Results tagged “shanghai” from Andy Best

2013 hiatus

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crop hk gaze
Oh it's that time again.

Oh shit time flies I don't wanna die Not so long ago, I took a break from the blog and other stuff in order to push through and get a first draft done of a novel. It was across the first half of 2011 and the book made it out at the end of the year.

My Shanghai-set novel on Amazon (cheap)

After a long period of fucking about on three new ideas, I've picked one and have to get on with it. The last one needed six months off the blog and most other net stuff, it was about 210 pages. This one is more than double that length and way more involved. 

I dunno, it/me is not important and we've got a bunch of other blogs and sites doing stuff now. But according to the stats we got up over 15 000 individual IPs a month ago, so if you are one of the people who has been reading: thanks very much. 

Death To Giants / Japandroids live @ Yuyintang

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japandroids flyer
Saturday night and off to Yuyintang for the much anticipated Japandroids show, put on by promoters Splitworks. I got advance tickets, which always feels weird for YYT, as there was a big buzz about the show. And yup it was completely sold out by nine.

Japandroids (Canada)

This show started a bit earlier than most, before I had finished work for that day in fact, so I arrived at the very end of HIMDONG's set. Sorry guys.

Well, YYT was sold out and packed with many people who would not normally come down for local bands, people who are often pretty shitty to the non 'name acts.' Good job then, that along came Death to Giants and slayed everyone. They confidently and expertly ripped through the now familiar set, starting on a war footing with Bigongbijing. The duo did their thing, using only drums and a bass guitar but delivering a masterclass on how to fill space and control dynamics. With a full house to play to, there was also a great raw edge to the proceedings. The set ended with a new, kinda novelty song based around the Family Mart jingle. It was funny, and come on ... it's been four years since 2009 brought along a sudden, shocking influx of ex-pats that took it from 'some' to 'omnipresent' in Shanghai - someone had to do a song about convenience store beers at one point.

The blog has had an upturn of readers lately so it's worth pointing out that I don't usually review the visiting international acts. It's outside of the blog's remit. I should start by saying that Japandroids did a professional job and all their fans really liked the show. They sold the place out and it was a success.  But, I personally was a bit disappointed - my own fault. I had spent the week in a weird state that doesn't quite fit the exact definition of either cognitive dissonance or double think. Let me explain. I had checked out their stuff on the page, so I knew what the songs were like, but at the same time knowing they were a two piece drum/guitar combo with the name 'Japandroids' I was expecting to get something experimental or different. In fact their material is very standard North American folk or blues rock type stuff at heart with the lyrics taking us into near Springsteen territory at times. 

The first two lo-fi modern duos that come to mind in the Shanghai scene are Death to Giants and Pairs. As discussed, DtG use time signatures and overlapping runs to control a wide range of dynamics, mixing in sudden bursts of pounding metal and also delicate vocal harmonies. Pairs blast the air around with a wave of fuzzy noise and punk energy, the guitar chops you into pieces while Xiao Zhong shouts at you with a mix of despair and unconcealed contempt. Torturing Nurse take you into the frontiers of extreme noise, The Other jam reverb soaked loops, Twos smooth layer on layer to create an electronic post-rock landscape. I guess, in the USA scene terms I'm more Lightning Bolt and less The Black Keys? 

Festivals: more competition nonsense

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jlangmead
Image: click for large version

I've already written a piece on local advertisers and their role in the scene here, focusing on Vice/Virtue and it's an issue close to my heart. But then something coincidental happened. After reblogging a point made by Twin Horizon and using Jlangmead's cartoon (pictured), my band received an offer to participate in exactly the same kind of thing.

Recap: a disturbing new trend around the world is the use of design competitions to not pay artists. The cartoon sums it up perfectly. The world of advertising and PR is a rabbit hole of denial and insular thinking and the whole concept has started to be applied even without dressing it up. Local designer Kaine Lv, also singer in my band, recently started work on a project that was attained after presenting her professional portfolio and going through stringent background checks. She was then told mid-way into the work, that the boss wanted to check new designers so he had more than one person working on the same project - and would choose the best one (and only pay that one.)

So. 

On Saturday, my band Astrofuck played our first long set. I organised a night at Yuyintang and we had an hour of material to choose from, we played forty-five minutes (plus banter etc). It all went great, we had a fun time and I felt we successfully showed we could plan and perform a longer set. This was, it seemed, immediately borne out. As soon as we got off stage, we were approached to play the Xi An Festival (Shanghai). They have permanent grounds down by the new Xu Hui river park and Cui Jian will headline this year. This will be the second year and they have sponsors and everything. Now, actually, I'm not a big festival person and there are many issues ... but I admit to being a bit excited, and it felt like validation of the step up we were trying to make.

And then ...

We went out back to discuss the details and exchange contacts but another story unfolded. The guy explained that the festival had a sponsored Weibo account and that we should use our own Weibo account to make posts there and show our vids and blogs etc. Then, they would 'see who was most popular with the fans' out of the invited bands and choose winners who would then get to play on the bill with Cui Jian. He looked at me and Elsa with an expression that said, 'that's so exciting for you, right?' I asked him to tell me what the deal would then be if you played, but he avoided the question. Finally I said that we'd have to discuss it as a band so could he e-mail me the whole thing in writing, including the dates and pay for if we ended up playing etc. of course, the e-mail hasn't arrived. He left reassuring us that we should first get involved in the Weibo event and go from there.

Where to start? This festival is holding an online event to market itself and its sponsors and is asking bands to put all their stuff there for free, to attract interest to their site and event, to bring in the bands' fan base, and then maybe you will be selected to play and get paid for it. It's basically the same thing as the art comp issue. Also, the really sick thing was wrapping it up in the implication that we should be happy to do that because we get to play on the same bill as 'X big headliner'. Like we are good enough to be on their site and play the festival, but not enough to deserve professional respect.

Let's be clear: the free stuff posted at their Weibo is being used by them for a professional, big-money-making, fully sponsored event. It is being used to make money. Also, local bands spend one or two years on average to get good, all on their own dollar and part-time. Their original material is their work. At our show there were four acts and everyone killed. I would say that HIMDONG blew the stage up. But the festival rep only approached us so here's what I'm assuming: he saw our set and thought we were good enough to play the Xi An Festival - or at least cool enough to be in their online event ... so, if we are good enough to play your for-profit high profile event THEN BOOK US and pay us fairly. 

I suppose what really makes this behavior sting is how it's always wrapped up in the language of respect. I mean the whole industry. They talk of cool bands, 'creatives' and supporting local talent etc. But they in fact treat bands and artists poorly. At best they pay a poor percentage of the project's overall profits or budget and expect to be praised for providing the opportunity to work for a big name, or for paying over slave wages local rates. Not paying at all is the new low, how could you go lower? As long as people participate in all this BS, the longer it will go on. We should at least be vocal about it and not let these a-holes feel comfortable about what they are doing.

Videos: Astrofuck live in Yuyintang

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Warning: this is my band, lack of objectivity alert.

Some media is coming in from Saturday's show. Here are two and half tracks from Astrofuck's set, available in Tudou (China) or Youtube. I say half, because Love is Shit had a mid way break for computer hijinks, we kept the moment in because it's quite funny. Also, you can hear Chris Ginn at the start, pleading for a shorter song length. Did he use telekinesis to get his wish? 

Dog Fucker's Manual tudou youtube
Love Is Shit tudou youtube
Five Kuai Bullet tudou youtube



Thanks everyone, show non-review

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picnic video
Warning: this is about a show that I organised and also played in. Total conflict of interest and you should be aware of this while reading my positive comments.

Thanks to everyone who came down to the Love is Colder than Death show on Saturday night. And thanks to the acts:

Himdong
Astrofuck
The Other
Tzu Sing

To be honest, I was worried that we were putting on an event at the exact quietest time of the scene calendar, in a heat wave and on the same night as several big music events - but also hoped that being different to all those other events would see us right. In the end we got a great turnout with some local fans even getting in before official doors open time so that Tzu Sing just kept playing on from the end of his check. 

Everyone did a great job. Tzu Sing set the atmosphere well and threw in some different stuff, that delighted me but that I'm under loose agreement not to talk about. It's related to one of our favourite 80s movies. The Other built on their last YYT set and added a video projection to the proceedings. I can't really comment on our set, Astrofuck, I guess. We did some new and never played live before tracks, they all seemed to go down fine and I really enjoyed myself. 

The real hit of the night came from Hua Jiao / HIMDONG. Everyone knows that Dong Heimu is a real talent on the scene, but since moving here from Xi'an he has struggled to get a stable line up and is always having to adapt his style. This time he came with a full band and ripped through some amazing post-punk tracks with stylistic hints of China scene post-punk and no wave acts in there such as The Fallacy, 8 Eye Spy and PK14. 

There's some recordings and clips on the way ... and hopefully a follow up night not too far away. 

Astrofuck show "Love is Colder than Death"

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laura palmer saturday flyer
Warning ... warning ... full disclosure: this post is talking about a show featuring a band I'm in and a show I organized. Please keep that in mind.

Ok, so our band Astrofuck made its live debut early this year and played five shows that were all a lot of fun and often on weekends at YYT with good audiences. Playing the Woozy night as part of the Jue Festival was really cool and the Nerdcore documentary and performance at 390 was a good time too. 

Then we put out some demos and this music video:

The Funeral youku / youtube / vimeo

Then came the slow summer period in Shanghai and we decided to work on new material, focusing on our more gothy side, and to try to book a show tailored to us. And so on Saturday August 17th at Yuyintang we have ...

"Love is Colder than Death"

It will cost 40 rmb on the door and feature post-punk, experimental, gothy and dark bands. That's probably an inadequate way to describe it. DJ Tzu Sing will open from 9 playing darkwave and industrial styles. Then The Other will play, then us doing a 45 minute plus set including completely new songs we have never played before. We also have HIMDONG closing out with some loop madness. It will be awesome and the perfect antidote to the thrown together, generalized, overpriced SH Summer Sonic night on over at the Stadium. I can say that cos SMG is a multi-billion corporation and we are just some friends putting on a 300 ppl show underground.

kainedou
Also, we are definitely playing "Dog Fucker's Manual." And for an insight into my upbringing, for the flyer I had to choose one image from pop culture that inspired me. If you recognize it then you found one of my significant formative experiences, when I was about 17. 

Alrighty, enough navel gazing, come on down to the show and here's our probable set list:

Five Kuai Bullet
The Funeral
Love Is Shit
Dog Fucker's Manual
Crystal Heart/Black Heart
Sponsor-friendly Self Harm
I P.M.
Patrick
I Can't Jump Into The Pool
Sugar Free Coke

And here's a video of The Other playing at YYT not that long ago:

Tudou: The Other

Feima vs. Naohai this Friday: this is a call to arms

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feimanaohai
I don't do these posts so often so give it a listen.

We all have different music tastes and different motivations and expectations for going to shows, sure. But. It should be in all our interests for younger locals to be breaking through in great bands and pulling in more interest and audiences from Shanghai's population. 

We all know there's little to play for on the underground scene and that bands in Shanghai can be short lived for a variety of reasons. So I now ask you to help provide a reason to two of the city's most promising and exciting bands by turning up to the their big show and making it great. 

Feima and Naohai are co-headlining Yuyintang on Friday and you should go - and you should spread the word and drag people along. Feima in particularly have just put out an album and are putting on emotive shows.


Shanghai band: The Spondees

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spondees
I am the wrong person to talk about spondees to. Like Edgar Allan Poe, I don't think they actually exist and can't be used in their absolute form without creating something distinct from English usage and pronunciation, to even attempt them for effect would require a pause that then makes the two-foot measurement wrong ...

... wait a minute. Sorry about that.

The Spondees are a Shanghai band made up of three heroic ex-pats. The band has been around for nearly five years with a few line-ups with Matt Saunders keeping things going. They have a good page at Reverb Nation and also a Douban page.

The Spondees are a hardworking, every-week-gigging, bar-band-style-band who play all original material. To be honest, I usually completely exclude what we think of as 'bar bands'. However, Matt Spondee is an awesome guy who has reached out to a lot of people in the, and I love this quote, "local pseudo-bohemian sub-indie anti-scene" ... or as we know it: the music scene. They take themselves seriously enough that we should too. Also the band are playing shows in Yuyintang and Mao and Matt comes out to support other people's shows. So give them a fair listen and look out for their continued presence on the gig circuit. Finally they are consummate musicians and performers, putting just as much into playing the old Fanfare location to twenty people (yup, I was there) as they would to a weekend night at a larger venue. 

