, Shanghai bands can aim higher in the future.
I'm a bit late on this, this month. As well as passing the 100 posts mark, the Youtube channel has passed 50 videos. I'll have to start this with the usual preface. For all those new to the blog, there is a Youtube channel full of clips of the bands.
Why not start with a visit - here.
Once a month I do a round up post on this. None of the vids have really taken off in the way that Youtube vids can. Obviously the rest of the world is blissfully unaware of the joys of being into obscure bands and the hipster currency it carries. I hold out hope though. The music shorts done by Danwei TV get several thousand views. This is probably down to Danwei's professional excellence and mass appeal ... curses. Schokora!
A video cross posted at the popular Shanghaiist site only saw it garner an extra 100 views. While that was a bit of a let down, it did push that video to the number one spot. So, let's have it then. Here are the top six:
1) Rogue Transmission live @ Dream Factory: 270 views watch
2) Self Party play the Miniless showcase at Yuyintang: 212 views watch
2) Self Party play the Miniless showcase at Yuyintang: 212 views watch
3) Bang Bang Tang live @ Yuyintang: 199 views watch
4) Boys Climbing Ropes live @ Dream factory: 185 views watch
5) Hard Queen live @ Yuyintang: 151 views watch
6) Modern Cheese live @ Yuyintang: 135 views watch
In other blog news. I don't always catch other blog posts on the scene at first but posts at sites with high traffic crop up on Google from time to time. Today I came across a new one at Fool's Mountain: Blogging for China. So before I start blathering on:
Read the original article here
The post is just letting the readers know that there's a music scene in China and introducing them to some indie bands such as Hedgehog, Cold Fairyland and ... err ... Faye Wong. Anyway, I have a bee in my bonnet about that blog so just read the article for yourselves. The rest of the blog is shot through with Victorian notions on race and country and might as well be called Blogging for Nationalism. Anyway, lots of people like that blog so don't listen to me.
If anything, Lu Chen, formerly of Top Floor Circus, and Xiao He, formerly of Glorious Pharmacy, are not predictable. Tonight was no exception.
Xiao He is touring his solo show which is a multi-discipline avant-garde show that he developed from his many musical and visual influences. Lu Chen has also been striking out on his own with a show that is largely based in dramatic/comedy performance as much as it is music. The previous Lu Chen show at Yuyintang had been a hilarious routine featuring a showdown between the Ol*mp*c mascots and Haibao, mascot of the upcoming W*r*d Exp*. Check out the write up and the video.
So, the poster for the show featured Astro Boy and talk was of another dramatic extravaganza. But like I said, these guys are a touch unpredictable.
Arriving at the show I was surprised to see Ben Hogue who had blogged about going to see 10 play at Logo Bar. It turned out they made a last minute appearance at YYT which I came into right in the last minute. The billed show got going straight away with a short film. I heard they made a short film especially for the show. What I didn't realise was it that it was an actual film. That is, they projected a 40 minute indie short film where Lu Chen played a blind man visiting Shanghai. It was almost painfully slow and detailed in a near neo-realist sense but clearly intended to be Absurd. Without any kind of introduction or context at all, the audience didn't really get it until over half way through when Lu Chen's character was strumming a guitar and chanting without skill but it came out like a Buddhist mantra prompting another seemingly detached character to take him to Jing'an Temple.
After this, Lu Chen and Xiao He separately played straight forward music sets of regular songs. Lu Chen sat with his guitar and was backed by drums and bass. During his first track he used a lot of samples and effects too. I got close to the front and saw that the bassist had a Midi set up beside him that he was operating via some kind of Monome knock off. It was a great set. Xiao He just sang with guitar and no other back up at all. It was perhaps the most sober performance the two have ever put on - but a relief of sorts as these guys are among the top talents in China and you rarely get to hear a solid set of the music itself.
Me and the wife bumped into Lu Chen about half way through the Xiao He set and he told us that indeed they were not making any joint show and that once Xiao He was done his acoustic set, that was it. I left a little before the end to eat. I then got bored waiting for my food and was going through my camera pics, deleting old ones. Joy of joys, I lost concentration and deleted the excellent video I got of Lu Chen and the sole clear photo too. My bad. All in all a great night and a great atmosphere at YYT which seems to attract a good turnout and a quality event every weekend these days. Great to see Jake Newby there too, as well as brief meets with Dan from The Rogue Transmission and Morgan from BCR.
