Results tagged “gua er” from Andy Best

The F-visa Ghetto: redux

I used to blog a bit about the area I live in and how it was turning into a hipster paradise, also named the F-visa ghetto. The gist was that I noticed it was becoming a destination for music  and music people. I predicted it would grow as it was both downtown and had plenty of cheaper rents (within the context of Shanghai prices). 

Now, I was having a play with this site E-dushi Shanghai and I've made some little maps for y'all to check out. These are by no means comprehensive but the give you a quick idea at how much it has developed, despite development. If you see what I mean. There are plenty of other attractions there such as The Loft and Cotton's Xinhua etc. 

Click on all pics for the large, ledgible, versions.

Postcard overview showing the boundaries and main streets

postcard large

Xingfu Road strip and JuJu

juju detail postcard

Dingxi Road

dingxi road postcard

Mao and Redtown

Mao Detail Postcard


Yuyintang e city

New Momo demos out on Douban

ding jia somalive
Before I write this I should make something very clear:

I like Momo and fans of indie pop/cutesy should catch their show which is excellent. 

Despite the big change of direction with Soma, I followed them since they were the Happy Strings and they put on a very professional live show these days. Not my usual music taste but in the old days they were very DIY and an integral part of the struggling scene so I'm happy to support.

So first the point of the post: 

There are two new demo tracks up at their Douban page. That'll be the two at the bottom of the player marked demo.

While we're at it why not see a recent video of them performing one of those tracks:

Or look back at their Soma debut as Momo. Or check out their Gua'er mini show. Or read a feature on Shanghai girls in rock by Jake Newby that includes singer Ding Jia.

Alas, one of the two demos has disappointed me a bit. At a recent show Momo played two of their older tracks and they rocked. It was a reminder of something. In the Happy Strings days I was always impressed by Ding Jia's voice. During the chorus of Start you could hear depth and colour in the singing. If only we could have Momo's original style but with the new professionalism live. When you listen to the vocals at the start of the new demo of Qingtian Wawa 晴天娃娃 the producer has destroyed her voice and turned it into a helium cartoon voice. 

Momo are now a band with experience, style and a good live show. I hope the producers can keep their soul too.

F-visa Ghetto with no F-visas?

xinhua map
The F-visa Ghetto around Fahuazhen Road and Dingxi Road has all the slacker might want.

It's based around a nice garden/historical street Xinhua Road. J. G. Ballard grew up there, RIP. It is in the city centre and yet has loads of affordable and cheap housing nearby.

It has music bars and dives like Yuyintang, Logo, C's, Sus2 and err, the other one where Slappy Toy rehearse. It has Shanghai Super Music and Juju Rehearsal Studio. It has the Canart space and also Shanghai Sculpture Space and lawn (all free!). It has a cheap all-night Hong Kong food strip. Cool people like Brad Ferguson, Levi and Tim from Mortal Fools and ... errr ... me, live there.

But how can the average slacker foreigner work part time and use most of their day slumming it and doing art and music when the F-visa is continually under attack? 

This just in from Shanghaiist.

I've already had to get a proper job again. And I'm not happy about it.

Just for fun: Sunday Morning feat. Joyside

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.

Rock in the afternoon @ Gua'er

pink berries guaer
There didn't seem to be much on this weekend. Well, that's not entirely true. Regurgitator are in town for two shows. But, you know, the blog is about local bands. So, I wandered down to Gua Er (Sus2) bar to check out an afternoon show. I'm assuming that it was on early to avoid a clash with the first Regurgitator show at Logo tonight. There's a thought, you bring over a band like Regurgitator and put them on in Logo (postage stamp in the corner of a regular bar type room with no PA). Afternoon shows did used to be a staple at the now defunct Ark Live House, so who knows.

The line up changed from the flyer and the first act was a guy and his guitar doing covers. So, the final line up was:

Pink Berries
Tianping Dian

Only Loudspeaker have a page with songs but you can find the other two on the blog's video channel: here. So, afternoon show. The place was mainly populated by the other bands, their friends and about ten non-entourage punters of which five were me and people I know. Gua Er's set up is growing on me and they have the balcony level too, which is nice. 

So, Pink Berries came on and played a six song set. I managed to get a video of my favourite track of theirs Xiao Bai Tu (White Rabbit). They are growing in confidence and their set is genuinely catchy. I have a soft spot for kind of three-chord (or whatever) garage/punk rock. If you know what I mean. Next up was Tianping Dian. They have this big line up rock-rap thing going on with a female vocalist singing the choruses. The last time I saw them they had the curse of the new band going on. That is, two or three strong songs up front and then the rest of the set is hopelessly behind. This time they managed to keep a consistent level. This band are quite active around the rock groups and look like they're going to stick around for a while.