Feima live @ 696 Bar

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Thumbnail image for feima flyer 696
This show was Feima's official album / EP release party. I previewed the album here, where you can link to the online version. The show was great and highlighted how much it sucks that they're are going away. Tonight's line up:


Early show tonight, 696 have to call it a night for live music at 9.30 and things were off at exactly the advertised time. Yin have been around a while now and they have original material on the page there. It's guitar based rock in the pop spectrum with some sentimental ballad stuff that their fans like a lot.

I hadn't seen Pairs play in a while and was struck by a major change in dynamic. Xiao Zhong used to get quickly through the songs with minimal explanation and a few funny / caustic comments in between. Tonight he was speaking in Mandarin at each break, thanking people for showing up, making self-depreciating comments, complimenting the previous band, apologizing for stuff ... and yet the personal tracks were even more intense than ever before, especially the new closing song which mentioned having to hold his abdomen while showering, presumably as a result of his hernia and follow up butchery surgery. And then F was cool and commanding, radiating presence without having changed much in the way of her stage positioning or general style. Fascinating stuff and a new album is not far away, although it seems that China has broken Xiao Zhong.

Feima were so good and so relevant and vital to the scene, and relevant to the major musical movements of the greater scene that it sucked - because there's basically one more show after this. I don't know where to start. Firstly the set was a full rendition of the album, in order. They were totally in command of their performance and confidently mixed the dreamy instrumentals, the upbeat anthems, "people in this city are hard to be seen ... all the people, hiding in cars and buildings" ... and the experimental jams. The set closer Feedback Tide was especially good, with Belo and Xiao Tang providing a framework for Jun Er to take centre stage and go crazy with the noise. He used sticks to hit things, an oscillator and pedals to create the feedback and noise loops and also Bebot on the iPad for bleeps, synths and swells. At one point he had all three going simultaneously, operating the touch screen of the pad with his foot. The sound was perfect and they knew exactly what they were doing. Xiao Tang got the bass exactly right both for the style and for the underground set ups here: he used an EQ pedal to boost the mid range and produce a tight, metallic sound that didn't wipe out other instruments or get lost in the mix. Residence A also use this very well and it's a trademark sound of China post-punk acts. 

Next Friday, August 2nd, is the last big show with Naohai at Yuyintang. Be there.

Video: xLost in Painx live @ Yuyintang

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Here's a ten or so minute set from Shanghai's xLost in Painx taken at Yuyintang on Sunday. They are joined on stage by Before The Daylight's Moli about halfway through.


Pic: Tension Music 2 year anniversary

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Saturday was the two year anniversary show for Shanghai collective Tension Music, the brainchild of Wang Tian Tian AKA Wang TT. Here's their page. TT has been supporting and organising on the scene for years and is one of the two people behind the 0093 rehearsal space.

He's in the middle of the shot wearing a dark blue t-shirt. The bands are Da Xifu, Joker, En Route, Moshu Shi and Guts.

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tx music group

Some stuff this weekend

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feima flyer 696
I have a bit of a holiday this week, about ten days or so. But, due to many factors I won't be going out much. So here's some stuff going on this week across four of the venues in town - and I'll have to live vicariously through your reports and stories the week after that.

I don't want to endorse one show over another, and we all have different tastes anyway. But there's a glaring clue to the right of which show I'll go to if I can choose only one.

Friday 26th July

Yuyintang: Girl Rock, feat. Must Be Red (SH)

Live Bar: 聚光下的少年 Youth in the spotlight

696: Feima EP release show

Saturday 27th July

Yuyintang: Fuzzy Mood (BJ) album release

Mao Livehouse: Genohmang 19 free show (Mao's only mainstage evening show all weekend.)

Live Bar: Shake Your Body feat. heavy bands + En Route

696: 小垂直 Xiao Chuizhi 

Sunday 28th July

Yuyintang: Made In Shanghai 6, feat. Prank

696: Guancai

Brands, competitions and insight

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This pic is about art competitions run by corps but I feel its main point is widely applicable across all art and music scenes. It also gels with a lot of what I'm usually saying on the topic here.

The cartoon is by Jeannette Langmead ...

... and I am reblogging it via Twin Horizon


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jlangmead

Regrouping Shanghai bands this summer

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guts gezi
Many younger local acts in Shanghai have a hard time keeping a line up together for more than a year. That's not news. A couple of bands are pushing through though.

Pictured are Gezi Tuan (格子团) English name Guts, although the name translates to 'grid'. After a reasonable start then losing members (sound familiar?) they are back in action. I was rehearsing in the room next to them this week and we all remarked that they sounded really together. So if regular indie stuff, but with a bit more distortion and a bit less irony, is your thing then try to catch up with them I should note that the demo there is from the old line up, I think. 

Monkey Shines are on round three. They are a combination of uptempo pop punk and emo, but the demos can give you the full picture. They have just released a new one with their third singer in three years. Drummer Xiao Zhong ( 小钟 not 小中) has been around the block, starting out with the original line up of Little Nature. Anyway, check out the new demo at this page, it's the first one 《无恶兄弟》. 

Reminder: re-TROS

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retrosvert
Recently the unique IPs per month stat for this blog got (in context) really high and I'm not sure who the readers are exactly. I'm assuming that the majority are new to the scene and not Chinese, or outside the country.

That's one reason to justify this post. The other is that after a semi-recent conversation with a Shanghainese friend, I was reminded that a lot of ex-pats and visitors at shows are unaware of the importance of the ReTRoS to local fans, and also of just how amazing they are. They same goes for PK14 but I already post about them a lot.

So ReTRoS are amazing and really important to local fans. How easy was that. 

You can listen to both their albums here:


And seriously, Watch Out! is a world class post-punk album and if you like it, start listening to PK14 more and also Feng Yi, SKSA and so on. These bands will stand the test of time on the scene here. I was also really excited by the debut album of London post-punk sensation Savages, but on comparison they have a way to go before they produce an album like Watch Out! 

Pics: original YYT mural and 2009 gigs

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Here are some pics from summer of 2009 in Yuyintang. They show people who performed there posing with the recently completed mural in its original black and white as painted by Kaine. It's an interesting glance back for me anyway, not too far back though.

People in the pictures: Pupi of Da Bang, Wu Zhuo Ling, Mai Mai of Muscle Snog and AWU, Self Party and Boojii.


yyt bw pupi

yyt bw wzl

yyt bw maimai

yyt bw self party

yyt bw boojii

Ready made China tour plan

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PK14 have just put their tour details online and it's awesome - not only because they are touring and they are great, but because the map image and list of dates / venues is basically a ready made tour plan for anyone else who wants to do it. Here's the photo and the venue list (in Chinese) ... and look, they are even playing in Xi Ning, Qinghai Province. 

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tour map


时间 城市 演出场所 
8/28/13 济南 盒子酒吧 
8/29/13 青岛 Downtown Bar 
8/30/13 南京 古堡 
8/31/13 上海 Mao Livehouse 
9/1/13 无锡 大门文化 
9/2/13 苏州 Wave Livehouse 
9/3/13 宁波 CMK 
9/4/13 杭州 酒球会 
9/6/13 武汉 Vox 
9/7/13 南昌 黑铁 
9/8/13 福州 海峡摇滚 
9/9/13 厦门 Real Live
9/10/13 珠海 现场酒吧 
9/11/13 深圳 B10 
9/12/13 台北 The Wall 
9/13/13 香港 蒲吧 
9/14/13 广州 凸空间 
9/16/13 长沙 4698 
9/18/13 重庆 坚果俱乐部 
9/21/13 成都 小酒馆 
9/23/13 兰州 葵Livehouse 
9/24/13 西宁 南墙 
9/25/13 银川 铜管 
9/27/13 西安 光圈Club 
9/28/13 郑州 7 Livehouse 
9/29/13 新乡 Ark Live House 
10/1/13 北京 愚公移山 
10/3/13 大连 赫兹 
10/4/13 长春 重走青春音乐酒吧
10/5/13 哈尔滨 开往春天的地铁酒吧
10/6/13 沈阳 旋转木马俱乐部

Made In Shanghai Vol. 5 @ Yuyintang

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zhubaixi
Pic: Sonnet frontman Zhu Baixi in the festival season

What started as getting out of my house to catch up with the Stego guys ended up being an oddly nostalgic night ... the line up for Made In Shanghai Vol 5:


Despite the on-off heavy rain YYT slowly filled to a respectable amount of punters. Fire Scene are a new band of young local guys. They play slap bass and funk driven pop-rock. They got some good energy going and did a good job but undercut themselves slightly over-explaining things between tracks. The bassist has the skills for the slap riffs. 

Stegosaurus? were playing without guitarist Levi and had a more stripped down feel but Josh's guitar filled the space adequately and the set had some good peaks that won over a lot of local fans. The vocal pairings were on point and I enjoyed hearing some of the older tracks. 

Then two things happened. When Sonnet got on stage I was struck by a wave of nostalgia and then I also bumped into Xiao Bai, former vocalist for Bang Bang Tang and fellow scene goer for many a year. It took me right back. Sonnet have been around on the Shanghai scene for years. I've seen them on and off since 2005 here. They rose and rose until early 2011's release "14." This capped their growing popularity with local fans and they played to full (7-800) crowds at Mao Livehouse, with video screens, lights, the synth lines and samples, the full line up and everyone singing along to the anthem tracks like 了了上海伐老乱哪能立得牢脚. It's the first track at the page, go and listen now. 

The track name is Shanghainese and translates to something like "Shanghai, come and have a go if you think you're hard enough" - with tongue firmly in cheek. Shortly after though, there was a falling out within the band and they went quiet for a while, there haven't been any new demos in two years now. At the show they played as a stripped down rock three piece, with Yang Fu moving to bass. Singer Zhu Baixi has still got it though and the set focused on the older rock tracks like Sexy Model Queen and Rejection. The band have been through a lot, and I was thinking I'd love for them to sit down and produce a new record that reflects on all their history. 

Hardcore in Shanghai now includes straight edge

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hardcore tour pic
Update: Tyler says: "all the guys in my band are as straight edge as they come!"

Pic: group photo in Wuhan from the Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013

It's way past time for a catch up from the world of hardcore music in Shanghai.

I'm going to run through two areas here: The Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013 and the band xLost in Painx. Let's start with a bunch of relevant links.


So. Shanghai hardcore band Spill Your Guts recently played on the Chinese Hardcore Union Tour 2013. Also with them was Loudspeaker a punk band from Shanghai who have been around since 1999 and who were the first band I ever saw live in China. Here's a video of Spill Your Guts on the tour:


In other news: Spill Your Guts drummer Tyler Bowa has joined a Chinese straight edge band called xLost in Painx. Yes, a Shanghai based straight edge band. It's interesting for me because I am technically straight edge by default due to my general life habits. We're probably talking musical style only here, or are we? Why not check them out. Here's a bootleg vid that Tyler shared today.

Girls Like Mystery / Death To Giants live @ YYT

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glm kevin
Pic: Kevin Wright of Girls Like Mystery

This gig was a week ago Friday and I am a dirty procrastinator. There you go.

Also, I only caught two full sets out of five bands. This show was the School's Out Part 2 gig with five bands on the line up:

Daydreamer (空想家)

I arrived to catch the very last song of Daydreamer's set. The band have a good local following and promising nihilistic song titles like Fuck The Rest and 玩手机 (play on my cell phone) but the songs tend to be big tracks with classic blues-rock conventions as the base. They had a load of fans/friends in the crowd, who all left the venue within one or two minutes of the last song ending. I always harp on about this, but it reminds me of the 0093 showcase days where a six band bill would start out full then lose like thirty or so people after each set - literally within seconds of the last song - until the last band had about twenty plus staff to play to. Singer Chen Li (陈粒) had a good rapport with the fans and her solo folk page also has a good Douban following. 

Death To Giants, as well documented now, are a great great band and consummate entertainers live. This set featured appearances from Threshold of Forest and Mike Corayer. Bassist Nichols and Corayer did their scat vs trumpet duel (scat as in the vocal style - get your minds out of the toilet) and it really went off. Super.

