Results tagged “music” from Andy Best

1984: New album from PK14

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1984cover
Beijing based band PK14 have released their new album. Let's start with the links:

Stream or buy at Maybe Mars' Bandcamp page right here

Listen to the album at the Chinese language site Douban right here

1984 is their fifth official full album. Together with the side projects, production work and the general influence of frontman Yang Haisong, PK14 are perhaps the most important band in the China scene. This album represents a serious work by serious artists whose development can be tracked across a series of excellent releases. They transcend simple genre conventions and have produced a work of real depth, in a sound and style that is their own.

The album is on the Maybe Mars label, was recorded at Chicago's Electric Audio with Steve Albini and produced by long term collaborator Henrik Oja.

Jia Hui Zhen: Beijing electro-pop

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jia hui zhen
If electro-pop is your thing the Beijing scene gives you Jia Hui Zhen


The selection of songs there give you the pop, the electro and hints of the ol' Bjork too. All the tracks are really great production, check them all out. Also she's from Ningxia, look that up. One thing people who've never been to China don't know, and can't see through official channels, is how diverse it is. 

Also, here's an interview from the Live Beijing Music site:


It's short but includes a couple of videos too.

How to find 0093 rehearsal space

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0093 shanghai door
0093 is a legendary rehearsal space in Shanghai that was responsible for a boom in the scene with its super cheap fully equipped rooms.

After a brief enforced move shutdown during the Expo, they came back and have been vital again.

The biggest issue, however - is how to find the front door.

The regular rooms are 35 Yuan an hour (which you then split between the band) and the larger ones are 50. Here's the official address:

Qu Xi Lu (near Da Pu Lu) 1228
瞿溪路1228号

Tel: 6416 4645

It is notoriously hard to find the first time. So, look at the picture, opening it up if necessary. The shop on the corner is called Gua Gua Gong Zi and the street number is partially hidden below its sign. Then the door to 0093 is the one I have door-matted in bright green.

When you step through, it will look like you have entered the filthy back of a shitty restaurant complete with leaking fridges - you have! Turn immediately to your left and follow the fridges, then left again to find the top of the stairs - then go down and follow the passage until you come out to the studios.

Click for larger. 
Shows Gua Gua Gongzi in relation to the Line 4 Luban Lu Station.

guaguagongzi

Carsick Cars make the AV Club Year in Band Names 2011

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rainbow band names
Carsick Cars inclusion on this list (in the ??? section) is not very exciting, but a good way for me to link my favorite music feature anywhere on the web: The A.V. Club's Year in Band Names.

This feature lists up the worst, weirdest and most questionable band names they heard that year and it's really really funny.

There was an actual gig in 2007 that had the bands Gay Witch Abortion, Babyguts and Unicorn Basement on the same bill. Yes!

Here's the new one: The Year in Band Names 2011

And here are the previous articles (2007 is my favourite.)


And here's a quote from the new one:

You Say France & I Whistle In case the name didn't set off your twee alarm: Each person's bio lists the instruments they play along with stuff like "improvised dance moves," "great yoga exercises," "screams of both joy and frustration," and "hamburgers."‬

Big Deal in China: New ReTRoS video

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Update: Brad Ferguson points out it was uploaded to Youku a couple of years ago. So it was only newly uploaded to Douban, but is not a new video.

This band are a big deal on the scene here. The ReTRoS are a more experimental post-punk band based in Beijing. Their gigs are packed and they have everyone's respect.

Here is their new video out on Modern Sky ... "TV Show (hang the police)"



Youtube Youku: Hedgehog 最后,我们会一起去海边

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Hedgehog are a Beijing based grunge trio whose career spanning four albums and shows all over China have been a microcosm of the 00's scene itself. 

On the most recent album, Honeyed and Killed, the band took on a more reflective style with longer songs and a new live atmosphere with more noise, jam influence and headbands. Here's a new video from them. Go to the page to see another recent video Sparklehorse.



Long BCR interview at Layabozi

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Thumbnail image for Boys Climbing Ropes at d22
Note: be sure to get to the very end of the Layabozi article because there's a great gallery of the interview there for all people who know the old 'F-visa Ghetto.'

Other sites are always stepping up with good long features these days. Here comes another long form interview from Layabozi.

The guys took Boys Climbing Ropes' Morgan and Pei Pei (A.K.A. Little Punk) and had a sort of Xingfu Road nostalgia trip. It resulted in a great interview that is reflective, personal and genuinely interesting.


Here's a sample quote:

LYBZ: Going back to the songs of the album "Grow Up". It says "grow up, stop fucking around"? Has someone said that to you?

Pp: I think Morgan likes to say stuff like "stop fucking around!!!" because it makes the song less serious or less poetic
M: It's like someone says some kind of criticism of your life, I find that if you take the criticism and repeat it eight times in a row to music that constantly builds, you can turn it around as, like, not a criticism anymore, to some kind of weird anthem, like "you will always be a loser."
Pp: Yeah! Totally influenced by that one. They repeat it like ten times.
M: That one of Titus Andronicus. So he takes the criticism and spins it back, and you turn it into an anthem then it's okay to be a looser, or it's okay to not grow up, it's empowering. Then grow up, stop being an idiot get your life together, stop being an idiot and get your life together, you take that and you know, you turn it into your own little thing.

More E*po post feedback: the fans' view

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Thumbnail image for baghead
In regards to the Expo post I have done one follow up already, based on the comments when Bren challenged the numbers and I slaved to make them available for checking.

Now I want to reproduce a lengthy comment from 'rubbish'.

'Rubbish' is a gig going fan who is not a writer, band member or scene analyst but who is an articulate professional whose comment reflects points on both sides of the coin. It's well worth the detailed read:

Big long article on Beijing experimental music and ...

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road via doubanIt's slow and hot and some people, not me, are taking the opportunity to write longer articles on more in depth topics. I have been doing a bunch of other stuff, check Indie Everything, but writing thoughtful pieces is not part of that. 

I want to point you at two articles doing the rounds.

The first is from We Live In Beijing and is written by Pete DeMola. It's a massive in depth article with interview snippets about a new emerging experimental scene in Beijing based around a regular night at D22. Blimey, it's good.


The other article is over at China Music Radar who are struggling valiantly to keep track of the massive boom in music festivals going on right now. Warning: it's not just about major music festival organised by labels and music peeps, it includes pop, jazz, tourism stuff and whatnot. The main thrust being that suddenly, mainstream city folk and business peeps see gold in them thar hills.

Subs new album available in full at NeochaEdge

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Thumbnail image for subs at mao album tour 2010
OK, I'm back a day or so early.

Also, I have a huge backlog of posts to get through at Indie Everything over the next few days.

One thing I have been doing is listening to my new Subs CD over and over. I bought it at this show. It rules and marks a turning point for the Subs where they let their more gothic/new wave influences take centre stage.

So now, the art and music blog NeochaEdge have decided to make it available for listening in its entirety. 

So go here now and check it out.

Youtube Youku: Fearless rehearsal vid

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Lets kick off the month with some metal.

Shanghai melodic death metal / speed metal band Fearless have just released a video of their latest track in rehearsal. The quality is good and it's worth a watch if you like the style. This version is instrumental. 

Death to false metal, of course.



layabozi
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!


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!

Where's Jake / Indie Everything

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Thumbnail image for by Wee Ling
About time for some general updates. 

So where's Jake. Poor Jake works very very hard for the nice people at Time Out magazine, of which he represents 25% But, he still blogs because that's how much he loves us all. Currently he's having a bit of a holiday with his dear old mum. Seriously. 

So, once he's back we'll start planning the next series of Podcasts and blog posts will flow again. Just remember we have the two blogs and one will always have something each week. 

Also, the stuff we've been doing has made me think a lot. There's the blogs and the pod, there was some events and some music and, as yet behind the scenes, there's long form writing too and even IF games. There was even a video about the 3 Million RMB Douchebag at one point.

I was also re-reading No Media Kings lately.

Why not watch Jim's slideshow Time management For Anarchists

So, I'm often reflecting on being at the edges of the global arts industry which itself is crumbling and being redefined by the net. I moan about how it's becoming a wild west for Ad People and PR but also heap praise on those who build communities and succeed on their own terms. 

We've reflected a bit on how much we've been able to do in our spare time with very little effort and funding and how it's based on helping each other and just doing it without expectation and letting momentum build naturally. It would only take a small step up to start putting out some really good stuff. Blah blah blah ...

... jump cut to ...

I'm thinking of adding to Kungfuology with a new blog called Indie Everything where i'll document all projects i'm involved in from blogging to the Pod to music to whatever and just drop all secrecy or whatever and list all the costs or equipment or facilities or methods we use ... or whatever. Then people who read it can have a real and practical stepping off point to do the same themselves. It's sort of our endowment as humans to be aware and express ourselves. The idea that we shouldn't do it if it doesn't lead to financial gain needs to be swept away for a while. Well, forever.

Why am I telling you all about this? I just wanted a chat. And, I think the blog should be open for everyone to share/post. 

More to come.

youtube Tudou: Zhang Qianqian on TV

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I recently posted about the rise of indie-folk artists on the pages of Douban. You can read that here. I featured an artist called Zhang Qianqian.

She has been on the TV in a documentary that features two intercut stories. One person comes to Shanghai from the west of China, the other goes back to Qinghai. That second person is Zhang Qianqian, who popped back to her home area to shoot a music video. 

It's all subtitled in English and her MV is shown in full right upfront from just before the three minute mark. 



Quote of the new year, bits and bobs

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joe chou
Hi all.

Firstly, Jake is back from his hols and blogging like a mad diarist sweating out his opium binge in a candle lit Victorian study.

Don't ask.

Anyway, I'm supposed to take it easy on the ole PC in general so be sure to check Jake's blog and add the feed for the main flow of posts at Kungfuology. Prolific as ever, his feature in the first edition of Shanghai Time Out on BCR's Little Punk is outstanding too.

So, over at Smart Shanghai, all round good guy Tom Mangione has writtten an excellent piece on local blues guitarist Joe Chou. Read it in full here.

Here's the part where he explains why he made the shift to a full time music lifestyle.

He told me that Joe had played music all of his life, but it was only after a serious car accident that almost killed him that he became serious about it.

Before then, it was just a hobby that he dabbled in while working in Beijing real estate. However, after the car wreck, Joe decided that he'd do nothing but play music, and music alone. As Joe himself put it when I asked him about it later, "I was sick. I was diseased, and I didn't even realize it. Every day I would go to work and talk to people who I didn't like and do things I didn't want to do just so that I could make money. It was all I cared about. So many people are like this, especially here in China. But now I've found a solution."

Double Control Where: new demo, the next big thing?

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double control where
Update: Hmmn, "Some just want everything" may be the newer demo. Doesn't change my take on them and the hits on the other track are good. But it may be an indicator that my brain is ageing like wine (turning to vinegar).

Ah, I'm am positively beaming at the thought of the looks on 80% of reader's faces when they listen to this demo. You see, it's normal for me. One of the defining moments of my late teens was seeing Kreator live.

So, me and Jake talked a bit on the podcast about a new trend among Shanghai bands. Young bands are taking emo and screamo and stretching it. The verses are thrashy to the point of speed metal and Carcass like gargling while the choruses bounce to the hooks of Chinese pop. Jake calls it extremo. It's a welcome one in the face for those who label Shanghai's scene too commercial.

Double Control Where are one of two of these bands that are about to breakthrough. Forget and Forgive are the other.

Please go to DCW's page and immediately play their new demo called Say Goodbye

Double Control Where have been playing a round of shows lately and this new demo tops it off. They supported the Mushrooms at Mao but seemed a little out of place, despite the Mushrooms being fans. They came into their own recently at the Emo Band Party 2. At that show they conceded the headlining slot to F.A.F. but the new demo shows me clearly who is out ahead now. Within the first few hours of being on their previously quiet Douban page, it has racked up nearly one thousand listens.

Douban band pages (音乐人) are still very much used only within the scene and its diehard audiences. It's important to understand that. It's only very recently that some bands have broken through a bit and lifted the indicators. Carsick Cars and PK14 have listens in the thousands. The Mushrooms are the first Shanghai indie band to break similar numbers. But for a completely new band with no release, label or history to get nearly a thousand listens off the bat is a strong indicator of buzz within the (small) scene. 

Did I tell you to listen to Say Goodbye?

Duck Fight Goose demos available

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duckfightgoose
Duck Fight Goose are the newest act from the Shanghai based Miniless collective. Jake calls them the Miniless Supergroup.

They share three members with Boojii and they are fronted by Miniless founder and Lava | Ox | Sea frontman Han Han. On their page the members are listed as Duck, Goose, Panda and Dragon.

Lately the band have been putting on a steady stream of shows and are already getting a good reputation. Their music is experimental but anchored by tight rhythms and  prog rock riffing.

So. Now up at their page are three demos. Although, they are basically rehearsal tapes but it will give you a chance to check out their style and hopefully whet your appetite for the next show. Don't forget: The universe will be saved by animals!!! 动物拯救世界!! 

The best show of 2009

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best four
Well, yes, there's always a bunch of lists and picks going up at the end of the year. 

This was my story of 2009

Where to start with shows. What a list to choose from. Blimey.

To be fair, I've always known what I'd write here since the day of the show itself. This was a show that transcended it's existence as merely a good show. It was the embodiment of all that was good and that worked in the scene this year. 

I give you ... drum roll please ... The Mushrooms play Yuyintang May 29th 2009.


Here was a band that was one of the hot prospects in the scene. But, after signing with Soma they had a major line up change and seemed to be losing the plot. Singer Pupu realized what was going on and the band re-united with their 0093 and Yuyintang roots. They got back to basics, practiced hard, and started to 'grass roots' organise via Douban. Over the summer they put on three themed shows at Yuyintang to connect with their new fans.

The second show exploded and they have never looked back. This show featured the wildest crowd YYT had seen for ages, band members reduced to tears and Pupu stage diving for the first time. What's more, this kind of show would usually only kick off when a big name Beijing band came to town but here were home grown heroes who had truly 'arrived'.

best two

best three

best one

Revisit Hang On The Box with Douban

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hangonthebox
Not so long ago I posted a bit about Beijing experimental rock outfit Ourself Beside Me. This ended up with me seeing them up close at Yuyintang, a great show.

Guitarist Yang Fan was originally in a very famous Beijing scene band called Hang On The Box. I have never seen them, they are no longer together, and have not had the chance to get into their music either. Until now.

Surfing into their Douban page I found that they have a selection of classic tracks there from across their career and all available for download too.

So go there now and check them out. Right here.

They formed the band when they were all just 15, by the way. Rock In China wiki has all the details. Read all about it.

Video: Misandao "F*cking Cops"

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So, I'm a journalist for Time or CNN or whoever and I've heard Carsick Cars ... why aren't Chinese bands political? What? There are other bands? Why wasn't I told about this, it's my job to project my middle class values all over anything I touch, research is for our interns!

Anyway, watch the video, it won't be there for long. PS Misandao state they are an anti-fascist band on their page. The end of the video is them taking the swastika you see at the beginning and burning it - so watch the lot.


Factory closed for 'strategic review'

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Bill_Hicks
Not so long ago I read a post by Dan Shapiro about The Factory's proposed model for signing bands and producing music. I then wrote this post about it.

The basic idea is that they are underwritten by an ad agency and create in-house solely to pitch material for use in jingles etc. I'm not down with that. Well, it's OK if you want to be a professional jingle writer/corporate shill. Just be honest about it.

So today over at Shanghaiist, Elaine Chow reports that they will close shop for a while. She's references this post at their own house blog. They say:

Factory is temporarily suspending its activities while undertaking a strategic review to refocus and further develop its creative core.

I'd love to speculate on stuff like evil and karma but to be fair Factory does all kinds of stuff in a large complex and I'm pretty sure that their hiccup has little to do with their music making model. 

Well at least it gave us that pretentious quote. Made me smile this morning.

Jake Newby interviews Miniless Records

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los Not so long ago in a galaxy not very far away, I linked some of LOS's stuff on Neocha and mentioned the upcoming Miniless showcase at Yuyintang.


With the gig almost upon us, Jake Newby has done an amazing interview with label founder Han Han over at Shanghaiist.

The interview is long and in-depth and provides an excellent insight into a more DIY philosophy. The interview and the show are the perfect antidote to all that horrible ideology and jargon being thrown around at certain recent conferences (and cropping up mercilessly in my Facebook feeds).


And here's an excerpt:

There seems to be quite a commitment to the music and the artist side of things - is that more important than being a successful business?

Actually in today's society or music industry, the power of promotion are far beyond music itself, and I think every people with a healthy-normal brain should understand that. But, well, maybe we all had a failed-brain so we think, at least at this period of miniless, we'll focus more on music. And if the music could inspire the others and ourselves, that's a successful business to us.

Bill Hicks vs Shanghai's The Factory

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Bill_Hicks
Update: A lot of people get turned right off by the pop-vox style or 'quote' approach. So here's David Cox writing for the Guardian about the movie 'Somers Town'

Recently Dan Shapiro reported on The Factory project that recently opened in Hongkou's 1933 development. Dan knows what's what and this post is in no way attacking his post per se. Dan's blog has been ruling lately. Ha. 


The Factory aim to sign and develop bands strictly for use in the ad industry:

"The main idea is basically this whole factory is being underwritten by [local advertising agency] Profero. It's all about content, content, content," explains Sean Dinsmore, The Factory's Creative Director. "Looking at it from this angle it makes it a lot more manageable. Looking at it [ just] from a music label point, it's fiscal suicide.

