Results tagged “splitworks” from Andy Best

Boys Climbing Ropes return - and so do we (once)

Oh no.

When I started my notes for this I saw that the final official Boys Climbing Ropes show "The Last Waltz" was June 2012. Five years ago. Writing this, it doesn't seem that long ago. Feels like an age. The music gods decreed that all significant acts will one day reform and play a festival and now the same can be said of legendary Shanghai act Boys Climbing Ropes.

The original line up will play Splitworks Concrete and Grass Festival the weekend of September 16th two days from now.

Here is my round up article on the significance and legacy of the band.

So, me and Jake went to the Splitworks office with Little Punk and Devin Gallery from the band and, together with Splitworks DaBoss Archie Hamilton, had a nostalgic conversation on the band's history, the blog and the music scene back in the 00s. It's essential knowledge and it's here, embedded below:

Death To Giants / Japandroids live @ Yuyintang

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? 

Wooozy showcase on Saturday

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


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

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.

Black Rabbit Festival and recording news

Pictured: The Curry Soap

Not many posts this week, except gig reviews. Don't forget, the reviews are basically organic ways to introduce readers to active bands they may not have heard of. So click those links.

Splitworks' Black Rabbit Festival is drawing near check out the dates and line up at Smart Shanghai

Vivien of Muscle Snog has recently been updating her solo project The Curry Soap. If you like ambient and experimental music go there.

Duck Fight Goose have finished principle recording for their upcoming album and are heading into post-production. They will play a show at Yuyintang this Friday night. I'll be there for sure.

Shanghai grunge rockers Androsace are back in action after the summer break. They hope to replace the current demos with full quality tracks and some new material in the future so watch the page. They will play Live Bar on Saturday as part of the 6 year party for the venue.

This post has been edited by request - Aug 26th 2011 - mail for details

My 24-7 long form interview: now in Chinese

Andy Best and his monkey
So, we were just on the subject of long interviews a post ago.

Well, my interview at Shanghai 247 has now been picked up by the Chinese indie music site and translated into Mandarin. I think they really did a sterling job, the layout and content is the same and it has all the reference MP3's in there. Thanks to Fanmu at the Wooozy/Split team.

And I just want to say that I do know some people over at Wooozy and Splitworks but you'll see that their blog covers very different ground to mine and other scene writers. They have never previously come over to this side or translated my posts before. So I guess what I'm saying is that it's being run there on merit. So I'll have to thank the 24-7 guys yet again.

Mr Graceless live @ Yuyintang

Thursday night and Splitworks blog Wooozy kicked off its first monthly showcase of Chinese bands at Yuyintang. The line up:

The show was run earlier from 8 to accommodate a younger local crowd, which it got, but almost didn't start due to the man showing up. But start it did with Forsaken Autumn.

The Shanghai based shoegazers did a solid job helped on by great sound. They describe themselves as slowcore dreampop at their page. There was a good helping of noise and fuzz in their wall of sound at times too. 

Mr Graceless are a Beijing based indie rock group. They are a finished product and have signed to label Maybe Mars. They ripped into an upbeat set of typical Beijing style rock with good dual vocal harmonies and Beatles-esque chorus melodies. The audience loved them and they played with energy. The set was interrupted at one point by the return of the man, who even took the stage at one point - always a popular move. But the show eventually resumed and the band finished their set.  Good night all round, job well done.

New Logo Bar opens with Friend or Foe

It's back. Logo Bar is opening its new location at 107 Sinan Road. That's near Taikang Road and the famous Tianzi Fang district.

That's Logo, Mao and O3 Space all in that general vicinity now ... suspiciously near Adam Gaensler's Luwan Rock HQ. Do I smell a plan for world domination? 

So on June 18th things will kick off with the Kill Bill show for Friend or Foe's departing bassist, Bill.

Bill's usual handle is Fish and he's not just leaving the band but leaving Shanghai. This warrants a genuine mention. Fish started out young here DJing and doing stuff with Antidote, then working for the promoter Splitworks and also in Friend or Foe, a successful and respected scene band. It's been a massive contribution over the years. Good luck.