I haven't really written about Girls Like Mystery here but this show really pressed home to me how they have developed into a good band on the scene. GLM are Kevin Wright (vox, bass), Micheal Herd (guitar), Mike Arone (keyboard), Adam Poole (drums), Mike Corayer (trumpet) and Todd St Amand (cello). The style is big tunes Brit-rock. Kevin is humble and open about the band's beginning, jamming out some covers with himself, Arone and Poole but now they have a live presence and play a good set of cathartic original rock tracks. Wright's look, voice and personality is a perfect fit for the style and he credits Arone's greater involvement with songwriting for the development of the material. 

Pics: Torturing Nurse on tour in Europe

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Time for a regular check in with Shanghai's extreme noise collective Noishanghai. Junky, Xu Cheng and their band Torturing Nurse form the core of the scene, which is respected around the world by noise people and has even featured in the Guardian UK newspaper. 

It's odd to think the heady days of the Torturing Torturing Nurse show, when they collective drew rock sized crowds to their events, were almost five years ago now. But they are still going strong and here are a couple of shots from their recent tour of Switzerland, Belgium and France - from this gallery.


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Retrospective: Boys Climbing Ropes

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Thumbnail image for Boys Climbing Ropes at d22
This month we passed one year since the split of Shanghai band Boys Climbing Ropes. The Last Waltz show was a two night affair on June 1st and 2nd 2012. Coincidentally, the blog was on hiatus at that time so I never wrote anything about it.

BCR were a band on the Shanghai scene that were around for six years. They started as a 'let's do a band' thing for two Canadian college buddies and ended up a significant and beloved force on the scene with equal support from local and ex-pat crowds.

Doubt it? Watch this video from the Shanghai Midi festival: BCR 'Two Dogs'

The band also took a teenage prodigy from small town Jiangxi Province and let her develop into one of the key voices of China independent music: Huang Pei A.K.A. Little Punk.

They retained the same line up the entire time: Jordan Small, Morgan Short, Devin Gallery and Huang Pei. The band put out three releases across the latter four years of their existence: A Pleasure To Be Here, Except For The Darkness and the split Summer And Winter Warfare.

BCR Douban page (info, tracks, pics and videos etc.)
A Little Punk album on Bandcamp (Ahem, yes, one that involved me. Hey, it's free.)

Their success in reaching people was down to the style they developed. Many bands limit themselves strictly to the conventions of a genre and therefor appeal mainly to that genre's specific fans. Other bands, especially those driven by ex-pats, tend to work within a musical area they already love, from previous experiences, regardless of the sounds, feelings and scene of the city they are in - and also apply rigid preconceived notions when dealing with the city around them. Boys Climbing Ropes developed with the China scene, working with the post-punk and synth sounds favoured by the more profound China scene acts and reflecting accurately the modern urban experience. It came across so organically and completely that they were still able to write songs about Canada without breaking the spell, and without losing, for example, Jordan Small's own personal, unique voice. 

And the songs were always good. Except For The Darkness saw Little Punk find herself within the band and start to impose her presence on stage too. The first time they played Yuyintang and opened with Little Person was a revelation and from then on every show was a great show and the band's pull went up exponentially. Everyone who saw a show immediately wanted to take a picture of/interview/work with Little Punk. All the band members had settled their own signature sounds and chops. The sets now always closed with Life Knife and resultant mayhem in the pit.

The final year of the band felt like a stay of execution after Jordan Small put back his plans to return to Canada, largely because of the band's sudden jump in success. Rather than go on to put out a triumphant first full album, they settled on three tracks as part of a spilt. Songs like Grow Up Stop Fucking Around were instant hits but seemed to foreshadow the band breaking up and reflect the members' resignation to the fact. The live shows started to reflect this in some weird but moving energy from the crowds. There was a sheen of pre-nostalgia and emptiness, the pits got more and more crazy, sometimes irresponsibly. Time was palpably, desperately, running out. 

And then Jordan left, Morgan and Pei Pei went to Beijing and the band was no more, underlining one of the main themes of the band's work: the magnified transient nature of things and our inability to deal with it. I mentioned the band's ability to reach out further to new fans, but for those of us who lived the scene, were present and invested in it emotionally, it was a deep blow. 

Going back to the first release, A Pleasure To Be Here, an early indicator of the BCR's eventual direction is Dirty Bots. The signature sounds are emerging and I loved the duet vocal lines. Ironically, they dropped the track live in favour of pushing the new material, and said similar direction. Calculate! was a big hit live and brought out Little Punk's stilted bursts of post-punk energy, so beloved of Ian Curtis fans. Little known to people who didn't get Pleasure, The Night Boy is a showcase of Little Punk's emergent vocal style and haunting qualities. 

Musically, the BCR songs are a classic collaboration. The drums and bass lines had consistent styles and tones, drove the tracks, and never overstepped their boundaries. Devin Gallery started out as a rapid ska-punk drummer and in BCR learned to control space and dynamics to serve the new style: although he retained his instincts towards the frenetic at the live shows at times. Morgan's bass sound became recognisable with the distortion and hard picking. If I had to pick a triumphant moment for Jordan it would have to be Whale Song. The track is driven by his signature arpeggiated riffing and heartfelt lyrics and every time I hear him explode on the line "lost out in the ocean," it paralyses me. From Summer and Winter Warfare, Grow Up Stop Fucking Around is the best example of all the elements working together, reflecting the songwriting journey before. 

BCR's struggle on a limited and underground scene is to be admired and a lot of attention has rightly fell on Shanghai's DIY ethic and can do attitude. We can look on their output, framed against the limitations of full time jobs, and marvel that it existed at all. But I cannot look back on six years of the band without wondering why we don't have one or maybe two full albums on a label like Maybe Mars or Modern Sky. The work was there, the songs were there. With Little Punk they had a genuine iconic Chinese artist in the line up, who was also known to and respected by all the people involved in the labels and greater scene. It's not easy to explain but I can't help feeling there was a criminal absence of meaningful support from those in the greater China scene with the power to do so. The idea of it being partially related to having a majority of ex-pat members keeps creeping into my mind. But also, assisted or indie, that final release should have been a big one. But perhaps ultimately that dark, sporadic final year will better serve the memory and integrity of the band as time continues to slip through our fingers and out into the uncaring ether.

Goushen demo - Poor in Field

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mianmiangoushen
Shanghai's Goushen 狗神 (lit. Dog God) were formed from the ashes of two bands Androsace and Bigong BiJing and combine the best elements of both.

Mian Mian (pictured) and guitarist Lao Bi bring the early metal and hardcore riffing to Dario and Lenz's power and ear for songwriting. Lenz has kept the punch of her original vocal style and also developed the melodies. They have the essential ingredient for all good bands - memorable songs. 

Listen to the new demos here, the first track Poor In Field has it all.

While most heavy bands get caught up in the genre trappings of modern metal/grind/hardcore sounds, Goushen have being steadily gigging and developing their old-school material. I have to admit a love for early Maiden and Black Sabbath et al. but watching a show or hearing those demos should confirm my love for them. Check it out.

Debut album from Feima - who'll then split

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fm album
This is a typical story, even more so of Shanghai, compared to the Beijing scene. 

Local indie band start to break through, have a distinct China scene sound, start to rock live shows ... put out first album ... and then split up or go on hiatus. It's an old familiar topic, but we still all talk about it. The time it takes a student or part time band to get good on the tiny Shanghai scene, is about the same time it takes to run afoul of a break up via one of a few familiar reasons.

This band is Feima and their album is Half City. 


The tracks Left and Right and Co-copier stick out for me, because I got into them at the live shows and they exemplify how they are influenced by other Chinese post-punk bands - which is a good thing. My personal favorite though is City Hiding Guide, same reasons I suppose. But, yeah, singer/guitarist Bellows is getting ready to go abroad to study at the end of this summer. It was first reported at Slink Rat here.

Tudou: The Other live @ Yuyintang

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Here's a video of The Other playing at Yuyintang. Later tracks were even better but I'd got one and wanted to just enjoy the show. So here you go.



Four Great Bands night @ Yuyintang

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the other
Friday night and it was the next installment of Scottish Mike's four great bands series at Yuyintang. The original line up:


As the gig drew close, it was announced that two more bands would join the line up, both going on late:


M.O.T.O. are over in China touring and added this as an extra show. I should say right now, they didn't get on until around one, I guess, I never made it. I saw the advertised bands and most of Tinderbox.

Heavenly Hazard, for reasons explained between songs, are now a two piece. It led to an interesting turn. Guitarist Leila used an octaver to double up her semi-acoustic and then played all the slap bass parts on it too. The drummer was tight and inventive also. If they embrace this element more and move away from the old material it'll be really original sounding. 

Next up were Candy Shop who went through their usual high energy power pop set with signature moves and professionalism. There was a new track in there and also their two big Douban hits from the Chinajoy year, Love Song and Dan Lian Sha. Look at those Douban numbers, look at them.

I was really looking forward to The Other and they didn't disappoint. They think of themselves as a work in progress still and have only recently settled on a set and style but they had everything the budding fan of lofi-postpunk-shitgaze-delaychoked-psychedelia could want. The guitar sound was loud and choppy and they displayed a wide range of material. There were really stripped down short repeaters ... but there were also layered, wonderful sounding hypnotic tracks - especially Space Jam in which Adam used an E-bow to create the swooshing backing loop. At times it was loose with a jammed feel, but it added to the material for me. As you can tell, I was quite taken with it and you may have to not trust me. I'll throw up a video shortly. 

Xiao Xin Yi Yi rounded off the main line up with a high energy set of punk/garage rock. The new numbers landed and the track "Titties" was gamely introduced as "(bassist Mike) Bush wrote this ... because he's a misogynist." And then it was on to the extra bands. I saw most of Tinderbox's set before sleep and hunger wore me down. They had a good sound and, like Candy Shop, deliver their guitar pop with enough energy and professionalism to win people over and give a good show, even if sugary pop is not your thing. Singer Renia (小宝) has her act down pat. 

Dystopian towers in the night

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Other things I do: cycle around Shanghai at night when it's cool, there's no traffic and the views are inspiring.


night tower

Games Workshop open in Shanghai

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games workshop
Bit of a preface first. I'm aware that this is not the first shop opened here for these type of hobbies. I bought the miniatures I use in D&D games from the hobby shop in the Daning mall in Zhabei a while back and there's a place in Xin Tian Di too. And there's online shopping, but we'll get to that.

Anyway, Games Workshop have a newly opened Shanghai branch. It is entirely focused on its flagship table-top war games Warhammer and Warhammer 40 000 (the sci-fi version). They also have official Citadel tool kits, work stations and paints. The store (misleadingly called the Xu Jia Hui store on the cards) is at 153 Xu Jia Hui Road. That's a block along from the east end of Taikang Road, past Madang Road. 

The store is small but cool, the guys who work there, Leon and Caesar are friendly and knowledgeable and they have a game table set up for teaching you stuff and free games. They will also show you how to use the tool kits and paint the miniatures. That's why you should go to the physical store. They even stock White Dwarf Magazine and Warhammer spin off novels. The hard back bible of 40K, the 6th edition rule book is 450 rmb, but they also have the Dark Vengeance starter boxed set. That has the condensed rule book, the quick start guide, miniatures and all the dice and measures for 600 rmb (remember you play with others and split this). [Bane voice] Let the games begin!

(There's a Pudong store too: Exit 6 Science and Tech Museum, store KJ-025)

Youtube: Hello Money The Kitchen

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Shanghai band Hello Money are the epitome of the mash up. They are international and have a wide range of musical influences and elements when they get on stage. Also, I make the reference cos they are famous for their complex mash-ups. And they get a lot of respect for being good entertainers too, when a lot of bands (yes, guilty) are more arty and self-indulgent. 

They recently did some recording at Fanfare Studios and made some cool live videos of the sessions. Here's one called The Kitchen. It's some of their original material. Check out all the tracks here too.



Local bands next Friday

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The other
Recently there have been all kinds of high profile shows; Beijing bands, festivals, tours, international acts, provocateurs and DIY promo kings. All of these were top drawer and good at pulling attention.

So we should give some space to something else for the moment, because some local bands have scored a Friday at Yuyintang and there's some interesting stuff in there. 



