shanghai music scene: May 2010 Archives
Saturday night and I popped over to Yuyintang to catch a night of rock. As Dan of The Fever Machine pointed out, usually I'd be over at the show put on by the younger local crowd. But tonight I had two good reasons to hit this show. One, yes, about time I caught up with the latest projects from the very talented guys behind both The Fever Machine and X is Y. Two, Pairs ... Pairs, my favorite new act.
No disrespect to RDC by the way, they're great.
So. Show didn't get started till just gone ten with four bands to go. Good start with X is Y though. Technically adept atmospheric rock with a laid back feel. I was especially impressed with the guitar sound. It was achieved by something you don't see often at YYT. The band brought in their own amp which looked like an old school valve amp. May have just been the look though. At any rate, the band went to lengths to create the sound they wanted - and it worked.
Pairs. I had caught one of their earlier appearances and loved the lo-fi grunge sound done with just guitar and drums. You could see their creativity and energy and, well, cool. I had a feeling that tonight's show might be a break through performance for them. And it was. The crowd really loved the energy of Xiao Zhong (Rhys) on drums/vocals and local guitarist "F" was the perfect laid-back, almost disinterested, cool indie chick. I think only a very slightly too quiet guitar stopped the place from kicking off.
At that point time was getting on and I became painfully aware of my horrifically early date with work the next morning. I thought I was going to miss out on The Fever Machine again. Then, for reasons I didn't inquire in to, The Fever Machine went on third instead of fourth as billed. So I got to check out a couple of tracks. As you'd expect from those guys, it was tight classic rock. This time (following on from Rogue Transmission) they have added more technical chops and a streak of psychedelia.
I went home early, but very very happy. Great crowd, great atmosphere, all the bands brought it. Nice.
Sorry to start off the post with an insider muso joke but I have to put this somewhere. Last night at our blog party, Zack Smith said, "The wah-wah pedal is a gateway drug to jam-band-ism."
The picture you can see to the right is Chinese folk singer extraordinaire Wu Zhuo Ling (吴卓玲), also a member of A_Z
Listen to her latest tracks at her always active Douban page
Dan Shapiro's new band The Fever Machine also have a new demo out at their page. Check out their excellent brand of desert rock that reminds me of the current new wave of technical-meets-stoner-rock, like Them Crooked Vultures.
Suzhou based melodic death metal band Mo Xie (莫邪/Mo ye) have a new demo and photo gallery at their page. I saw these a while back and was blown away. Believe it or not, death metal is always popular with the university students here and you get to meet a whole different crowd at the shows.
Another feature of Douban is individual members of various bands who keep Douban pages of their own as a kind of notebook for their ideas. They are usually just full of rough demos recorded at home and various thoughts and pictures. One such page is 小宝大宝宝迪瑞尼亚 (Xiao bao, Da bao, Bao di, Reina) ... or more simply, Reina.
Go here and check out the bottom track, minimalist (really) pop track Biu Biu
Finally. Despite being officially defunct for over a year or more, underground pop sensation Gala have put up their old tracks at Douban. I saw them here. So why not revisit their classic track Young For You which was a viral hit with students nationwide. Go on, re-live a golden time when English language songs could be sung completely in the ... err ... reverse Chinese character romanized method. You know, like the way footballer's names are done on the TV.
It's a catchy track and was genuinely popular at the time.
So yeah, two years of Kungfuology, the party tonight at Yuyintang from nine.
And here's one of those typical posts revisiting shit and all that. To be honest I find it creepy and borderline offensive when people say what things they did themselves are 'classic', but hey. I'll give it a shot.
The classic posts/stories
Haibao will save us all from dissent (Top Floor Circus story)
Jiao Ban Two: The scene story of 2008 (with Youtube vids)
Why aren't Chinese rockers political? A primer (debunking that myth)
The Subs live @ Yuyintang (for the Little Punk corpse surfing picture)
The Best Show of 2009 (That Mushroom's show)
Pet Conspiracy in all their Glory (plus the Europe tour vid)
A little bit about Muscle Snog (interview)
A little bit about Sun Ye (interview)
Update: here's a photo gallery of the night from Linnea at Era. It includes a shot of me and one of the best people in the scene, Xiao Bai of Bang Bang Tang.
