shanghai music scene: May 2013 Archives
Shanghai band Hello Money are the epitome of the mash up. They are international and have a wide range of musical influences and elements when they get on stage. Also, I make the reference cos they are famous for their complex mash-ups. And they get a lot of respect for being good entertainers too, when a lot of bands (yes, guilty) are more arty and self-indulgent.
They recently did some recording at Fanfare Studios and made some cool live videos of the sessions. Here's one called The Kitchen. It's some of their original material. Check out all the tracks here too.
Recently there have been all kinds of high profile shows; Beijing bands, festivals, tours, international acts, provocateurs and DIY promo kings. All of these were top drawer and good at pulling attention.
So we should give some space to something else for the moment, because some local bands have scored a Friday at Yuyintang and there's some interesting stuff in there.
There's something for everyone there. Candy Shop are a well known power pop group with a lot of live experience and an energetic show. Xiao Xin Yi Yi are a no-nonsense punk / garage rock band, until their Proclaimers cover, when they break out the nonsense in style. Heavenly Hazard is the new band of the former guitarist from Beatrice. Beatrice were a band that was part of the Yang Pu visual rock / cosplay band sub-scene based out of Left Rock and Live Bar. You could even dress up and hang in that scene's rehearsals if necessary. Finally we have The Other. The Other are an experimental, lo-fi, introspective guitar looping type act with dirty sounding shoe-gazing. There is a big scene for that on the net and the original bands called themselves 'shitgaze'. It's the kind of scene that immediately makes you want to give up everything and do only that. Although some acts on Bandcamp sound a bit polished these days. Not The Other.
I stopped by 390 last night to chat to a couple of people, it's near my house and I was taking a walk to get away from the screen. As well as the advertised event there, Shanghai Pride had a merch table set up. So I made my donation and got a shirt for it.
They have serious commitment to put that on here - and this is the 5th time - sexuality is no big deal and we should support each other. Good luck, Shanghai LGBT community.
Pic from Rachel Gouk: click for larger
I warn you right now, this is going to be a long one covering the show, the bands and all the issues: pre-show and post.
There is a good chance that you have come to this post with no idea what it's going on about. So let's start there. City Weekend Shanghai is an English language magazine based in Shanghai. It is a professional glossy rag done by giant corp Ringier and among its listings and full-page ads for serviced apartments there is writing about entertainment and culture. After a number of incidents and issues, some people on the music scene decided to do a kind of protest show and give all the money to charity.
Here are a couple of related posts:
And the City Weekend SH Uffie review debacle where a staffer posted a generic review without actually going - and got caught after the gig collapsed in controversy.
And on we go ... to the Fuck Cancer, Fuck City Weekend Shanghai show.
A little while back, our band Astrofuck released our first video "The Funeral." You can see the original here. Now, Shanghai rock band and tricksters Stegosaurus? have done a parody video. No matter if you're not familiar with us or Shanghai in general you can still enjoy this video for Bren's performance as Sonny Bono. If there's some kind of Shanghai music scene comedy award, he should get it for his expression and look directly after he eyeballs the guy passing him coming the opposite direction.
I've seen a bunch of shows lately and not blogged them. Mainly because they were touring acts from abroad and not really a fit for what I'm doing here. Well, they were all pretty good: Cold Cave, Serpenti and also Wye Oak.
Opening for Wye Oak at 390 Bar was Sister Whale. Sister Whale is a Shanghainese musician who has an interesting mix of styles somewhere between folk, older art rock and psychedelic. Lets go with lo-fi psychedelia. She hasn't been playing and it was good to see her - appearing with Next Year's Love keyboardist Super Sophia. Bunch of stuff at the page link, check it out.
One gripe about the 390 show: I dunno if I've ever been at a show of that style of music where so many of the audience were talk-shouting and fucking it up.
Shanghai label, or rather artist management company, Zhu Lu He Feng are not only still going but are launching into Round 6 of their Shanghai university campus tour.
Here's a post from a couple of years back detailing round two
Here's some other quick links:
When ZLHF started this, it was groundbreaking. While action often used to happen in the vicinity of university grounds, independent student life type stuff inside was still almost off-limits. Now they are into the fifth year of running this. Also, some colleges like Jiao Da even have self-proclaimed Jiao Da bands and a mini scene.
A quick look at the flyer shows some weekend regulars like Banana Monkey, Plastic Chocolate and Joker, although regular may not be the word. There's a few ZLHF stable bands too, who you don't see playing big shows that often, presumably because of management control and all those other issues that will not be mentioned here.
Final point: campus shows can be done. Even on a smaller scale. English speaking bands may want to contact Shanghai band Stegosaurus? and, I think, Pairs, who have been to campuses themselves.
Note: the blog and articles linked are in Mandarin language, well written and poetic Mandarin with pop-culture references too i.e. a bit beyond Google translate etc.
Click pic for slightly larger, un-fuzzy version.