There's something for everyone there. Candy Shop are a well known power pop group with a lot of live experience and an energetic show. Xiao Xin Yi Yi are a no-nonsense punk / garage rock band, until their Proclaimers cover, when they break out the nonsense in style. Heavenly Hazard is the new band of the former guitarist from Beatrice. Beatrice were a band that was part of the Yang Pu visual rock / cosplay band sub-scene based out of Left Rock and Live Bar. You could even dress up and hang in that scene's rehearsals if necessary. Finally we have The Other. The Other are an experimental, lo-fi, introspective guitar looping type act with dirty sounding shoe-gazing. There is a big scene for that on the net and the original bands called themselves 'shitgaze'. It's the kind of scene that immediately makes you want to give up everything and do only that. Although some acts on Bandcamp sound a bit polished these days. Not The Other. 

Pic: SH Pride is coming

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I stopped by 390 last night to chat to a couple of people, it's near my house and I was taking a walk to get away from the screen. As well as the advertised event there, Shanghai Pride had a merch table set up. So I made my donation and got a shirt for it.

They have serious commitment to put that on here - and this is the 5th time - sexuality is no big deal and we should support each other. Good luck, Shanghai LGBT community.



gayokshirt

Stego parodies our vid: "Sunny Bono"

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A little while back, our band Astrofuck released our first video "The Funeral." You can see the original here. Now, Shanghai rock band and tricksters Stegosaurus? have done a parody video. No matter if you're not familiar with us or Shanghai in general you can still enjoy this video for Bren's performance as Sonny Bono. If there's some kind of Shanghai music scene comedy award, he should get it for his expression and look directly after he eyeballs the guy passing him coming the opposite direction. 



Pic: Sister Whale live @ 390 Bar

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I've seen a bunch of shows lately and not blogged them. Mainly because they were touring acts from abroad and not really a fit for what I'm doing here. Well, they were all pretty good: Cold Cave, Serpenti and also Wye Oak. 

Opening for Wye Oak at 390 Bar was Sister Whale. Sister Whale is a Shanghainese musician who has an interesting mix of styles somewhere between folk, older art rock and psychedelic. Lets go with lo-fi psychedelia. She hasn't been playing and it was good to see her - appearing with Next Year's Love keyboardist Super Sophia. Bunch of stuff at the page link, check it out.

One gripe about the 390 show: I dunno if I've ever been at a show of that style of music where so many of the audience were talk-shouting and fucking it up. 


390med

Zhu Lu He Feng still doing the campus tours

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campus tour 6
Shanghai label, or rather artist management company, Zhu Lu He Feng are not only still going but are launching into Round 6 of their Shanghai university campus tour. 

Here's a post from a couple of years back detailing round two

Here's some other quick links:


When ZLHF started this, it was groundbreaking. While action often used to happen in the vicinity of university grounds, independent student life type stuff inside was still almost off-limits. Now they are into the fifth year of running this. Also, some colleges like Jiao Da even have self-proclaimed Jiao Da bands and a mini scene. 

A quick look at the flyer shows some weekend regulars like Banana Monkey, Plastic Chocolate and Joker, although regular may not be the word. There's a few ZLHF stable bands too, who you don't see playing big shows that often, presumably because of management control and all those other issues that will not be mentioned here. 

Final point: campus shows can be done. Even on a smaller scale. English speaking bands may want to contact Shanghai band Stegosaurus? and, I think, Pairs, who have been to campuses themselves. 

Overwork deaths, also ad agencies et al

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li-yuan-weibo-thumb
Pic and my source Shanghaiist here's the original article - 600 000 overwork deaths a year here

Everyone is talking about Li Yuan, the 24 year old ad agency employee who died of heart failure / overwork stress. This happens a lot more than you'd think. Tragedy. 

However, it makes me think of how what used to be thought of as basic working rights are routinely dismissed even by rich companies who think of themselves as creative or progressive. In a passionate online discussion among us Shanghai folk, many insightful things were said, by people inside the industry too.

I want to reprint this from Mike H. of Shanghai rockers Hello Money:

It's an incredibly toxic and delusional culture. Most offices have a touch of delusion to them, of course, but the advertising industry seems to have fooled itself into thinking it's a global creative force and needs to be taken seriously artistically. That's how they have developed the overtime culture I*** ****** describes - the reasoning is essentially that one shouldn't watch the clock when creating art.

In reality it's literally the EXACT opposite of art: content created SPECIFICALLY to sell things (not even their own things! Other people's things!) with all artistic merit compromised.

Now, a lot of people outside the advertising industry do this kind of thing, we've all gotta make a dollar/RMB here and there, and there's no shame in it, but what makes advertising so pungently repulsive is that not only do they deny the extent to which they are sell-outs - they argue that they are a global creative force. It's possibly the most delusional group of people I've ever seen.

Local blog: Small Oranges

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jiujianpro
Note: the blog and articles linked are in Mandarin language, well written and poetic Mandarin with pop-culture references too i.e. a bit beyond Google translate etc.

Click pic for slightly larger, un-fuzzy version.

Small Oranges is a locally run blog that includes many music reviews: including a lot of Shanghai live shows. So if you want to get an insight or another voice, and you have a semi-decent grasp of the language, here's the place for you. It is written by 'Jiu Jian' (九间) who is highly regarded on Douban too. 

First some links then some disclaimers:



Now. Couple of issues to beware of. The blog has a wide range of topics away from music, itself not a bad thing, but coupled with a bad theme and horrible navigation it makes it hard to get around. The front page has no direct links to categories or tags - which themselves are confused throughout - or an archive. Live Music is a major category, but does not appear on the tabs at the bottom. Also, many pages are dead ends.

The thing to watch for is the next page navigation. If you look at the footer, there will be arrows of sorts ">>" at the right end. That is what you use to advance the page displayed. So if you click into my link for the live reviews category, itself a category within a category, hence it not appearing anywhere, you use those arrows to get to page two and so on. 

Once you get the hang of it, there's loads of good stuff in there. The movie reviews are insightful too, if that's your sort of thing.

Live Beijing Music does Shanghai

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dingma sh cover
Pic: from the now classic open gallery of mock up Top Floor Circus Shanghai themed album covers

Live Beijing Music is an excellent blog documenting stuff in the Beijing music scene. And the blog has provided us with a first. That is, someone immersed in the Beijing scene came down to Shanghai for the weekend and totally picked up on all that is amazing here. Especially how great Yuyintang is. 

Some of the points he makes about Shanghai incidentally taught me stuff about Beijing too: some vendors and restaurants won't take bills with unlucky numbers?  For real?

Anyway, LBM put up four posts, with pics and videos galore. There's an overview, two YYT nights and record store day at Uptown.

Friday 24th show: Fuck Cancer, Fuck City Weekend

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fuckcw
There will be a special charity show at Harley's Bar in Xu Jia Hui on Friday May 24th ... called Fuck Cancer Fuck City Weekend.

Here is the show's Tumblr with all the details.

Yes, City Weekend Magazine. It all started with Mike Herd's speech that I talked about a little here. Now it's a small stand for sanity and integrity. Standing up for yourself is important, I wrote about this in detail recently here.

Before you dismiss it as juvenile or sensationalist, the points on their manifesto are very clear and relevant to all the nonsense that goes on with the ad agencies and PR companies too. The main points are: Misappropriation of the music scene - using the scene to lend an air of knowledge or cool or whatever to themselves, that sounds familiar. No journalistic integrity A.K.A. corporate sycophancy - putting brands and revenues above the understood values of writing and reporting while passing it off as honest. Shallow engagement with their subject material bordering on willful ignorance - another one that can be attributed to the ad people who have no actual interest in the ideas and values of artists and musicians, or the world they live in ... while constantly bleating the opposite. Refusal to address feedback from their readership - except with passive-aggressive attacks or flak, of course. 

Whether it be this specific example, concerns with ad agencies like Virtue / Vice, W+K et al or with direct issues on the scene like B.O.s Midi piece. The point is that we don't have to bow to ridiculous concepts like it being 'bad form' to not accept this BS for fear of hurting their feelings. It is bad form to call out or challenge people down the hierarchy, that's bullying and dangerous ground. But calling out people with power is a duty. Especially when they are taking the piss out of you.

Pics from our Friday show

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On Friday we (Astrofuck) played Yuyintang with Italian touring band Serpenti and local punks Friend or Foe. It was good show all round. As a result we have live recordings of previously unavailable tracks. Also, Rachel Gouk was on hand to take some pics. They came out great too. 

Here is a gallery of the pics. You can go here to listen to our latest track Five Kuai Bullet. And here is Rachel's blog with all her relevant links.


kaine yyt may

Self Party semi-active again

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Miniless 2009 showcase flyer
When now-famous Han Han, of Duck Fight Goose, first came to Shanghai he brought his Miniless collective. This was a loose group of mainly out of town bands who all played experimental and post-punk music. Han Han organised recordings, promoted shows and made art and merch. 

So, before I go on, here's the band Self Party's page to use as your reference.

As good as all the acts were - and all of them produced great albums during that time - the surprise breakout act was Self Party.

Self Party were originally called Monkey Power and their two albums are under that name. They are a duo who use a mixture of electronic and live instruments. They mixed post-punk ideas with heavy noise and feedback, capped with electronic drums and samples. All the local fans who came to Miniless shows seemed to go crazy for them at the time. Looking back, they first cropped up on this blog in early-mid-2008, but the famous shows (flyer pictured) are all from summer 2009 - after which they abruptly stopped. 

Lately though, they have been re-tooling their Douban site and uploading demos and videos. It's a good time to revisit, there's a lot of material there and lets hope they come back to Shanghai soon.

I want to throw this in here too, while we're in that area: I think that San San, who most people know as the bassist / co-writer of Duck Fight Goose, may be the most accomplished musician on the Shanghai scene. She has driven three bands in the past ten years here - 33 Island, Boojii and Duck Fight Goose. Every one of them has been excellent and ended up being signed and putting out a great album.

33 Island Looking For The King (Modern Sky) here
Boojii Reserved (Modern Sky) here
Duck Fight Goose Sports (Maybe Mars) here

Video: Xiaoxin Yiyi "Petrol"

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Here's a video of Shanghai punk band Xiaoxin Yiyi, led by the irrepressible Mike Herd, playing their track Petrol at the Your Songs Your Show event. The show is a special regular event that urges song writers to try original material, even in a scene where original material is playing at multiple venues almost daily and there's no stigma about it. That's how enthusiastic Max is. 

Never mind my ribbing, watch the video and you'll see it's a quality set up. Video shot by Rachel Gouk. Mike's Wuhan Prison tee by fuck you, you're not as punk as the Wuhan Prison.



Video: FaF at the Strawberry Festival

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Here's a vid of Shanghainese band Forget and Forgive playing their super hit Escape at the Strawberry Festival. As usual they get jumping, dancing and everyone singing the chorus. If Emo is for you, check them out.



Video: Before The Daylight at BJ Midi

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Shanghai metal / post-hardcore band Before The Daylight have been a staple of the Playful Warrior shows for a bit now, since the summer of 2011. Their singer Molly has the metal / tattoo model look, a passion for the style and a good gargling scream. They recently went on a break and changed the line-up around, hoping to focus more on the hardcore parts and less on the melo-death stylings. 

Their first two shows back were the two Midi Festivals - Shanghai and Beijing. This clip appears to be most of their set from the BJ show. 



Friday: we (Astrofuck) play with Serpenti at YYT

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serpenti flyer
OK, here comes the self-promotion. 

This Friday (10th may) Yuyintang will host touring Italian electro rockers Serpenti. That plus Friend or Foe should already be enough to get you in the door. But we, Astrofuck, are playing too.

We're going on first at 9.30, traditionally a bit earlier than people actually show up in significant numbers but - this is the appeal to get on down for us too.

At all of our previous three shows at YYT we've had many people tell us that they like the band and the style and it's been good fun all round. So if you are one of those people who like our stuff then come on down early to see us. Thanks.

We're going to open with a brand new song "Five Kuai Bullet" that we road tested at 390 Bar at the Sunday Drive-in night, if things go well you may get "Dog Fuckers' Manual" too. I can't promise that one though. 

Anyway, 9.30 is a normal time to be at a weekend show. It's not really 'early.' And we're the first band, not someone unknown or whatever:

Our brand new video from Redscale Studios vimeo youku youtube

Finally, we like our songs and are not at all nonchalant about ourselves or whether people show up, despite how we appear. If you show up, we'll be genuinely happy. 

Shanghai Strawberry Music Festival 2013 (Day 3)

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straw 2013
I have to start by saying that in my 23 and a bit years of watching live music, in any particular country, I've never liked festivals. On top of that, the China festival scene's famous shortcomings have made them a nightmare no-go zone for me for most of the time I've been here. But then, in Strawberry Shanghai 2013, all the elements needed to placate me fell in to place and along I went.