Following on from the previous revitalization show, the second leg stepped up from Yuyintang to Mao. Here was the line up:
Candy Shop (甜品店)
It was quite a bold move to go for the bigger space so soon after the first show and with mainly younger/newer bands. All the usual local faces were there too. I started off the night with a kick-flip on FAF's Ding Ding's skateboard out front of the gig. Which gives you a good indication of my priorities in life.
Manbanpai started things off with their laid back indie pop. They sounded great and played very well, it's just a question of if you like the style. Singer Hama is popular and the band got a good reception.
Next was Momo. The band came out with matching short sleeved school shirts and dyed red hair. Ironically, their band uniforms (designed to be cute), and Ding Jia's cheerleader skirt, ended up revealing the member's tattoos - having a quite different effect (cool). The sound was dead on and the performance very upbeat. My mate Steve joked that they seemed like metal compared with Manbanpai. Maya's lead guitar, in particular had a great sound and great energy. Good show.
Alas, an error of judgement seriously took down the remaining bands performances. From Candy Shop on, the staff decided to seriously up the volume (not a bad idea in itself). However, we saw this with the Maybe Mars showcase. The PA couldn't take it and most of the following music was an indistinct roar. Strangely enough, by the time FAF came on, they were still turning it up. I really want to see FAF on a big stage again, the show ran late and I had to leave before the very end.
Pity, because my overall feeling from the night was,yes, these bands are stepping it up more and they seemed at home in the larger venue.
This statement is on behalf of both blogs, mine and Jake's.
Here we go again (see comments there).
A short while ago Jake posted this story on Cassette's gig at Logo which also talked about a police visit there which affected the show.
In the latest issue of City Weekend, 2010 May 20- June 2 The Volunteer Issue, music writer Lisa Movius has decided to weigh in on the matter.
It should be made clear that Movius and all staff at CW involved with writing or editing articles on music/nightlife know our blogs and are perfectly aware that we reported the Logo story there.
Here's what Lisa wrote in the article in the Shanghaiology section (interesting cool name for the section) - which deals with the music scene raids in general.
The saga started the weekend of April 16th with word that police had raided music dive Logo and shut down a performance there, ostensibly stating the reason as "the Expo". However, according to the Logo owner Tai Bei, no such drama unfolded. I've had a lot of people asking about it," Tai Laughed. "It's strange, it wasn't us, just Yuyintang."
Tai laughed, nice touch, Lisa.
Here's what happened leading up to the posting of the story by Jake. The gig was scheduled to start at 10 at Logo with three bands, Pinkberry, Stegosaurus and Cassette. I had talked to Stegosaurus about covering the show and Jake (independently of me) was in touch with Cassette as he had encouraged them to come down from Beijing to play here.
I received a call from Josh (Stegosaurus) and, separately, Jake received a call from Cassette singer Tearpixy. They told us the same story. Police had been to Logo saying they had to check "for the Expo". The posters and flyers for the Sunday show had been confiscated and the gig was not supposed to go on.
After talking further with the staff at Logo, they decided to put the show on anyway, but postpone the time in case the police popped their heads in. The show finally started around 11. Pinkberry manager and drummer Lezi also confirmed he had this same story and the band pulled out of the show because of the later start time.
Finally, me and Jake both went to the show and confirmed all this in person.
The only way it was somehow untrue is if the staff at Logo conspired to play some bizarre prank on the bands. If anyone wants to re-check our sources they can contact the bands through their douban pages.
But really, I wish City Weekend would stop and think before publishing thinly veiled smug judgments on other writers. And, come on, you know where that story appeared in the public domain, right here. Movius's article basically implies we are liars. Unfortunately for them, it is the CW article that has not done the proper checking. And also, the whole laughed thing? Implying that the writer and the interviewee are sitting there shaking their heads at these silly bloggers. Go fuck yourself, CW.
This is not really Shanghai scene related so to speak but I'm just desperate to get the 400 now. Ha.
One of my favorite China bands is Hedgehog. They rule and are all over the blog.
A little bit back, one of the founding members Box (Bo Xuan) quit after three albums and much acclaim. The stories were proclaiming the end of Hedgehog despite ads on Douban for a new bassist to continue business as usual. Eventually the bassist arrived and they did, in fact, continue on as usual.
In the lull a new Douban page appeared for a new band called B-side Lovers. This was featuring hedgehog's Atom and Zo in a back-to-basics stripped-down grunge format, that they kind of started with in the first place.