"It's totally transparent for musicians," says local singer / guitarist Dave Zhao, whose interest was piqued by The Factory's unique approach. "They can record the songs here and then bring the songs to the advertising company to see if they're interested in them."

That's right.

I'm sure most of my readers are familiar with Bill Hicks. Maybe not. He was an American comedian who was tragicaly struck down by cancer at just 32 years old. Anyway, Bill was big on music, especially rock and independent music. He paraphrased this many ways during his shows but we can get the basic gist here:

Rock stars doing Pepsi commercials? Are we living in Reagan's wet dream? Let me say this, just once so we can set it in stone. Anyone who advertises a product on TV should be struck off the artistic register for ever. I don't care if you are shitting Mona Lisa's in your sleep, you have made your fucking choice. You are sucking satan's cock. You can't be trusted anymore.

If there is no existing structure, industry or community for music in your city. Build one. People are doing it. Accept that there's no chance to 'make big money' from it at this time and just make your music.

Just stay away from that big scaly member.

Good times: Subs flyer gallery

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Over at The Subs Douban page they have a gallery with a ton of their flyers. It's really cool. And what's more, looking through I found the flyer for the Shuffle Bar gig. Shuffle Bar is now Anar Bar (via Pirates Bar) and the gig was put on by Brad Ferguson. It was a good night but both support acts are no longer with us - The Living Thin and Slit. 

Flyer says it was 3.11 but what year was that? 2007? 06? It seems like ages ago but can't be that long.

Check it out:

shuffle bar subs

Quick listens: experimental & 'post-'

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fadinghorizon
I listed up a bunch of upcoming shows in the last post and have been listening to some of the bands in anticipation.

I have to be a little self aware on the blog and temper my own tastes with some different stuff. So, check out these bands, all of which are playing here soon.

First I'm going to link a Neocha page and I want to take the opportunity to remind everyone that it's an excellent site where local artists and musicians post their work and network too. It's an amazing tool for delving into local culture directly without the various annoying mainstream media China-isms. 

Also - Neocha have the Next player that gives you desktop access to the entire database of songs. I'm getting excited about version 2.0 which is very close to release and will allow sorting by genre and some other stuff. Watch this space.

So first of all:

Check out the Nanjing based experimental rock outfit Fading Horizon: listen here

Also playing with them that night will be Shanghai's Booji. Read a review with music links here.

Finally. The excellent and original Ourself Beside Me are coming to town with their latest CD. Check out the mindblowing-ly-good single Sunday Girl here. The CD intro is in with the track together at that page so listen on a bit.

The good times just keep rolling in

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ourselfbesideme
There are all kinds of shows coming up, some festivals, some YYT shows a couple of good events at the Dream Factory, hopefully not the last, and a bunch of other stuff.

I don't do true listings or whatever but just skimming the upcoming shows on Douban and mainly at Yuyintang I see some great nights on the way. The following list is not complete, it's just some highlights and I always blog YYT so much because I live round the corner, like it and am a person of habit. That is, I'm always there.

Sat 18th (this weekend) Retros @ YYT

Sat 25th Miniless presents Fading Horizon and Booji @ YYT (experimental/Syd Barret influenced).

Also that night 'Get in the Van 3' at Dream Factory with Boys Climbing Ropes doing the after party at YYT after the Miniless shows is done.

Wed 29th Top Floor Circus @ YYT

May 1-3 Splitworks Canada fest @ YYT (featureing local acts too)

May cont...

Fri 8th Ourself Beside Me CD tour

Sat 9th Brain Failure and The Mushrooms @ Dream Factory

same night Overdose @ YYT

Sun 10th The Honeys @ YYT

Fri 15th Life Journey @ YYT (post rock)

Thurs 22nd Carsick Cars and The Gar @ YYT

Fri 23rd Casino Demon CD release @ YYT

Sat 30th Joyside @ YYT (legendary Beijing Punk outfit)

Phew. 

Soma take over The Dream Factory

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somaindietop
Further update: read Jake Newby's take over at Shanghaiist: here

Update: I mentioned the news came by way of Splitworks and I can now link their take via China Music Radar: here

There's been a fair amount of blogging and events around Soma Art Management and their label, Indietop. In fact, it was my story of 2008 so I suggest you first read this summary with vids and links:


Please, read it, it's the best piece on the whole blog - in my un-humble opinion.

As regulars know, the scene has been growing. The smaller venues are now busy each week and rammed for better bands. At the end of last year and early this year we started to see a smattering of shows move up to the Dream Factory venue (5-800 capacity) with some successes. Most recently, Split Works packed it out for Battles and AV Okubo. And this is where the news comes from.

Soma have now done a deal with the venue that gives them exclusive use from Wednesday to Sunday. If a different promoter wants to use the venue they will now have to either split the ticket sales 50-50 or pay 15 000 rmb up front. This essentially cuts out the majority of other music promoters and makes the venue their own.

What the f*ck are they thinking? Are they really going to put on three events of their own each week? I don't think so. That venue was dying a death and now most of the people who were getting it going will be priced out. Why do they need to basically double the overheads for other promoters?

I honestly hope they can put on their own weekly affordable shows and fill them, but lets look at the track record. Since forming the label proper and signing the three Jiao Ban bands (after the July 2008 show), they have yet to release a single CD from any of them. They had one showcase gig based around a compilation that was mainly filled with guest tracks from non-Soma bands. The Indietop website is still advertising that show from January, by the way. The best shows by Momo and The Mushrooms have been regular slots at YYT on 0093 nights and in support slots. No 'Indietop' in sight.

This is a small scene based around city wide support and DIY culture. If people like Soma use money to aggressively compete with smaller venues and hijack bands for the pop market, it will screw it up. At this point, it just reminds me of Boonna Cafe 2. The landlord saw that cafe doing good business then upped the rent to drive them out, finally opening his own shanzhai cafe Bohxa in the same spot, but tacky and overpriced. An old school dick move.

Say it aint so.

Magazines: more Midi, Hard Queen and other releases

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hard queen
Haven't done a magazine round up for a bit and want to start with a belated link to Jake Newby's Hard Queen article in That's Shanghai.

It's a full feature with some good backstory and you can read it online here:


Next up some material from Dan Shapiro over at City Weekend. First Dan reveals that there has in fact been an official release from the Beijing Midi Music School pertaining to the festival being held in Shanghai. Here are the two previous posts and here is Dan's blog:


Also, in the print edition Dan draws attention to four CD releases happening in April. We have Hard Queen, Hedgehog, Retros and The Gar. Let's throw some attention back at Dan too, the recent Rogue Transmission gig was kick-ass and they have a CD of their own you might want to inquire about.

I have been gearing up for the Hedgehog show by listening to tracks from their upcoming third CD, Blue Daydreaming. And you can too: right here.

Underground folk shows in 0093

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0093space
0093 Studio is the premier rehearsal studio for local bands in Shanghai. It's affordable, has plenty of rooms (all equipped) and it also happens to be in an underground bomb shelter and look very rock.

I've been down there a bit lately, working on some songs and it really is one of the coolest places. I also intro'd a few people to the place after meeting via the blog. I was once down there with a certain retired rock singer and the first thing he blurted out when we saw a room was "Wow, they should put on shows here."

Fast forward a few weeks and I'm surprised to see that there will be a show there. They even have a separate logo O3空间 (on the right). It will be on Sunday 29th of this month and run from 2.00 in the afternoon. 

The music will be indie folk but I'm not sure about the artists. As well as Sylvia we have two acts named after dishes, Tomato & Egg and Glazed Char Siu respectively. Anyhow, it could be the start of something good so if you fancy sitting in a grungy underground room shooting the shit with local musicians then give it a go.

0093 is at 93 Lingling Road and the entrance is right by the Line 4 metro station Da Mu Qiao Lu.

Hard Queen site goes live

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hardqueenflyer
The return of Hard Queen is almost upon us. Hard Queen are one of Shanghai's most original bands with a dressed down alt-pop sound that stands out from the rock crowd. 

Why not start by checking out their show at Eno for Popil's art show. Watch the video.

Hard Queen had developed a great set of new material and played a string of shows that ended in the now legendary Windows Underground last show where the boss banned Brad Ferguson from hiring Chinese bands and Hard Queen trashed the kit and denounced the management to the punters. The band then went into the studio but couldn't agree with the producer and months went by with no results.

So, Brad came to the rescue as the new producer and now we finally have a release date. The new website is now live here and you'll note that the CD will be released at Yuyintang on the 4th April. You pay the usual 30 rmb cover then get the CD included. Good news to international fans of the band Brad is making the CD available on Itunes a little after the release. The CD can also be physically bought overseas through CDbaby.com. Just one month to go.

Youtube: Boojii live @ Yuyintang

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I must start this off by saying that the visuals on this video are a complete write off. The set was purposefully dimly lit and my little Cybershot bootleg vid could not handle it. The sound however is good and the track is excellent so please treat it as an audio.

I'm wary of putting these posts out too close to the review itself. If you haven't already seen it, just scroll down one post or click here.


This is a great track from experimental rockers Boojii whose iconic singer San San (who you can't see in the video) cites early Syd Barret as an influence. The set was atmospheric and intense and the band will record later this year. It is well deserved.



Youtube channel roundup for Feb 2009

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xiaoxiaobai
It's that time of the month again. And it's time for the obligatory notice for newbies. Most of the live videos I post here are taken by myself and stored at the blog's Youtube Channel. You can see a link in the sidebar.

Or you can click here to visit.

The top six is ranked by all time views, not month by month. So, after the regulars, I'll be linking a couple of newer vids that are moving up fast. The major story of this post is indie pop band Bang Bang Tang (singer Xiao Bai pictured) who have taken three of the top six places.

Also, a quick note for those who read the posts as they come out. There's something going on with the net here and it's playing with my ability to access my server at normal speeds, hence the quiet few days. 

Right then:

1) The Rogue Transmission live @ Dream Factory: 360 views watch
2) Boys Climbing Ropes live @ Dream factory: 291 views watch
3) Bang Bang Tang live @ Yuyintang (Oct): 287 views watch
4) Bang Bang Tang (Lollipop) older vid: 280 views watch
5) Bang Bang Tang live @ Yuyintang (Nov 2008): 265 views watch
6) Self Party live @ Yuyintang: 260 views watch

And now, the two fastest risers from recent times. One is the DIY music video I made with Pinkberry for Runaway. The others are red hot Shaoxing Brit-poppers The Way. Enjoy.

My rock playlist and article up at Layabozi

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layabozi
Extensive Shanghai-based music website Layabozi has recently stepped up a gear. They have multiple bloggers now and all are posting. They also have flashy modern features, one of which are their playlists.

Every month they get someone who has involvement in the Shanghai scene, or someone who is coming over that month, and get them to pick ten tracks and talk about why they like them etc. And so, this month ... drum roll .... it's me.

So. My blog does not really give out much info about me, in a direct sense. Here's your chance to see what i'm thinking. Listen to the playlist, read what I have to say about the tracks ... be thoroughly unimpressed, then come back here to the comments and get stuck into me about it. It's the joy of being into music.

It's supposed to be about my past influences but I still threw in a couple of China tracks at the end. That's enough waiting go there now:

Shanghaiist call out fake punks

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shanghaiist twoYou see, it's really easy to write a title or post that is sensational. 

So, when it comes to diversity alt-media site Shanghaiist had all but died an un-PC slasher movie death. But recently they've got a new editor, Elaine Chow, who is writing about local music. 

Before we go on, I'm blogging this article by Elaine Modern Chinese rockers staying far away from politics. And, Elaine herself is blogging this piece from AFP Chinese rockers enjoy revival - without the politics. As always, read the originals before taking my word for things.

The main thrust of the articles is that Chinese rock and punk bands are not overtly political and the implication is that they are therefor missing something. This is one of the big two double standards in scene reporting. The first one is that Chinese bands are better if they are more Chinese, whatever that means. This one is that Chinese punk bands should all be complaining about the government. 

I'd love to give some commentary on the AFP article but I can't really detect any sort of real through point to it. The only interesting thing is that Elaine Chow throws in the line:

So much for actually being punk, eh?

Of course, it's a complete myth that all punk and rock bands in 'The West' are political - that is, singing overtly about about activism and government policy. For every Propagandhi (my faves) there's a Ramones. And how political are the Rolling Stones? What do these writers think political actually means anyway? 

The Subs sing about resisting authority and songs like Ha from We Haven't Entered The 21st Century talk about failed development policy and environmental damage. The music scene in Shanghai is full of bands whose lifestyles, visual styles and music are completely unacceptable by the Xinhua standard for national TV and distribution. The problem here is the AFP source article which is just writing to fulfill a common shallow type or double standard that crops up all the time. Not to mention writing up a commentary basically writing off all Chinese rock and punk bands as being shallow.

See ya, Abe.

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punk not junk
Sad to say that I recently spoke to Abe Deyo, one of Shanghai's main independent music promoters, and found out that he's leaving Shanghai next week.

Abe has worn many hats in the scene and as well as promoting shows, he is a photographer and writer. He was the music editor at Shanghaiist when I was there posting a bit on Yuyintang shows. He has also written many articles for City Weekend Magazine and he blogs at their website as punknotjunk.

Check the blog here.

As a regular promoter of shows in Shanghai, he also featured heavily in this blog. Check out articles tagged Abe Deyo here

He also gave us one of the hottest gossip stories of 2008 when he complained in print about Beijing band New Pants and their attitude. Revisit the story here: Handbags

Following a boom in general attendances once the Ol*mp*cs were done, Abe got more ambitious and tried to put on larger and/or better quality shows. We had the The Subs at Dream Factory and then The Queers and DOA at Yuyintang. Abe also took the latter two acts on China tours. Unfortunately the attendances were not there this time. Abe will now move on to Wuhan with work. Wuhan has its own scene which is a lot more punk than Shanghai. Perhaps the spark will be ignited one more time.

See ya, Abe.

Douban: quick listens

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douart
I mainly use Neocha and Myspace Music when linking to band's online music so it's time to give Douban a little exposure.

Douban is a web 2.0 social site for people who like arts, books and music. It has a section where you add groups (for example the groups of bands you like) then you get all their news in one aggregated feed. All the Chinese underground and indie bands use it. And here's a buzzword for you, the last time I talked about Douban with Neocha's Sean Leow he described it as "BBS 2.0". This will mean more to you if you are familiar with the Chinese language net world.

So, they have artist pages for the bands there too and I was just having a look around lately. So ... I give you excellent recent demo tracks from four of Shanghai's upcoming bands:

Sonnet "Stupid Baby"  post-pop, brit-pop - listen
Pinkberry "The Pinkberry Song"  pop-punk - listen
Five Pointed Star "Dui Bai"  nu-metal - listen
Muscle Snog "Female Worker Bee"  experimental, post rock - listen

You'll have to open the links in a new tab and press play on the M3 player there (see picture guide).

Youtube: Demerit live @ Jue Festival

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I saw six bands across two nights at the Jue Festival and got some footage for the channel. As well as the video i'm posting here you can see Pinkberry and Ourself Beside Me by clicking on the names.

Demerit are a hardcore punk act from Qingdao who live in Beijing to be in the scene. They started to develop the music by adding a guitarist and experimenting with more riffs. Demerit won the Friday night headlining slot on a reputation as excellent live performers and it was well justified. So check it out.

 

 

Rock 0093 Studio gearing up for the New Year

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rock0093
Rock 0093 is a rehearsal studio down on Ling Ling Road. But, they are much more than that. Over the past year they have introduced a wealth of new bands and musicians to the scene with some of the better groups starting to really break through now. 

As well as running the rehearsal space they also organize a regular showcase gig for their bands at Yuyintang. They also produce CDs for selected artists and run a shop (online only at the moment) for local band's CDs. Some links from previous posts and the shop too:


Coming up, 0093 will hold their 8th showcase at Yuyintang. This one is loaded with very new bands and they only provide links for two out of eight acts. It's on 6th of February and here's the line up:

Awake
Da Fresh 大新鲜乐团
Ziyou Shu 自由数
Jing Shui 静水乐队
Tu Bian 突变乐队
My Chilly Hurt
Kuangxiang Jiqiren 狂想机器人 (crazy robots)
Rovers (Led Zep cover band)

There's also a funny thing going on in the Douban group for 0093, namely the announcement of a new CD that will be called, ahem, "Indie Underground One" and released, ahem, on April Fool's Day. There's even a playful line about April Fool's and Indietop at the bottom of the post:

4月1日 愚人节 和<INDIE TOP>交相辉映

For all those who know Chinese. 

I posted a comment joking about it and fishing, unsportingly, in advance as to if it's a joke or not to which they cheekily replied 山寨版 shan zhai ban. Shan zhai ban is slang for those copy products that mimic a brand name exactly but change one letter in the name or whatever. I hope it is real, check out the proposed track listing (with more TBC including Candy Shop and Bang Bang Tang):

伍角星 - 对白 (Wu Jiao Xing)
胶壳乐队 - 大公鸡 (Joker)
香蕉猴子 - Double Trouble (Banana Monkey)
Pinkberry - Beauty Doll 
望月者 - For Those Who Suffer (Wang Yue Zhe, Moongazer)
空中花园 - Another Grateful Day (Kongzhong Huayuan, Hanging Gardens)
顶楼的马戏团 - 上海欢迎您 (Top Floor Circus)
P&P - 相信 

By the way. It's real. 