Here's the bands official blurb on 'Bill'

Friend or Foe is a band of triplet brothers with a dark past. Made up of the Shakalaka bothers; Rabshaka, Mahanadan, and Bill, this band has recently been torn apart by a heinous, horrific act committed by their youngest brother Bill. In consequence for his unforgivable behavior the two older Shakalakas have decided to put Bill out of his misery. This will be Bill's last gig with Friend or Foe, because Rabshaka and Mahanadan will execute him during the performance.

Pairs, Duck Fight Goose and Handsome Furs @ YYT

Thumbnail image for duckfightgoose
Image of DFG at Beijing's D22

Friday night was the big Splitworks' gig at Yuyintang featuring the following bands:

You can read Jake's regular review here.

There's not really a lot more to say apart from some thoughts I was having. The show was both amazing and yet disappointing at the same time. Hear me out.

It was a great turnout, a wonderful atmosphere and show and we were watching three top bands. Pairs and Duck Fight Goose are the breakout bands of the Shanghai scene this year, for differing reasons, and Handsome Furs are a quality international act. All three were excellent and the show was a resounding stamp of quality for the scene. I felt so proud. 

On the other hand, a combination of prohibitive pricing and clique behavior in the scene meant that a ton of people who should have been there weren't. So a huge section of the local scene, bands and fans alike, will be unaware and dismissive of this major event. The various collectives and groups within the scene could have taken so much away from the show ... but it's like the tree falling in the forest thing, innit?

If no one saw it happen, it's like it never existed. Or heard it. Err. Wait a minute ...

Pairs live @ Logo

pairs live
There were a lot of shows on over the weekend and a lot of stories to tell. Split's Transmit event was going on, 696 had their show shut down before it started (thanks Haibao) and there was a metal battle at YYT. There was more too.

However, I'm all excited about DIY band Pairs so I chose to go see them at Logo. They didn't disappoint, but Logo did. The whole point is that it's DIY, sure, but I used to play gigs with bands in pubs with our own stuff and also in our rehearsal hall and all that - we still had a mic that worked well enough to hear the vocals and a drum kit that didn't fall apart, ending the set after just four songs.

Anyway, they were good and I really hope they somehow kickstart a bunch of similar bands who just go for it and don't try to be polished genre acts.

If you want to get a proper idea of what I'm babbling about you have to check out a movie called If you want you can. I just watched it courtesy of Xiao Zhong from Pairs via Super Sophia. It's inspirational.

Now I'm going to go all Perez Hilton on you. The usually insufferable ego-fueled drunken douchebag behavior of people at Logo was offset nicely by the presence of PK14's Yang Haisong, who was down with Nevin from D22. They had come on over after the Transmit China show at Dream Factory to try and catch Pairs. I, of course, had to take the opportunity to harass poor Yang Haisong all night like a gushing fanboy.

Also special mention to Photon Fucking Torpedoes who ended up shouldering the entire night by himself. 

Alpine Decline live @ 696

Thumbnail image for alpine decline
Peaches was on at Mao, Wu Ji was on at YYT and no one knew how the weekend was going to turn out after an Expo related police visit to Logo last week.

I went up to 696 to see Alpine Decline.

OK, 696 are new but they have a cool L.A. band fall into their lap (they are on vacation but as a two piece could do some quick shows) and the venue doesn't mange to get anyone in. And they are useless at doing the sound. 696 - epic fail. Come on.

So, anyway. There were a small group of us who did make it. First on was an upcoming Shanghai based two-piece called Pairs. They feature drummer/singer Rhys and local guitarist 'F'. They were cool playing a mix of fast punk, dreamy indie chops and Shou Wang-esque strumming. Good job.

Alpine Decline got a bum deal out of the sound as they put a lot of effort into the nuances. The guitar sound was much like the tracks on their page, by turns echo-drenched and haunting and with real edge on the distortion. The first thing I thought was that they were exactly the kind of band Splitworks would have on at a Jue Festival. Hopefully they got a better deal up at Live Bar on Saturday. The standout track was The Pilgrim Got Drunk which showcased a full range of Jonathon's guitar licks.

The Mushrooms in Beijing

mushrooms jue poster
One part of the Jue Festival was the launching of their crosstalk idea of showcasing bands from other cities. For me, I found it exciting that Shanghai's own The Mushrooms were going to Beijing.