Since then, as I linked back there, Hedgehog have been playing live and working on their fourth CD. But also, B-side Lovers have gone on too. To wrap up a series of Beijing appearances they now have four demos on their page.
If you like this kind of thing I might suggest catching upcoming pared-down grungy two piece Pairs, who are next playing Yuyintang a week Saturday here.
Bonus question: I saw pics from the Strawberry festival on Douban that showed ex-Hedgehog bassist Bo Xuan playing guitar for a new band. Anyone know which band that was?
The Subs are my favorite band in China. I love them. That is all. Anything else I write will just be gushing and useless.
You can hear a couple of tracks at their Douban page: right here
But here's the thing, they are widely known as the best live act in China and singer Kang Mao the best rock/punk performer the modern scene has ever produced. So, the date has arrived:
Friday 11th of June at Mao Livehouse
Note to Mao: this band is legendary, put on a proper bar, don't flash all the lights like a pop show and have someone on the sound desk who is out of school. The norm at Mao gigs is for the audience to be lit up like a football game and then photographed like a fashion show. This is the Subs, please cut all that out, if only for this one show.
Shanghai music website Layabozi has finally released their new look site after many months of fiddling in private. But what surprised me was that reading the first new post I learned that they too have been around two years.
In fact, I checked their archives and they predate me by two posts. Curses!
The new site is at the regular address right here
Elsewhere on the web, Shanghai Eye reports that the Weihai Road 696 art centre is also feeling the Expo heat.
Also, China Music Radar has been taking a leaf out of the Kenneth Tan manual lately and throwing up stuff that is likely to cause a stir. And it's all good stuff.
The latest is an article on touring in China that sets new standards for broad types.
It's even called Crazy China (in the mock Japanese font)
By the way - come to our blog party or else!
That's a photo of Reflector playing the Strawberry Festival.
This weekend just gone, there were all kinds of good shows. I got to none of them. Arse. I work weekends and had not caught up on sleep. Instead I spend a bit of downtime following other blogs, watching TV shows from bed and listening to some tracks.
Shanghai reggae/tropical rock band Break For Borneo have an EP out. It's now available for listening online at a site called Sound Cloud.
Also, China Music Radar links a piece - it's a Huffington Post article on the China music scene, of all things. I sent those wankers the Top Floor Circus story twice to no avail (or reply) and now here they are running a shallow and annoying non-story on the same scene.
That's right, Blimey!
The last week of May marks two years since the start of the blog.
Happy Birthday to us!
So, we are going to hold a birthday party and if you are reading this, then you are invited and so are your friends. First the basic details.
What: Kungfuology 2nd Birthday Party with Jake and Andy.
Date: Tuesday 25th May
Time: 9.00 - 11.00 (evening) (bar remains open till late)
(上海 长宁区 凯旋路851号 （近延安西路口) - Kaixuan Road 851, opposite the Yan'an Road West Line 3 Station)
Door: Free entry, no ticket required
Featuring: musical guests Ho-Tom the Conqueror and Miniless' Han Han.
This will be a chance for all blog readers, scene writers/workers and band members/fans to meet up for a couple of hours and shoot the shit at our favorite venue. It will also feature guest musical performances from:
Miniless Record's Han Han
The legendary Shanghai based producer, label manager and musician extraordinaire; the mind behind Kungfuology's album of 2009 Lava/Ox/Sea's Next Episode; guitarist in Boojii and Duck Fight Goose and all round source of inspiration ----- will perform an exclusive solo set for your listening pleasure. Start time around 10.15
Ho-Tom the Conqueror
Representing the international contingent we have singer-songwriter Tom Mangione. Ho-Tom combines razor sharp lyrics, engaging spoken word/poetry and memorable turns of music into a complete performance. His beat generation style and commanding voice remind us that the simple singer-songwriter can still be creative and relevant - if you have the skills. Be conquered. Opening at 9.30
Andy and Jake will be knocking around the whole time and all attendees are welcome to
stalk us talk to us about anything you like. Ask them about the blog or tell them how full of shit they are; tap their scene knowledge or mock their scene ignorance ... or just say hi. It's not a gig, so to speak, it's a chance for us all to hang out and take in some top notch musical guests while we're at it. It officially ends at 11.00 but the bar will go on.