Just two posts back I blogged about the "torturing Torturing Nurse" show at Live Bar and linked Ben Hogue's write up. The band members are bagged, tied to a table in a plastic bag and even stripped naked and taped to the mic stand. Yan Jun keeps this going until their contact mics are giving out a sound show to rival the most disturbing horror flick you've seen.
I swung by their Douban page and saw that they posted video footage of the show. Here's part two which is when the sound gets going. Welcome to the far end of the scale.
Zhejiang based indie label Lushui Shiyi (Dew 11) are touring to promote their new CD which is a compilation featuring several of their artists. The style is somewhere between folk and experimental indie. Having been to the show and got the CD I will say it was more Notch and less Miniless.
Here is their official website.
And here is their Douban group.
So, after sick leave last week, I came to YYT on what seemed to be the least hyped/marketed night of this super November. There was a fair turnout. Shanghai's own Mogu Hong seemed to have brought in their own following too. They (she) had a track on the recent Neocha Netlabel release. Did you DL it? The three Dew 11 acts playing the showcase were:
On the CD, Zhu Sha and Mogu Hong have full polished tracks including percussion and backing music but for the gig they both did a one woman with acoustic guitar show. Zhu Sha went on first. I mentioned it was just Zhu Sha and her guitar. Let me modify that. It was Zhu Sha and a half broken shit guitar that also happened to sound like a damp-damaged over tightened banjo being abused inside a tin can. However, her song writing is pretty good and a couple of the tracks seemed to shine out no matter what the set up. The song Mr Darcy was well arranged and genuinely haunting. It also caused one excited member of the audience to blurt out that they too had a thing for Mr Darcy.
Next up was Hangzhou based Valley. They had a very modern experimental indie set up with the front man playing guitar and operating laptop. Their first track was just unbelievable and took me right back to watching Efterklang at Notch with Archie. They followed this with a Sonic Youth-esque up tempo track with purposefully dry vocals. The audience were really into it but the third track was to be their last one and was a more sparse traditional indie song. I got it on video.
Mogu Hong's Xiao Hong came on last and we got a second dressed down acoustic set of the night. She played a full set and had fans there. I would like to have seen a little bit more of the style on the CD, even it was just a lap top backing or whatever. I think I'm starting to appreciate the genre a bit more these days and Valley had some good moments. YYT brought in J-rock act Slappy Toy (Wanju Yuedui) to play out the night, it was a Friday night after all.
When I was last at Yuyintang I finally got to meet Ben Hogue in person and have a chat. He was telling me about a gig in the noise scene where Torturing Nurse had a guest artist actually torture them, so to speak.
I have covered a NOIShanghai show before here. They do their own thing apart from the rest of the scene and have gotten up to their 20th show. I noticed today that Ben has covered the show in his new blog. Here's an excerpt.
I also caught Torturing Nurse's gig the week prior, quite an usual set for them. At this, their 20th NOIShanghai concert, sound artist Yan Jun 颜峻 (who was down from Beijing to play with me and Bruce Gremo in a performance of Christian Marclay's Screen Play, part of the Shanghai eArts Festival 2008 in Xujiahui Park) decided he was going to turn the tables by torturing Torturing Nurse (in his pajamas). Xu Cheng 徐程 was tied up in a bag with a microphone, Junky was tied to a table in a raincoat with a contact mic taped to his throat, and Jia Die 蛱蝶 was taped up to a microphone and chair. (And that's all she was wearing; as an unintended encore, we got to hear her improvised offstage vocalizations as the tape was removed from her more sensitive regions.)
You can read the full post here. Oh, those crazy noise scene people. But let's be honest, who can read that write up and not be at least a little curious to get to the next show?
Another update on the New Pants thing: I decided to follow up this story by contacting Kenneth Tan of Shanghaiist for a comment. He declined to answer at all so it's snubs all round. Hooray.
I'm all excited. My cold is clearing and the worst is behind me. This weekend - shows! Great. So, before normal service is resumed let's clean up some odds and ends.
I recently spotted a small-ish column in Enjoy Classifieds talking about the scene. Check it here. So, Barfly continued to have a look at the music scene this week too.
