Results tagged “Ben Houge” from Jake Newby

Some news from Ben Houge

While he might not be in Shanghai physically any more, Ben Houge continues to have China on his mind. In addition to working on his forthcoming album with songs based on his time here (which sounds pretty exciting incidentally) and performing with Yan Jun over in Boston, he's got a great project planned for this summer and could do with a bit of help. It's called Kaleidoscope Music and you may remember a two channel version being shown in Beijing a while back, but this is much bigger and even more exciting. Ben naturally explains it so much better than I ever could, so read more about it here

Ben Houge and friends in Suzhou

4451474556_b1db4b01e1.jpgAfter my preface to the QSBS post, Andy wrote up pop punk band White Eyes' show here, so I don't need to bother with that one. Instead I want to write a little about a show I went to in the day time on Saturday at the True Colour (though they may not use a 'u') Museum out in Suzhou. It was arranged by the multi-talented Ben Houge for the opening of his Point of Departure show at the gallery, which is the result of his six month residency there.

I've been lucky enough to know Ben for a while now and I'll be sad to see him leave (he's heading back to the States), but this was a fitting farewell from him. It showcased a lot of his immense talent as well as demonstrating his ability to switch between a wide array of genres and mediums without seeing a dip in the quality of his art.

A quick word about the gallery though. It's an incredible space. It's kind of in the middle of nowhere in Suzhou (though a metro station will open near it next year), but that actually makes it a better space in some ways - I quite liked the isolation of it. It's a huge space, apparently the largest modern art museum/gallery in China, and is well designed. In short, it's well worth a visit and if you go before December 6th, you'll be able to catch Ben's exhibition. 

'Self Portrait, Dusk at the Point of Departure' is a fascinating video work that I don't want to say too much about as you really have to see it. Besides, Ben himself explains it much better than I could here. There's also a range of other works which are equally mesmerising, including some of his 29 Giraffes series and the brilliant 'Shanghai Traces' (pictured), which you can also see installed at Glamour Bar.

To celebrate the opening of this show, Ben drafted in some help from sound artists Xu Cheng (one half of Torturing Nurse), Yao Dajuin and Wang Changcun - all of whom gave absorbing performances. In between their sets, Ben played himself, performing three different sets of music: ambient electronic/sound, piano-led renditions of Jay Chou songs and numbers by John Cage among others and finally a brief set of his own pop songs. It was a great show and a reminder of why Ben will be missed when he leaves China.
P5290213.jpgI'd planned to go to Yuyintang last night for The Fever Machine presents... show with X is Y, Pairs and Rainbow Danger Club playing along with Dan Shapiro's new band, but I had a bit of a headache around gig-going time last night and decided that maybe a bunch of folk artists might be more suitable. So I headed over to MAO instead for the Here Comes the Spring CD release from the Music Fever people.

It was the sort of turn out that would have been a good one at Yuyintang, but in MAO just looks tiny. If MAO are really looking at a bigger space when they relocate, they need to think that one through hard. How many times has the space really been filled since they moved in? Five or six? Maybe not even that many.

Anyway, for a lo-fi folk show, it was a good turn out. Never mind that it's nearly the summer, the Music Fever guys (basically Sunny and Fanqie Chaodan) have done a really good job on the Here Comes the Spring CD - there's some great tracks on it and it's professionally produced. It's also really nicely packaged and designed and if you can get your hands on a copy, I recommend it. The night itself was well organised as well, with graphics from the CD providing a back drop to the artists, good sound quality and a special piece of music playing in between performers (these sound like small things, but regular gig goers here will know that they're not always achieved). Overall, it had the feel of a really professional night.

Unfortunately, I only caught a few of the acts as, having perked up a bit, I wanted to head over to Not Me and catch Ben Houge's pop set there as well. Fortunately, one of the people I did catch was Mogu Hong, who I really like and she was certainly the stand out act from those that I saw. You can hear her stuff here.

I left part way through V-Day's set, who turned out to be the Britpop band from Nanjing who played at the last Kunming Lu Live Bar gig the other week. That night I thought they were ok, but on the MAO stage they struggled a little. Anyway, the reason I was leaving was to go see Ben Houge play. He's been away travelling for a while, wisely avoiding the Shanghai winter, but he's back now and it was great to see him perform his pop set, which I love.

He played a great set, even throwing in a Jay Chou cover as an encore after the crowd refused to let him leave without playing one. The only drawback was the set up at Not Me which saw him playing at the back of a small stage in one corner of the dancefloor with decks acting as a division between him and the audience. It meant he was a bit too far back, but despite the far from ideal set up, he still produced a cracking set. He's on the Douban as well, so listen in here (especially Jessica's Scissors and 口口口口口口口口) and is playing D-22 on June 5th for those of you in Beijing.