Small Oranges is a locally run blog that includes many music reviews: including a lot of Shanghai live shows. So if you want to get an insight or another voice, and you have a semi-decent grasp of the language, here's the place for you. It is written by 'Jiu Jian' (九间) who is highly regarded on Douban too.
First some links then some disclaimers:
Now. Couple of issues to beware of. The blog has a wide range of topics away from music, itself not a bad thing, but coupled with a bad theme and horrible navigation it makes it hard to get around. The front page has no direct links to categories or tags - which themselves are confused throughout - or an archive. Live Music is a major category, but does not appear on the tabs at the bottom. Also, many pages are dead ends.
The thing to watch for is the next page navigation. If you look at the footer, there will be arrows of sorts ">>" at the right end. That is what you use to advance the page displayed. So if you click into my link for the live reviews category, itself a category within a category, hence it not appearing anywhere, you use those arrows to get to page two and so on.
Once you get the hang of it, there's loads of good stuff in there. The movie reviews are insightful too, if that's your sort of thing.
Here's a video of Skip Skip Ben Ben performing their track Last Light live at Beijing Mao on May 10th, just a few days ago. It's from the recent album Sacrifice Mountain Hills, which is amazing. I got it from Maybe Mars' Taobao after seeing them in Yuyintang last year. Plenty has written about this band already, grab the album to support.
Pic: from the now classic open gallery of mock up Top Floor Circus Shanghai themed album covers
Live Beijing Music is an excellent blog documenting stuff in the Beijing music scene. And the blog has provided us with a first. That is, someone immersed in the Beijing scene came down to Shanghai for the weekend and totally picked up on all that is amazing here. Especially how great Yuyintang is.
Some of the points he makes about Shanghai incidentally taught me stuff about Beijing too: some vendors and restaurants won't take bills with unlucky numbers? For real?
Anyway, LBM put up four posts, with pics and videos galore. There's an overview, two YYT nights and record store day at Uptown.
There will be a special charity show at Harley's Bar in Xu Jia Hui on Friday May 24th ... called Fuck Cancer Fuck City Weekend.
Here is the show's Tumblr with all the details.
Yes, City Weekend Magazine. It all started with Mike Herd's speech that I talked about a little here. Now it's a small stand for sanity and integrity. Standing up for yourself is important, I wrote about this in detail recently here.
Before you dismiss it as juvenile or sensationalist, the points on their manifesto are very clear and relevant to all the nonsense that goes on with the ad agencies and PR companies too. The main points are: Misappropriation of the music scene - using the scene to lend an air of knowledge or cool or whatever to themselves, that sounds familiar. No journalistic integrity A.K.A. corporate sycophancy - putting brands and revenues above the understood values of writing and reporting while passing it off as honest. Shallow engagement with their subject material bordering on willful ignorance - another one that can be attributed to the ad people who have no actual interest in the ideas and values of artists and musicians, or the world they live in ... while constantly bleating the opposite. Refusal to address feedback from their readership - except with passive-aggressive attacks or flak, of course.
Whether it be this specific example, concerns with ad agencies like Virtue / Vice, W+K et al or with direct issues on the scene like B.O.s Midi piece. The point is that we don't have to bow to ridiculous concepts like it being 'bad form' to not accept this BS for fear of hurting their feelings. It is bad form to call out or challenge people down the hierarchy, that's bullying and dangerous ground. But calling out people with power is a duty. Especially when they are taking the piss out of you.
On Friday we (Astrofuck) played Yuyintang with Italian touring band Serpenti and local punks Friend or Foe. It was good show all round. As a result we have live recordings of previously unavailable tracks. Also, Rachel Gouk was on hand to take some pics. They came out great too.
Here is a gallery of the pics. You can go here to listen to our latest track Five Kuai Bullet. And here is Rachel's blog with all her relevant links.
When now-famous Han Han, of Duck Fight Goose, first came to Shanghai he brought his Miniless collective. This was a loose group of mainly out of town bands who all played experimental and post-punk music. Han Han organised recordings, promoted shows and made art and merch.
So, before I go on, here's the band Self Party's page to use as your reference.
As good as all the acts were - and all of them produced great albums during that time - the surprise breakout act was Self Party.
Self Party were originally called Monkey Power and their two albums are under that name. They are a duo who use a mixture of electronic and live instruments. They mixed post-punk ideas with heavy noise and feedback, capped with electronic drums and samples. All the local fans who came to Miniless shows seemed to go crazy for them at the time. Looking back, they first cropped up on this blog in early-mid-2008, but the famous shows (flyer pictured) are all from summer 2009 - after which they abruptly stopped.
Lately though, they have been re-tooling their Douban site and uploading demos and videos. It's a good time to revisit, there's a lot of material there and lets hope they come back to Shanghai soon.
I want to throw this in here too, while we're in that area: I think that San San, who most people know as the bassist / co-writer of Duck Fight Goose, may be the most accomplished musician on the Shanghai scene. She has driven three bands in the past ten years here - 33 Island, Boojii and Duck Fight Goose. Every one of them has been excellent and ended up being signed and putting out a great album.