The Expo Park site was nice and just the right size, there was little or no obnoxious c**tish behaviour, the weather was great and the bands I wanted to check out all put in a good turn. The entrance / exit was efficient and well organized, there were plenty of water and drinks stands everywhere. Even the toilets were not that bad and constantly maintained. The atmosphere was good and I met bunches of people. The only slightly confusing brand-issue thing was a small stage called 'The School of Rock Stage' that was clearly the least 'rock' of the stages, excluding the electronic stage of course.

I saw Hedgehog at the main stage. I managed to get right up to the front in the hardcore fans pogo section while the band played all the hits. Got a couple of minor beer showers and photobombed a friend accidentally via the mega-screen. It was great. The real surprise though was The Gar. They played the Love Stage, housed in a converted factory building. At first I felt it was a slightly larger scale version of a typical YYT gig and all that, but they really got going and played energetic and tight. The audience grew and grew and the band moved from hypnotic indie tracks to dynamic extended jams and then by the time they kicked out Two Mothers everyone down on the floor was going for it ... and then, as the crowd were screaming for more and the guitar was keeping the noise alive, feeding back in anticipation ... a staff member came out and reminded them to get off and keep the schedule tight. The Love Stage slots were only about 20 minutes each too. And so, possibly the best band of the day left with a salute to the crowd who were ready for much more. Pity.

Gripes? I dunno, it was good all round to be honest. You couldn't have imagined it existing in that form even 5 years ago here. Second Hand Rose were a big deal, second to last on the main stage. They were polished and professional but reminded me of old AOR bands. A bit meh, I thought. In fact I went wandering around the site after half their set, taking in the evening by the river near the electronic stage. Did the sound cut out for Lenka? Yup it did, but I was watching The Gar at that time. Was there not that much beer around, yeah. But it was there, and people weren't assholes in general, win for me. The biggest gripe for people like me is always the same, and is not really to do with the festival. There were ship loads, Titanic loads of fans there, loads of them, everyone you've ever seen on Douban plus thousands more - all loving the bands, clearing knowing who the local acts were too, and all dressed in style and part of the sub-culture. And yet, the Gar could still play YYT or Mao and if not heavily pushed, get less than 200 in. I'm sure there are various explainable circumstances but could we get, say, 60 more per gig in? And two or three more dedicated local bands. That would be awesome, thanks. 

Spot the Andy, it's not hard.

photobomb

SF1 grass

Vid: Astrofuck "The Funeral"

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Note: if you can't see the embedded Vimeo player (best quality) try these: Youtube Youku (China)

VJ Tina Sprinkles and Redscale Studios have made us a video for our dreamy, abstract track, The Funeral. It just happens that wandering around Shanghai actually feels like this at times.



Astrofuck "The Funeral" from Redscale Studios on Vimeo.

Youtube: FaF live at Mao Livehouse Shanghai

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I usually don't post Youtube on here too much on account of it still being officially blocked over here. But, scouring about, I found a few Forget and Forgive videos. This one is from last year when they opened for someone or other at Mao. 

It gives you a good idea of the scale and style of Mao Livehouse in Shanghai. Also, around the 5 minute mark, the band start their second track and the crowd warms up a bit, starts moving and it's pretty good. There's a brave crowd surfer. You notice too that this band and crowd is pretty much ex-pat free, take from that what you will. 



Demos and bits: XXYY and Forsaken Autumn

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forsakenmao
Update: G pointed out to me that the feed page for the band pages in still there even if the link doesn't show up at your home page, it's site.douban.com

I have to admit to being slack at posting up new demos from local bands lately. It's partially due to Douban dropping the 小站 feed, in my defense.

Well, after almost calling it a day, dream pop / 'slowcore' band Forsaken Autumn (pictured) have got a new track called Wallow. As you will notice when the vocals kick in, they have this style down.

Douban page (scroll down for mp3 player)

Next up are ex-pat warriors Xiao Xin Yi Yi who have all the credentials to be thought of as truly local on the scene. Guitarist-singer Mike Herd flexes his garage and punk muscles in this outfit and has great lyrics to boot. These demos were live recorded at Your Songs Your Show but the sound is amazing. The blown out fuzz guitar chords sound especially great. Check out Petrol.

Youtube: Subs in 2008 blast from the past

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Here is Aric's video from the legendary best show ever in Shanghai, when The Subs played at Windows Tembo in 2008. Tembo was such a runaway success as a music venue that they immediately moved to a bigger location, Windows Underground, then the boss came down to see it directly for the first time and complained that 'no one wanted to see Chinese playing rock, westerners do it better' and it came crashing to a halt. The boss is Chinese, by the way.

The video is shitty, constantly going out of focus. The sound is tinny, like a tin can, and doesn't capture what it was like ... and the interview part at the end is so trite. Also, you can't see how insanely packed it was, included a balcony, until at the end of the song you get a brief glimpse of the hands and jumping. 

But it's fine, check it out.



Festivals behaving badly, again

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love stage car
Pic: one of the two cars on stage at the 2010 Strawberry Festival, along with some VIPs and one of many photographers

Festivals are coming around and we have the first story of the season.


The basic gist is that bookings were all over the place, including a complete schedule of three days going public before half the artists had even been contacted about it. It also involved many DJs feeling completely disrespected after working with Midi before and going ballistic about it on social media. However, what's interesting to me is that intrepid reporter Brian Offenther (DJ BO) decided to write it all up professionally for SH247. That's the link up there. This involved SH247, a future ticketing and promotions partner of Midi. Then things got heated, but after BO fought to have it put online, the Midi people came down and sorted things out, prompting much love online for said fearless reporter. Result.

It's interesting in that, this is far from the first time stuff has happened on the festival scene that involved disregard for the performers. But it is the first time proper action was taken to resolve it, because there was clearly a threat to sales and promotions - before the show.

Some of the more famous incidents that bands have gone public about in their dismay include Zhang Shouwang on the 2010 Strawberry Festival. The Love Stage was largely taken up by two show cars and a VIP tent. When he tried to go back stage he was told it was VIPs only. When he said he was in the band, showed his card and explained he just wanted some water, he was told that he wasn't a VIP - that was sponsors only - and that water was only free to VIPs. Major sponsors abound, show cars on stage, crane cameras flying around and VIP camps, and yet when Helen Feng jumped down off the stage and busted her knee that very same stage and festival, there was no staff help or facilities at all. They simply said that they couldn't help and walked off, leaving her to be carried out and hitch hike back to town with fans. 

That same year, Helen wrote online about how they were often contacted many times about the same slot at the Midi Festival and it all tracked back to the Midi boss, who's name you can find easily. Midi got several bookers to compete with each other for bookings as some odd way to drive down the bands' fee without taking direct blame for it. Needless to say it barely makes sense, collapsed as an idea and ended up simply exposing the fact that the Midi organisers sat around brainstorming ways to pay the bands less. 

As for the Shanghai Midi electronic stage, but it ran so well last time when the Antidote crew organised it, I hear you say. Yes, I wonder what happened there? I promised someone involved not to write the details at the time but ask around for the gist, and bring the sick bag.

What are we to take from all this? The whys and wheres of the festival scene here are many and mysterious. We can take this, that if you stay strong and speak out about stuff, it can make a difference, if it looks like it may effect the 'brand' or sales. An earlier incident at the Shanghai venue On-Stage made me think too. An incident happened but one of the four bands refused to let anything go public because they feared souring relationships. Like it's bad form to complain when someone punches you because you may embarrass the attacker and make it hard for them to keep punching people.

Pic: our show on Sunday

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Photo by Rachel Gouk

Thanks for everyone who came to 390 Bar on Sunday. It was fun to see Nerdcore Rising in a theatre style way, not at home on a small screen by yourself. Elsa translated and created those sub-titles, by the way. We also debuted our new song Five Kuai Bullet. All in all it was a nice way to finish out a busy weekend.

Click for larger


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The Complex Relationship @ Yuyintang

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Pic: Second vocalist Taozi performing at an earlier Yuyintang show

The Complex Relationship of the show's title refers to the three main bands who put the show on and the band members they share. It also had a late appearance from an out of hiatus Joker. Another band, Surging Waves, were billed but I never caught them. 

Marquee 7 (Weibo link only no demos)

Xiao Bao sings for Tinderbox and also plays guitar for Second. Xiao Zhu plays bass in Second and also in Marquee 7. Tinderbox bassist KK was in Bang Bang Tang previously and is now in ... and so on. Given my previous post, I guess it's only right that I went along to support these bands who are hanging in there by any means necessary.

I might as well throw this out there now, it's become especially sharp to me since I've been playing there myself. YYT has great equipment and there are 4 or 5 people who may be doing sound on a given night. And there are two distinct levels of quality within that. That's all I'm going to say. 

The bands gave it their all and it was a fun night with a good turn out. Honours definitely went to Second. Everything clicked for them, they played tight, sounded loud enough and put in a decent performance. They even played a track I recognised from the old 2009 line up. 

Slinkrat: Marquee 7 chat / sadness

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Pic: Xiao Zhu playing with Second at Mao Livehouse Shanghai in 2009

This post is going to come across as an old person whining. So before that: I'm basically reposting a mini-interview with the singer from Shanghai rock band Marquee 7 over at the Slinkrat blog:


One part of the interview really got me thinking. I saw Marquee 7 playing their first open mic show in YYT and singer Sharon is good, and yet she mentions the first six months of trying to get a band being so hard she almost fucked it all off. But she also mentioned that bassist Xiao Zhu nearly gave up and sold her bass at one point recently.

It's brought something about the scene into relief for me. Xiao Zhu has been a local music  community mainstay since 2008 and I first saw her playing in the original Second (重结晶 zhong jie jing) line up in early 2009. Pertinent to my upcoming point is that they first played at the Rock 0093 showcase night, Number 8, February 2009 to be exact. The idea that she, or anyone local, would have trouble hooking up a band is troubling to me. 2009 was the year that local bands could get 3-400 ppl into YYT and sometimes even more into the soon to be opened 'old' Mao and that the YYT and 0093 Douban groups were a swirling centre of activity. 0093 had enough bands through their doors to throw out 6-8 at every showcase of which half would go on to self-organise and play regular shows. 

It seems to be clearer than ever that the effects of the Expo year have still not been fully recovered from. 0093 was forcibly evicted to make way for Expo events' wine storage, I shit you not, and didn't get a decent new location back until over a year later. Top Floor Circus got in trouble with Da' Man. Both these events saw a huge winding down of local band activity for the period of the Expo and even Yuyintang, after a couple of warning raids that saw its sound desk impounded for a while, focused on the Expo international acts and influx of ex-pats for a while. Then a new boom of ex-pat run bands started becoming super active (there was only one or two active ex-pat bands of note for the whole ten years before that) and this has caused an unfortunate displacement of sorts, in a way. Finally, there has been a coincidental exodus to use Weibo that saw the Douban groups die. It has led to less communication and organisation than before - those are the facts. People should definitely admit this to themselves and go back to more Douban use for online organising. Basically the centres of community and organisation that had peaked by mid 2009 all took hits around the same time and are shadows of their former selves when it comes to grassroots local activity.

We can't control the gov stuff, but other points there make you think, and here's a controversial idea which I'm not that sure of myself ... if something is discovered like Live Bar, where there's suddenly regular gigs by student bands practicing at Left Rock, that has sprung up organically, should a bunch of experienced bands and or promoters, of any background, descend on the place, so to speak? I guess what I'm thinking over right now is when is helping actually helping and when is it not - in the context of sustainability. That's just one example.

I know this: buying a ticket and seeing a show as a punter is always helping. So go and see Marquee 7 play.

Come on nerds: nerd-doc and electro punk music

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This Sunday at 390 Bar is our next show. It's free and it features a movie screening of Nerdcore Rising (with Chinese subs too) and then a show by us, Astrofuck. We're going to debut a new song that will eventually be our new opener at the next YYT show in May. 

... and it's free. Tell all your nerd friends.


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Ad-man bullshit in my backyard

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I've been meaning to write something like this ever since I unknowingly paid to be on an ad shoot set run by cunts here:


The reason I've held off is because, painfully, writing this just feeds the ad machine even more. Fuck it.