I'm glad he did. I don't like to be negative and Barfly had a very similar experience to me in a certain area, so I can quote him instead of posting it as my own.
What the f*ck am I on about? Check this out first: adventures in cabaret
So, Bar 288 (Melting Pot) has recently opened a new location right on Hengshan Lu in the main bar area. I have been avoiding this for the same reasons I laid out in the linked post. At the bottom of this post you can see how it turned out. Barfly went there last week and here's what he had to say about it.
Barfly was going to be about the Melting Pot's new Hengshan Lu location and it's live music potential. I had it completed, and then decided it could be summed up in one sentence - the new Melting Pot has little potential aside from the funny sensation you get when walking into a Chinese club laced with purple velvet walls and disco lights, with Irish fiddles playing in the background.
That about sums up what everyone is saying except for the odd stage placement in there. The column is joking about Chinese mainstream clubs. This is not a cultural thing. YYT and Live Bar don't seem to have any problems. I personally just think the owners are just more club than venue, that's all. Also, Bar 288 on Taikang Lu is a pretty cool place to hang out, they just don't have any idea how to put on a rock show beyond letting a band play inside the building.
So, talking of YYT. Gemnil, a performance manager there, is starting to dip into some band promotion and photo shoots. YYT owner Zhang Haisheng only officially manages one band, Yu Guo. But now, together with 0093 studios, they will start to get more into developing talent. With 0093 releasing their first EP for the band Joker and Indie Top recording for 13 acts at the moment we may be able to double the amount of true albums from Shanghai based new generation bands by New Year. So above and below are some shots of Hanging Garden (Kongzhong Huayuan). See a video of these mellow indie balladeers at Yuyintang here.
Update: A sample of Gemnil's Pinkberry shoot added below
I have some follow up here on the New Pants - Abe Deyo story I broke after reading the Shanghaiist post which has since been taken down.
Confused? Here's the full story.
The story has done the rounds now and we have some new comment and quotes from both Jake Newby at SH Magazine and Archie Hamilton of Split Works at his China Music Radar blog.
China Music Radar is a professional blog that deals with 'the biz' end of the scene. Readers of my blog should be following it too as it fills in a massive area of the scene that I don't cover much at all. What's more, it's written by people who are full time pros in that field.
Here is Archie's post on the story: Handbags
Archie makes basically the same disclaimers that I did in the original post. That is: it's gossip, it's based on Abe's personal principals and not on direct quotes from the bands and also that ultimately you should judge the bands themselves based on the music. He also brings in some slang from the footy terraces and inspires the titles for both this post and Jake's article. I do want to stick by the fact that I like gossip and that these kinds of stories are par for the course in the world of music. Archie nails it, though, when he implies with his post that it seems mismatched to the size of the scene here.
Jake's article at SH manages to get a quote from one of the sources, but still not one of the bands.It's from S.T.D. the promoters of the upcoming New Pants show in Shanghai. Conflict of interest warning.
Reggie from STD (the promoter behind both shows) has said that The Gurge "were all delighted with their recent tour through China. They had an amazing experience, and as professional as both bands are, I would find it hard to believe that they would let this sort of thing come between them."
Good follow up from Jake but the quote doesn't really answer Abe's point. Abe didn't make any claim to representing the bands themselves rather he was talking about his principals and views on the matter. It seems obvious why it would be pulled from Shanghaiist but stories don't get directly posted there, they are stored and then scheduled after checking by the editor. It has been pulled from above following a complaint. Hence the intrigue. Anyway, it's a bit of a story for people like me to blog about, isn't it.
Jake then goes on, in his excellent post, to pick the Xiao He feat. Lu Chen of Top Floor Circus show. Great pick. These guys are great musicians, great performers and they're funny as f*ck. A warning though, I've recently chatted with some of the people involved in the upcoming show. It will be an expanded version of their recent Haibao drama act based, this time, around Astro Boy. Last time this meant large sections of drama/comedy with some token songs along the way. Perhaps we are going to get a third rendition of Punk Rockers Suck with Astro crushing our balls.
If you want a great night out with a real 'local' experience you should not miss this show. Lu Chen and Xiao He are gods in the scene. Well - that's 100 music scene posts for me and plenty more to come! I leave you with the video of Lu Chen's last show.