Music Fever are doing stuff

fever.JPGI've written a fair bit about Zhu Lu He Feng and all the stuff that they're up to (new track from MR. here by the way), but I haven't really written much about Music Fever, another locally-based music collective. Well, this post is an attempt to redress that balance a bit.

Founded at the beginning of this year, Music Fever is headed up by Fanqie Chaodan, Sunny (from New Vector and Runaway Snail), Tong and Wang Er Xiao. They've organised a number of events in the last few months, mainly featuring local bands and folk artists and this Saturday they've got another one coming up at MAO Livehouse. That pits them against a different type of fever, namely The Fever Machine (with Pairs, Rainbow Danger Club and X is Y at YYT, details here), but there's enough difference in the genres to mean there shouldn't be too much clash. 

The Music Fever event is called Here Comes the Spring and features a six act line-up including Mogu Hong, April (from Beijing), V-Day (from Nanjing), Runaway Snail and New Vector. They're also releasing a CD at the same time (listen to some of it here) featuring tracks from the aforementioned artists along with others. There's a full tracklisting and more details here.

Anyway, here's the full details for the event and if you dig the folk stuff and can bear to miss The Fever Machine at YYT and Ben Houge's pop set at Not Me, then this is one to check out.

RESO 8, Yuyintang

metituidema.jpgIt's probably fair to say that RESO nights aren't for everyone. There's an important distinction between these and the NOIShanghai nights - at RESO, it's certainly more about experimental music than straight out noise or performance art. No meat was thrown last night.

Still, they're not the most accessible of nights and I understand the small turnouts and that sometimes the people who do go are turned off by it. Personally, I always find something worth watching. This time around, I was most impressed by (没腿的马) Legless Horse/MTDM's collaboration with (徐凤霞) Xu Fengxia, who played the Sanxian and produced some incredible vocals. Before that Mai Mai had produced a lengthy collaboration with a trumpeter, but I prefer it when he's picking the guitar by himself and playing it with his teeth.

They might not be the most crowd pleasing nights around town, but if you've ever been intrigued by a RESO night, I encourage you to check out the next one on November 22nd at Yuyintang. Yan Jun is on the bill. Yan Jun is the founder of Sub Jam, is one of the best known sound artists in China and is the guy who tortured Torturing Nurse. If you don't have any of his stuff and are looking for a starting point, they sell some of his CDs in The Thing on Wujiang Lu. I recommend Vive La Vaches (a collaboration with Wu Quan) or the semi-transparent white one (with Wu Quan and FM3) that doesn't seem to have a name. Ben Houge recommends the Music for Shopping Malls record that he's on as well (I don't have that one).  

Ben Houge, Not Me

benhougenotme(2).jpgBen Houge played live at Not Me last night. If you don't know who Ben Houge is yet, you've not been paying attention. More on him on this very blog here. His show was part of the Indie Heart Attack night they do there. Doesn't ring any bells? Again, more on IHA here.

Not Me isn't realy set up to be a live music venue to be honest. It's a smallish bar on Dongping Lu with the music side of things looked after by Reggie from STD and it tends to be mostly DJs playing there. So Ben was set up with his keyboard on the dancefloor and his laptop sat on the shelf behind him. I got there ridiculously early but there was a decent sized crowd (the biggest I've seen at an IHA night) by the time Ben opened his first set. He'd told me earlier in the night that his first set would be an "acoustic" one which confused me a little because he had a keyboard and a laptop, but turned out he meant the first set was keyboard only and the second (a little later in the evening) was laptop-backed. He also mentioned he might play a third, crazier set if there were still people left later in the night but, as it was a school night, I'm afraid I headed home after his second set and a bit of Archie's DJing.

So yeah, last night Ben was in synth-pop mode and it was great. He played the songs from his 3 Heart-Shaped Cookies EP with 99 Men, transforming the short pop-punk tracks into upbeat piano Ben Folds Five-esque songs, as well as some of his electro-pop stuff and my personal favourite 口口口口口口口口. Last time I saw him play this material, it was at the Antidote Festival in Zhujiajiao but he was the opening act that day and people were still drifting in when he started. He also had to borrow a keyboard stand from Resist! Resist! which was a little short for him. This meant he played the set legs akimbo as it were (at the time I actually just thought he was affecting a rock star pose). But this time everything was the right height, the crowd was good and totally into it and he showed what a great performer he is. If you get a chance to see him live, do so.

Video: RESO 7 jam session


This is the final jam session from last night's RESO 7. It features (from left) Mai Mai, Hans, Ben Houge and Xu Cheng in all their experimental, beer-gurgling glory.