Pinkberry and ... The Queers!!! live @ Yuyintang

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joe queer
Yeah, that's right. I usually don't write up non-China based bands who come over because it's not related to the blog. But all that goes out of the window when it's ...The Queers! Have I mentioned that I'm a punk fan? Have I mentioned that The Queers and Screeching Weasel are like, the best bands ever?

So, Abe Deyo brought them over for a five date China tour. Opening for them was Pinkberry. Loudspeaker were on the bill too but inexplicably never showed at soundcheck. Not much to write here. Pinkberry played a good set but the room was only just starting to fill by the time they were finishing. Xiao You was looking tip top and seemed a bit disappointed in the audience who were chilling but appreciative while she gave her usual good performance. I mention this (tip top) as it pertains to later events. Anyhow, I uploaded a video of Xiaobudian. 

Then The Queers took the stage. Everyone got in the room and from the get go the first three rows or so exploded. At first I was watching star struck from the sidelines, not quite believing that Joe Queer was really on stage at little Yuyintang in Shanghai. But, as the set went on and the classics came out I had to get up there. They played Punk Rock Girls and I braved the moshers in my thoroughly knackered state. They did an encore and closed with an absolute stormer ... Joe Queer announced "This one is for Pinkberry" and then launched into She's A Firecracker. Ha. 

Apologies, I'm just a drooling fanboy tonight. Note to other organizations bringing in overseas bands to enrich the scene: Screeching Weasel.

Also, when Matt got nailed and ended up sprawled on the stage, he somehow managed to nick two plectrums. And he gave one to me. Matt Yeh = hero.

Sound Toy live @ Yuyintang

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zhengongfu restaurant
This happens to me a lot. Last week I got to the show at the advertised start time of 8 only to find it actually wasn't on till 9 and the bands were still sound checking. So, this week I went 20-30 minutes after the advertised door time only to walk into the busiest night to date in Yuyintang.

This was even busier than Subs at Halloween. By ticket 350 they had to tell people coming in to reconsider buying as they wouldn't be able to see the band. They kept selling though and passed the 400 mark soon after. YYT gets full at around 250. 

So, why not start by checking out the very popular Sound & TOY at their official page.

And, where was I. Oh, that's right, completely unable to get anywhere remotely near the hall to look at the band. Really. I skulked into the seating off to the side of the front door which had been overlooked by most people inside and found Sheena, Da Men and Zero from Hard Queen sitting there. We were shortly joined by Jake Newby and the whole night became hanging out. We could hear the band in the background though.

Sound Toy (from Chengdu) are post-rock but I was surprised at how normal/traditional they were at the show. The Shanghai post-rock and shoegazing scene is much more avant garde and experimental. The band's sound was somewhere in between more pop sounding prog rock acts like Marillion and laid back modern guitar blues like John Meyer. There were no other bands on that night. This was apparently because the crowd were not really rock/YYT regulars and "wouldn't like" either other bands or (referring to Hard Queen) bands that sung in English. That was probably about right. Sitting opposite us at one point was some student's mom who was chaperoning them. 

Other news ... check the photo! Zhen Gongfu Cafe has opened a branch opposite Yuyintang in the station. Pity that it only stays open until 10. 

Youtube: Tianpin Dian "I Set The Trend"

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A quick reminder that despite my often odd picks for the videos you can usually find more at the channel and not everything I upload gets a featured post. However, I'm going to do it again. Tonight was the Jiao Ban collective's second show and first return to YYT since getting signed to Indietop. We had local heroes Crazy Mushroom Brigade, all girl pop-rockers Momo and power trio Little Nature all playing a mix of old favourites and new material from the CD ...

... and so I bring you ... the outro track from warm-up act Tianpin Dian's opening set.

It's called Wo Shi Chao Liu (I Set The Trend). In this track, the band turn down the dial a bit and let MC YKE and singer Melody Li lead the crowd with some vocal sparring and stylings. This was the first time most of the audience heard this but you will hear them frequently burst into cheers and applause. It's also funny if you know the language and showcases both the talent of the front pair and the band's knack for a great hook.



Youtube: Pinkberry "Run Away" MV

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Shanghai pop-punk band Pinkberry have rounded off an amazing fast rise on the scene by winning a place at the national finals of the Yamaha Best Band competition. They just got back from Beijing where, among other things, Toni Yu Zhuoran won best guitarist. You can catch them supporting legendary punk rockers The Queers at YYT on Jan 3rd.

Their first demo track Runaway showcases both their knack for a catchy, energetic tune and also Xiao You's strong vocals. As I blogged here, we recently shot a video to go with the demo MP3. I originally wrote a little bit about the sharpness and look of the video but after Youtube have encoded it, it looks like someone added a blur effect anyway so what's the point. If anyone can give me tips/Youtube hacks on how to avoid that they're very welcome.

So here it is, Pinkberry as moody too cool for school students in the iconic (if you live here) blue tracksuits with a scene in Shanghai's own Yuyintang too:



0093 female singers night @ Yuyintang

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chen gong
Saw some good news floating around right before I set off for Yuyintang tonight. I previously wrote about how the peak month of November was not going to drop off and that every weekend of December was loaded too. Well that schedule gets rounded out now with the announcement of a second Jiao Ban night on the 27th. This also answers my question regarding whether the Indietop bands were going to continue playing small impromptu shows.

So, tonight was the next in a now long line of 0093 parties. Tonight had a theme of female singers. Wang Tian Tian and Jiang Shaoqing were both there manning a merchandise table. The line up:

Redgrid
Sui Guang Pan
Mimi Liang (Beijing)

I got there not so long after the doors opened, but just in time for the start of Moongazer's first song. Good turnout of younger locals, a lot of students supporting Bang Bang Tang especially. Moongazer played a shortish set of four songs and were well received. After a brief glance around I saw that a large portion of the crowd were made up of band members. Too many to go through here. The 90's generation rock people are becoming a regular presence at YYT now. Having made contact at Indietop, Lisa Movius decided to come along tonight and eventually got Shanghai-ed by the 90's people (her crowd).

Moongazer are settled now and the next step is to work towards a longer set. I'm all for that as I'm a big fan of gothic metal with modern influences. Bang Bang Tang were next and they played their usual selection of tracks. The night was quite low key and the band were solid but not really putting their foot on the gas, so to speak. Mimi Liang is a solo folk artist. She played a set by herself with an acoustic guitar. As with a few of these acts I've seen lately, great voice but seemingly no sense of the guitar being horribly out of tune. I have a feeling that they're not bringing their own and the stand in guitars are junk.

A final note about the Hedgehog show tomorrow. Tonight was definitely a last minute statement of intent from arch-nemesis monopod guy. Tonight he brought a full tripod and had it set up dead centre for all of Moongazer and Bang Bang Tang. He also kind of walked around it while taking stills. I was headed off at the pass by Zhang Haisheng who told me he'd have a word for sure. So I'm not sure how it's going to go tomorrow. I leave you with a photo showing how he single handedly turned the front row into a front semi-circle around himself.

monopod guy in action

Indie Top One showcase at Dream Factory

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Indietop
Well, it finally came around, the Indie Top show. So much to talk about that this may be the first post where I have to split it and have the main body 'after the jump'. Let's get the formalities out of the way first.

This was an important show and you should read why here: A call to arms

Next, here are the bands who played, along with links to their sites:

Zhong Chi 钟茌
Momo MOMO乐团
Little Nature 小自然 
Sonnet 十四行诗
Wang Xiaokun 王啸坤

There were so many people I bumped into and so many shout outs that I can't possibly list them all. I usually include mainly other English language writers when I do this because to mention everyone at, say, a YYT show who's part of the scene or a band would be to make the whole post a fifty name list each time. Met Lisa Movius for the first time and then Shanghaiist blogger Wee Ling Soh who I got to take one of her famous eyes closed photos of me and Jake. Yes! Talking of Shanghaiist writers, me and Archie bumped into Cameron Wilson at a restaurant later that night and ate with Detroit techno guru Bone (so that conversation went right over my head). 

Quick special mention to my three ticket winners who all came. Thanks guys and I hope you enjoyed it. Lost Mimi at one point but I'm sure I saw you meet up with a friend. 

So, here we go. First of all, this was a well organized pro-event that got a great turnout and a bunch of support. Plenty of CDs and merchandise on the scene and they even had custom made Indie Top ads to play between acts and an MC for the night. Great atmosphere and definitely a success for Indie Top. The buzz at the event lived up to all the hype I was giving it ... phew. So, onto the bands.

Pre-amble. I previously listened to the CD samples and worried that the production had pushed the bands in the pop direction a lot. And here's the thing - I came thinking "Little Nature, Momo and Mushrooms" and left thinking "Zhong Chi and Sonnet". Weird stuff. While the theme for the night appeared to be rock acts getting signed and then lightening up, the lighter acts actually rocked it. Weird weird weird.

Out came Sarah Zhong Chi whose CD is full of dreamy tracks about environmental disaster. The first thing I noticed was the decidedly straight rock backing band that included Jerry Li, formerly of the Mushrooms, and David from Moongazer on guitar and bass respectively. The songs were good and the band gave it some bite live. Zhong Chi doesn't really appear on the regular live circuit in town and I had no idea what to expect but she's cool and the songs worked fine live. Good start. 

Next up were Sonnet. Sonnet are not on the label and were filling out the show. They played a straight set of their regular material and were kind of separate in feel from the rest of the night. They didn't benefit from the sound, which was loud enough to give the show atmosphere but a bit muddy and way short of truly professional. Sonnet have recently reformed and seem to be just about getting it back now. The last two songs they played really came together and seemed to win the approval of the crowd. They play modern indie rock in the vein of post-Strokes stuff like Casino Demon here. 

Little Nature were next. These are a pop punk trio that I have followed from the start at this blog. The sound reminds me of a mid-career Green Day and they were instantly popular with Shanghai rock fans. It's really quite amazing that they were about to come on as a signed act at a big show less than one year later in a small scene like Shanghai. Alas, being signed has changed them a lot it seems. They came out with an extra guitarist and some pop star hair-dos. When I watched these guys at Yuyintang a couple of times they were full of energy with deceptive songs that seemed like three chord rock but had some great hooks and breaks that made them stand out. They were flat here and the label is obviously pushing the pop/idol side of things.

Momo next. Same story, The label has really got these girls to push the cute appeal. But, for Momo, that side has always been a part of them, even when the music was very garage rock still. It's not my thing, but they seemed to suit the new style and performed well. Singer Ding Jia was made to play guitar the whole show too, which is not the norm at their shows. I suppose the label were pushing for a more filled out sound or something. It never seemed to be a problem before. I wonder if these bands are going to keep playing the smaller places now?

Then came the biggest shock of the night. Wang Xiaokun was a mainstream pop star with vids on the telly and everything. I knew he wrote his own stuff and had gone indie, but I was planning to skip him if he went on last. He came on now. And WTF, his backing band were rock and he wasn't half bad. He had a Manchester thing going on. Bowl cut, psychedelic sweater, singing his indie rock vocal upwards into the mike while swaying and breaking into falsetto. He was quite good. It was a total headfuck as his previous incarnation was a talent show idol. He had the good sense to not play any of those 'hits'.

Anyway, on came the Mushrooms one of my favourite bands and an amazing live act. They lost the original guitarist and got two replacements. I don't want to talk about it much. What can I say. This was a kind of coming out party for Momo, Little Nature and the Mushrooms to showcase their new looks and styles. LN lost their punch, Momo's Ding Jia usually has a bit of power and depth behind her voice but it's all cutesy now and the Mushrooms have lost their mojo too (they should get Jerry back). It's part of a planned move by the label to sell these bands. The weird thing is the sudden change, I have seen some of these bands live between getting signed to Indie Top and tonight's show and there was no indication of the change then at all. Who's the Shanghai Mick Jones and when can he start producing? 

RockSH videos: Pinkberry and The Subs

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These videos are hosted by a smaller streaming site here in China called "6.cn". I'm wary to embed them because the smaller vid upload sites tend to get shut down fairly often for a variety of reasons. So, watch them while you can.

So, anyway. RockSH have posted up two longer videos. Each one is an interview (all in Mandarin). Don't despair if you can't speak Chinese though, there is an insert panel playing clips from the live shows all the way through. Hmmn, another thought: are RockSH's video team and monopod guy one and the same? Judging from the Subs footage (From Dream Factory this weekend) it's him.That could be painful in the future.


Pinkberry:


The Subs:

xiao youRegular readers may have noticed that when I link reviews and articles by other English language writers that it's the same small group of people. That'll be because there's only a small group of writers covering it in English. You may also notice that I am supportive and diplomatic in the main. Sometimes, though, another writer will just say what they think and it happens to sum up what I was thinking too. Then I can quote them and they get all the blame if someone objects. Yes!

Jake Newby was at the Subs show with me and threw out some observations in his SH Magazine blog. He starts by mentioning Sub's singer Kang mao's hilarious opening line, referring to the other Beijing act in town that night (indie pop act Milk @ Coffee):

"We're the beer band," joked Kang Mao as she took the stage at Zhijiang Dream Factory.

But it's his observations of the support acts that really hit the mark: 

Before them, The Molds had disappointed with their Lou Reed-like post-rock and out of tune, echo-laden vocals. Having delayed the start of the gig due to an hour and 45 minute soundcheck, they were completely upstaged and made to look amateurish by opening act Pinkberry. "All four of us have got colds today," declared Pinkberry lead singer Xiao You, but it didn't seem to affect their performance. It's not often the crowd demand an encore from an opening act, but Pinkberry are no ordinary band.

Jake also lays down a tip that might see this blog do it's first report from Live Bar. Upcoming act Tianping Dian (Candy Shop) are headlining there on Sat 6th which gives me an alternative to Hua Lun who are post-rock. Laziness may well win out so don't despair, shoegazers.

Finally. Yuyintang have just announced a 'Winter Madness' all day show on the same day that Hedgehog play in the evening. So, on the 13th there'll be a bunch of bands playing from 1.30 in the afternoon (including Candy Shop) and then the Hedgehog show in the evening. Football in the park behind anyone? Jumpers for goalposts?

The Subs live @ Dream Factory

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dream factory nov
The Subs have now played three shows here this year and, based on the previous turnouts, promoter Abe Deyo moved them up to the Zhijiang Dream Factory this time. The full line up was as follows:


I arrived pretty much on time only to find that the Molds were still sound checking. And so they did for another half an hour or so. It turned out that both Beijing bands needed ninety minutes each to sound check as they were not happy with the venue sound guy. Usually it's not a huge concern at smaller underground shows but Dream Factory is a more professional theatre and the ticket price is double that of the music bars too. Note to the Indietop show next Friday: bring your own sound people.

Once down in the hall it was an hour or so past door opening time and while there was eventually enough people to make the Subs fun and the usual mosh-fest, it was obvious it wasn't going to be the big turnout I hoped for. I met a bunch of people at the show. Aside from the usual suspects were Shanghai blogging duo Swiss James and Dingle. So, on to the bands.

Pinkberry took the stage and went into their set with confidence. The guitar was quiet and the drums sounded like they had a blanket over them but they didn't seem to care. I'm always impressed with how professional they are for a newer/younger band. Vocalist Xiao You really looked the part and, and as always, gave a good performance. My favourite song by Pinkberry is Mei You Shenme Da Bu Liao but lately they have taken to playing it double-time at gigs. But what do I know, Brad Ferguson commented that he quite liked the double-time style. Here's the original but it's only half the track, sorry. 

By the time The Molds appeared there was enough people there to fill a Yuyintang. The Molds are a very interesting band. They claim the Cramps as their main influence but play it very straight. Their sound is like Eddie Cochrane or The Shadows with purposefully morose vocals. I was looking forward to it after hearing the demos on Myspace. Unfortunately the vocal sound was so drowned in echo and up in the mix that basically the whole of the band was masked by a kind of wet ghostly moan. The audience couldn't really latch onto the music and as the set went on, for quite some time, it sent the 'young uns' scampering down the street for convenience store beers. The Molds are a cool band, though, and quite distinct from the Nanjing psychobilly acts. 

Right after I was explaining to someone how The Subs never play Drew The Line at shows anymore but play it's outro as the show lead in music - The Subs took the stage and went directly into Drew The Line. The sound seemed to get sorted a couple of songs in and a mosh ensued. Monopod guy was back and I spent a few songs unable to see singer Kang Mao past his huge rig. I think once the ticket price and venues get above a certain level someone is going to have to step in and say no unofficial huge vid cameras in the centre or flash photography at the shows. I was mellow all show as I'm just coming off four weeks or cough and cold. I went up the back to make the video of the encore track What More and you can see some crowd surfing action therein. 

Other people's Youtube Tudou: Little Nature at YYT

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A couple of weeks ago or so I wrote about an amazing show at YYT. It was none other than the 0093 Rock party 'rocking in the free world'. Read the original post here

I was just trolling around Chinese language web pages and vid streaming sites and came across some footage from that show on Tudou Wang. The video seem to be shot by people from the site Rock Shanghai. The huge logo gave it away. So here are two songs from Little Nature. It's rough but fun and captures the Yuyintang atmosphere perfectly.



Arrows Made of Desire live @ Yuyintang

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arrows made of desire
This was the third night of a three night show marathon of which I cried off the middle date. So, yeah, no write up for V-day and Hard Queen, sorry. I did hear that Yuyintang got well over 200 people in for that show despite going head-to-head with New Pants. Nice.

Also the title of this post is a bit misleading as this was a Moses Hazy show. Moses are touring from Finland and I only blog local bands. Needless to say that Moses were good and thanks for coming to Shanghai and all that. They are based in Finland and not China so fall outside of the blog. 