Update: Beijing Gig Guide added a post to the debate here and the comments at the Beijing Noise original post are racking up.
Firstly, a couple of weeks back Max at Rock In China Wiki send me the outlines for three articles he was going to publish on the site. One was suggesting that Maybe Mars bands and D22 shows were soaking up all the Beijing scene's representation. Another was reminding us of all the other bands still there. A third was intoducing the good work done in other cities like Shanghai (where I came in).
The RIC Wiki is undergoing a server change so Max published the first two at the Beijing Noise blog here:
Rock In China Declares Independence, Puts the Smack Down on D-22
Then a few of us commented but the comments were stuck in moderation for a while so Matthew Neiderhauser published his reply via China Music Radar, who like the debate:
The Shanghai article is not out yet but I have an interesting story. A while back I did an article here and a podcast in which me and Jake had been throwing around the idea that Shanghai would soon move away from being known as a commercial pop-rock haven due to the work of Miniless and their upcoming CDs.
Shanghai: Soon to be famous for experimental sounds?
Well, a local friend of mine went up to Midi and while she was there her group met some new friends who were a mix of local and international students. They got to talking the scene on one of the evenings. The Beijingers said that the scene there was a bit odd as the fans don't get easily excited or impressed and they've seen the main bands many times.
Here's the thing, they admitted being very interested in the Shanghai scene now and mentioned Boojii as an example of a more interesting band. Another student admitted defecting to Strawberry for half a day specifically to see Boys Climbing Ropes and thought it unfair that they were on right up front as they are a great band. The Miniless bands were all talked about and also the idea that Shanghai music fans are more enthusiastic and willing to rock out and have a good time.
This is very encouraging. Although now we need Beijing promoters like Hotpot and Modern Sky to stop doing ridiculous things like putting on bands midweek and for three times the going price. We're not that enthusiastic.
So May holiday weekend is now music festival weekend in China. But not in Shanghai, we have the Expo.
So, the festivals are not really the remit of this blog and what's more - I didn't go to any of them.
I have a confession to make. Even back in the UK while surrounded by great festivals, I didn't go much. I hate watching bands in large outdoor venues, it sucks. There are so many festivals these days, because they offer the opportunity to make a ton of cash.
I'm in the extreme minority on this point though so here are three excellent write ups of the festivals from:
our very own Jake Newby
Enjoy. And yes, that photo is from the Modern Sky organised Strawberry Festival. Just in case you mistook it for a VW ad shoot or mall display.
UPDATE: here's the edited version showing only the song we want and with much better quality.
Here's a video someone took of the first two FAF tracks at the Yuyintang show last night. However, they have the long intro and the mic on the camera obviously can't handle the sound during the first song. So follow my instructions please.
After you've watched it, remember these are a young first time band who have not been on the circuit here a year. They can rock a show.
Somewhere in the city, tens of thousands of morons with no idea of what they like outside of what they're told by some form of glowing rectangle were feeling remotely proud as a random bunch of fireworks went up over some concrete towers.
Elsewhere, five young Shanghainese bands were putting on a show at Yuyintang.
This was the first big show after the raids but the night went off without any visits. Great turnout of mainly younger locals and a new sound guy at the desk who was not afraid of turning it up. Good stuff.
Candy Shop went on first and played the best set of the night. The sound was great, the energy high and everyone appeared to know the songs and be genuine fans of the band. Momo followed with a stripped down short set that lacked the tight organization of the recent shows, but there was a sense that this night was more for fun.
DCW are probably the only band who really fit the tag rock in the pure sense. I was really looking forward to them and had been listening to their famous demos Say Goodbye and Some Just Want Everything all day. I got a surprise though, recent line up changes have led to a complete retooling. DCW played all new material and sounded completely different. So, it was like watching for the first time and we couldn't really get into it. The new sound has more straight hard rock in it and the crowd did enjoy some of the shredding.
FAF played their usual opening of Escape and Parasite and were the first band to get the crowd jumping. They blend the more commercial aspects of the Emo style with big guitar riffs and are local favorites. Singer Ding Ding has a great voice and good energy. They finished the set with a ballad and later a Justin Bieber (I know, why?) cover version. People seemed to like it. Little Nature closed the night, by which time a lot of the crowd had gone due to the younger locals-train times thing.