This is about advertising and where it intersects with more grassroots culture, especially around me. My example, both from that show and in this post, is Vice Magazine and their ad agency Virtue. 

Vice magazine, through their agency Virtue - doublespeak at its finest there - do this: "We help global brands find new ways of communicating with the world's youth. " So lets be clear what VICE Media actually do. They gained a huge audience of young people who shun the mainstream media and cannot be accessed easily by corporate giants via their edgy writing and imagery. Then they created Virtue and said, hey, we got 'em, now we'll take your money and help you to sell to this previously hard to crack bunch. Not only is that disgusting in principle, but they go on to use all the latest underhand methods to do said selling.

This brings us to Noisey and The Creators Project, both of which they operate in China and it was Noisey that was set up in the show that day. They call Noisey their 'music portal' but both those projects are there for the purpose of advertising, no matter how softly, their clients. They are no different in purpose to any pop up on the net or crass ad on TV. In this case the clients are Dell and Intel, at least in China where I have come into contact with them. These are adverts and the people doing the 'projects' are salesman.' That is all. 

Now, there are two main ways of thinking about this and I will present an alternate to my own view, to be rational and fair. And I'm talking about art or songs that were firstly created as an independent work and were later approached for inclusion in an ad. Firstly, you may be of the opinion that mercenary advertising for a client using your art or material cheapens what you do and breaks the trust with your audience - and that the whole sales business is crass and best avoided. But, you may also be of the opinion that it's fine, normal and maybe even a viable new model for the music scene to generate revenue. 

In the first case: you should see the Virtue projects for what they are and shun them completely. Do not put your videos on their site, do not invite them to your shows, do not participate in their events. Fuck them.

In the second case, there is also an issue. If you participate in Noisey you are doing professional advertising work for Intel/Dell and one of the biggest media groups in the world. You should be paid. Not only should you be paid, you should be paid a fair share of the projected revenue of the ad campaign and/or project budget. Don't think for a second that those projections and numbers have not been meticulously worked out prior to said campaign. You need to have access to those figures when you cut your deal and you need legal representation too. If your work is on their site for free or some tiny fee, you are being exploited ruthlessly by terrible people. 

In either scenario, artists need to know their facts, be clear what they are dealing with, and stick up for themselves.

Around the web: current blogroll

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I just wanted to throw out a list of all the sites you can check for China scene news in English at the moment. Ones I use anyway.

I wish I could throw out a comprehensive list of Chinese language expert or insider blogs too, but staggeringly they still don't really exist for music. It's still Douban, BBS stuff and Weibo now or just shallow, intermittent promotional tools. If I'm wrong - mail me the links and I'll throw them up immediately. I mean sites like mine, where someone is independently blogging short articles and news on the scene at a standalone site.

Also, for this, I'm not going to include sites with some good scene stuff but are otherwise 80% bling, like all the mags basically. Missed any - mail me via about page.

Video: Feima @ Yuyintang

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I'm a bit conflicted about putting this out there. Feima were excellent at the Wooozy showcase, all the more so for playing at a venue with decent sound - and this vid comes courtesy of Xiao Zhong with his patented recorded-haphazardly-on-a-piece-of-shit-and-fuck-you-for-being-up-your-own-arse-if-you-cant-take-that style. 

I'm down with that style actually, but in this case the blown out sound quality is at odds with the reason I'm posting it. Anyway, parts of this vid definitely capture frontman Wang Shi Hong's calm  mastery as he switches between indie riffs, noise rock chops, vocal hooks and Chinese post-punk shouts fluidly. Great stuff.



Pics: our show on Saturday

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The Wooozy showcase was great and I want to write something about Feima soon. We had a great time. Here's a couple of pics courtesy of a drunken Paul and also Sun Lu. Thanks guys. Also after reading round some Beijing show reviews and discussions, I wanted to point something out. At Yuyintang, on the Shanghai scene, people come out and they enjoy the show honestly, famous bands or not. Having played some shows lately, I really appreciate it even more than before.


astrofuck wooozy one

astrofuck wooozy aftershow

Re-intro: Tension Music

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Picture: magazine article featuring Da Xifu. Click for larger.

Tension Music is a collective and promoter that represents and champions many of Shanghai's local bands. The name is derived as a sound alike to their Mandarin name 天线音乐 tian xian yinyue which literally translates to antenna.


The group is powered by Wang Tian Tian, a long time stalwart of the scene and one of the two founders of the legendary 0093 rehearsal space and studio. The studio is out in the suburbs. Tian Tian has also always been the guy to make China bands's CDs available, first out of a box in the old rooms and now via Taobao. He also knows his footy.

The page has songs, pics, links and vids from all the bands they currently rep. They include: Frozen Street (冷冻街), Monkey Shines (恶作剧), Forsaken Autumn, Magic Lion (摩术狮), Cosmicake (宇宙蛋糕), Joker, Da Xifu (大囍福乐团), En Route, Tang Trio (唐趣), Guts (格子团) and Prank. 

They also have a shop near 0093 and Taikang Road. The address is: 
黄浦区徐家汇路618号日月光中心B1层C区B1631号,营业时间每天14:00-22:00 - 618 Xujiahui Road, Huangpu District, Ri Yue Guang Centre, Area C, B1 shop B1631, Hours daily 14:00-22:00.

Wooozy showcase on Saturday

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The Jue Festival and Splitworks present the Wooozy local bands showcase on Saturday night at Yuyintang. My band Astrofuck are playing and so I'm plugging it. 

Also, Wooozy.cn 's Jeremy Guo and me have done a podcast at SH247 to preview the night and the bands here it is


wooozyflyersmaller

Our Saturday show and stuff

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Saturday night was the Death To Giants album release show. You can check it out here at bandcamp. The show was great and my band Astrofuck was one of the openers. Can someone on another site or mag review the show, I'm not impartial on this one.

The night before was another release from The Horde.

Show was fun, Ozzie Chris of Hujiahuwei showed me a funny meme of Sponge Bob during the performance of 'Patrick' which cracked me up while I was playing. Mental note, "Chris has ready to hand Sponge Bob pictures on his phone at gigs WTF?"

Pics: us mid-show taken by Qian Jin. Our Logo as designed by Kaine (our singer as seen in first pic)


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astrofuck blue logo

Video: (almost) full set Thee Oh Sees at 390

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Logo'd and branded Youku user 小猪男孩 (Pigboy) has posted this long video showing most of the Thee Oh Sees set from 390. I was there and it was one of the best gigs here ever, top ten for sure, that I've been to. You also have to watch Pigboy's glaring logo the whole time but hey, he did provide us with this video, so thanks.



Death To Giants, Death To Shows!!!

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blood pours out flyer
I'm involved in this show now so use discretion when judging this post

Death To Giants are releasing their first full album Blood Pours Out on Saturday night at Yuyintang. The line up also features Spill Your Guts, iAmalam and Astrofuck.



Now seriously. Death To Giants are a great band and tons of fun live. Scroll down their Douban page for tracks and two videos. Death To Giants playing Yuyintang, the heart of the scene and a near perfect room for underground bands, on a Saturday night has all the trappings of an epic show. But epic shows have to be made ... so get the word out and throw away all the excuses - come to this show and bring people too. If we can break 300 people in YYT, especially with DtG and Spill Your Guts playing, that's insanity and crowd surfing time. Do it. If you're more of a hipster type you could lose your shit by letting an unplanned, un-ironic left-eyebrow-raise slip by, while leaning strategically against the side wall, during the more electro-oriented opening bands - prompting the others in your group to break down into cries of, "oh, SHIT!!!" ... It's all good.

Just come to the show, that's what I'm saying. Thanks.

Astrofuck demos done

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Pictured: Astrofuck's Kaine and HHH

I'm going to stop excusing myself for the self-promotion stuff now. I did mention it all way back here in this post ... but I then did so many regular music posts that I kinda worried it would still look like the old blog but with cheeky Andy things inserted in sneakily. I won't mention it any more, I'll just refer people back to this.

So, the holiday is over and I finished some demos with my band Astrofuck. We recorded them in an evening down at Studio Pony and now they can be found here:


There are five tracks there. They are unmastered versions but it's all good. That's the first time we have had any kind of recording of Love Is Shit, full or instrumental. 

Also around the blogosphere: the Tumblr-verse is gaining a little bit of traction and consistency when it comes to China scene stuff. Between Twin Horizon, China Music Radar, Alternative China and Slink Rat there's quite a bit of material coming out. There's probably more once you get checking in that world. So do it.

Be in a Shanghai scene music video this Saturday

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Photo: Rob Zombie

Shanghai garage / retro rock band Roundeye are shooting footage for a video this Saturday. Frontman Chachy says it's 'Zombie flick' themed, and that it will be fun and there will be beer. 

It will be shot in the dungeons basement rooms that house Juju, Post Tape and Studio Pony. That's under the Huashan Gardens complex at the junction of Huashan Road and Huaihai Road (a bit to the north of Xu Jia Hui.)

They are meeting out at the intersection at 12.30 on Saturday (23rd February). That's 12.30 around lunchtime.

Anyone not confident about just showing up can get more details from Chachy via this e-mail: roundeye (at) outlook (dot) com

Happy New Year: Snake 2013

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Happy New Year everyone. Dragon out, snake in. Posting will resume in ten days or thereabouts.


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Podcasts: Me + comedy and Ho-Tom track too

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hotom hat
Pic: Ho-Tom

Podcasts.

Two podcasts have just come out, one featuring yours truly and then one of general interest to the scene.

I appeared on The Bottle Opener Podcast which is the pod of the Kungfu Komedy guys Will and Andy. We talk about my stuff but in the second half we riff a bit on my band's lyrics and other things and had a right old time. Also, it's very well produced.


Next, you can hear Shanghai based folk act Ho-Tom the Conqueror on the Cheers To All Official Podcast. That one includes an exclusive track from the just about to be released album Consider Yourselves Conquered. It's a good listen.

Video: Twos If You Want To

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Long term local scene veteran Batman Li Xing has a new act which sees him paired with Robin (really) for an adventure in electro-guitar crossover. They are called Twos and I'm not sure how to really describe them. Luckily, they have provided a clear vid for us to check out. Thanks, guys.



We Are Shanghai 2 Live @ Yuyintang

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Pic: Yuyintang Livehouse

Has it really been a year since We Are Shanghai vol. 1 - yes, it has. We Are Shanghai is an underground compilation project. The kind where a scene puts out tracks from all the bands. 

Here's Vol 2:

Of course, there are way more bands in the scene than are on the comp, that's just maths. Also, there's more acts with ex-pat members than not. But I want to say something about that. As organizer Ivan points out in this interview the call to be on the CD was open and to everyone. The presence of local scene overlords Top Floor Circus on Vol 1 and metal scene organizers Chaos Mind on Vol 2 clearly proves that the call went out deep into the local scene, that people knew about it and that it was answered. 

This Friday was the release show:

Hello Money

First the bands, and then the "50 000 RMB CW Incident" ... oh yes.

Still around / We Are Shanghai

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Lately I've been busy with my own music stuff to the point of not having time or concentration for writing here. Which is probably a good thing. The world didn't end, so why not.

I'll still be posting here though. One weird thing: during not posting for two or three weeks I get two offers to accept pre-written posts praising various clients' products and interests in return for pretty good money. Of course, none of these would say they are PR material. And of course, I declined. The reason I'm mentioning it at all is cos it made me remember how common it is and that maybe some people take for granted that it's everywhere. Well, it doesn't happen here. And PR/Advertising which is not clearly labelled as such is still immoral. 

Tonight I'm going to the launch show in support of We Are Shanghai vol.2 which you can get here. So that's where I'll be if you want to find me and take me up on the previous remark and talk about how your band, is like, totally PR driven and proud.


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Pic: bands we don't know nonchalantly fill Mao

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While here at Kungfuology towers we wax lyrical over arty bands and lo-fi indie, Beijing band Escape Plan, supported by Shanghai's Tinderbox, were playing to a full house at SH Mao Live - with only the same tools that are available to all of us in the China scene. Probably deserves a mention. 

First pic is Escape Plan, second Tinderbox.

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Alpine Decline live @ 390 Bar

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Friday night and off to 390 Bar to see a night of duos playing like it was raining reverb. The line up:


The singer/songwriter from Hua Jiao recently moved from Xi'an to Shanghai and is building the band up from scratch. He plays as a duo with drummer Du Juan and they use loops, echo and reverb to fill out a distinctly China post-punk sound. Hua Jiao are tipped for future greatness by local musicians who know them.