And so, the main contender: Arrows Made Of Desire (Beijing)

Three shows in a weekend and the last one on a Sunday following two big shows. History tells us that the turn out was not going to be spectacular. But. Times they are a changing. It seems that Yuyintang is now known enough to pull in a hundred or so people on any given event without marketing. By the end of the night it was a half decent turn out and a full room. Not bad. Also,  a few musician types were lurking around as they normally are when bands come down from the Beijing scene. Dan Shapiro was down again as he's often in Beijing scoping out the best bands and rightly championed the whole weekend. Yuyintang's Sun Lu was also hanging with his pal from Crystal Butterfly at the bar all night and plying all comers with rocket fuel bai jiu among other things. 

Just as Arrows Made of Desire took to the stage there was a single bizarre moment. Two or three high tables with bar stools had been left in the main room, over by the sound desk, from the previous night and a bunch of people had sat at them. The staff were too nice to evict them and remove the offending objects. Tables stuck in the middle of a live house floor just seem to attract table people. After Arrows frontman Joewi (originally Dutch) welcomed the crowd in Mandarin, one middle aged sweater wearing type blurted out that he needn't speak Chinese just use English - accompanied by a smug guffaw. He seemed totally unaware that the rest of the crowd were fine with the intro and there was a deserved beat down an embarrassed silence for a moment there. So let's not leave the a*shole magnets floor tables out next time. 

The band played a tight set. The songs were punchy indie rock, not unlike the Friday night acts, but with more complex arrangements. It was a treat for muso fans as Joewi covered the whole range of guitar technique during the set without compromising the appeal of the songs. I picked up their CD and also put a video on the youtube channel. I have to say that I'm impressed over all with the Beijing post-Strokes group of bands, represented this weekend by three acts. But I'm still focused on the prize - the Indie Top showcase at Dream Factory where we get to see what Shanghai can really pull together. Not to forget Pinkberry playing with the Subs at what will be the mosh-fest of the year.

Youtube: Casino Demon live @ Yuyintang

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Beijing indie rockers Casino Demon came to town last night and lived up to all the expectations. Read all about it. Even more apologies than usual for the YYT blinking lights on auto thing. They did start off doing it properly but poor old Sam the tech guy had spent all day with food poisoning and was passed out on the desk for half the show.

Anyway, this vid managed to capture the energy perfectly, so if need be, just listen and look at their picture at the same time or something. This is the ruling track Wa Ha Ha. Sit back and weep beeeatches James Pants choosers. 



Indietop first compilation CD line up

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somaindietop
Recently I have blogged a bit about a new Shanghai indie label called Indietop (part of Soma). A lot of this came courtesy of scene writer Lisa Movius. 

The first mention is here and the recent preview of the upcoming showcase gig is here.

There are 13 bands signed to the label including blog favourites like Little Nature, Momo and Crazy Mushroom Brigade. Talking of the Mushrooms brings us to the reason for the post. Mushroom's frontman Pu Pu (仆仆) has just leaked (i.e. promoted) the track listing for the first release from the label on Douban.com.

So without further ado here it is (a lot of Chinese, sorry international readers):

试听曲目顺序: 
  001 蘑菇团-等待 
  002 小自然- Different world 
  003 钟茌-Chain of Desire 
  004 杜佳宣-我 
  005 MONOKINO(德国)- New kid 
  006 MOMO-小妖怪 
  007 王啸坤-菩提树下 
  008 苏丹-我们的爱情 
  009 LOTZ-老老欢喜侬 
  010 IGO-Super Virus 
  011 冷冻街-窃听机 
  012 十四行诗-stupid baby 
  013 33岛-King 

I would strongly recommend going to the show and getting a CD too. The inside word is that the label boss needed a fair amount of persuading to sign the younger bands and we should send a message that it's a good decision by supporting and spreading the word. If the label keeps going, Shanghai bands can aim higher in the future. 

Lu Chen and Xiao He live @ Yuyintang

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luchenacoustic
If anything, Lu Chen, formerly of Top Floor Circus, and Xiao He, formerly of Glorious Pharmacy, are not predictable. Tonight was no exception. 

Xiao He is touring his solo show which is a multi-discipline avant-garde show that he developed from his many musical and visual influences. Lu Chen has also been striking out on his own with a show that is largely based in dramatic/comedy performance as much as it is music. The previous Lu Chen show at Yuyintang had been a hilarious routine featuring a showdown between the Ol*mp*c mascots and Haibao, mascot of the upcoming W*r*d Exp*. Check out the write up and the video.

So, the poster for the show featured Astro Boy and talk was of another dramatic extravaganza. But like I said, these guys are a touch unpredictable.

Arriving at the show I was surprised to see Ben Hogue who had blogged about going to see 10 play at Logo Bar. It turned out they made a last minute appearance at YYT which I came into right in the last minute. The billed show got going straight away with a short film. I heard they made a short film especially for the show. What I didn't realise was it that it was an actual film. That is, they projected a 40 minute indie short film where Lu Chen played a blind man visiting Shanghai. It was almost painfully slow and detailed in a near neo-realist sense but clearly intended to be Absurd. Without any kind of introduction or context at all, the audience didn't really get it until over half way through when Lu Chen's character was strumming a guitar and chanting without skill but it came out like a Buddhist mantra prompting another seemingly detached character to take him to Jing'an Temple.

After this, Lu Chen and Xiao He separately played straight forward music sets of regular songs. Lu Chen sat with his guitar and was backed by drums and bass. During his first track he used a lot of samples and effects too. I got close to the front and saw that the bassist had a Midi set up beside him that he was operating via some kind of Monome knock off. It was a great set. Xiao He just sang with guitar and no other back up at all. It was perhaps the most sober performance the two have ever put on - but a relief of sorts as these guys are among the top talents in China and you rarely get to hear a solid set of the music itself.

Me and the wife bumped into Lu Chen about half way through the Xiao He set and he told us that indeed they were not making any joint show and that once Xiao He was done his acoustic set, that was it. I left a little before the end to eat. I then got bored waiting for my food and was going through my camera pics, deleting old ones. Joy of joys, I lost concentration and deleted the excellent video I got of Lu Chen and the sole clear photo too. My bad. All in all a great night and a great atmosphere at YYT which seems to attract a good turnout and a quality event every weekend these days. Great to see Jake Newby there too, as well as brief meets with Dan from The Rogue Transmission and Morgan from BCR.

Ben Hogue, NOIShanghai and torture

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noishanghai 20
When I was last at Yuyintang I finally got to meet Ben Hogue in person and have a chat. He was telling me about a gig in the noise scene where Torturing Nurse had a guest artist actually torture them, so to speak. 

I have covered a NOIShanghai show before here. They do their own thing apart from the rest of the scene and have gotten up to their 20th show. I noticed today that Ben has covered the show in his new blog. Here's an excerpt.

I also caught Torturing Nurse's gig the week prior, quite an usual set for them. At this, their 20th NOIShanghai concert, sound artist Yan Jun 颜峻 (who was down from Beijing to play with me and Bruce Gremo in a performance of Christian Marclay's Screen Play, part of the Shanghai eArts Festival 2008 in Xujiahui Park) decided he was going to turn the tables by torturing Torturing Nurse (in his pajamas). Xu Cheng 徐程 was tied up in a bag with a microphone, Junky was tied to a table in a raincoat with a contact mic taped to his throat, and Jia Die 蛱蝶 was taped up to a microphone and chair. (And that's all she was wearing; as an unintended encore, we got to hear her improvised offstage vocalizations as the tape was removed from her more sensitive regions.)

You can read the full post here. Oh, those crazy noise scene people. But let's be honest, who can read that write up and not be at least a little curious to get to the next show? 

How to snub someone right proper

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new pants cd
Update: One of the two posts that I linked below have been pulled by the editors this morning. Shanghaiist have even left a note about it 'pending further review'. This is quite funny from a site that regularly posts up all kinds of offensive trash such as inflammatory far-right nonsense and tabloid stories. I have to speculate that S.T.D. are not happy with someone recommending staying away from one of their shows. 

But remember, kids, that's what gossip stories are all about: outrageous speculations.

End Update

Well, we haven't really had any good gossip for a while and it had to come at some point. Does that count as a preface?

Beijing punk rockers New Pants are on their way to Shanghai for a big show at the Dream Factory. It will be put on by S.T.D. and will really be a big show


So, here's the basic gist of the story. Shanghai promoter Abe Deyo, also the music editor at Shanghaiist, has just posted about New Pants and their perceived snub to Aussie band Regurgitator, who were just here. 

What do you think: Regurgitator are an established and successful band in Australia who decided to help out New Pants by flying them to Oz and paying for them to do the whole tour in front of sell out audiences. So, one year later the Oz band come out to China hoping to team up with a local act and reach a local audience. New Pants say we're a bit busy, sorry, and decline to get involved.

It should be mentioned that I know nothing about it and I'm basically blogging Abe's two articles on the subject. He mentions that New Pants also bad mouthed The Queers, who Abe is bringing over and messed with another band's show he is involved in. This didn't only prompt him to break the Regurgitator story, it has messed with his cool. People here know that Abe is super-cool and professional. He is very careful not mess with other promoters or say anything negative about bands in general. A nerve appears to be hit this time though.

Here's a quote

Nov 22nd New Pants ... actually after the diss they laid on Regurgitator we don't recommend seeing these douchebags unless it's to throw rotten tomatoes at the f*ckers.

And here's the two articles: Sha-iist and City Weekend

There's a danger here of any press being good press for the show itself but Go Abe. This blog must recommend making your decision based on if you like New Pants' music or not but I love gossip too. Also, there hasn't been a promoter throw down for a while and when there was it was more like people getting mildly annoyed with each other. Where's Brad when you need him?

5 Minutes come to Shanghai

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Regular readers of the blog may notice I have a leaning towards punk and garage rock, especially local Shanghai acts. However, I like to think that I pitch in with other genres to keep the balance. Revisit these blog moments for the experimental/electro indie scene: Miniless Showcase, Notch Festival, Neocha Folk release, 33 Island and the Self Party Video.

So, I'm still sick and it's raining so I doubt I'll be able to report on tonight's YYT show, 5 Minutes. They are a Beijing based act who are an important part of the indie scene. Check out their page here (has five full tracks) and watch the video below. If you go to the show, let me know about it in the comments.



Barfly goes to Yuyintang

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new sign at yuyintang
I'm sick and it's raining again. However I did manage to pop to a cafe this morning and come across a copy of Enjoy Classifieds which I was then surprised to find a scene reference inside. I've decided to squeeze that and a couple of other tidbits into a post.

First of all, let me assure you that Enjoy Classifieds is a regular type classifieds paper and is not adult in nature. It's just a bad choice of name. Inside there is a column called Barfly written by one Trevor Postma. Hi, Trevor. This week he admits never having been to a true local gig despite being a music fan and nobly decides to get on down to Yuyintang.

After the first real show comes the immediate scene fixing analysis. Credit to Trevor though as he comes out of that potential pitfall saying much the same as everyone else in the scene. In short, that the bands and fans are there but we're lacking a couple more decent venues. Barfly found YYT itself to be suitably grungy and rock style but a little on the small side. Alas, no mention of which show he was at or which bands were playing.

In other news, I got contacted by a certain Beijing scene guy who runs the site Rock In China. This is a wiki site that hopes to cover and document the whole China scene, so you can find a bunch of Shanghai info there too. Talking to Max, he reminded me of the other blog Chaile. There's a lot of posts there too, but it has been defunct since August 2006. Advance apologies to Max, and by implication Archie, but I have to mention that if you surf into Rock In China, it's done in one of those white text on black background with red trimming themes that burns my eyes out of my head like snow-blindness. It may just be me.

Coming up this weekend. Metal Night! 

The Beat - November peak season

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dan shapiro
I want to start with a small preface. This is not a post of me tellin' it how it is about The Scene. This is me linking a great post by Dan and discussing it a little. See what I'm doing with this preface thing? Go on, use this meme yourself. Preface.

Dan Shapiro of The Rogue Transmission (pictured centre) writes the column The Beat for City Weekend. I was just checking his latest post at their online site and found something worth bringing up.

So, first up: here it is.

So it's all about how Yuyintang has an amazing line up this month. Here's the quote that got me.

Yuyintang, which has basically become Shanghai's only real (and consistent) livehouse, had just announced its November line-up and rock fans are in for a seriously awesome month.

I have to agree here. I have joked before that the reason I am always at YYT is that it's near my house. That's part of it but the main reason is that it's the only place that's like a true rock /indie venue. That is, it has a separate black-box style room with a stage and rear sound desk. The rest of the club is also done out in the dive style. If it's not clear what I mean, go to a show there and then go to shows at other places the same month and compare. Also, since getting the new place they have gradually added to and improved it week by week and now it's the real deal. Now for what follows this observation - other places need to get their sh*t together. 

Talking of other places. The Subs will be making another Shanghai appearance on the 29th at the Dream Factory. So now you have your chance to see them if you missed last night. Not in Shanghai? Fancy a holiday? Come to Shanghai and watch the Subs gig. Seriously. 

And finally. The scene needn't drop off after November as Dan worries. Check out any one of the five bands mentioned in the last post. They will all be playing somewhere across each month. In short, when it's not laid out on a plate for us it's time to go searching. 

Youtube channel: Shanghaiist vs Douban

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channel
Newer readers to the blog may have noticed that I post videos here but may not have been to the channel and checked out the back log. So, before we get going:


Now, a happy coincidence last week has led to an interesting experiment. This involves two sites. I give you ...


...and

Douban (Chinese)

So, a bit of background. My Youtube channel's most popular video last month was at around 150 views and my poor little blog has about 2000 individual IPs (individual readers) across a month. Oh, writing that has made me realise that most of my readers don't pay much attention to the vids. Poor me, I know they are bootlegged vids but isn't that part of the romance of the underground? Ahem ... anyway.

When I was posting at Shanghaiist around March of this year, they got 200 000 IPs in a bad month and as much as 800 000 when Kenneth Tan ran the Edison Chen photo scandal stories. Their readership is English speaking Shanghai ex-pats and then overseas readers looking for Shanghai info via the Gothamist network. It's thousands of readers every day. Douban is a Chinese community site for people reviewing and sharing info on movies, music and books. It's very popular and hosts the net groups of choice for Shanghai music fans. A popular site in China like Douban has sky high traffic. Douban has over two million registered members for a start (so it says here). Also, Douban is the site of choice of the local music scene. 

So. After getting a reasonable video of Tianping Dian's great show last Friday, I decided to try something out. I joined Douban and posted the video there in a couple of relevant groups. At the same time on Saturday afternoon, Abe Deyo posted up a preview of The Rogue Transmission's Saturday show on Shanghaiist. He used my video of their Control show in the post. What a nice coincidence, now I could use the viewing figures at the Youtube channel to track how many people at those sites watched the video.

So, at the time of the videos being cross posted, TRS had 121 views and Tianping Dian had 6 views.

Then time passed until now. So there was Saturday night then all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Of course, not everyone who reads a post at those sites is a rock fan. I'm sure there are all kinds of factors at play but it's certainly interesting to see what kind of traffic gets generated. At least, just for fun.

As I write it has gone midnight on Tuesday and I'm checking the stats right now.

The Rogue Transmission video: 248 views (up 127)
Tianping Dian video: 28 views (up 22 and no significant difference to a regular video)

A certain net meme comes to mind here: Fail!

Neocha.com release latest compilation

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neocha netlabel release
Neocha.com is a net portal for Chinese musicians and artists but they wear many hats. Regulars to the blog will have seen footage from the recent Notch festival that they organised. Neocha also pioneered their own embeddable media player Next that gives you access to their entire online database.

They have just put out their latest compilation Tomorrow's Afternoon Tea. This is a free net release showcasing female indie/folk artists from the Neocha community. It features some bands previously covered on this blog, for example Bang Bang Tang. 

Without further ado ... please go straight ---> here <--- and DL the complete album.

I have and it's good. On a completely unrelated note: last night's 0093 show was a really good night but several people I met there were completely new to most of the bands. If they read this, and other blogs, it wouldn't be a problem. So, if you are reading this, why not spread the word. If you like this blog, promote it ... just a simple link or mention on your own site would help greatly. The same goes for all related sites. Neocha, for example, is a great site to explore whether you are in China or not. 

See this old blog of Dan's for details: spread the word. Oh, for some reason I can't find that post over at City Weekend now. Help! Well, you know, it was Dan Shapiro urging you to do anything to promote the scene.

I leave you with the track listing for the Neocha release:

Tomorrow's_Afternoon_Tea-B.jpg


Rocking in the free world (0093) @ Yuyintang

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tianping dian warmup
Friday night at Yuyintang and the latest in the now long line of 0093 showcase gigs, Rocking In The Free World, was going head to head with a weekend of first generation rockers up in Zhabei. I assumed YYT would lose a lot of locals to the bigger events - but I was wrong.

Amazing line up. Amazing turn out. Solid famous acts like Sonnet and Sko were up alongside 0093 studios' better acts. The final line up went like this:


Yuyintang was packed out with a great crowd of the coolest fucking people in town. Each band got a decent crowd and the sound was good all night. This was Yuyintang as it always should be. Rocking bands, cool people and hanging out in the park behind during breaks. I was sick with the flu all week and this was just what I needed to pick me up. Keep in mind that I'm easily excited, mind you.

