shanghai music scene: April 2013 Archives
Note: if you can't see the embedded Vimeo player (best quality) try these: Youtube Youku (China)
VJ Tina Sprinkles and Redscale Studios have made us a video for our dreamy, abstract track, The Funeral. It just happens that wandering around Shanghai actually feels like this at times.
I usually don't post Youtube on here too much on account of it still being officially blocked over here. But, scouring about, I found a few Forget and Forgive videos. This one is from last year when they opened for someone or other at Mao.
It gives you a good idea of the scale and style of Mao Livehouse in Shanghai. Also, around the 5 minute mark, the band start their second track and the crowd warms up a bit, starts moving and it's pretty good. There's a brave crowd surfer. You notice too that this band and crowd is pretty much ex-pat free, take from that what you will.
Update: G pointed out to me that the feed page for the band pages in still there even if the link doesn't show up at your home page, it's site.douban.com
I have to admit to being slack at posting up new demos from local bands lately. It's partially due to Douban dropping the 小站 feed, in my defense.
Well, after almost calling it a day, dream pop / 'slowcore' band Forsaken Autumn (pictured) have got a new track called Wallow. As you will notice when the vocals kick in, they have this style down.
Douban page (scroll down for mp3 player)
Next up are ex-pat warriors Xiao Xin Yi Yi who have all the credentials to be thought of as truly local on the scene. Guitarist-singer Mike Herd flexes his garage and punk muscles in this outfit and has great lyrics to boot. These demos were live recorded at Your Songs Your Show but the sound is amazing. The blown out fuzz guitar chords sound especially great. Check out Petrol.
Here is Aric's video from the legendary best show ever in Shanghai, when The Subs played at Windows Tembo in 2008. Tembo was such a runaway success as a music venue that they immediately moved to a bigger location, Windows Underground, then the boss came down to see it directly for the first time and complained that 'no one wanted to see Chinese playing rock, westerners do it better' and it came crashing to a halt. The boss is Chinese, by the way.
The video is shitty, constantly going out of focus. The sound is tinny, like a tin can, and doesn't capture what it was like ... and the interview part at the end is so trite. Also, you can't see how insanely packed it was, included a balcony, until at the end of the song you get a brief glimpse of the hands and jumping.
But it's fine, check it out.
Pic: one of the two cars on stage at the 2010 Strawberry Festival, along with some VIPs and one of many photographers
Festivals are coming around and we have the first story of the season.
The basic gist is that bookings were all over the place, including a complete schedule of three days going public before half the artists had even been contacted about it. It also involved many DJs feeling completely disrespected after working with Midi before and going ballistic about it on social media. However, what's interesting to me is that intrepid reporter Brian Offenther (DJ BO) decided to write it all up professionally for SH247. That's the link up there. This involved SH247, a future ticketing and promotions partner of Midi. Then things got heated, but after BO fought to have it put online, the Midi people came down and sorted things out, prompting much love online for said fearless reporter. Result.
It's interesting in that, this is far from the first time stuff has happened on the festival scene that involved disregard for the performers. But it is the first time proper action was taken to resolve it, because there was clearly a threat to sales and promotions - before the show.
Some of the more famous incidents that bands have gone public about in their dismay include Zhang Shouwang on the 2010 Strawberry Festival. The Love Stage was largely taken up by two show cars and a VIP tent. When he tried to go back stage he was told it was VIPs only. When he said he was in the band, showed his card and explained he just wanted some water, he was told that he wasn't a VIP - that was sponsors only - and that water was only free to VIPs. Major sponsors abound, show cars on stage, crane cameras flying around and VIP camps, and yet when Helen Feng jumped down off the stage and busted her knee that very same stage and festival, there was no staff help or facilities at all. They simply said that they couldn't help and walked off, leaving her to be carried out and hitch hike back to town with fans.
That same year, Helen wrote online about how they were often contacted many times about the same slot at the Midi Festival and it all tracked back to the Midi boss, who's name you can find easily. Midi got several bookers to compete with each other for bookings as some odd way to drive down the bands' fee without taking direct blame for it. Needless to say it barely makes sense, collapsed as an idea and ended up simply exposing the fact that the Midi organisers sat around brainstorming ways to pay the bands less.
As for the Shanghai Midi electronic stage, but it ran so well last time when the Antidote crew organised it, I hear you say. Yes, I wonder what happened there? I promised someone involved not to write the details at the time but ask around for the gist, and bring the sick bag.