Finally, on came scene stalwarts Loudspeaker. These are the heavier end of the garage rock spectrum. Tianping Dian and entourage had gone home and it was a bit more sparse but Loudspeaker always belt out a consistent high energy performance be it to a packed YYT of their loyal fans or an empty room. These guys just live for playing in a band. Also, they skate and wear stuff like DC shoes and caps which makes me feel right at home. All in all a chilled afternoon hanging with basically the bands themselves. And, as the only non-local in there, my hipster douchebag leanings were fully satisfied. 

Bang Bang Tang live @ Yuyintang

bang bang tang october
I wandered over to a low key mid-week show at Yuyintang and ended up with the perfect antidote to some recent disappointments. The show was advertised on the Facebook group as "Chaos Mind etc" and I expected an empty place and a bunch of metal bands. What I got was a four band gig with good sound, cool people and strong upcoming bands.

The line up:

Pink Berries
Bang Bang Tang
Wang Yuezhe
Chaos Mind

I came in at the end of Pink Berries' set and we've heard a lot about them on here lately. Needless to say, I like them a lot. I'm going to see them on Saturday as part of another multi band show at SUS2, by my house. 

Bang Bang Tang were the real revelation. If it's that mysterious 'local allure' you're after, these guys have it. The crowd were pretty much all local except for me, and Nicky from the Blues Room, and they love this band. Bang Bang Tang played a good tight set, the guitar sound was spot on and their material has branched out a bit. As a punk fan, I winced a bit at some of the pop touches - the entire band doing coordinated left-right-up-down looks. However, I think some people are going to get a surprise when they see the vids later. 

Wang Yuezhe are a new band who play a kind of concept/folk metal. I saw them not so long back - read all about it. They played a short set and then it was time for some Chaos Mind. Chaos Mind are fronted by Sam, the sound guy at Yuyintang. I have a soft spot for metal and Chaos Mind are on the ball. It was a good night and I bumped into a bunch of friends there too. Members from bands like Little Nature and Crazy Mushroom Brigade were down for the show too. I don't entirely get it: Sonnet and Defy = dead to the local crowd, Bang Bang Tang = loving it and even got other band members out to support. I hear from my Hong Kong skateboarding buddy Mark Kong that Saturday's show at SUS2 (Gua'er) is going to be a popular one too. Watch this space.

Another interesting thing is that I have now heard, no names sorry, three different groups who are all planning to open a new venue like Yuyintang but bigger. The one who was looking at Hengshan Road has already been beaten to it though, I read today that Bar 288 are opening a second location down there soon. I hope it's more like a venue than a bar with stuff happening in the background. 

Bonus Youtube: Momo moments

Little Nature got the dedicated post from tonight's videos (see one post down) ... but, after re-watching a couple of times I've decided to do feature post on support act Momo too. They play guitar music, distortion guitar, garage rock with their signature melodies sung in a consciously cutesy fashion. 

Imagine my surprise when they started tonight's show by setting down the instruments and coming to the front of the stage together to do an unplugged style sing-a-long show intro. I was even more surprised when I noticed just how into it everyone there was. It's a small pub gig, but listen to the reaction when drummer Cici takes the mic at 1:05. By the end everyone was clapping along and I realised it was a 'moment'. 

Youtube: Little Nature live @ Gua'er

So. Little Nature. I first wrote about them as a standout among new bands back in march here. They played as part of the Jiao Ban, joining the other members at Bar 288. And recently they've even been 'picked' by Lisa Movius in her That's Shanghai column. They are still a new band and this is the opening number, the rest of the set was way tighter. But ... without further ado, here they are playing live at Gua'er Music Bar. 

Little Nature & Momo live @ Gua'er

I am loving it - living in my hipster's paradise. Well, so says me: check it out. Lisa calls it the F-visa Ghetto. I like that. Also, when I say 'paradise', it's relative to the city i'm in. Dan Shapiro put out a tip on a Little Nature show at Gua'er Music Bar over at his CW blog. Gua'er just happens to be opposite the end of my lane, two minutes walk from my door.