The surprise of the night for me was Tianping Dian. I had seen them twice before and have reported their potential on the blog a couple of times. Tonight was their time to get it together. Sonnet had played a decent set and the hall was rammed. Tianping Dian got straight on and blasted through their high energy tracks sending the crowd into a mosh. They never missed a beat and the guitar sound was especially good. I have a vid coming, but it doesn't do justice to the sound as usual. With so many bands on the bill, the set was kept short but people wanted an encore so the band swapped instruments and ripped out a well funny closer - a dirty version of a famous Shanghainese kids song that had everyone cracking up. I wish I had a succinct genre name for them. They are a kind of rap-rock crossover with female vocal catchy choruses. I dunno.

The other band that really got the crowd going were Little Nature. The Bar 288 bands kind of come in a three for one pack these days. If Little Nature play than you're going to see members of Momo Tuan and Crazy Mushroom Brigade plus entourage in the crowd. They played a tight set and got everyone moving. They do keep insisting on playing Happy Birthday though. Their fans were loving it and singing along, and it's not 100% serious, but every time they play that track it discredits all their previous good work. Saw Dan and Fabian from Rogue Transmission at the show too. Let's not forget their EP release at YYT tomorrow which also promises to be a wild night. 

Bang Bang Tang live @ Yuyintang

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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. 

Defy live @ Yuyintang

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defy
This post has been slightly delayed due to whatever it is that goes wrong with Shanghai Online's dns that makes access pop on and off at times. Of course, once this post is no longer the latest one then the previous statement becomes meaningless. And so begins the triple preface. Oh yes.

This second preface is a preface to the third and final preface to the post. Let me say that again ... preface. So, this post's preface mentions 'kung fu'. Kung fu is the only thing in my life that takes up even more time than music, but I almost never mention it in this blog because of the standard responses to mention of kung fu. The most common being a variation on either "I'm a black belt in Karate" or "Let me tell you why martial art X is superior to martial art Y". In the latter, Y is equal to whatever art you said you do. If you're really lucky you might get the bonus response, a lengthy explanation of mystical Qi powers or any standard variation on "I know a really really old weak looking guy who can blow you across the room with two fingers using magic." I've heard them all, if any one puts any of these in the comments on this post then they get the answer to fourth and final standard response to mention of kung fu, "Show me a move." The answer being "no".

And now the preface. This review may not be entirely accurate. Prior to attending the show I had been on a public holiday during which our kung fu class met every day. During the show I felt like I had hot pins stuck between my shoulder blades and also in my knees. I was so tired physically that I found it almost impossible to concentrate long enough to link up simple pairs of events. Like a question and its answer. I spoke to several people there, but have little memory of what it was about and tried to get by with use of the repeating the question in the form of an answer dodge. 

So, Yuyintang was strangely quiet around the advertised starting time of nine. And by that I mean it was the staff ... and me. What could it mean? Yuyintang gigs are usually full of locals who are early birds. As people started to trickle in it became apparent that it was going to be one of those pretty much all ex-pats shows. Party going ex-pats tend to come late, you see. Don't ask why, I have no idea. Anyway, no big problems there. Well done everyone for supporting local music.

First up was Sonnet. This band have been split for a while and have just got back together. They are a choppy guitar sound indie-rock band, not far away in style from TooKoo, who are well good. Here's the link for TooKoo's last show I went too, here. Sonnet do things a little bit differently, during one song they alternated between live drums and a drum machine. They seemed to have some early problems with the sound mix and when I turned around to look at the desk - there was no one there. Here's what happens in a resource-light underground scene with average equipment when someone isn't right there really taking care of the sound ... it sucks incredibly and sabotages the show. 

And on that point, it took Defy three aborted attempts to get their show started. The main vocal mic had either a dodgy cable or socket and was cutting out all show. It had to be continually moved just a little bit to that position where it didn't cut out. And this continued with no moves to try and replace it or anything sensible like that - that would be too easy. When they finally got going, the band weren't half bad. Defy traded in their punk style for rockabilly, with a double bass and everything. However, this was not psychobilly it was just straight up 50s rock. Once they had gotten through a song without tech problems, they got things going with a straight cover of Elvis' Hound Dog

It was at this point that I looked around. I was standing in a room full of assorted ex-pats who were mainly non-rock/indie people - and they were dancing to Elvis. I left. I must admit the fatigue played a large part. 

A quick mention. That night was also the first show put on by Brad Ferguson over at Anar Bar. The band was reggae act Wang Lei, who I'll see at Yuyintang in the near future. I'm a bit skeptical about the venue as it's kind of a back room in a restaurant. But, I will endeavor to check it out firsthand as soon as possible. 

Youtube channel top views and more

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channel
It's almost a month since the last round up of the blog's Youtube channel so let's have another look. 

I appealed to people to promote their favourite videos by getting their friends to watch and sending it up the charts. This seems to have worked a bit in some cases, although Miniless Record's Self Party is still at the top. Darn it. We still haven't had a vid break out into the Youtube mainstream and pile up a ton of views yet either. Curses! Why aren't people queuing up to watch unclear, bootleg videos of amateur bands they've never heard of in a distant country they know nothing about? Beats me!

I do have a couple of other things to post about today so I'll get the short one out: Banana Monkey have split. Not only were they a good band who had stuck together and 'got good', they also did a lot of organising on the scene. Some of my favourite shows were the movie themed gigs down at the old Yuyintang. I first saw them and Happy Strings (now Momo) at Wolfman Attacks Yuyintang. Follow the link to have a listen and a nostalgic moment - here.

And now ... the current top six of my blog's mainly insignificant video channel:

1) Self Party play the Miniless Records showcase at Yuyintang: 168 views watch
2) Bang Bang Tang play Yuyintang: 158 views watch
3) Boys Climbing Ropes live at Control: 131 views watch
4) Hard Queen's August Yuyintang show: 108 views watch
5) Modern Cheese at Yuyintang: 101 views watch
6) The Rogue Transmission live at Control: 99 views watch

BCR and the Rogue Transmission blow the top six apart! Good show. Next step, one of the top six bands simply has to persuade some high traffic site like Shanghaiist to post their video and it will skyrocket into an utterly untouchable position. Or, if you want a real promo video, just ask. I have a flashy camera (Canon XL2) and a light and will do it for free/a laugh. 

Lastly, I saw that a piece mentioning Chinese rock music appeared in the Guardian's famous Comment Is Free section. So firstly:

The article in question - here
The nice guys at Danwei who broke the story - here

The piece is actually about fetish-ising things cos they're Chinese and judging them unfairly. It makes some interesting points (unintentionally). Namely, that even being 'positive' is bad if it's a stereotype. Anyway, the article is all over the place and I've no idea why it's in CiF. The main thrust is not really what I cover on the blog here either. She does mention Carsick Cars and The Subs. Apparently, the song Zhong Nanhai is not only about the brand of ciggie but referring to the Zhong Nanhai building in Beijing. Shows how much I know. I wonder if Alice also thinks it refers to the actual Zhong Nanhai, the South China Sea? Do we have a CSC lyrics expert on hand?

Youtube: Pink Berries live @ Yuyintang

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The Mi San Dao gig was a good time and I put videos of both bands on the channel. For those of you new to the blog, you can watch the back catalogue of videos here. You can also go there anytime through the link in the blog sidebar.

The support act, Pink Berries, are a new band on the Shanghai scene. They are the latest project of Tony Yu, also of Mortal Fools. I last saw them opening for Old Doll. I have a soft spot for simple style punk bands even when they are not that 'heavy'. Also, as Abe commented at the show, they take it seriously. So, never mind the support act sound mix, enjoy the raw product. 



Youtube holiday special: Notch Festival

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The No+ch Festival is a showcase of ambient and experimental bands from Norway and China that has been going a couple of years now and includes bands from other Scandinavian countries. To be honest, it's well outside of my usual likes ... but ...

This festival is organised by the guys behind Neocha.com. Neocha is a networking site for Chinese musicians and artists. Those guys are 'do-ers'. This is important in a small scene like ours, so I went down to one of the nights with Archie Hamilton, of Splitworks, to check it out and to support. I saw a few friends and peeps down there including Sean Leow of Neocha, who has done a great job on the event. Archie recommended we go the night Efterklang (Denmark) played and it was a good tip, they were good.

I genuinely enjoyed myself. The venue was aptly surreal, an 'Environmental Leisure Park' in the middle of a high tech manufacturing zone. Basically, it's a large greenhouse. Here's a meandering vid to give you a taste of the sights and sounds. The band is Tape (Sweden). 



Magazines and skinheads

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old thats cover
I saw the new That's Shanghai magazine today and was all excited. That's because they have been putting out a lot of stuff on local music lately with the music editor being ably supported by Lisa Movius and Ben Hogue. Here's the magazine's online site, urbanatomy

I caught the mag at a bad time it seems, this month they are having one of those complete redesigns that mags have from time to time. It's always confusing at first, like when the supermarket moves its shelves around and you wander aimlessly for several minutes with a vague mental picture of a loaf of bread floating around in front of you. The main effect this time is to blend all the writing in with the many many ads. That could be a step towards honesty, in this case. 

Prior to the redesign, the music section was well defined and well stocked. I still haven't made sense of it this time, but it seems not as good. They also slipped in a new 'nightclubbing' column by DJ Carl Lorimer, also infamous as the prolific reactionary net troll 'moneyinabox' - a big fan of my work. It's comment #4.

Anyway ... good news in Lisa's column, which doesn't seem to be called Rockpile anymore, or clearly defined as a regular column either. The budding indie label Soma have done a new CD which is a compilation of the bands who are currently recording with them for future solo releases. This includes Momo, Crazy Mushroom Brigade, Sarah Zhong Chi and Little Nature. The CD will be out through the normal channels of gigs and the one or two shops that do local CDs. The article does say that you'll be able to get it at Shanghai Book City though.

So. Looking at my options this weekend I came across another 'old school punk' gig at Yuyintang on Saturday. I got a surprise when I checked out the band's page in advance:

Mi San Dao on Myspace: here

That's right, they are devotees to the skinhead movement. Well, it appears to be more in musical and aesthetic style than anything else. It's interesting all the same. Back home (UK) I'd look at this fixture and think 'nah, I don't fancy getting stabbed this weekend' but hey, I watched 'This is England' recently and apparently there are subtle divisions between violent right-wing skins and violent right-wing skins with a specific racist politcal agenda. So maybe it's all OK. I think I'm going to check it out, all the same. 

misandao

Joker EP release @ Yuyintang

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brunch
It's a packed few days in the Shanghai music scene and I decided to break up the action with the most low key event on offer. Blues/rock band Joker were having a release party for their new EP. This turned out to be a really interesting night for many reasons.

First of all, the show was actually the next in the series by 0093 rehearsal studios. It was a five band bill and here's the line up:

He Yun Feng
Wildcat
Brunch (pictured)
Wang Yuezhe
Joker

From all of these, only Joker have a fully developed set of all original material. So before we go on, here's where you can check them out:


So. The reason we have an 0093 party and a CD release at the same time is that 0093 are moving ahead with their vision. I got chatting with Tian Tian (0093 founder) after noticing that he has discontinued the CD shop in Yuyintang. The CD sales could not cover the room rental and it is now a seating area in the style of a dive bar. he will continue to sell the CDs from his Taobao shop, that I don't have a link for.

The bands who rehearse at 0093 are now becoming 0093's stable, so to speak. They are getting involved more and more with the band's development. Tian Tian has a recording studio in Minghang and this CD is their first release. It is an 0093 brand CD. Also, he brought a load of them and gave away one per ticket, included in the 30 rmb cover. Good stuff! As long as there are no unforseen disasters along the way, I hope they develop into proper Shanghai indie label. Fingers crossed.

Despite staying away from cover bands in the commentary, I want to talk about Brunch a little bit. They took the stage and I immediately realised that it was my third time to see them at an 0093 night. Tonight was a bit different. The singer, pictured above and below, was on a mad one. As they performed their usual covers of early Radiohead songs, she was going into another plane of existence. What do I mean by that? I mean, that she was going into howls and screams, paying little attention to what the band were doing and generally acting like she had gone of her rocker. The general audience consensus was displeasure but I couldn't help thinking of two things. First, if you transplanted her to a more dark rock or punk act, such as The Subs, it would have been a crowd winning performance. Secondly, sometime in the future some people with their act together could come in have a field day doing management and development. There's all kinds of personalities and potential around and it's all so disorganised. 

The next band was Wang Yuezhe. They played a kind of atmospheric rock with good energy. I got a video clip but the sound was messy and I'm not sure it'll come across, stick with it if you check the clip. Joker came on last and late. They are a straight blues-rock outfit, leaning towards blues. They set out their intentions early by starting the set in straw hats playing an unplugged guitar and harmonica impro piece. The remaining crowd (five bands on the bill) really liked it and the frontman did a good job of keeping people in it between tracks. 

I'll leave you with some tasty info about tomorrow night. YYT owner Zhang Haisheng mentioned that he has to rent 'very big' extra amps at the request of Useless ID. Also, Sko can't make the tour so local prospects Pink Berries will have a crack. 

brunch

Midi, Modern Sky, Youtube and a failed adventure

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midi festival old promo
The Beijing festival news/ongoing thing has become relevant to me this week. In case you haven't got a clue what I'm talking about, you can follow the whole thing on China Music Radar. Basically Modern Sky is on and there's going to be a preview show in Shanghai. What that means is that the three bands going up from Shanghai will play Yuyintang on Thursday before they go.

They are: Cold Fairlyland, Top Floor Circus and No. 33 Island.

I'm going specifically to see Top Floor Circus, a punk act. I'm a little bit wary though. Top Floor Circus have been on a semi-permanent break for ages. When members have had the time to perform, they have done so solo or in side projects - Lu Chen solo and Zhong Ke in Muscle Snog, for example. No. 33 island are new to me. They list Syd Barret among their influences and it shows:

No. 33 Island - myspace

A few posts back I did a round up of my Youtube Channel (available via the side bar). I got to this from selecting see all and then ordering them by views, just for fun. I have low views there compared to major channels or Youtube celebrities but they represent a more discerning readership of people who care about our scene. Reading of the top row gives a top five but I went for six in the post, seemed better for some reason. 

Anyhow, looking at it today we have a new entry into the top six. It's post-rock group 21 Grams. Who is reading my blog and checking out all the post-rock/noise? Ben Houge, do you read this? Curses! Micah, you too.

By the way, since there are obviously fans of this kind of music lurking here, you should check out Ben's stuff too: Ben Houge.

Another fast mover is the Boys Climbing Ropes vid from the Control show. In fact, they are only one view behind 21 Grams at time of writing and could break the top six anytime. It is also worth noting that they have double the views of show headliner PK-14. Come on everyone, let's turn this into a reality-show fiasco. We need new IPs checking out your favourite vids. 

I blogged of a potential adventure to Bar 288 on the weekend. I'd love to tell you how it went ... really. But, I want to keep the focus of the blog on the weekly reviews and vids of shows. I'm keen to avoid a total breakdown into slagging off and complaining. Needless to say I was praying for Yetis. Come back Mummy Three, all is forgiven.

Adventures in cabaret

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bar 288
Yesterday I watched The Mummy Three in the cinema. Yes, I paid to see it on the big screen. This will tell you two things about me. I love good ole fashioned adventure and I love torturing myself. This is quite coincidental.

This weekend's line up at my usual haunts is just not for me. The show of the weekend is going to be Motek at either Yuyintang or Live Bar, depending on which day you want to see them. Motek are from Norway and they play post-rock. Check out their blurb:

Every great passion ends in the infinite... Likewise, Motek is driven by instinct and the thirst for sultry recollections of forgotten emotional states. Sticking layers of effect-laden guitars, underpinned by a needy bass and entrancing drums create the texture of great music for the best moments of your life. This sonic dream closes the gap between wishes, wants and imagination with melancholy, madness, consolation and hope.

... and their link (to be fair) - listen here

I'm only going to stick out more post-rock shoegazing if the band are local and relevant to the scene. Not because I have something against polished, signed acts from abroad - because, as a personal entertainment choice, I have something against post-rock. 

So what am I going to do? I'm going on an adventure.

First of all, I'm going to get a sandwich at Kommune cafe in the Taikang Lu arts area. I swear down it's nothing to do with trying to be hip or a true scenester. It happens to be near the bar and their build your own sandwich deal includes baked beans on the fillings list. Baked beans. Other Brits abroad know what I'm talking about here. After that I'm going to Bar 288, The Melting Pot, to hang out and watch whoever happens to play there. 

Why is this such an adventure? Their house bands include Little Nature and Crazy Mushroom Brigade. They are famed as a local muso hangout. Check out this recent news/endorsement of their credibility, talking about the China Now event: 

This free festival being organized by the people behind Taikang Lu's 288 Melting Pot bar is part of the Shanghai Tourism Festival. According to Head Organizer Ruby Hsiao, "It is the government's intention to support original music, and to earn more attention from the younger generation in Shanghai - Chinese or expatriates."

Well, did you read this earlier post on when I was last there? They filled the dance floor area in front of the stage with tables and let people play dice games with their backs to the great band who came all the way from Korea. They delayed the show start an hour and fifteen minutes because someone there had a birthday and wanted their friends to perform some pop hits to a backing track. They are not trying to support local music, they are treating it like a background cover band and even bumping it for a keyboard guy. And I hope that quote was added in by enthusiastic newspaper editors - letting two rock acts play a park for tourist day does not compensate for the past three months. Unless support actually means kill in the above case.

Since they seem to inspire annoying critical rants in me, I'm going to try again.