A while back I made a post highlighting why my Xinhua neigbourhood was the ultimate place for rock/indie hipsters to be. It coincided with my custom Google map of said area which you can check out via the sidebar.
Revisit the post here.
So, now we have a vital new addition. I was in conversation with someone about Kaixuan Lu. That road is basically below the path of the line 3 light rail system and used to be the route of the original Hangzhou to Shanghai railway in days gone by. It marks the western boundary of my area and is a bit of a non-event. Of course, Yuyintang is there but next to a station and park by a busy intersection. Anyway ...
It turns out that a large music shop just relocated there, one block south of YYT and just below the junction with Xinhua Road. So, today I decided to check it out. It's split level with guitars on the top deck and has a great selection of quality brands. It's all above board and you can use cards there too. In my excitement, I completely forgot to get the complete name and address of the store and the receipt shows only the accountancy firm name. Anyway, I have added it in to the custom map where you can see a marker showing the exact location.
I mentioned a receipt, right?
Joy of joys, I have upgraded to an even more metal guitar. It's so metal I should be referring to it as an axe now. Behold the new Jackson. It even has a reversed pointy headstock. I always wanted one of those. Swoon.
Well, Dan Shapiro was not wrong when he said we were hitting peak season at the moment. The shows are stacking up at an alarming rate.
Lisa Movius just sent me a flyer/tip off relating to Soma Record's new stable of bands. Soma are a new indie label in Shanghai and you can read previous posts on them here and here.
So, the label has an all new brand now Indie Top and is having a large showcase to promote it's upcoming first releases. The materials say that they now represent thirteen acts and are committed to young/new talent.
The show is going down at Dream Factory on December 5th and there's even a discount for buying tickets in advance. You may need to do this as they have Wang Xiaokun playing and he's well known in the mainstream.
Here's the line-up in full:
Crazy Mushroom Brigade
Qing Ma Dao
I got to like the newish band Pink Berries lately after seeing them a bunch of times at Yuyintang. After talking to the band a little and joining their Douban group I have got some updates.
Firstly, the official way to write and spell the name is actually Pinkberry, although singer Xiao You joked it was a reflection of her English pronunciation.
So, also they have just finished a new demo track and a set of high quality promo pictures to go with it. They have taken the pics and the track Pinkberry 小不点 and opened up a Neocha account.
So check it out: Pinkberry at Neocha
You can learn all kinds of stuff when you actually bother to check the band's page, I have found. Did you know that 0093 Studios have a footy team? Joking aside, there's the language issue for me. I'm stuck between having learned it to a certain spoken level (no so hard) and then pressing on to get all the reading and vocab down (too lazy). Anyway, I'm here to blog the shows I go to really, not be one of those interpret the meaning of China people. Here's a story that has a point about that. Some people may be aware that I speak reasonable Cantonese, learned from friends back in the UK for fun. Well, it went on until one day I found myself able to hold conversations and understand people when they talked in a normal fashion.
So, around that time I was in a Chinese restaurant in Winchester, Charles' House, and suddenly I realised that I could now understand everything the staff were saying to each other. I got a chill down my spine in anticipation of the secret world I was about to enter. Here's what I heard:
Hey, got those noodles for table six?
Siu Mak, refill the tea, would you?
Siu Mak, refill the tea, would you?
Do we have another menu at reception?
... ah, yes.
Update: One of the two posts that I linked below have been pulled by the editors this morning. Shanghaiist have even left a note about it 'pending further review'. This is quite funny from a site that regularly posts up all kinds of offensive trash such as inflammatory far-right nonsense and tabloid stories. I have to speculate that S.T.D. are not happy with someone recommending staying away from one of their shows.
But remember, kids, that's what gossip stories are all about: outrageous speculations.
Well, we haven't really had any good gossip for a while and it had to come at some point. Does that count as a preface?
Beijing punk rockers New Pants are on their way to Shanghai for a big show at the Dream Factory. It will be put on by S.T.D. and will really be a big show.
So, here's the basic gist of the story. Shanghai promoter Abe Deyo, also the music editor at Shanghaiist, has just posted about New Pants and their perceived snub to Aussie band Regurgitator, who were just here.