So what did the pundits think of one of our best live acts? I found three reviews from the English language blogosphere.

First from Alex at the blog of the Beijing Gig Guide. Here's the review.

I really loved the band. Pupu is, of course, a big part of what makes their act amazing, but they work impeccably as a team. They definitely sounded like they'd been working together for the five years they've been around, offering up a tight set with lots of changes in mood. They're loud
Then we have a review at Beijing Noise. Read it here.

Enigmatic frontmen are rare in rock these days, yet Pupu excels, controlling the microphone and the crowd with ease
And here is the review from Beijing City Weekend magazine.

And while emo may evoke strong love/hate sentiments in many listeners, there is little question of Mushrooms utter mastery of the genre. They set the crowd alight with their first song, and left the audience similarly exhilarated with their final song, a rap-cover hybrid of 4 Non Blondes' classic: "What's Going On." In between, their well-structured set moved from heavier rocking numbers to slower, ballad-like territory. Lead singer Pupu is an electric performer: loose lipped and almost mime-like in his facial expressions, he spent the set jerking about violently, looking at times as if he was bawling, at others as if he was clowning around in class.
Good job guys. Reading through the reviews in full you get the impression that the gig was well attended for a band people in Beijing don't know and that despite scene cynicism and unfamiliarity The Mushroom's superior qualities were undeniable. And everyone was impressed with Pupu. That's not a surprise though.

Mao history (the venue not the dude) and other blather

andy at mao shanghai
Jake wrote up the Maybe Mars gig at Mao this weekend and we also shared some thoughts about the scene on the podcast. As far I was concerned the subjects were done for a while.

And then Zack wrote up the show at Layabozi and got everything going again in my mind.

After noticing/being annoyed by the same stuff as us, Zack makes a good point at the end about expectations:

Finally, on to the continuing problems with MAO. I think they are suffering from an expectation problem, for which they are at least partially responsible. However, it must be said that we, as in Shanghai underground music fans, are also to blame. I for one know that I expected a lot from this venue when it was getting off the ground. We wanted it to be like Yuyintang with better sound and more capacity. Well, we got those things. We really did.
Well, it's true that you can't have expectations that are too high in an underground scene and this blog for one was happy in old YYT with a single room and a small fridge. But the fact of the matter is that the show on Saturday charged three times over the going rate for a show on the scene and Mao opened with lofty proclamations of a livehouse revolution.The sound has not been any better than Yuyintang, it is often worse. There's more but let's get on.

So, on the pod we talked about the scene punching over it's weight. Where did the demand for a larger venue come from? What's the history. The history, that includes ventures such as 4Live, came to a point when a combination of independent promoters started to get regular shows going at the Dream Factory. This included Yuyintang and Splitworks, also people like Abe Deyo, Brad Ferguson and Frank Fen. 

They had just started to creep over the break even line despite many problems and challenges when this happened: 

So, they pulled out again three months later having fucked it all up decided they weren't satisfied with the deal. And then, barely eight weeks after that, SOMA announced they were teaming up with Japanese investors to open an even bigger venue in Shanghai - Mao. This was highly questionable. The progress made at the Dream Factory had still not answered the question of whether the scene could sustain a larger venue at this point, and in this political climate. Even that progress had been set back by the actions of SOMA taking it over then pulling out again.

Soma then came out with re-assuring statements. This would be a livehouse revolution for Shanghai. They would move in their studio and focus on scene development and long term planning. They were aware of the issues and history and wanted us to know that it was not simply a vanity project or an elaborate face-saving plot. But then, after the initial oversight from the partners left them to it, everything has been run on a shoestring and skeleton staff. 

Here's the thing: everyone, me included, wants the venue to succeed, that's why we go there and buy tickets. So why are we so worked up about the shortcomings, especially in the opening stages?

Exactly because we DO want it to succeed and all the signs are pointing towards failure. We have just over three short weeks before the six month point, which is usually a make or break point one way or another. Talk to anyone who worked on 4live: the venue is not big enough to survive on one sell-out show a month. Talk to anyone who worked on 4live again: how do neither-big-nor-small venues with one big event a month get by during the middling/average attendance days - the bar. 