I will conquer my fears and my hate and head out of my immediate area at night. Then again, I've just had a thought, perhaps it's some kind of psychological thing. The closer you get to Taikang Lu, the more you start to think and behave like a dismissive, holier-than-thou hipster. Well, lets see what happens on my adventure. Will I actually come back with a good report from a great Mushrooms gig ... or will it all go down the pan and I have to be bailed out by yetis - my god, that film was s*%t! I mean ... yetis! 

Old Doll live @ Yuyintang

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pink berries
If we start back at Gua'er on Thursday and include all the China Now festival shows too. Then last night's show at Yuyintang, featuring Nanjing punk outfit Old Doll, was the end of a six day gig marathon. I managed to see shows on four out of six days, not bad. It was a pity however, that the last band on the last day was the most awesome but was playing to twenty people in an otherwise empty room. It was inevitable that there would be some burnout. The TooKoo show and the Control show were 'big shows' with big turn outs and high energy. 

I don't have a page for Old Doll so you can watch the video clip I made here: Old Doll.

So, I arrived at Yuyintang about fifteen minutes before kick-off to see only three people other than myself in there. As the first band got ready, some more people came out of the woodwork but aside from the bands themselves, their friends and the staff, I think there were about twelve other people tops. I got a small surprise when the singer of the first band introduced himself to me and the others at the bar and handed out a questionnaire that included their song list for the night. It turned out they were a J-rock band from Niigata.

So, Sappie Toy took the stage. They are Japanese musicians who live and work in Shanghai, and again, I don't have a link for them but if you google the name there's a couple of shortish clips and articles. They were a typical J-rock outfit. They had a great sound and played catchy pop rock tracks punctuated by flashy guitar solos and acoustic sing-a-long middle eights. Yes, journo speak! I really wanted to get a song on video but I was confounded by the YYT lighting thing. That is, if the bands don't have a specific lighting request they use that auto function where all the lights flash on and off like strobes to the beat of the sound waves. There is no constant back or front lighting at all so the flashing goes from dark to light ad nauseam. It completely scuppered my TooKoo vid from Friday. It's like a war on epilepsy and headache sufferers, and people with hangovers. 

Next up was Tony Yu of Mortal Fools and his new band, Pink Berries (pictured top). Tony is an old school punk fan and his new songs mix that Ramones sound and approach with some memorable song writing. The singer was cool and she gave an energetic performance. Unfortunately the songs were lost a bit in the bad sound mix, especially the vocals and the other band members don't have the same experience as Tony himself. But, if they stick at it they are going to be a great act on the Shanghai circuit soon. 

Finally it was time for Old Doll. And they rocked. They had a great sound, great songs and were professional performers. The sound is very similar to early Rancid, which suits me fine. Despite the near empty room, they were ripping and going for it as if they had a couple of hundred moshers in front of them. They were on in every way. I was watching the best performance of the week of shows for sure, with almost no one else around. Upon hearing the opening song, the staff all came in to the room to watch. At one point, the back lights were on long enough for me to get a half decent video too. 

Great week. I saw eleven different bands in six days. My highlights have to be:

1) Seeing BCR play Pleasure To Be Here live to a bigger crowd with atmosphere.
2) Getting an early listen to Pink Berries, if they stick it out and get tight there's going to be some great shows in the future.
3) Old Doll taking me back to listening to Rancid and Op Ivy CDs in my bedroom.

old doll

Youtube: Boys Climbing Ropes @ Dream Factory

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I uploaded three videos from the control show on Saturday: BCR, Rogue Transmission and PK-14. I wasn't sure about making a dedicated post for one of them. But, looking on the channel today, I saw they've been watched a bit and sitting at the top of the leader board is ... Boys Climbing Ropes.

So here is their excellent track, Pleasure To Be Here, performed live at the 'Control' gig held at Dream Factory. It may be my imagination, but it seems way faster than on the CD. You don't have the CD? I'm sorry, what kind of hipster douche bag are you? Without this track on your I-Pod you might as well throw out those tight pants right away.



Long weekend blather

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two cool
It's the mooncake-tastic mid-autumn festival which means a public holiday long weekend. I'd love to throw in the words wish and happy in there somewhere but it's a miserable grey day with intermittent rain and thunder. I did get a chance to read around the English language sites and mags and find some stuff on the scene. I've recently put up a lot of reviews and vids so why not throw in a chat? Warning: it's inane and uninformative, you might want to bail now.

First, I was reading SH magazine which has a big feature on live shows and festivals this month. The feature is written by Jake Newby whom I met via a brief stint at Shanghaiist. Jake is a good guy. So before I start the blather, who not read it online:


So the article is saying how that after a quiet summer, now everything's back with a bang - so to speak. First up - the JZ festival. Oh, wait a minute, Jazz. 

... flips ahead ...

Avril ... something happening in Beijing ...

...flips back to correct feature ...

World Music ... Nordic experimental DJs playing in a greenhouse ...

Well, there were a couple of bands in there somewhere that I liked. China Now is not too bad, I suppose. What was the other thing I was looking at today? Ah yes, that new website I mentioned here. Spicy Duck Neck (dot com). Today I saw they posted a review of both TooKoo and Control. Well, they also cover Jazz and anything remotely musical but now I have the first evidence of crossover. This is good - now readers have a chance to see a contrasting viewpoint. And, as usual, read what I'm talking about in full first:


Yes! We have a discrepancy. Where I felt that people 'got' BCR by the end of the set and there was a good response from the audience. Layabozi doesn't share my view. So is this an indication that I see the scene through rose-tinted glasses? Will you ever really ... care. I'll tell you who won't care: BCR. I recently bumped into them at shows a bit and have a confession to make. Bassist Morgan's appreciation of Iron Maiden makes me a convert. In fact, if anyone ever wants anything from me in the future, start by mentioning your belief in the far reaching influence of the Dave Murray/Adrian Smith partnership.

Finally something a bit more serious. Yan Shuai, the singer from TooKoo, was interviewed for SH magazine's 60 Seconds feature. I'm sure it will come online shortly. Here's a quick sample featuring his picks for mainland China bands:

Banana Monkey are good. Their style is more indie than us, but I like to listen to indie too. ReTROS are really good live too. They are really professional, on an international level almost, and I like their attitudes towards music and life - they're very low key.

'Control' PK14 live @ Dream factory

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rogue transmission
So, ladies and germs, may I now bring your attention to the main event. Well, something like that. It's been a while since Brad Ferguson had The Subs and PK14 down to Windows Tembo and tonight was the first 'big show' since then. I had a personal mission to finally get a BCR song on video for the site. This is my third show in three days and I'm coming down with something or other. I almost didn't make it. However, I was determined not miss a patented 'big show'. Can I say that just one more time ... 'big show'.

There were four bands playing tonight so without further ado, lets have the contenders:


I arrived an hour after the door time and completely missed Hard Queen. Luckily for me I saw them last night. I went down into the stage area and was happy to see the place filling up nicely. Now was my chance to see these bands play with a better sound to a decent crowd who were ready to mosh, dance and go nuts. 

I last saw Rogue Transmission play at Windows Underground. From where I was standing that night, the sound was terrible and I didn't come away with much. It was a different story tonight. While not perfect, the sound was clear and loud. The melodies and colour in the material came out and the energy was certainly there. Front man Dan Shapiro is a real rocker and the crowd were really up for it as the band put on a good old rock show. The 'big show' was all going to plan. 

To be honest, I was not sure how Boys Climbing Ropes were going to go down. The crowd were warmed up and had just flipped out to rock. PK14, the headliners are also punk rock. BCR are more experimental and nuanced. Looking around the hall I saw mainly international students and ex-pats, most of which had probably never seen or heard BCR before. The band also have a hard time getting their sound across at times, due to the shit heaps equipment in smaller Shanghai clubs. The audience stuck with the first couple of tracks while they figured it all out and then got the payoff for tracks like Dirty Bots and Pleasure To Be Here at the end. The sound was ok and people around me were getting into it with dancing up front. Good stuff.   

So, finally PK14. They were solid. People didn't go as nuts I thought they would at first. Again, with a crowd of mainly ex-pats, a lot of who haven't followed the band, there wasn't much awe/excitement as there normally would be with these veterans of the scene. It all got going a couple of songs in though. The sound was percussive and full of middle most of the night, but that just seemed to suit PK14's choppy guitar style. I didn't make it through to the bitter end as the thing I'm coming down with started to sap my energy. I almost accidentally blanked Archie from Splitworks on the way out as he'd shaved off his trademark beard. Archie has just come off a national tour with PK14.

So, readers, were you at the show last night? What did you think? Who did you like? The comments section is open and does not require a log in. 

Spicy duck and spicy prose

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layabozi
I'm going to start this post with an excuse a preface - just for Aric. I really just like to focus on the shows and bands here and it's just my personal blog. I have previously mentioned that covering other sites is futile as they disappear quickly and blah blah blah ... but, I have become a post whore.

Let me define that. 

Post Whore: Someone that posts something only vaguely related to the usual content, or perhaps something they previous swore off on principal, in order to obsessively maintain a high monthly post count on their blog.

Okay. So, this month I surfed into a brand new Shanghai Music Scene website while googling TooKoo. It's called Layabozi (spicy duck neck) and you can find it here:


It's thoroughly modern and combines elements of traditonal web layouts and blog/2.0 features. I was just reading their post on tonight's PK-14 show when I thought to make a post of my own. The first thing I noticed about it is that mysterio thing a lot of netizens do. Someone who makes a site like this is obviously a regular on the scene but declines to give away their real identity anywhere on the site. I do suppose though, that to anyone who knows them "Chilean amateur flautist" probably makes it pretty obvious. In fact now I already have an idea that I met them at TooKoo last night. The real drawback is that you may write something they don't like, having no idea who they are, and be heading to your doom at the next show.

The site itself is more into the China Music Radar territory and wanders into several scenes and genres, also the 'biz' in general. It covers Jazz and has a review of a Joy Division CD along side reports on underground rock shows. Another sign that the site aspires to 'magazine standards' is the writing style. Here's an excerpt from the latest post:

This is the pagan celebration of music, the dancers around the fires of creation celebrating the force of live music, turning on the inspiration, the hearts and the engines. For all of those about to say there's no rock in Shanghai, we recommend extreme care before pronouncing these words, you may be slapped by one of the dark wings of the demons flying over Shanghai. It's as simple as if you don't feel it, it's just not for you. And for those chosen to participate, join the lines and spread the word: Rock is striking out Shanghai. Hell Yeah!!!!

Here is a description of Brad Ferguson:

Ferguson is one of the demons of Rock, who as many custodial demons, has been called to protect and feed the fires of Rock&Roll and during this present age Shanghai is the proud designated zone under his dark wings. 

So, if you're into this style, perhaps Layabozi is the music mag you have been missing, check it out.

TooKoo live @ Yuyintang

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hard queen
The TooKoo show tonight had 'the buzz'. They're a solid band that have been around seven years and the English language sites were picking it as a good show. No one, including the band themselves, seemed to be able to describe the music though. The word Emo was making a regular appearance which just makes me think of My Chemical Romance. The buzz led to a swollen crowd, which is great for decent shows - but it's not without it's drawbacks. The hall was peppered with people who could have just as well been walking into Volar and Attica or where ever. As well as the dress shirts and trendy club night outfits there was a bit of attitude. One ex-pat formal dress and grooming guy tried to start a fight after being basically bumped into by a dancer/mosher at a rock gig. Give us a break ... no, on second thought just fuck off. 

I started paying attention to the gig when support act Hard Queen (pictured) came on. I'll be seeing them again tomorrow at the PK-14 show. They did a solid set and the track of the night was definitely Loser which singer Sheena Du announced as their fav track at the moment. In the break I picked up TooKoo's new CD. It's a retrospective called "seven years". Echo Rush played next during which I milled about and talked to some people. I even got chased around the park out back a bit by an over zealous guard. I mean really - you have an entire moonlit public park, with lakes and bridges, at your personal disposal and they really expect you to not leave the area immediately behind the club. 

Before we get onto the main act:

TooKoo on Myspace: listen here.
TooKoo Offical Site: here.

So, just before the gig Morgan from BCR was trying to put me off, humorously, by pointing out their good grooming, Emo tendencies and flashy intro tape. I admit, my heart did sink when the bagpipes started playing Amazing Grace and Morgan shot me the 'you see' look. However, they turned out to be pretty good. And no Emo ... not that there's anything wrong with that.

TooKoo brought a banner, intro music and they were good performers too. Like all good bands they had a singer with style and charisma. The music turned out to be up-tempo indie rock that became popular again after the likes of the Libertines. The singer even had on a pork-pie hat. I will put a video in the Youtube channel - but it's a bit spoiled by the habit of Yuyintang to just flash all the lights simultaneously for entire songs. Anyway, they're a good band and are famous as Midi festival veterans in Beijing. With PK-14 playing Dream Factory tomorrow that'll be two 'big' shows in one weekend, a rare blessing for our tiny scene.

Gossip Week: Brad's back (again), who is Emma?

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anar bar
I saw a couple of posts on the City Weekend blogs just today that constitute a post. Surprisingly though, they came not from 'Punknotjunk' or Dan Shapiro but from their general nightlife editor, Jessy.

The first post is about Emma and China West. They are both large scale ticketers and promoters that put on shows in Shanghai and all over the country. The article is about one poaching management staff from the other.

Original post here.

Jessy is reporting on an article first published at China Music Radar here. I must explain something to fans of the rock-indie scene in Shanghai. Emma and China West are the companies responsible for bringing Celine Dion here, and soon Avril Lavigne. So here's a question: what does a Celine Dion stadium gig have to do with the underground rock scene? Nothing ... and so on to the next item.

Brad Ferguson's latest comeback is actually a show he had booked while at Windows Underground. There was no plan beyond the one show -which is this weekend. However, stop the press, here comes a real comeback. CW blogs reveal that Brad is getting back to together with former boss Zooma. Brad and Zooma worked together putting on shows at the ill-fated venue 4-live. Now they will be reunited at Anar Bar. Anar Bar used to be Shuffle bar a while ago, where Brad also worked putting on shows. I myself saw a Subs gig that he put on there.

This makes me crack a smile as the latest venue to join the scene is in fact in my newly defined area for hipsters ... i.e. where I live. Check it out. If things go well, i'll add it in to the Google map soon.

Lets finish with a listen to PK-14, the biggest show coming up this weekend. Here they are.

Youtube: Modern Cheese live @ Yuyintang (Sep 2008)

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I was just checking the Youtube channel and noticed that the Modern Cheese video was getting a few views already. So, why not give it a post. It's good quality and more close in than the usual vids I do. Self Party still leads the view count on the blog's Youtube Channel though, by double the next closest challenger.

You also might note that at 2:52 you can hear Jordan from BCR shout "oh ... big solo!" That's exactly what I was going to say except that I knew there was a mic running right by my head. Excellent.

Anyway, check out the musicianship right now!

 

Shy Tall Mighty live @ Yuyintang

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new sign at yuyintangTough choice tonight with one of my favourite Shanghai bands Hard Queen playing in a new venue across town. Finally I was tempted to Yuyintang by the words old school punk. I will see Hard Queen at Dream Factory next weekend. I must admit laziness playing a big part too. Since moving house last week, I am now literally five minute's walk from YYT.

Special mention: Upon arriving I was very impressed with the new sign. Check the photo. A professional looking light-up sign to go with the mural. You see, I hit all the important, insightful details when reporting the scene, like who has the nicest sign.

As support act Modern Cheese were setting up on stage I had a chat with Abe Deyo (promoter) and Jordan Small (of Boys Climbing Ropes) that was quite interesting. I'm hesitant to talk about it for fear of starting something off that may not be that good for the scene here, but I will anyway. We were talking about indie labels in Shanghai and how much they can financially support a band, or not. Jordan mentioned that he'd rather just self finance as it was comparatively cheap for foreigners. The Boys Climbing Ropes CD is good and they have a track playing on radio back in the USA in some capacity. The CD cost less than 8000 RMB to record. Strolling back later it occured to me that a good way to get your band noticed would be to come over and be based in Shanghai. You could play shows at will, headlining any venue you like, when you like and make a CD and marketing for ten times cheaper than back home.

Of course, if you do bring your band over to Shanghai, be sure to live here

So Modern Cheese kicked off and I immediately noticed the line-up change from last time. They have added a singer. At the last show, the guitarist was also the lead singer. With this addition, the songs now have some good back-ups and harmony vocal parts. It made a difference. Their first two tracks are their usual strong ones but like the previous show, the rest of the set lacks the same energy and focus. I often talk about how support acts play on way too long here and don't seem to get the concept of supporting. However, I mellowed and like the idea that YYT gives new bands a chance to play and that's what's important. I didn't, however, count on Modern Cheese. The set ended with the guitarist bringing on a stool and launching into an intimate monolgue with the audience - followed by what amounted to a second, solo set. Anyway, this band do have chops and ability and they are still worth checking out in the videos.

The Shy Tall Mighty took the stage next. No one seemed to have heard them before and there weren't any CDs knocking around the door or shop. I was mildly surprised to see the two frontmen apear - two middle aged British geezers. They just went straight into a high energy old school punk set, London accents and all. The crowd, who'd been very patient up to this point, instantly took to it. They never dropped the energy level and did a solid enjoyable show. They are not based in Shanghai though, and I'm not sure we'll see them again anytime soon or have cause to follow their development. Fans of good ol' Punk should definitely catch them if you have the chance. 

To finish, I want to mention that Kongzhong Huayuan (Sky Garden) are playing Sunday's 0093 Rock Party. I mistakenly reported their name as KongDE Huayuan last time. I really want to catch them again and see if they've improved any. Fans of Coldplay-esque jangly guitar bands should come too. 