Little Nature are on the up at the moment and I really wanted to see them (for the fourth time). The support for the night came from Momo. These two bands are Bar 288 regulars and they'd brought a lot of their crowd over to Gua'er. There was a good turnout of genuine music fans and I didn't recognise many people from Yuyintang gigs. I did see Little Punk, singer with Boys Climbing Ropes up at the front. Momo got things started as soon as I stepped in.

I first saw Momo as Happy Strings in the old Yuyintang down in Longhua. I was really impressed and have seen them a few times over the past couple of years. They play garage rock mixed with their own brand of playful melodies. I always like their shows but they haven't really done much in all this time, just maintained a respectable level. I would like to see them take it up a level with a full set of new originals. I did get something new. Since changing their name, Momo now open the shows with an unplugged style sing-a-long intro track. I thought it was strange at first, but the audience were really into it. It'll be up in the video channel soon.

Little Nature ripped straight into their melodic punk set that reminds me a bit of Green Day prior to the Dookie era. They are brimming with energy and confidence at the moment and it makes for a good high energy live show. This was the first time I saw them playing their own show and not buried down in a multi-band night. They were certainly up to the task. Alas, I often moan about their 'Happy Birthday' song being out of place in an otherwise great set and now I see it's a real fan favourite. People were singing along and, to be fair, there was more than a hint of irony from the band as they belted it out. They don't have a myspace style page at the moment so you'll have to make do with my video, which is a bit raw sorry. Check the channel or the next post.

New Map Feature: the place for true hipsters


map sampleI just created a new feature for the blog, a google map with photos and info of my neighbourhood. Check out the pages sidebar immediately. Not only that - I am about to lay out the case for why it is the ultimate neighbourhood for true hipsters. As you will see, this area includes Yuyintang and other significant scene spots too.

First of all. Yes, you can play with the map from the page and it's cool and embedded. But, I've got to be completely honest, it's much better of you click the link to the larger version.

So, what's the deal with this Xinhua area? First of all, it's downtown - inside the inner ringroad and a desirable part of town. Then, it's off the tourist map so mercifully free of tourists and ... other hipsters. I have lived around here for six years. The places I'm about to describe are all within walking distance of each other. This is a small sampling.

We have:

Yuyintang Live House the premier venue for local rock, indie and punk.
Logo Music Bar the premier hipster hangout
C's Bar the premier dive bar and spiritual home of Antidote
Sus2 Music Bar the originals, now running a laid back cafe version right here
Rehearshal Rooms one of the famous band rehearsal spaces is on the east side of the block at Huashan lu/Huaihai lu

Sofa Cafe modern wifi hangout with great food
Marco Polo Cafe and Bakery small ultra hip place on the Xinhua garden street
Banyan Tree Cafe Chinese style wifi cafe on Fahuazhen road

Xinhua Road conservation area and lanes (Xinhua Bieshu) Our beautiful tree lined main strip and surrounding lanes. Former British and German suburb that includes the former home of J. G. Ballard - this area was also a playground for neo-colonial fetish of the month, architect Laslo Hudec. Perfect for inspirational literary strolls and free of tourists. You can live in them too, I spent two years in a beautiful terrace right on the strip for 1500rmb a month (shared). 

Affordable Housing my friend Anthony had a perfectly good place here for him and his GF (now wife) for 1500 rmb a month all in. And this is a nice downtown area. You can even get a modern style two or three bedroomed place for 2000-2500 rmb a month in the infamous Fanyu Dasha ghetto towers. Split three ways that's cheap. And Anthony's 1500 place could house two people, or even three with a room share of the big room - if you're young and struggling. Ideal for hipsters and young uns alike.

Come and check it out, live here even. Who knows what the place will be like even two years down the line - this place changes fast.

Endnote: this is my 50th post in the music scene category. Hooray.  

More Rockpile picks


that's shanghaiImage from Wang Jian Shuo

So, we lose a venue and all the others are banned from putting on shows until the Ol*mp*cs are done. My reviews and vids have come to a sudden halt for the next three weeks. Does this mean I have to go out and do interviews or does it mean I will simply rip other people's stuff?

Lucky for me, it's that time of the month when the ex-pat mags come out. First of all, it's important to remember that China doesn't have any good magazines in English or Chinese dedicated soley to indie/rock music. Some that try are basically there to intro 'western' scenes and have an occaisional feature on a Chinese band. Think you know one I've missed? Make a comment and I'll ridicule it for not being a 'real' rock/indie cultural product. My wife quit writing for China's Rock Magazine when it ran a cover story on Britney.