What do you think: Regurgitator are an established and successful band in Australia who decided to help out New Pants by flying them to Oz and paying for them to do the whole tour in front of sell out audiences. So, one year later the Oz band come out to China hoping to team up with a local act and reach a local audience. New Pants say we're a bit busy, sorry, and decline to get involved.
It should be mentioned that I know nothing about it and I'm basically blogging Abe's two articles on the subject. He mentions that New Pants also bad mouthed The Queers, who Abe is bringing over and messed with another band's show he is involved in. This didn't only prompt him to break the Regurgitator story, it has messed with his cool. People here know that Abe is super-cool and professional. He is very careful not mess with other promoters or say anything negative about bands in general. A nerve appears to be hit this time though.
Here's a quote
Nov 22nd New Pants ... actually after the diss they laid on Regurgitator we don't recommend seeing these douchebags unless it's to throw rotten tomatoes at the f*ckers.
There's a danger here of any press being good press for the show itself but Go Abe. This blog must recommend making your decision based on if you like New Pants' music or not but I love gossip too. Also, there hasn't been a promoter throw down for a while and when there was it was more like people getting mildly annoyed with each other. Where's Brad when you need him?
Update: The video here is 5 Minutes' support act 2 Oranges. They went on last it seems. You can still see a 5 Minutes official video in the previous post. Check that out too.
Following up on the post below. I'm on a sicky this week and didn't go to any shows. There was the metal night at YYT and the festival up at the SMP skatepark too. I opted to preview the 5 MinS show, to keep it fair to the non-punk community.
Jake Newby who writes for SH Magazine, has come through for the team. Not only did he interview 5 MinS singer/composer Joy Island for the magazine, he went to the show and got the footage. You can read the interview here. And now without further ado ... the vid.
Regular readers of the blog may notice I have a leaning towards punk and garage rock, especially local Shanghai acts. However, I like to think that I pitch in with other genres to keep the balance. Revisit these blog moments for the experimental/electro indie scene: Miniless Showcase, Notch Festival, Neocha Folk release, 33 Island and the Self Party Video.
So, I'm still sick and it's raining so I doubt I'll be able to report on tonight's YYT show, 5 Minutes. They are a Beijing based act who are an important part of the indie scene. Check out their page here (has five full tracks) and watch the video below. If you go to the show, let me know about it in the comments.
I'm sick and it's raining again. However I did manage to pop to a cafe this morning and come across a copy of Enjoy Classifieds which I was then surprised to find a scene reference inside. I've decided to squeeze that and a couple of other tidbits into a post.
First of all, let me assure you that Enjoy Classifieds is a regular type classifieds paper and is not adult in nature. It's just a bad choice of name. Inside there is a column called Barfly written by one Trevor Postma. Hi, Trevor. This week he admits never having been to a true local gig despite being a music fan and nobly decides to get on down to Yuyintang.
After the first real show comes the immediate scene fixing analysis. Credit to Trevor though as he comes out of that potential pitfall saying much the same as everyone else in the scene. In short, that the bands and fans are there but we're lacking a couple more decent venues. Barfly found YYT itself to be suitably grungy and rock style but a little on the small side. Alas, no mention of which show he was at or which bands were playing.
In other news, I got contacted by a certain Beijing scene guy who runs the site Rock In China. This is a wiki site that hopes to cover and document the whole China scene, so you can find a bunch of Shanghai info there too. Talking to Max, he reminded me of the other blog Chaile. There's a lot of posts there too, but it has been defunct since August 2006. Advance apologies to Max, and by implication Archie, but I have to mention that if you surf into Rock In China, it's done in one of those white text on black background with red trimming themes that burns my eyes out of my head like snow-blindness. It may just be me.
Coming up this weekend. Metal Night!
This blog is down with the flu. I've been fighting it all week and even went to two shows with it. Now it's all catching up with me. Apologies in advance if this is a quiet weekend coming up.
Here's what I'm listening to in the world of Chinese underground music. I've seen Pink Berries a lot lately and posted up a couple of vids. I always have time for simple catchy 90's punk and this group fits my bill perfectly. So here's a quality recording of their track Run Away. Enjoy.
Well this might surprise a few. I have three videos from this weekend. One is of The Subs playing the Halloween show. It was, as usual, amazing. But, the vid I took is from near the start and from the back as your intrepid blogger heard their third song, a personal favourite, and had to disappear into the mosh for the rest of the show.