Modern Cheese 

More magazines and Little Nature

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little nature That's Shanghai September 2008 edition just came out and you can see the articles I mention here.

Not as much good coverage as last month, but that's OK. Last month was especially good ... remember?

Before I get to Lisa Movius' Rockpile column I should briefly mention the Wang Wen review on page 29. I quote

Unlike the band's high energy live performances, their recorded material ...

Hmmn. Has the reviewer been to one of their shows? I have, and quite recently too. They were typical of a meandering post-rock band. Low energy. That's not a criticism, it was a reasonable recreation of the energy levels on the CD.

Now, I was impressed with the Rockpile column for a third month in a row. Let's be honest, I'm always impressed with anyone who appears to agree with me on bands and music. Equally, if you don't agree with my picks - you don't know anything. Ahem. This month is another pick, this time Little Nature. I have seen this band three times and wrote up the first time for Shanghaiist back in March here. They were the standout band that night despite their Happy Birthday closer. I most recently saw them at the Jiao Ban night at Yuyintang where I was happy to see they had stayed together and started to get a following.

Lisa talks about that night and reports that all three bands (Momo, Crazy Musrooms and Little Nature) met with Shanghai based Soma Records and walked away with deals. This is amazing news for me as they are the three bands I have been relentlessly tipping all year. I especially want to have the Mushrooms on CD. It does however beg the question, who the f*#^ are Soma Records? Obviously not the Scotland based dance label. Hmmnn, Lisa any chance of a fill-in in the comments? If not, I may have to do research, oh no.

These are good picks from Lisa. The Mushroom's CD will be especially good and these are all bands who have room to improve, mature and produce great songs given the chance to record. Let me finish by re-linking (sorry older readers) the demo we did for CW with Aric Queen that features two full songs by Momo (then Happy Strings). The demo that was followed shortly by Aric and CW manager Colin leaving the country. We will still make it if another host and backer come in ...anyone ...no ... sniff.

Momo play live for FNU

Lu Xing Tuan live @ Yuyintang

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luxing tuanAnd so continues my adventures in post-rock slash shoegazing indie slash call-it-whatever-the-f**k-you-like I was born at the start of the seventies and know all about self-indulgent intrumental wank-fests, haven't you heard of progressive rock before ...

... sorry.

Finally I found some that I quite liked. Lu Xing Tuan (that's "lv", pedants) mainly hail from China's Guangxi province down south. Their English name is Life Journey and they are signed to Modern Sky records in Beijing. I managed to check out a couple of their songs before I went to the show. And you can too: here

Luckily, I have this habit of going to shows and night-time events on time. Lucky because this one was another case of the reverse curse. As I may have mentioned before, YYT have the habit of packing in extra bands and yet still failing to start any of them until a good hour late or so. Not a big deal for most people. This time, there were no support acts at all and Luxing Tuan kicked off at exactly the advertised time of nine. This meant that around half of the great turn out wandered in half way through the set imagining it was a support act.

Luxing Tuan turned out to be pretty good. I was a bit worried at first but once they settled and the sound got tweaked it turned into a good show. Their drummer gave them just enough energy to keep the crowd into it but not enough to break their dreamy atmosphere. The vocal lines and harmonies were on. The songs were good and the audience really enjoyed it. It was the reverse of what I normally get from this style, the live show was much more effective than the CD. The other example being Wang Wen whose CD was nuanced and interesting but live it was just toothless.   

I was there with friends and I've been a bit sick lately, so for the last part of the set I chilled on the couch in the CD shop part and did the hipster thing - watch people coming in and out through the door and judge them. What suprised me though was the amount of trying to get out of paying going on. It was quite funny with all the classic lines and hopeful looks. But just in case not every reader here is like minded: YYT are not rich and do us all a great service. Even if you are offered free entry for legitimate reasons, you should say no and pay anyway, they really need the money. If I got it all wrong and people weren't trying to scam in for free (because people never do that, do they) they why weren't you trying to pay double to show your support! 

Finally, here's a photo of the new mural on the outside wall. Complete with some idiot standing in the way of it. Some idiot with a blog. Don't forget to check the Youtube channel for tonight's vid.

some twat  

Just for fun: Jet Set Willy feat. Hedgehog

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I was f***ing around with my wife's Spectrum Emulator today in order to play my favourite game from 1985-86 ... when I was, ahem, 13 ... Jet Set Willy. So I made a video of Willy finding the secret entrance to the rooms under the house - the Forgotten Abbey. They eventually lead to the Entrance To Hades. However, it's rock hard and I couldn't get out the first room.

The video as I made it is clear and quite funny. It is set to a kick ass song by Beijing indie rockers Hedgehog. The song is appropriately about reliving your childhood.

However, after screen recording - editing, encoding ...then further encoding by Youtube - it is tiny and exceptionally bad quality. Watch it for the hedgehog song or if you are fond of Jet Set Willy. Look closely to see Willy's lives at the bottom, dancing to the tune. By the way, it's not as bad as the screencap in the player makes it out to be.

 

 

More festival talk

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festival surfOpen commenting is new to the blog and I'm not sure how many readers are checking back in. The last post on festivals brought some excellent reponses from That's Shanghai music writer Lisa Movius and Spilt Works' Archie Hamilton. They definitely warrant a post for your consideration.

Here's Lisa:

You perhaps deliberately skipped RockIt and its offshoot the Summer Music Conference last year. One may - okay, everyone does - have issues with the sponsor/venue, Bonbon/Dino Beach, but they were nonetheless successful events with some great performances.

RockIt 2007 was a split-off of 1234 in 2006: two of the main organizers, Frank Fan and Wu Jun, amicably went separate ways. Both were very diplomatic about the split, and Wu Jun never claimed (to me at least) that RockIt was year two of 1234, but he got nonetheless some abuse from certain third parties. However, having interviewed both Wu and Fan, and covered both events, I think that RockIt can be as fairly considered 1234 v2 as the actually-named 1234 v2, given that it actually happened... Regardless, we'll see what happens to both in non-Limp Icks years, as well as what impact the Shibo ends up having on local culture - nourish vs squish.

The Shanghai Tourism Festival has done well sometimes, suprisingly so, like in 2003 when it opened with a line-up of Cui Jian, The Honeys, and Crystal Butterfly.

 

And here's Archie:

We're actually just about to send out a press release about the next steps for Split. Like everyone else, we've had the same sort of problems with getting anything licensed, so we've pretty much decided to write off 2008. We have, however, just come back from a road trip to 2nd tier cities with PK14, Queen Sea and local support in each city, which was pretty rad. Managed to fly under the radar until Xi'an, when the police caught up with it all. You can read more at www.dazeddigital.com and search for Converse Love Noise in English or lualua.blogbus.com for Chinese.

I live in hope that the next few months will be a return to the upward curve. We're trying to get some money together for the Rockkid festival at Songjiang which has been pulled through lack of funding, and as I said, there will be some more news on other stuff soon. Just someone give us a decent venue in Shanghai with reasonable management and we could start doing so much more. In the interim, keep up the great work everyone. It's a labour of love, but it will work for us eventually.

 

And here's Lisa again to end on a positive:

What matters now is that ther is a critical (probably too critical!) mass of musicians, fans, media, etc, who will strive and revive no matter what happens. For all my nostalgia for the intimacy of the late 1990s scene, I am flabbergasted and giddy about the energy today. The obstacles remain, but the momentum is ever greater.

Venues come and go. Bands come and go. That shit happens is kinda par for course by now. But the institutional memory is finally here, the community support, for bands and for venues is permanent, and developing really excitingly. Things are finally, finally congealing, and it is heart-breakingly awesome.

Festival talk 2008

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Yue FestivalOver the past couple of years, festivals have entered the music scene and then bashed up against the glass ceiling and dissapeared as quickly as they came. I recently read a bit of news and had a couple of conversations out the back of gigs.

The Shanghai scene is quite a different, and shorter, story than Beijing. Talking of Beijing ...

Most of the recent talk started with this post over at China Music Radar. I want to go through this step by step for non-China based readers. It is standard practice here for large events and also licenced (known) smaller events to be shut down during any national meeting of political importance. This is usually a tight window but this year we had the sporting event that shall not be named - which started to wreak its havoc from May onwards. So, the news at China Music Radar was that the cancelled Midi Festival in Beijing was to be revived in the October public holiday. Alas, this is exactly when Beijing indie label Modern Sky are holding their own festival in the same park. Read that link for more info.

What about Shanghai? Well, the history of Shanghai festivals is much easier to relate as there's hardly any of it. In fact there's only really been one indigenous festival of note - the 1234 Beach Rock festival - and that has only managed to appear once. The other festival was the Yue Festival organised by Split Works. Split Works are experienced international promoters and the festival brought in big names from abroad. No word on the site about rescheduling for this year ... Archie? Comments are open with no registering now. 

1234 started out down in Fengxian at the man made beach and was mainly organised by Frank Fen of Mortal Fools. It expanded last year and moved to a new site near Shangnan in Pudong. Alas, the date clashed with the National People's Congress in Beijing and the plug was pulled at the last minute. This year has been another write off due to the sporting event that shall not be named. Frank says it could be done late this year but that they simply don't have the money to get through the approval process. He will focus on smaller events in the future.

Now for a confession. I can't stand large scale open air shows. They suck. I don't drink and i'm not interested in the party atmosphere at shows. The best show I ever saw was when White Zombie showed up at Birkenhead Stairways - a little smaller than the Dream Factory here. They were touring for their major label release La Sexorcisto Devil Music Vol 1 and only played two UK shows, London and Birkenhead. Wierd. But, it set the standard for me. A legendary artist at the peak of his powers, right there in front of you and you're experiencing a connection. Also, most shows I saw ever were in the Liverpool Royal Court which is a mid-scale touring venue and about as big as I like to go. Another amazing small scale show I saw was Love/Hate at the Tivoli in Buckley. Donington Monsters Of Rock was the main event for my crowd at the time - but really, buckets of piss flying through the air?!   

Other people's Youtube - Chaos Mind @ Dream Factory

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Well, Saturday saw a huge all day show featuring Sunnet, Six Shot, Lollipop, Dragon Pizza, Screaming Jesus, Sound Illusion, Five Pointed Star, Chaos Mind, Yu Guo and Cold Fairyland. It was called Summer Nuts! and was basically a big celebration of the recent ban being up.

I was all geared up to go and video a song from each and write, like, a four-post write up of it for the blog. Alas, I had to move house on Saturday and come three o'clock I had barely packed 40% of my stuff. Lame me. So ... lucky for me, Sam had someone video his performance at the show and put it on Youtube. Without further ado - Chaos Mind.

 

 

Youtube: Hard Queen @ Yuyintang

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Gigs are back despite the sporting event that shall not be named still running on a couple more days. I went to Yuyintang to check out Beijing indie band Gar but came away stoked with Hard Queen. So they get the featured post. Check the Youtube channel for Gar also.

 

 

Gar live @ Yuyintang

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hard queenTonight was a cautious foray back into the gig world. The sporting event that shall not be named has not yet finished and the official back to business show is tomorrow at Dream Factory. The headliners for tonight were Beijing indie outfit The Gar.

Check out their myspace page here: Gar

Abe Deyo had predicted a limited turn out at Shanghaiist. It turned out to be reasonable but the August ban has clearly knocked a hole in the great turnouts at YYT this summer when we saw shows packed to the rafters with the local student brigade. I got there in time for the support act Hard Queen and spotted a whole bunch of scenesters, even John P of Sinosplice fame.

Hard Queen played a great set and had a nice sound too. They have enough good material to play a full hour of mostly originals. When I first saw them they clearly had standout songs but now the rest of the material is up there too. At one point, Sheena (singer) pointed out a Hard Queen T-shirt being worn in the audience. It's what they deserve. The material is good, they have their own sound and they have come together live - a fanbase is sure to follow. Hopefully they can cement this with the speedy release of their upcoming CD. Song of the night: We Don't Care.

The Gar came on straight after. The timely start and tight scheduling was down to the sports event that shall not be named, no chances could be taken. I was a bit shocked at the sound. Hard Queen had a pretty good sound which then seemed to take a huge dive for the main act. Then, after three tracks of jangly indie type stuff they left the stage. Odd. During this sudden break there was no activity on the stage and no sound checking or repairing. The Gar are a three piece with all the hallmarks of the latest indie trends including long instrumental sections. I came away from the gig feeling like I'd seen a Hard Queen show. 

Youtube: channel review

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channelThe main idea of this blog was just to combine articles with links to the band's own pages. After having a think, I decided it was do-able to feature performance videos and post them via youtube. This is only possible with a true underground scene like we have here where such activities are seen as helpful. In the corporate world, bootlegging gigs could be slightly problematic. Ah, nostalgia. I remember when Metallica refused to do promos and even recorded a tribute EP to their favourite bootleg (Garage Days Re-Revisited). Look at the sorry mess now.

So, now my youtube channel is six weeks old - birthday July 6th - and we have 19 videos on there.

Why not have a look now?

Not all the videos there get their own featured post on the blog so you may have missed some. The views aren't massive but they definitely indicate popularity. Having a featured post hasn't always meant much more views than others. Suprisingly for me, Self Party are leading in that respect. It's the blog's most popular video at the moment. With over fifty visitors in a day now, there's no way some vids should only have around five views. So, come on, check out some of the bands you may have missed.

Start with a high quality winner first: my favourite vid on the channel.

Youtube: Wang Juan @ Dream Factory

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Indie-folk artist Wang Juan and her band play Dream Factory in Shanghai. The show is part of a tour to promote the release of her second CD In Distance. Enjoy the opening number from this low key Sunday afternoon show. The scene goes back to work next weekend.

 

 

Wang Juan and her band live @ Dream Factory

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wang juanSome classier venues, such as Dream Factory in the Tong Le Fang development, have managed to get around a total ban this month. And so, we have a show in my neck of the woods before the official restart next weekend. Dream Factory is a really good venue that is cursed with being in an expensive up-market corporate venture. They only get people at shows when events there are promoted by other people in the scene, such as Abe Deyo or Yuyintang, who have more idea how to do it. Brad Ferguson has his rescheduled PK-14 show coming up there and Yuyintang also have a big back-to-business multi band party there next week.

Wang Juan is a gifted indie-folk artist with two CDs out now. I add 'indie' to the genre there because the term folk here is a bit of a casualty. I'm not going to divert into some history thing but needless to say that Wang Juan is a guitar act that writes their own stuff and has no patriotic opera songs or old instruments - but they are still making music that represents a more traditional side of their own cultural experience.

And with that, why not just have a listen - here.

The turn out was not so good but enough to put a few seated rows in front of the stage. It was a diverse crowd that included Zhang Haisheng and Gemnil Lin from Yuyintang (the organisers) and artist Popil. I previously blogged about Popil's Eno show with Hard Queen here.

Wang Juan and her band are excellent musicians and they did a super tight set of beautiful compositions. I've been playing music myself since I was 13 and at one point was hypnotised by a duet that featured Wang Juan's Chinese classical singing chops and some virtuoso guitar magic. But aside from the appreciation factor, as i've said before, I'm a rock fan. It was guitar-ish enough to keep me going till the end but when it comes down to it - I get more from a song about breaking up then realising your favourite sweater is trapped at your ex's house than I do from a song about a small bird flying over the Xinjiang landscape or what have you. 

So this is farewell, Aric Queen

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anthony and aricThe same time I was reading City Weekend music scene columnist Aric Queen's official last column in the new print edition - takes breath - there was also an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond playing in the same room. It was an episode where Ray, a writer, gets caught writing an obituary for his still living father for practice. So, I'm going to blog Aric's official departure from the scene as if he was dead/gone for good.

Aric Queen was recently known as a scene pundit of sorts through his column The Beat. Despite it being on the English speaking periphery of an already small scene, the column still managed to provoke debate and a few storms in teacups along the way. A notable example of this was the column following up on strong shows at Tembo that asked if Brad Ferguson was the saviour of the Shanghai music scene. A lack of experience with English expressions and journo-hyperbole led folks at Yuyintang to take it as a slight on their own efforts.

After taking over the column from the DJ-centric Michael Ozone of Antidote, Aric brought his local live music agenda with him. Recently, though, burnout settled in and the column increasingly fell back to generic posts on the ex-pat bar scene. With only one print column a month, most of this year was spent wondering why girls kiss each other at parties and other related topics. A column wondering if it was "gay" to cry at a Black Eyed Peas show caused a predictable (and justified) ruckus. Around this time, Aric also broke onto Current TV with his Shanghai Diaries v-log. This was not music related. This month's final column announces his departure into greener pastures. 

Now for what a lot of newer arrivals to the scene don't know about Aric. Aric Queen was an extremely talented, and professional, voice artist/presenter whose Gig Shanghai project is the sole largest missed opportunity the scene ever had. I still miss it. It's easy to start a website or blog and write about the scene, just ask me. It's not easy to maintain a good one. You need the time and resources to create a strong lead feature and publish it often. Gig Shanghai had it all.

Aric was working for Ken Carroll at Chinese Pod as an English presenter for some of their podcasts. Gig Shanghai was then started within this professional environment. They had their own studio and employees at the company to do research and bookings. The site was simple and effective with good branding and a simple clear style. They had a single strong feature, the podcast, and produced it every week. And it was good. After a few weeks it hit it's stride and expanded to include a Chinese language program too. The future looked bright and it all hinged around Aric's considerable skills in the host's seat.