Twos (2's) is the new electronica project from long time scene guitarist JMF Lee (Li Xing). Together with bandmate Robin, Batman's Jay's guitar takes a backseat to the layered electronic sample mashing. They had a lot of equipment on the small stage space. The overall sound is polished and upbeat but they still manage avoid the conventions of commercial pop and utilize the early synth tones that are popular again today. The track If You Want To on the page is a good representation.

Alpine Decline formed in L.A. and then relocated to Beijing last year. Their music has always been a good fit for the post-punk / DIY scene here. They are a guitar / drums duo who use some synth backing and a lot of reverb soaked lingering chords. But the bands real strength is their sense of songwriting. Great vocal lines, lyrical turns and tight structures move them away from curious art-rock experimentation and into indie-underground greatness. They have just released a full length album called Night of the Long Knives. It is produced by China legend Yang Haisong and should prove to be a vital part of the scene here. Stream the band's previous work on their site here.

Top Floor Circus are still alive (Xmas show)

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As if to answer the lingering questions about where Shanghai's most popular draws have buggered off to, Top Floor Circus and post-pop fan faves Sonnet have called their next show WTF! We're still alive! Of course, they're joking about the Mayan thing.

The TFC xmas show is a tradition and last time around they made a special movie to promote it and then filled Mao Livehouse. This time they have chosen 696 Livehouse. 696 has just moved to a new location ... and I hope it's bigger than their last place.

Saturday 22nd December
Full line up: TFC, Sonnet, Paper Tiger, Yin
696 new address: 虹口区 四川北路1727弄11-8 (四川北路巴黎春天对面沿河步行街内,3号线东宝兴路站2号出口左转掉头,右转沿河走50米。) 


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Last weekend ... all sorts

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Thumbnail image for by Wee Ling
Last weekend was eventful but extremely fragmented for me as I skipped between shows, late shifts at work, early mornings ... and beer showers, tired out of my mind the whole time.

Instead of full reviews I'll have to piece some stuff together ...

... I saw Gou Shen at 390 Bar. They are the new incarnation of Androsace following the old guitar-bass combo leaving. Smoothly played grunge rock has been replaced by a mix of hardcore punk and Sabbath style 70s metal. Providing this are the new guitar-bass combo - Lao B and Mian Mian from Bi Gong Bi Jing ...

... went to Brad Ferguson's leaving show on Saturday at YYT. Noted that Battle Cattle now have Fabi on drums and have levelled-up their ambition, equipment and professionalism. They have 80's guitar post-punk, a touch of modern production and perfect new-wave sounding vocals ...

... and birthday boy Ho-Tom the Conqueror gave me and Newby a beer shower ...

... was talking to some Jiao Da students down 0093 on the Friday daytime, seems like there are more and more bands down there now at the university's Minhang campus. Also I should point out that loads of newer and younger bands play Live Bar and 696 these days but I rarely go there, so someone will have to write about that ...

... also noticed 21 Grams rehearsing there and saw that girl rock band Second have reformed after a long break around original bassist Xiao Zhu and drummer SEI. 

(ruling) Video: Anyone can learn to count in Chinese

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All previous attempts to make so-called "laowai" videos or funny takes on life in Shanghai can but cry on their knees as this video beats them down, eviscerates them then relieves itself on their still warm corpses.

And the winner is ... Death To Giants



New demo from The Fallacy

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The Fallacy (疯医) are a Chinese post-punk band from Henan. We've had them on the blog a few times before and helped to bring them to Shanghai once upon a time.

Go to their page here and check out their new demo The Balcony.


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Video: Tinderbox, Shanghai pop

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Shanghai four piece Tinderbox (听盒) , formerly Biu Biu, play straight saccharine pop with no irony. However, the band members all came up through the independent scene in various bands and write and play everything themselves. They are honest. Longer term followers of the scene will know bassist KK from Bang Bang Tang.

Here is their latest vid.



Brad, this is not the end?

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Brad Ferguson has been active on the Shanghai scene for ten years. Now, Brad and Da Men, the accomplished drummer of Duck Fight Goose, will move to the States for a life of married bliss. A show is booked at YYT, it will feature a can't miss Duck Fight Goose show and also a Boys Climbing Ropes re-union of sorts (with G filling in for Jordan.) 

Here's the event page and here's the flyer:

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Photo: F.A.F. triumphant EP release show

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It is important to remember that the shows I go to or blog are not the only shows and the success of some does not diminish the success of others. For me though, it is always satisfying when something you choose to follow through on works out. The F.A.F. show was a highlight and it also gave perspective. The scene is still underground, we are still up against it when it comes to 'da man' and there is still no proper framework or industry to aim for.

Success, for many bands here is when everyone fights and works hard for two or three years to get to the point where we can fill a 200-300 people venue with real fans of a local band and spend a night enjoying a 'real' packed out and emotional rock show. The recently emerged festival silly seasons and the relative success of some international touring acts have not changed that basic reality for young local bands who live here.

click photo for large size

 
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F.A.F. EP release @ Yuyintang

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The photo is from an earlier show but I'm sure an awesome gallery of tonight's emotional gig is coming soon.

Visitors, ex-pats and some bands often ask where all the younger local fans are ... and the answer has always been the same, at the shows that they like. The thing is, that the more popular Shanghai bands have been in a lull.

But that run came to an end tonight at YYT when high energy emo group Forget and Forgive came back for their EP release.


The show had all the hallmarks of the legendary 2009 Mushrooms show. It was packed out with younger Shanghainese fans who sang every word of all the songs and created energetic yet responsible pogo pits for the favourite songs. Sang-hei-nin pride was a big feature of all three band's banter tonight. Back to the pogo. I lost my phone during 'Parasite' but got all three pieces back shortly after, thanks guys. It still works. 

When the set was about to start I noticed that instead of a single keyboard, 小基 had a more sophisticated set up of midi equipment. The intro electronic music was really well produced and layered ... then the band came out and I realized they'd kinda physically grown up too. As their hard won fans went crazy for them and they went into the first tight emo-metal overture I saw a band that has taken big steps since their last round of gigs. It ended up being an emotional night that finished with one of those sitting down with back to the crowd commemorative photos. 

As with all genre bands, some will be dismissive if they are simply not fans of polished emo, and that's normal. But, this was a landmark gig by a developed local act and the kind of Yuyintang night that has been too sparse of late. So anyway, congratulations guys: you earned that one.

The only thing missing was fellow blog scribe / partner in local emo shows Jake Newby. 

Chui Wan, DFG, Psychic Ills @ YYT

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Wednesday night in Yuyintang and psychedelic stylings all round.


This show had buzz and it was already filling up when I arrived not that long after doors opening time. Also, despite already having the best sound in town for a rock venue, YYT had upgraded their equipment again.

Talking of sound, DFG sounded as clear as they ever have live. The show was amazing. We had all the sounds and layers of the band's eclectic composition together with the immediacy and passion of a live show. The closer, History, sent chills down my spine. Next stop Berlin for a festival appearance.

Chui Wan are a neo-psychedelia band with a different twist. Mixed with the usual tropes of the style are heavy Beijing scene influences. The band put on a good show and surprised the crowd by breaking up the slow instrumentals with vocal-led energetic songs and bright, reverb drenched guitars. Their album is out too, called White Nights. 

New York band Psychic Ills closed out the night. As opposed to the bright layering of the first two acts, they opened with hypnotic drones and riffs, another side of psychedelia. A great show all round. 

Bad Taste Show @ 390 Bar

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bad taste 390
On Friday 9th I went to 390 Bar for the 'Bad Taste Show.' The line up:


There was a student band added at the last minute, who also brought along their friends and family. I think the idea was for them to go on early, right up top but due to set-up problems and having an extra band they basically made the show more than an hour late, longer if you count the start as being from when the first of the main bands started. Nice kids though.

Himdong were originally from out of town and their page features full band pics and electronic demos. The guitarist/singer/driver force has now moved to Shanghai. On the night, he played with a drummer as a duo and gave us a set of China post-punk.

Feima got early fame as a video of them playing 696 Livehouse got passed about a lot and they became known as a Carsick Cars cover band. This time they mixed a couple of CSC covers with some original material, I think. They are a promising band and remind me of the whole Gen 6 thing in Beijing. I mean, younger local players who are influenced by other Chinese bands. Both these acts should be around for a while.

Kaobang still have the same four demos and vids on their page but they have come far since then. They play indie pop music with dance beats and guitar lines both. The vocalist, Minirine, led them through a lengthy set that had their fans dancing. They have plenty of newer songs and I can't think of any other bands like them in Shanghai, if alternative dance is your thing.

Video: Pairs "Surgeon"

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Hot off their delayed release Grandparent, Pairs have put out their double vinyl If this cockroach doesn't die, I will. Here is the video for the song "A surgeon at a hospital in Shanghai severed a nerve in my groin." It starts with Xiao Zhong in bed and ends with a show at Shanghai's Live Bar.

Get the album here at Bandcamp



Video: Pairs Hotel MV

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Here is another one of the Redscale Studios videos from the Pairs album Grandparent. This one is for the track Hotel, which is my favourite on the album and a noise-punk anthem.



Skip Skip Ben Ben live @ 390 Bar

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banbanblur
Skip Skip Ben Ben is the latest project of Taipei native and Beijing based Ban Ban, formerly of the ass-kicking shoe gaze band Boyz and Girl.

Quick point. In a recent post I mentioned them having a new album out. It's done and tracks are available but whole thing is not available to buy until the end of next month. 

Recently opened 390 Bar brought the band to Shanghai for a show and I was there to check it out. The band play an interesting mix of garage rock, Chinese post-punk, dreamy shoegaze vocals ... and what I'm going to call lofi psychedelia. 

There wasn't an opening act and the band led off with the track Last Light, which you can hear at the Douban page. Ban Ban's guitar sounded great, as usual. She manages to use dirty fuzz and reverb, filling out the sound, but at the same time picking out clear and clean lines. The only complaint was the vocals being a bit quiet, due to a busted speaker, but they got a great loud sound in the smaller bar. Having seen them before and being familiar with the songs, I think my brain must have been filling the vocals in a bit too. Anyway, see this band if you get the chance they are one of the current highlights of the China scene. 

Pairs MV Gig of the Week

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Pairs worked together with Redscale Studios to create a video for each of the tracks on the new album Grandparent. You can get the album and all the videos on a custom USB key/card from the band. I got one, it's ace. And you don't get the slight quality loss you get from Chinese vid sites like Youku. 

I may be biased, and I like noise punk and lofi, but I think the following video would be cool and would rule on any particular music site you care to mention globally. Before you disagree, remember that those sites love Karmin and Sleigh Bells.  

Here's track one: Gig of the Week



Pairs new release Grandparent

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pairs grandparent
Popular Shanghai noise/punk duo Pairs have a new release out. It's called Grandparent, it's their third and you can download it for free from one of these two sources:


It was recorded a while back now, with engineer/producer Manny Nieto. In fact, it has taken so long to emerge that the band have since written, toured and recorded another album: which should also be out soon. I've heard a track of the next one, it will be the best yet.

I'm really happy to hear this one. I had a good laugh with Xiao Zhong on his vidcast about the track New Blowjob and I think Hotel is on a par with the first album favorites too. Check it out and spread it around.

Pinkberry officially announce return

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pinkberry at mao livehouse
Ambitious Shanghai pop-punk group Pinkberry were filling local venues at Zhu Lu He Feng events, playing festivals and university tours ... and then, they were suddenly gone. Their hiatus started exactly when label Zhu Lu He Feng had their own troubles.

Check the band's debut EP Go! Boom! at their page here

And now, the band have released their first public statement in exactly one year. It announces, among other things, that they have finished recording an as-yet-unnamed new album, have found a new drummer - and will play a comeback show on the 20th at Zher Bar.

Here is the full post (Chinese language)
Here is the event page for the comeback show

Video: Banana Monkey Double Trouble MV

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Shanghai retro-rockers Banana Monkey have been on and off since their 2006 heyday when they momentarily ruled the scene. One of their oldYYT shows was a real highlight of my time here. Now they are on again and have posted up a video for the track Double Trouble. The song is old but the vid is new and cut from a YYT performance. Check it out.