Then we have Bang Bang Tang. Great sound, great musicianship and surely going to be a big success down the line. Their last video on the blog was a good one too. Also, and this is very important, someone actually did lights for Bang Bang Tang tonight. It's close up and the most watchable video on the channel so far. But still no dedicated post.
So, get ready for Pink Berries. There's a few intro bars, a brief moment of pause ... "We are Pink Berries" ... and then kaboom. If the previous night's crowd was in front of them, it would have been a riot.
I want to start with a small preface. This is not a post of me tellin' it how it is about The Scene. This is me linking a great post by Dan and discussing it a little. See what I'm doing with this preface thing? Go on, use this meme yourself. Preface.
Dan Shapiro of The Rogue Transmission (pictured centre) writes the column The Beat for City Weekend. I was just checking his latest post at their online site and found something worth bringing up.
So, first up: here it is.
So it's all about how Yuyintang has an amazing line up this month. Here's the quote that got me.
Yuyintang, which has basically become Shanghai's only real (and consistent) livehouse, had just announced its November line-up and rock fans are in for a seriously awesome month.
I have to agree here. I have joked before that the reason I am always at YYT is that it's near my house. That's part of it but the main reason is that it's the only place that's like a true rock /indie venue. That is, it has a separate black-box style room with a stage and rear sound desk. The rest of the club is also done out in the dive style. If it's not clear what I mean, go to a show there and then go to shows at other places the same month and compare. Also, since getting the new place they have gradually added to and improved it week by week and now it's the real deal. Now for what follows this observation - other places need to get their sh*t together.
Talking of other places. The Subs will be making another Shanghai appearance on the 29th at the Dream Factory. So now you have your chance to see them if you missed last night. Not in Shanghai? Fancy a holiday? Come to Shanghai and watch the Subs gig. Seriously.
And finally. The scene needn't drop off after November as Dan worries. Check out any one of the five bands mentioned in the last post. They will all be playing somewhere across each month. In short, when it's not laid out on a plate for us it's time to go searching.
So. The very next night after the oversold massively talked about Subs gig comes the barely mentioned show that doesn't even have any kind of name or billing that I can officially call it. What a shame because Bang Bang Tang and Pink Berries put on their best performances to date.
Bang Bang Tang on Neocha
As the night went on there were a lot of new ex-pat faces showing up. The Subs show has obviously introduced a lot of new people to the club. The first band on was Wildcat who play a bunch of J-rock sounding songs so generic that I got different answers as to whether they were covers or originals. Next time I will try to catch the band early on and get some background as they were fairly tight and got a good reception.
Bang Bang Tang. I see these a lot as they're always playing YYT. I'm not usually a big fan of this kind of music. They play very musical guitar pop-rock. Watching them belt out their very well rehearsed set it struck me that they were just as good as F.I.R. in Taiwan or a bunch of similar bands in Japan. They are great musicians and the singer Xiao Bai has a great voice too. If they were in one of those markets they'd be getting a major deal right now, not playing underground clubs. They have a quality recording on the new Neocha release (free here) and I have added a fourth video to the Youtube channel. And this time the lights don't flash away like a war on migraine sufferers.
This was a night of if-onlys. Pink Berries had a good, loud sound and after a few bars of intro and a 'we are Pink Berries' they positively ripped into the opening track. I have that one on video too, but with the flashing random lights, alas. This was the best I've seen them. They couldn't quite carry it through all the set but I was left thinking one thing - if they had played the exact same set last night as a support act for The Subs with all those people in there, it would have been a legendary mosh and a career launching performance.
While Little Nature, Momo and Crazy Mushroom Brigade reside in the rock-soulless Bar 288 and prepare CDs with Soma, these two bands are quietly becoming the next big things in pop-rock and punk respectively.
The ex-pat rags have been a bit disappointing lately when it comes to local music. City Weekend had their big feature that was finally dominated by Avril. Only That's have a regular, substantial page on the scene.
Before we go there, though, Ezra Glinter starts things off by reviewing the new EP from Joker. This may sound familiar. You can revisit my September trip to the Joker EP release show here. You can also check out Joker's Neocha page here. Ezra points out that these are more of an indie band doing blues than a 'blues band'. I agree. Wang Tian Tian from 0093 told me that the CD marked Joker's status as the top act from their stable of new bands. I'm following Tianping Dian myself, although Crazy Mushroom Brigade are the kings of Shanghai rap-rock.