It all collapsed as quickly as it had taken off. The process of expanding into a fully fledged video show in effect killed the podcast. The new show Giglive didn't pan out and had been funded through a venue as a promotion, a move away from the Carroll stable. Everyone walked away and the greatest web project on the scene died a quick death.

When Aric resurfaced with the CW column and a freelance producer mantle, he was already jaded. But, the skills on show during Gig Shanghai stuck in my mind and we (me and Cameron Hirst) approached him to present a demo project of our own - FNU. We made it to use as a demo and involved Aric in all parts of the process. We had a good time and got to see the Aric skills in action, reminding me again of what could have been. It was a joy to work with a pro and I finished the project wondering what had happened to this guy who was now mainly know as "The Columnist You Love to Hate - Mostly Hate". Attempts at a low rent revival of the pod/vid cast in the CW blog of the column just seemed to underline the transformation.

Of course, Aric is not dead and I for one hope his trip brings him back to us refreshed and recharged. It takes all types to make a vibrant scene even people you love to hate.

A reminder: August, Wang Juan

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wangjuan flyerAs if anyone could forget, we are in the middle of the world's greatest sports event propaganda showpiece for the nation-states system we live under. As I previously reported, this has had a big effect on the music scene here and hence this blog.

The next show in the scene, and thus the next one I'll be attending, is on the 17th of this month. It will be put on by Yuyintang at the alternative venue 'The Dream Factory'. Playing is Wang Juan and her band. You can get a preview of her music here. Then, normal service resumes on the 22nd with a show by Gar.

In the meantime you will see some posts in the other category popping up, maybe some stuff on education or pop culture ... that is if Jim can stop actually doing his job for just one minute and post on movies. I might have to bore the pants off readers with a comparison of industry standard script formats for film vs. comic books.

Finally, with Aric Queen on his holiday and not posting much on his Beat column, City Weekend have recruited a mystery writer to post on the music scene in their nightlife section. The new writer goes under the anonymous handle Punknotjunk and has a fake photo too. They've put up five articles since August 1st and it's a paid gig over at CW. But what is with the secret identity? Is someone I know really this superhero by night? Is it someone known as a scene commentator moonlighting and not wanting trouble from other employers? Or perhaps they just enjoy being all Mysterio. Either way, it's another newswire type service to check, I suppose.   

SvD Shanghairock article

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SvD feature montageA while back I wrote this post about taking a freelance journalist from Sweden to a Yu Guo show.

Mirjam and photographer David work mainly with Swedish newspaper SvD. They were touring China and putting together some features, including a piece on the Shanghai music scene. We went to the Yuguo show and took a bunch of pictures, you can see one of the montages from the spread just here. Yes, I'm in there.

So, the article just came out. There is an online version of the article but it's in Swedish. But non-Swedish speakers should check it out anyway as it features a slideshow of the photos from the print article.

Here it is: Shanghairock

svd feature cover

 

svd sample text

More Rockpile picks

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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?  

Windows Underground goes down in spectacular fashion

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Windows UndergroundBreaking news over at Shanghaiist that I'm going to rehash here as some of my blog peeps don't go there.

Here's the original article.

So, here's how the story of Friday night went - that's last night. Brad Ferguson, the manager of Windows Underground turned up to work to have his boss tell him that he was now forbidden from booking Chinese bands.

Some background, the Windows family has three popular bars in Shanghai. One of them, Tembo, was not doing much so the boss, a local Shanghai woman, hired Brad to manage in the general sense and to turn it into a live music place. After a great start they moved the whole bar to a bigger location and fitted it out with a good sound system, finally re-naming it Windows Underground.

Here's Brad telling the story from the Sha-ist interview:

My boss forbade me from hiring Chinese bands, saying that Chinese people only want to see foreigners, and that rock is a western thing so westerners do it better. She said she herself would rather see a bad foreigner band than a good Chinese one. We argued about it for a while last night, but didn't make any progress. So, I let Hard Queen, our regular Friday night (Chinese) band, do their final show. The accountant warned me that they wouldn't pay for Chinese bands, but I agreed to pay out of my own pocket. The band are friends of mine, so I also told them why they were being replaced. At the end of their set they said some stuff about the bar and my boss -- all true -- then kicked the drum kit over. The crowd cheered and people seemed to be having a good time. I finished out the night, but when I got home my boss called me from downstairs. She yelled at me for a while, then she called the police. I politely explained the events of the night, and the cops agreed that as there were no damages, no one was injured, and no one broke the law, there was nothing they could do. So, I only got fired.

So, Windows Underground is out of the scene. I'm sorry, but cover bands and cabaret don't count. As Brad says in the article. 

Also, this is not that suprising in some aspects. Windows bars are notorious for barring locals from ticketed events for allegedly not drinking enough. And coincidentally, a few years back when Windows Too was still in Jing An Plaza, I popped in on a New Year's eve and saw the very same owner turning away locals herself at the ticket table in the hall. Bar owners. Again, not surprising. 

City Weekend summer picks

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cold fairylandCity Weekend Magazine run a monthly column called The Beat. It covers the music scene but often strays into non music pubs and other digressions too. Columnist Aric Queen also keeps a blog of the column on City Weekend's website.

The latest print column, also available online here, picks five songs for the summer by Shanghai bands. And, ahem, one of the picks is mine. Aric also produced the column as a podcast - you can find that here

I picked "Love You So" by the Crazy Mushroom Brigade. Alas, they don't have either a CD out or a publically available quality MP3 of the song. Aric has tried to rip a live video but my pick is basically inaudible on the podcast.

The full list of picks:

Aric Queen: "Boogie to the top" by Pharaoh
Andy Best: "Love you so" by Crazy Mushroom Brigade
Ciga: "Happy dreamer on a small bed" by Muscle Snog
Archie Hamilton: "The Flood" by Cold Fairyland
Abe Deyo: "Synth Love" by I-Go

Obviously, this is a survey taken from the English language world. And ... I must make some clear disclaimers before launching into my comment: In the CW column Archie clearly states that Cold Fairyland are "not really rock and roll", so the following comment is not any kind of riposte to his pick. Secondly, Cold Fairyland are skilled and talented musicians who deserve their reputation, the following comment is not about that at all.

So, Cold Fairyland ... first up, you can listen to them here.

Now, Cold Fairyland are a popular, talented band with CDs out and a following. They often play in venues that I frequent. But, I won't be going to the shows or getting the CDs because ... I'm a rock/indie fan. I would no more buy their CD than I would buy Sounds of the Forest or K-Tel Presents The Mystical Pipes of Patagonia. I'm simply not into World Music

World Music, as most people know, is an easy listening genre that combines regional folk music with studio production. It does not mean and has never meant, bands from other countries than the one you're currently in. Excluding people who have never left mainland China, there is not one of you reading this blog who hasn't seen a World Music section in a large record store or doesn't know what I'm talking about.

So, when I hear (or read) other ex-pats talking about CF in the same breath as, say, Top Floor Circus I have to assume one of two things:

A) They are suffering from some kind of ex-pat culture shock thing.
B) They are genuine World Music fans and the CF CD is sitting on their shelf right next to An Ancient Muse.

I suppose it's a reflection on the realities of the scene. I'm not getting into any kind of judgement or analysis, but most of you will know what I mean when I say that ALL independently produced music is basically in the same boat so there is a lot more crossover between styles here than other places. Back home in Liverpool, a rock club is a rock club and it's unthinkable that a DJ playing anything other than rock would play at an event/show there.

There is some hope. I don't see the hip-hop crowd chillin at Punk gigs and I don't see skateboarders hooking up for street sessions with rollerbladers. If I did go to a hip-hop show (I am a fan), I'd hope it was it was rich, focused and produced by people with something to say who live for Hip-hop. I'd hope I'd be stepping into a world, not the world. 

Bonus Post: Self Party @ Yuyintang

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rylan mcpheeThis post is more of an anecdote than a gig review but I did get new vid material so it's worth doing. Earlier in the day I had been to see Hard Queen at Eno. I wasn't going to check out the Miniless showcase at Yuyintang but I got a call from Rylan McPhee, buddy of mine, who was already there. So I dragged myself and my tired, heavy head to the show.

I got there in time to see Self Party play. To be fair, they were not that bad despite an average to washy sound and the habit of repeating the same four bars more than thrity or so times in each song. Shoe-gazing fans will like them, I'm sure. The problem was my tired head and the end of the anecdote. Into their final song they got feedback and sound problems and when they looked to the desk they saw it was empty. The sound guy was off at the bar drinking. So, like any good experimental band, they openly laughed to each other on stage and proceeded to abandon the song in favour of continuing feedback and noise.

Unfortunately it was so loud that my prospective headache immediately jumped into nausea-pang-laced throbbing and sent me off home. So, I had to abandon the rest of the show and leave the Clansman of Cranbrook to continue his good work alone. That's clansman with a C, readers nursing a hangover. Yuyintang was packed again and it's good to see the venue get good crowds for all the different styles. A final point, just lurking at the edge of the photo is Morgan Short. Morgan is the bass player for Boys Climbing Ropes who have a CD out called Pleasure To Be Here. Check out the linked page.

Hard Queen @ Eno

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hard queen at enoHad a terrible night's sleep and knew I had no chance of lasting out tonight's gig at Yuyintang (Miniless Calling). It's one thing to go to a show tired and grab a coffee, it's another if the show is a showcase of 'shoe-gazing', experimental and long instrumentals. Lucky for me, there was an early option.

Eno is a clothing shop/cafe that promotes local artists and designers. They have a big space and put on local bands at events. Today was a demo for artist Popil and playing the event was Hard Queen. It was a cozy set up and one side of the shop, that you can't see in the photos, has a wide bank of large steps going up to the juice bar. That kind of forms mini stadium seating up one side of the floor space.

I'm used to dingy rock venues and darkness so I was disorientated at first. There was a good turn out and I spotted a bunch of people I knew and ... err, I dunno ... scene people. I don't want to say 'biz' because no one makes money. The great thing about Shanghai is that it's a small scene and all the active members are cool, open people who are happy to talk and are doing really interesting stuff. Hard Queen played the first half of their set and then I went down to say hellos.

The artist, Popil, has a Hard Queen T-shirt out and is also doing the artwork for their soon to be finished CD. One of the CD's producers, Scott, was there as was Brad Ferguson of Window's Underground. I bumped into Nial Ferguson, a super talented Australian artist who I first bumped into via the skatboarding scene ages ago. I also saw Sean Leow again. He is one of the brains behind Neocha.com which you'll see if you followed the Popil and Hard Queen links. Another Neocha guy, Adam Schokora, was there. It's worth checking out his vids over at Danwei.org as he often includes China scene bands.

I should just tag this post celebrity gossip and throw myself under a bus already.

Hard Queen played a couple of new songs and had a great sound. The second half of the set was tight and everyone liked the show. I even left with a signed Popil print although the famed PK-14 shirt was sold out in men's style. Next time.

 

eno interior

Britpop night @ Yuyintang

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empty gardenUpdate: I was turning out my pockets before washing my clothes and I found the ticket for this show on which I had the band names scrawled on the back of. It's not Kong De Huayuan but Kong Zhong Huayuan. So, a better translation of their name would be Sky Garden, not Empty Garden.

Friday night at Yuyintang with no one band headlining the show and a bunch of not so well known acts all falling loosely in the 'britpop' style. Didn't sound too promising but when I got there there was a good amount of people and a good atmosphere. Skulking around the CD shop I picked up the Kerrang Karaoke DVD - yes! - and chatted to a couple of Donghua students.

The first band on was 8mg. They were a new band doing mainly covers and hadn't rehearsed much. Once on the stage it hit them that they were in a proper club with lots of 'real' people with tickets looking at them. It was a shock. After a well received cover of Radiohead's Creep, they got themselves together and finished the set.

Next up was Kongde Huayuan (Empty Garden). They got straight into a solid set of plodding jangly-guitar laden indie songs. The crowd responded well, especially to the frontman. The frontman was looking like a bit of a hero with his flowing locks, crucifix ear-ring and unbuttoned white shirt. It's a fine line though, one step the wrong way and you're a member of F4. The set came to a premature end when one guitarist broke a string. For some reason he had neither a spare set of strings or a replacement guitar. When one of the other bands lent him a guitar to use it also had technical issues and they decided to call it a night as they only had one song to go. You have to think though, was it really technical issues with the new guitar, or was it that it was one of those China issue Squire Strats with the bright pink finish and the Hello Kitty head scratch plate.

Next up, Modern Cheese. The singer/guitarist of this band is a Beijing Midi Music School graduate. They burst into a high energy distortion driven opener and the crowd really got into it. I was impressed. Whenever I know a band was from a guitar tech or music college I'm expecting flashy playing and unusual key changes at the expense of a coherent style. Hey, music critic talk. Modern Cheese did add in some funk and jazz elements at times but they kept admirable control and everyone liked the show.

The last band on were The Way. I got a surprise. They were really tight and good performers too. A couple of songs in I couldn't help wondering why this show wasn't billed as their gig rather than a britpop night. In fact by the end I realised I had, in fact, been at a The Way gig which had been horribly marketed. Then again, The Way are from Shaoxing and are not well known here - but I'm sure as many people would come to their show as would to a britpop night. Fans of jangly indie pop should definitely try to catch The Way and Empty Garden.

Rock 0093 Party Six @ Yuyintang

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lollipopIt was pissing down raining quite heavily tonight as Shanghai prepared to catch the back of a proper storm, one with its own name and everything. Rock 0093 is a showcase of new and newish bands that all practise at the studio of the same name. So with bad weather and no well known acts on the bill, I assumed Yuyintang's sold out streak was finally coming to an end. I'd forgot about a certain phenomenon at 0093 shows, though.

The bill had been expanded to a marathon nine bands and gotten underway at 6.30. So, if you put each band and their group of friends into the audience it's actually quite packed. As each band is done, most of the members and half their entourage go home ... so the first bands on have a good crowd and the headliner has a half empty room. Of course, when else would the band i'd come to check out, Bang Bang Tang (lollipop), go on except dead last.

So as I got in a band were just about to go on. It was Six Shot, a traditonal thrash band with absolutely no rapping and no samples. At this point the hall was packed and everyone went nuts for it. I haven't been at a pure thrash gig for ages, especially one with proper moshing and headbanging. The singer was feeding off it, calling out the audience in the mosh pit and getting good responses.

I took a little rest for the next band. Wujiao Xing (Five Pointed Star) are a genre nu-metal band whose best song live is a Linkin Park cover. Next up after that was Tianping Dian (no English name but it means one of those Hong Kong style dessert houses). They had a female vocalist and a rapper and they launched into two tight and catchy pop-rock tracks that really surprised everyone. I was really blown away. But, right after that they fell away with a series of songs that weren't half as well rehearsed. Also, the dwindling crowd was really dwindling. If Tian Ping Dian stay together and work hard, they could be one for the future.

Next up - another hazard of 0093 showcases - the momentum was stopped by the introduction of a one-off-for-the-show cover band, Brunch. I decided to take a real break and have a sit down. Right about this time there was a nasty fight that started with broken bottles dispute between a couple of staff members right in front of where I was sitting. Evidently it had been a long night before and an early start today and tempers were running thin. Luckily it was broken up fast and no one was seriously hurt (i'm not sure how). So - finally - Bang Bang Tang (lollipop) took the stage.

Like all the bands, they are new and far from a finished product. But they played well and the whole reason I like the scene is for the DIY/punk aspect. I can see why some people write them off as more pop than rock though. I managed to get three videos including the promised Lollipop video so see for yourselves. Check the Youtube page in the blog sidebar. 

six shot

tianping dian 

Experimental heaven and 0093 Party 6

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0093 studio

Update: Jake has interviewed Torturing Nurse's Cao Jianjun here.

So many of my posts start with excuses disclaimers. I'm not going to get in the habit of doing listings and this blog is not about that. However, there's relevance to recent posts in some upcoming events so here goes.

So, in the interview with Lin Lin of Yuyintang, she mentioned two bands. Crazy Mushroom Brigade as a newer band that had 'arrived' and Bang Bang Tang (Lollipop) as the promising new comer. A couple of conversations later I discovered this to be quite divisive, especially the idea of them being 'rock'. Intriguing. Lucky for me - Bang Bang Tang are playing Yuyintang's Rock 0093 Party 6 on Saturday night. So not only will I be able to see what it's all about, I'll be able to video them for the blog.

0093 is a rehearsal studio and the 0093 parties are for new bands who practise there to get a chance to play live and get some experience. This is a very good idea that should be supported, but it obviously makes for mixed shows. Here's the line up, I don't have any links for these at the moment (they're new).

Six Shot, Red Brick, Black Romance, Brunch, Lollipop, 5-pointed Star, Dessert Store.

So, Lollipop are the one's to watch.

I also decided to throw in a post about the noise/experimental scene lately and I then ended up at a post-rock gig not long after that. The noise post even saw blogger Micah Sittig sign up and comment. So, by single response popular demand, here's more on the noise scene. There are in fact two major shows coming up. Over at Live Bar this Saturday is the latest from NOIshanghai. This event is billed as Torturing Nurse vs Vario Air.

Torturing Nurse's page is here.
Vario Air's link is to the Kunt page.
And here is the flyer.

Then, the following week at Yuyintang is the Miniless Records Shanghai Calling show. This is another noise/experimental show. The line up has Muscle Snog, Grace Latecomer, Monkey Power and The Los. So, all those of you who like to go out at night to an exciting venue and do some really deep listening all night - there you go.  

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