RESO 7, Yuyintang

Han Han on the trumpet.jpgSunday night down at YYT seems to switch between alternative/experimental night and blues-rock from cover band The Sultans of Swing. The last couple of weeks have been the former. First, Brainwave Communication had their latest evening in Shanghai, then last night saw the seventh edition of RESO, the experimental night started by Muscle Snog's Mai Mai, also the man behind the Asthma Writers Union. RESO stands for Reconstruct the Experimental Soundscapes of Ourselves and that's a pretty accurate description of what takes place.

Reflecting the smaller crowd that comes to these kind of shows, Yuyintang had the candlelit tables out on the main viewing area last night but there was a decent turn out with all the seats taken. Mai Mai kicked things off, exploring the limits and possibilities of his guitar. The highlight came when, in a trademark move, he pulled the instrument up close to his face and silmultaneously plucked at the strings and shouted into it creating an incredible sound.

Next up was Ben Houge. Ben is the guy whose art show I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, but he's also released a rock 'n' roll EP with 99 Men, has some fantastic electro-pop tracks here, has worked as a composer for a number of high profile videogames and has been a regular on the Shanghai noise/experimental scene for the last few years. He's pretty multi-talented. Last night he was in lofi soundscape mode, producing an absorbing downtempo piece composed of samples and field recordings that gradually swelled and filled the room. He'll be playing a different kind of set at Not Me this Thursday, but is seriously well worth seeing whichever kind of music he's playing.

xiaohe.jpgI've been out of town the last couple of weekends so there's been no gig reviews. To be honest, it's been a bit quiet in Shanghai anyway. Not literally of course - last weekend's metal extravaganza and BrainWave Communication's night of noise put pay to that - but there's only been a handful of shows that I would have gone to anyway, truth be told. Not this weekend though, this weekend's a good 'un.

First up on Friday night is avant-garde folk artist Xiao He. You might know of him from Glorious (sometimes Glamourous) Pharmacy, or 美好药店, themselves in town in early September. Even when it's just him and his guitar, he's a great performer. Last time he came to YYT solo, he was supported by Lu Chen and both produced pretty pared down sets. This time round, Lu Chen is supporting again but by way of his experimental project Zhi Wang. Meanwhile, the cover of Xiao He's new album sees him sporting a look that falls somewhere between Beijing opera and The Village People. Whether these factors will make for a more dramatic show than last time remains to be seen - these two are rarely easy to predict.

Next, The Mushrooms are joined on Saturday by Angry Jerks - the "psychobilly" band from Nanjing. It promises to be a lively double-header. Rap-metal isn't really my thing (one of the shows I wouldn't have gone to were I in town was last weekend's Linkin Park gig), but The Mushrooms' live show is infectious and I, like many people, have been won over by their performances, especially since they've recovered their mojo in recent months. Double Control Where and Second are also on the bill for that one.

That leaves RESO 7 to complete the hat-trick. I wrote a bit about that one last week and, as I'm still knackered from my travels, and am generally fairly lazy, here's just a quick recap of who's playing: Mai Mai, Ben Houge, OK=NO and Torturing Nurse. They'll also be collaborating with each other in the second half of the night.

So, three nights, three great gigs and three completely different genres. I can't wait.

The details: All of these are at Yuyintang. I'm not purposefully featuring them so heavily, it's just they're putting on the best shows right now. All of these will start around 9:30pm. Xiao He is 60 kuai, Mushrooms and Angry Jerks are 40 and RESO 7 is 30.
Top Floor Circus, the Shanghai band whose name is often prefixed with "the elusive" or "the legendary", have announced that they will play the Daning Music Season event on August 9th. As well as announcing the show, "Attic Circus" (as the Shanghai Daily decided to call them yesterday) have taken the unusual step of saying exactly which songs they'll be playing. The band are currently writing a bunch of new material with a view to recording a new album at the end of this year/beginning of next. There'll be five old favourites as well as five new songs on the Daning set list. The songs are:

Top Floor Circus on The Bund, NYE 2007     (5 new songs)
     (5 old songs)

It'll be interesting to see what direction the new material takes. Following a couple of experimental folk albums, Top Floor Circus then went tongue-in-cheek punk on their last record. Recent live shows from Lu Chen and co have been similarly unpredictable ranging from variety show-type gigs to pared down folk sets. So does releasing the set list make this gig more predictable? Don't bet on it.  

The following week will see Lu Chen take to the stage again with his new experimental group Zhi Wang, this time at Yuyintang with Torturing Nurse and Ben Houge as part of the latest Silence or Silence or BrainWave Communication show. Ba Fang won't be playing with Zhi Wang this time around though as she'll be travelling in Germany.

Here's the details for the Daning show:

August 9th, 7pm. Entry: Free. Daning International Plaza, 1898 Gonghe Xin Lu, near Daning Lu (大宁国际中央广场, 共和新路1898号(大宁路口). Map.

And for the BrainWave Communication one, there's more info here.


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