What are we to take from all this? The whys and wheres of the festival scene here are many and mysterious. We can take this, that if you stay strong and speak out about stuff, it can make a difference, if it looks like it may effect the 'brand' or sales. An earlier incident at the Shanghai venue On-Stage made me think too. An incident happened but one of the four bands refused to let anything go public because they feared souring relationships. Like it's bad form to complain when someone punches you because you may embarrass the attacker and make it hard for them to keep punching people.
Photo by Rachel Gouk
Thanks for everyone who came to 390 Bar on Sunday. It was fun to see Nerdcore Rising in a theatre style way, not at home on a small screen by yourself. Elsa translated and created those sub-titles, by the way. We also debuted our new song Five Kuai Bullet. All in all it was a nice way to finish out a busy weekend.
Click for larger
Pic: Second vocalist Taozi performing at an earlier Yuyintang show
The Complex Relationship of the show's title refers to the three main bands who put the show on and the band members they share. It also had a late appearance from an out of hiatus Joker. Another band, Surging Waves, were billed but I never caught them.
Marquee 7 (Weibo link only no demos)
Xiao Bao sings for Tinderbox and also plays guitar for Second. Xiao Zhu plays bass in Second and also in Marquee 7. Tinderbox bassist KK was in Bang Bang Tang previously and is now in ... and so on. Given my previous post, I guess it's only right that I went along to support these bands who are hanging in there by any means necessary.
I might as well throw this out there now, it's become especially sharp to me since I've been playing there myself. YYT has great equipment and there are 4 or 5 people who may be doing sound on a given night. And there are two distinct levels of quality within that. That's all I'm going to say.
The bands gave it their all and it was a fun night with a good turn out. Honours definitely went to Second. Everything clicked for them, they played tight, sounded loud enough and put in a decent performance. They even played a track I recognised from the old 2009 line up.
Pic: Xiao Zhu playing with Second at Mao Livehouse Shanghai in 2009
This post is going to come across as an old person whining. So before that: I'm basically reposting a mini-interview with the singer from Shanghai rock band Marquee 7 over at the Slinkrat blog:
One part of the interview really got me thinking. I saw Marquee 7 playing their first open mic show in YYT and singer Sharon is good, and yet she mentions the first six months of trying to get a band being so hard she almost fucked it all off. But she also mentioned that bassist Xiao Zhu nearly gave up and sold her bass at one point recently.
It's brought something about the scene into relief for me. Xiao Zhu has been a local music community mainstay since 2008 and I first saw her playing in the original Second (重结晶 zhong jie jing) line up in early 2009. Pertinent to my upcoming point is that they first played at the Rock 0093 showcase night, Number 8, February 2009 to be exact. The idea that she, or anyone local, would have trouble hooking up a band is troubling to me. 2009 was the year that local bands could get 3-400 ppl into YYT and sometimes even more into the soon to be opened 'old' Mao and that the YYT and 0093 Douban groups were a swirling centre of activity. 0093 had enough bands through their doors to throw out 6-8 at every showcase of which half would go on to self-organise and play regular shows.
It seems to be clearer than ever that the effects of the Expo year have still not been fully recovered from. 0093 was forcibly evicted to make way for Expo events' wine storage, I shit you not, and didn't get a decent new location back until over a year later. Top Floor Circus got in trouble with Da' Man. Both these events saw a huge winding down of local band activity for the period of the Expo and even Yuyintang, after a couple of warning raids that saw its sound desk impounded for a while, focused on the Expo international acts and influx of ex-pats for a while. Then a new boom of ex-pat run bands started becoming super active (there was only one or two active ex-pat bands of note for the whole ten years before that) and this has caused an unfortunate displacement of sorts, in a way. Finally, there has been a coincidental exodus to use Weibo that saw the Douban groups die. It has led to less communication and organisation than before - those are the facts. People should definitely admit this to themselves and go back to more Douban use for online organising. Basically the centres of community and organisation that had peaked by mid 2009 all took hits around the same time and are shadows of their former selves when it comes to grassroots local activity.
We can't control the gov stuff, but other points there make you think, and here's a controversial idea which I'm not that sure of myself ... if something is discovered like Live Bar, where there's suddenly regular gigs by student bands practicing at Left Rock, that has sprung up organically, should a bunch of experienced bands and or promoters, of any background, descend on the place, so to speak? I guess what I'm thinking over right now is when is helping actually helping and when is it not - in the context of sustainability. That's just one example.
I know this: buying a ticket and seeing a show as a punter is always helping. So go and see Marquee 7 play.
This Sunday at 390 Bar is our next show. It's free and it features a movie screening of Nerdcore Rising (with Chinese subs too) and then a show by us, Astrofuck. We're going to debut a new song that will eventually be our new opener at the next YYT show in May.
... and it's free. Tell all your nerd friends.