What we have are columns in decidely non rock'n'roll publications aimed at ex-pats in general. Shanghai Daily has a music feature in its Scope section. The latest feature it ran on live music was about Music Matters. Music Matters are a bunch of English teachers who decided that music is, like, really important and should not be absent from the community. They organise a monthly night at Mural Bar where they play covers and rap and all sorts of things. Is it possible that they have completely missed the fact that there is a music scene here with venues, shows, rehearsal studios, muso hang outs and ample opportunity to hear original music or form a band and make your own? The article certainly reads like that. Shanghai Daily, finger up its ass on the pulse.

So, onto That's Shanghai magazine. I just got the new one and must note that their music section - that covers the local scene - now covers a couple of pages and a few columns. Lisa Movius has the Rockpile column. Ben Hogue has Shanghai Live. Also, the two of them plus some staff writers put in a couple of pages worth of Musicology features.

The Musicology features - not yet posted at their website as far as I could see just now - are about the closure of Ark Live House. This is older news that I blogged about here, but you can't blame the monthy magazines. It happened right when last months mags went out which means it had to wait until this months to come out, obviously. Lisa Movius rehashes the debate of the past month but follows up with a good mini-feature about other venues that went the same way called Hello, Goodbye. She lists U-like, Ark Live House, Tribesman, Gua'er, Tang Hui and 4Live. The reasons and stories are varied but there's a pattern which is found in many industries. A project is started by people who love what they do and they get it into the black, not huge profits, but it's running fine. Then, when it starts to pick up, an ego-maniac manager or owner steps in with a ridiculous ignorant ingenious idea to make it more profitable and sinks the whole operation.

Next up in the Rockpile column, Lisa goes with a pick for the second month running. Last time it was Crazy Mushroom Brigade and this time she has gone for Loudspeaker.

Loudspeaker have a new CD out and good quality recording on their myspace page: check it out

The column focuses on the fact that they are one of the scene mainstays at nine years and counting. I have seen them a few times and you can find a brief clip on the blog youtube channel. I have an image stuck in my head from one gig as an overheated, sweating Zhang Jian (the singer/guitarist), straight off stage and on a high, went directly to a quiet corner and spent the next ten minutes carefully and lovingly wiping down his guitar. I immediately wished there was some way I could apologise to my own guitars down the years.

I wonder if Jimi Hendrix is plagued in death by the spirits of his ex-guitars that he not only smashed, but often burnt in on-stage rituals?  

I demand a recount


live bar siteI don't often post on websites and venues in the Shanghai music scene as they tend to change quite often. Also, they seem to defy normal category as they cross over in both style and function. However, after reading a couple of things in the rags this week I feel like going through this.

First of all, how many venues do we have in Shanghai for indie, rock and punk etc? A venue purpose designed for such gigs that commits to weekly performances and looks and feels like a live music house ... there's two. Yuyintang is one and Live Bar comes second, but it only just makes it in on account of it being open all the time as bar and is not immune to the odd crossover event. Yup, only the two, and Live bar is miles away from me which explains why I nearly only post about Yuyintang.

Next up are bars. Bars who, as part of their promotions, are commited to putting on live music. They are open general hours and have a mixed clientel who aren't specifically into the music. Gucci-wearing clubbers at rock gigs kill the experience for me, bah humbug. Top of this tree is Windows Underground. Windows is basically a venue that tries to make its money via the bar business model and seems to be between the two groups. But they have a proper stage and sound system. Down on Taikang Lu is Bar 288 (AKA The Melting Pot), their house band is Happy Strings. Forever on the lips of ex-pat hipsters and magazines is Logo Bar. Logo used to be the original Tang Hui music pub and is the same deal. This place is a muscially themed trendy pub with no visible pattern to the acts. Now and again they have a good band in but it's largely coincidence. I am partisan and prefer to see a rock/indie band surrounded by people who follow the sub-culture, it's half the point. 

Last one in the significant bar circuit is Gua'er (AKA Sus2). Actually, they were the first true venue in Shanghai way back when. They originally operated out of an old factory in Yangpu but now they have resurfaced as a half-cafe half-bar in Dingxi Road. No important bands have played there for a while though. 

Finally we have the occaisionals. Bands put on gigs in other places for various reasons but you can't see regular gigs at the locations. Harley's Bar used to be a great place and the gig area is quite good, now it's very on and off. Dream Factory is a proper theatre which gets used sometimes if Yuyintang wants a larger space. A band once played at The Shelter but that's a DJ place.  

This week I'm going to see a Beijing indie band called Gala.


Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.