So, onto the main feature from Lisa Movius. This month it's more news from Momo (formerly Happy Strings). I have a massive bunch of material on them so please use the search feature to read up on previous posts. Here's the new info: Momo have their CD coming out in December on Soma Records and they are now producing a net-based animated show of themselves. The article also reveals that they changed the name to Momo and softened their style at the behest of their manager at Soma. I first saw this band at the old Yuyintang at a party put on by Banana Monkey - and they rocked. Curses, bad managerial advice. Anyway, what Lisa is getting at here is that Momo could be on the verge of breaking through to a new level of exposure. So here's your guide to all things Momo:
Momo's 163 blog
Momo's Sina page
Momo's Tudou page (video)
Momo's Neocha page (mp3 and info)
Momo live at Gua-er (Youtube)
Momo's Sina page
Momo's Tudou page (video)
Momo's Neocha page (mp3 and info)
Momo live at Gua-er (Youtube)
The final article is a brief chat with Lin Di of Cold Fairyland talking about women in rock. Well, we know how I feel about the band - not rock. But my disinterest in the band aside, the points, and Lisa's focus on women this month, are very important. Women in the underground scene have a great chance to counter the childish submissive stereotypes all over mainstream music and culture. We have to recognise that it's not an even playing field and give the usual levels of support found in tightly knit arts scenes.
So let's finish with an example of the enlightenment levels in the mainstream 'creative' industry. Check this post out - back to the caves. Notice the utter lack of irony from the writer too.
Promoters S.T.D. had a great success last year with their Halloween rock party and decided to repeat the formula this year by bringing the Subs to Yuyintang. Fair play. From the start it was clear this was going to be a huge event. It was also clear from the Regurgitator show at Logo that they would oversell the venue if necessary. Not very responsible of them, but luckily a bunch of the people there seemed to filter away before the last band or stay out in the park. Yuyintang is packed at 250 people. A friend, George, came at twenty minutes after the official start and had ticket number 280. And it went on from there.
Really, the place was rammed at the start and on came Yellow Riot, the one off Clash tribute band formed by members of The Rogue Transmission and Mortal Fools. I have to say, as cheesy as it sounds, they kicked ass. All the numbers were dead on and the sound was great. The bursting venue loved it and people were dancing and going for it from the first chord of the first number. At that point though half the people there couldn't have got into the hall if they wanted to. Luckily most were too drunk to care at that point.
Next up, out the back for some down time. Never has having a park out the back door been so useful at Yuyintang. It was quite a sight with most people in costume. I finally had a conversation with Ben Hogue and Jutta. Great people. Ben is taking time out to work full time on his art and sound installations. You can follow his events at his new blog here. In no time at all, the sounds of Boys Climbing Ropes warming up came floating out. Again, the place was rammed with people just up for anything. The first song went off without a hitch and the audience went nuts again. Then, the BCR tech curse struck. Jordan's guitar went completely off and once back on, the overall sound needed another track to get re-balanced. However, after heroically recovering the rest went well and the crowd barely seemed to notice anyway. Special props to their costumes too. Nice.
Before we get onto the Subs - a special announcement regarding photographers. At small underground gigs there's no special place for you, that's true. Also, taking some photos is fine. What is not fine is this ... getting near centre front with a big camera and separate pro flash and staying there for every single song, blocking the view and frequently blinding me with said flash. So, yeah, that was me in the mosh constantly nailing you on purpose.
The Subs have not let up. They are super-pros and Kang Mao never drops her performance level for even a second. I was going to watch from the back but as the third song kicked in I couldn't help myself, it was in for the rest of the show. I was caught by Abe who snapped me, proof that even hipster douche bags like me can't resist the lure of the Subs show mosh. Any music fan that has a chance to see this band live should never pass that chance up. This is the China underground show to miss your best friend's wedding for. They played a selection of songs from all three of their CDs and delivered on every track.
Special mention to BCR singer Little Punk who was the first into the pit for every Subs track and looked so rad in her costume 'corpse surfing' the crowd. Nice.
Corpse surfing pic courtesy of Christian