33 Island Looking For The King (Modern Sky) here
Boojii Reserved (Modern Sky) here
Duck Fight Goose Sports (Maybe Mars) here
Here's a video of Shanghai punk band Xiaoxin Yiyi, led by the irrepressible Mike Herd, playing their track Petrol at the Your Songs Your Show event. The show is a special regular event that urges song writers to try original material, even in a scene where original material is playing at multiple venues almost daily and there's no stigma about it. That's how enthusiastic Max is.
Never mind my ribbing, watch the video and you'll see it's a quality set up. Video shot by Rachel Gouk. Mike's Wuhan Prison tee by fuck you, you're not as punk as the Wuhan Prison.
Here's a vid of Shanghainese band Forget and Forgive playing their super hit Escape at the Strawberry Festival. As usual they get jumping, dancing and everyone singing the chorus. If Emo is for you, check them out.
Shanghai metal / post-hardcore band Before The Daylight have been a staple of the Playful Warrior shows for a bit now, since the summer of 2011. Their singer Molly has the metal / tattoo model look, a passion for the style and a good gargling scream. They recently went on a break and changed the line-up around, hoping to focus more on the hardcore parts and less on the melo-death stylings.
Their first two shows back were the two Midi Festivals - Shanghai and Beijing. This clip appears to be most of their set from the BJ show.
OK, here comes the self-promotion.
This Friday (10th may) Yuyintang will host touring Italian electro rockers Serpenti. That plus Friend or Foe should already be enough to get you in the door. But we, Astrofuck, are playing too.
We're going on first at 9.30, traditionally a bit earlier than people actually show up in significant numbers but - this is the appeal to get on down for us too.
At all of our previous three shows at YYT we've had many people tell us that they like the band and the style and it's been good fun all round. So if you are one of those people who like our stuff then come on down early to see us. Thanks.
We're going to open with a brand new song "Five Kuai Bullet" that we road tested at 390 Bar at the Sunday Drive-in night, if things go well you may get "Dog Fuckers' Manual" too. I can't promise that one though.
Anyway, 9.30 is a normal time to be at a weekend show. It's not really 'early.' And we're the first band, not someone unknown or whatever:
Finally, we like our songs and are not at all nonchalant about ourselves or whether people show up, despite how we appear. If you show up, we'll be genuinely happy.
I have to start by saying that in my 23 and a bit years of watching live music, in any particular country, I've never liked festivals. On top of that, the China festival scene's famous shortcomings have made them a nightmare no-go zone for me for most of the time I've been here. But then, in Strawberry Shanghai 2013, all the elements needed to placate me fell in to place and along I went.
The Expo Park site was nice and just the right size, there was little or no obnoxious c**tish behaviour, the weather was great and the bands I wanted to check out all put in a good turn. The entrance / exit was efficient and well organized, there were plenty of water and drinks stands everywhere. Even the toilets were not that bad and constantly maintained. The atmosphere was good and I met bunches of people. The only slightly confusing brand-issue thing was a small stage called 'The School of Rock Stage' that was clearly the least 'rock' of the stages, excluding the electronic stage of course.
I saw Hedgehog at the main stage. I managed to get right up to the front in the hardcore fans pogo section while the band played all the hits. Got a couple of minor beer showers and photobombed a friend accidentally via the mega-screen. It was great. The real surprise though was The Gar. They played the Love Stage, housed in a converted factory building. At first I felt it was a slightly larger scale version of a typical YYT gig and all that, but they really got going and played energetic and tight. The audience grew and grew and the band moved from hypnotic indie tracks to dynamic extended jams and then by the time they kicked out Two Mothers everyone down on the floor was going for it ... and then, as the crowd were screaming for more and the guitar was keeping the noise alive, feeding back in anticipation ... a staff member came out and reminded them to get off and keep the schedule tight. The Love Stage slots were only about 20 minutes each too. And so, possibly the best band of the day left with a salute to the crowd who were ready for much more. Pity.
Gripes? I dunno, it was good all round to be honest. You couldn't have imagined it existing in that form even 5 years ago here. Second Hand Rose were a big deal, second to last on the main stage. They were polished and professional but reminded me of old AOR bands. A bit meh, I thought. In fact I went wandering around the site after half their set, taking in the evening by the river near the electronic stage. Did the sound cut out for Lenka? Yup it did, but I was watching The Gar at that time. Was there not that much beer around, yeah. But it was there, and people weren't assholes in general, win for me. The biggest gripe for people like me is always the same, and is not really to do with the festival. There were ship loads, Titanic loads of fans there, loads of them, everyone you've ever seen on Douban plus thousands more - all loving the bands, clearing knowing who the local acts were too, and all dressed in style and part of the sub-culture. And yet, the Gar could still play YYT or Mao and if not heavily pushed, get less than 200 in. I'm sure there are various explainable circumstances but could we get, say, 60 more per gig in? And two or three more dedicated local bands. That would be awesome, thanks.
Spot the Andy, it's not hard.