Duck Fight Goose L.A. Fender sessions

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Duck Fight Goose went to the SXSW festival earlier this year. Part of that trip was a session out in Los Angeles at Fender's studios. The videos from those sessions are up on Youtube now. Below is "Beacon." You can find the others here at the Fender blog.



Naohai debut EP out

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naocover
Shanghai indie band Naohai have completed their debut EP, the self-titled Naohai.

Originally describing themselves as a 交大乐队, a Jiaotong University group, they started to appear on bills at Yuyintang last year and branch out a bit. Now they have their first recording which was done at Post Tape Studios and is a Miniless release.


Douban / Mandarin savvy readers can use those links to get the album. Two tracks are streamed at the band page for those who can't. 

What we really want to do, of course, is support local acts. So we can get along to the release show and buy a ticket. 


And here's the track listing for the EP:

1.virgin killer/维京杀手
2.outsider/以外
3.doll/玩偶
4.vegeta/贝吉塔
5.undercurrents/暗涌
6.fogdog/仏岛

Skip Skip Ben Ben album and Shanghai show

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ssbb390
Beijing based indie band Skip Skip Ben Ben are the current project of long time Taipei / Beijing scene fixture 'Ban Ban.'

They play dirty sounding China scene indie mixed with Ban Ban's signature shoegaze/dreamy vocals. And they rock live. Now they have a new album out and are coming to Shanghai to play a show.

The album is called Sacrifice Mountain Hills. Go to the Douban page here:


... now scroll down past the show flyers and you'll see an MP3 player with two tracks from the new album. They are Sand and Last Light. These will be familiar to anyone who saw the YYT show. The production captures their style and feel perfectly. 

The show will be on Saturday October 20th at 390 Bar. Here is the event page. See you there.

Streets Kill Strange Animals album on Modern Sky

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sksm album
Update: go to the band Douban page and scroll down, Insomniacs Song (Album version) is the 4th track down.

Not too long after I saw Beijing's Streets Kill Strange Animals on tour at Yuyintang, I received their new album through the mail. I got it through the label (Modern Sky) Taobao page. Before I go on, here's all the links up front ... except none of them have the whole album for listening to.


Talking of Modern Sky, Streets Kill Strange Animals are not added in on their Douban page and nor is the album. The album also does not appear the dot com site either. The most recent offering there is the Good Luck Good Bye album from 2011 ... and next to nothing has been heard from that band since. Shame.

On to the album. It's called Plan B: back to the analogue age and it's awesome. It is the China scene post punk style that got going with P.K. 14. For me, every song echoes both the scene and the urban existence here. The lyrics are more symbolic and surreal than their counterparts though. The opening intro track repeats, "If I was the last dinosaur, I wouldn't tell you where I was, because I just want to live freely." (My on the fly translation) The track that really brings together the musical style, lyrics and Yang Haisong-esque Mandarin vocals is Insomniacs Song. It totally entranced me at the gig. Perhaps it's a misleading comparison, where Yang Haisong is all angst and poetry, SKSA demonstrate a wider range, both in song and vocals. They flip between the clipped jerky riffs and shouts and slowed down, lo-fi-psychedelic passages.

This is my favourite release of the year here and is the best example of something non-genre that feels like a real product of it's cultural surroundings. If that matters. 

Holiday fun: My Random Rules

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Thumbnail image for Andy Best and his monkey
Random Rules is a feature at the A.V. Club which you can check out here.

One feature of the blog is to try and cover different stuff. Some of it I really really like and some of it I just recommend - in the context of exploring and understanding the overall scene.

But.

I had my MP3 player out in front of DJ B.O. the other week and it occurred to me to do a random rules for fun. To my surprise, it didn't invite complete ridicule and a promise never to trust my opinion on bands ever again. Ha. 

Here are the rules: You set your MP3 player's entire content to shuffle then list off the first few tracks. In the A.V. Club feature they do 10-13 ish and talk about them. I'm just going to do a list for fun. The point is it's RANDOM and you have to stand by it, no track-skipping no matter what - that includes multiple tracks by one band or filler/remixes or whatever. 

So, without further ado, let the trust-in-authors-taste destroying begin:

[hits shuffle ... grimaces]

1 "Single Beat" Snapline (Party is Over Pornostar)
2 "Zaoyu" 8eyespy (How Damn Far to Yinma Lane)
3 "Tonight, Tonight" Smashing Pumpkins (Greatest Hits)
4 "Piece of my Heart" Janis Joplin (Greatest Hits)
5 "Broken Face" The Pixies (Wave of Mutilation)
6 "Ultraviolence" New Order (Power, Corruption and ...)
7 "Midnight" Rancid (Let's Go)
8 "Flight of Icarus" Iron Maiden (Piece of Mind)
9 "Your Silent Face" New Order (Power, Corruption and ...)
10 "Swallow Everything" The Mr. T Experience (KZSU Sessions)
11 "Four Women" Top Floor Circus (0093 Revisited)
12 "Smiling" Operation Ivy (Energy)

Well, I have to say, when you're a modern person with a decent MP3 player and at least a couple of thousand songs in there, twelve at random seems brutal. But there you have it. If you have a blog stick yours up.

Zhu Lu He Feng play a full 90 minutes again

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zlhflogo
Shanghainese label and booking agency Zhu Lu He Feng were once a big deal. They hosted Sonnet, a local fan favourite with real appeal and potential, and blazed a trail into the city's university campuses. 

Then a bunch of stuff happened last year that saw them lose their flagship venue ShanHai and leading acts Pinkberry and Sonnet. It went a bit quiet after that.

Now though, things are stirring again and the injured player is coming on as a sub.


A glance at the page shows that their previous exploratory deal with French act Nitwits has expanded to them having a 'France office' and it has yielded a number of new acts. Their expanded roster includes new local acts, international bands and now senior bands such as Plastic Chocolate. A look at the recent shows reveals a new university slot and an upcoming gig at ... hmmn, an address in Qingpu Town. It's Zher Bar.

Check out the roster at the Douban page, most Shanghai based readers will probably have come across Yao Yao, Give and Yin before but not Cherry Cherry who will have to put something at their page I suppose.

Stalin Gardens album drops on Douban

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julienFull disclosure:  I have a personal relationship with a member of this band.

Edit: there was a track naming mix up at the Douban page. The track I quote at the bottom is Last Days, not Under The Black Moon.

Stalin Gardens are a younger band on the scene made of Chinese and French musicians who are dedicated to the no wave style and formed via a mutual love of the group Swans.

After a rocky start trying to settle a full line lineup, they played memorable shows at the Maybe Mars anniversary show and with Mr Ray at Yuyintang for Wooozy. Now they have recorded a debut album at Shanghai's Post Tape with Brad Ferguson producing.

The album is available for listening at their Douban ahead of traditional release. It is called Shanghai Void and is notable to me for reflecting both the China scene influences and life in the city itself, not to mention some excellent turns of phrase and an excellent recording of fan favourite / child cancer epic Osteosarcoma.


"Lights out. The city's mine ... "
Last Days

Shanghai Calling live @ Yuyintang

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glmhair
Pic: Girls Like Mystery, the hair demonstrates the genre better than any word can.

Shanghai Calling was put together by Mike from Girls Like Mystery on a Friday night at Yuyintang. I'm trying very hard to be plain and formal and leave the in-jokes/stories until the end. This was a great night and Mike in particular deserves credit for it. Line up:


Girls Like Mystery put themselves on first and played a passionate full length set. They play big emotion, big chorus Brit-rock and had a good crowd full of fans. They were really up for it. There was a great atmosphere and for a moment we were in a rock club in London or Manchester. Exhausted band members thanked the organizers and the other bands and the enthusiastic punters and then we all went home ... the next two hours of the night began. I think I'll start calling this the Shanghai Reverse Line Up (although I'm about three years late). 

Next up was the first guest/supporting act Stegosaurus. I missed their recent release show. The band have done an excellent job of capturing their strengths: layered vocals, humour and an ear for genre tropes. They have also made both albums available for free at Bandcamp here. Even better, the step up in quality also translated to an assured and confident live show. This turned out to be the theme of the night, bands giving committed performances that respect the audience. 

Candy Shop closed out the night. The local pop-rock group have been around the block on the scene and have a deliberate and polished act. This band give a balanced mix of energetic live music produced by a genuine band and Chinese pop. It allows them to play venues like YYT and also to close out Chinajoy. 

And now onto the in-jokes/blather. Rock's very own DJ B.O. was manning the tracks between bands and who should be standing right in front of the table there but DJ Spenny and crew. DJ Spenny is the head DJ and music manager at M1NT Shanghai's premier VIP/rich douche culture venue and the antithesis of rock scene values. Obviously this makes it the target of much ribbing and B.O. had put out a parody pic of Spenny's promo on Facebook. The reason I have to write this is guilt that Spenny actually was unassuming, enjoyed the show and even made a point of saying hi to B.O. and shaking his hand. Shit. Also, he is tall and gym'd out and could clack our heads together like Moe.

Saying that though, it doesn't excuse the existence of M1NT in today's world and we'll keep pushing for culture that inspires bottom-up and not worship of top-down. 

Birdstriking album on Bandcamp

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bsredwall
Picture: D22 'red wall' shot by Niederhauser

Australian DIY music distro Tenzenmen has long been including China scene bands with full releases in its catalogue. Have a look at their excellent site.


Tenzenmen are about to release Beijing noise-indie group Birdstriking's first full album on the Maybe Mars label.


For those of you who want to get a listen to the album as it was intended, Tenzenmen have made it available for listening on Bandcamp.


I'm a big fan of the band and they were great at Yuyintang last time around. It was a bit disappointing when they slowed their explosive rise in order for frontman He Fan to sub in for Carsick Cars but hopefully this album is a sign that Birdstriking is taking off.

Streets Kill Strange Animals live @ Yuyintang

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skpic.jpg
Streets Kill Strange Animals are exactly the kind of band in the China scene I really like. It's hard to get an exact description. Dark-noise-indie / China scene post-punk? PK14 are the obvious front runner. I like 8 Eyespy, Mr Ray, Birdstriking, Streets Kill, Residence A (non-pop half of the set), Carsick Cars, Marrow, Boys Climbing Ropes / Little Punk, Retros ... and there's a lot more. I'm just going off the top of my head. These are the bands that sound 'Chinese' to me ..or at least 'China scene' away from the odd view that bands must include some form of ethnic folk to be 'Chinese.' I guess Oasis aren't really British or Rock - no Celtic folk or morris dancing! Anyway, SKSA feel like an expression of the experience of living in Chinese cities, if that makes sense.

Of course, metal fans don't give a fuck for such non-metal musings.

Show:


Not much room for the review now. First thing you notice if you've been away from YYT - oh, it sounds and feels great, in a league of its own in Shanghai. X is Y performed as a two piece. As usual, it was a master class in dynamic control. Good energy tonight. Rainbow Danger Club have been touring the USA and just came back. They added a cellist and played all the hits. Check the Bandcamp for a full album.

Streets Kill Strange Animals were dead on. They showed the full range within that style while always keeping up enough energy to make a good live show. Eleven years in China, along with being really into those bands meant it was heaven for me. That's just me though. Great night at YYT all round.

Friday, will be a good day.

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skfof
Pic: top: Streets Kill (the best photo from their own album on their page). Bottom: Friend or Foe

Sorry about the post title, it's a barely logical mash up of things to do with Ice Cube. All last week was a blur of wisdom tooth induced suffering / pills and I'm over it but in hangover mode.

This Friday has a bunch of shows but two that I'm especially interested in. Coincidentally, the people behind them sent me some info too. So:

Friday 14th September 2012

@Beedees Bar
Friend or Foe are back.
433 Dagu Lu, 10pm kick off

@Yuyintang

Friend or Foe have found a new bass player and are kicking off the next round. You can still hear their full album on Bandcamp here. They will have all kinds of goodies at the show and a remix album is on the way. They play modern punk rock with a great energetic show.

Streets Kill Strange Animals are an excellent Beijing based indie band in the mould of PK14. Listen to the first demo track on their page, linked via their name above, to see what I mean. They are a bit more eccentric than their other China-scene-dark indie-post-punk band contemporaries. Support from X is Y and Rainbow Danger Club.

Both shows will be a good time, choose one and go. Don't be that guy/gal sitting in their hometown the next year telling people you sang bullshit pop hits at KTV and drank at home all your time in Shanghai. Support people who do interesting/personal stuff and take part in sub-culture.

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