Would anyone like to comment on the bar at Mao?

On the opening day, an extremely nice guy from Mao Beijing told me that they floated the place on investment for two years until numbers went up. Let's hope the same support will be on display here.

We're on Discovery Channel? Blimey.

Sammi Sheng PETA
Main Photo: Sammy Sheng of Candy Shop poses for PETA's Shot by Tim Franco. Studio provided by Splitworks.

Not that long ago I wrote this post and briefly mentioned some photos we shot for a project supporting PETA's China website. I also mentioned that Jake was writing it up for Time Out.

So. It's mainly for Chinese language mags and sites but we are holding off to avoid the wrong type of attention to the show, which hasn't happened yet. Believe me, if we didn't have a strategy of gradual roll-out, I'd have been talking about nothing else on the blog.

Well, the Time Out feature is now public. Also, a friend of mine based in New York, Mickey Z, wanted to write this up and submit it to some editors he writes for. He shot high first and went for broke. It paid off and Discovery Channel have run it on their Planet Green website. Check it out.

They will also send a China based writer to cover the show at Yuyintang later this month. But for now - please tweet/link/repost/write the sh*t out of that link. Like now. Do it. This is Discovery Channel's site reporting on going's on at Yuyintang and linking local bands.

More photos after the jump.

Where we've been ...

Thumbnail image for by Wee Ling
It was a slow week on the blogs here at Kungfuology with one reader even suggesting we check Jake wasn't dead. Nice. Well the ravages of the real world caught up with us, but it was mainly good stuff.

There was a convergence of personal projects that all came through within a hectic three days of each other.

My band's new single, Paris 68, went live. It's produced by Brad Ferguson who works miracles on zero budget and a bedroom.

We had the first ever mainland China PETA shoot. It was shot by Tim Franco and is for this free show at YYT next month featuring Candy Shop and Forget and Forgive. It's to promote the pics and

Splitworks provided the studio.

The photos are not officially out but there are two previews. Oh oh, who's that in this one

Jake was also at FrFrFrFr studio in 696 Weihai Lu covering the shoot for Time Out Shanghai as part of their article on Candy Shop. We were made up when the event listing went live at the end of the week along with the previews but that didn't free Jake from his workload at the mag. Luckily we both made it to Yuyintang last night to catch the good jive show ... which I'll leave Jake to review.

Finally. Yes, the podcast is coming soon, it would have been this week, so stay tuned for that.

Maybe Mars returns + January goodness

Hard to believe it's almost a year since Splitworks brought us the Maybe Mars showcase as part of their Jue Festival. Here's what I wrote about it back then.

This time around it's at Mao Livehouse and features a more rock oriented line up with PK14, The Gar, 24 Hours and Rustic. Click on the flyer for a legible version and you'll note it's on Friday 22nd January. Here's the Douban event page.

Regular readers of the blog will not need reminding of how awesome this is going to be. The last time was a real event with great bands but the questionable acoustics at the Dream Factory deadened the enjoyment for me. Mao on the other hand is a world class, purpose made music venue. With a potential Expo shutdown on the way, this could be the event of the year already. 

Talking of cramming stuff in before the Expo, take a look at some of the shows coming up this January:

Sat 2nd
Zhong Chi, Sonnet, Coverpeople @ Mao
GuaiLi @ Yuyintang

Fri 8th 
Triple Smash, Forget and Forgive @ Yuyintang

Sat 9th
Tookoo, Bigger bang @ Yuyintang

Mon 10th 
Great Lake Swimmers @ Yuyintang

Fri 15th
Duck Fight Goose, Boys Climbing Ropes @ Yuyintang

Fri 22nd
Maybe Mars @ mao

Sat 23rd 
Metal/Hardcore @ Yuyintang including Suzhou's awesome Mo Xie

And don't forget, there are plently more shows than that going on each week in the district's smaller venues such as Harley's, Sus2, Logo and Anar ... not to mention regular venue shows at Live Bar up in Yangpu.

Youtube Tudou: The Mushrooms live @ Transmit Live

Creature headlined the first night of Splitworks' Straight Oota Canada festival at Yuyintang but alas they were post-pop, indie-pop-disco something or other. Just imagine a lot of falsetto vocals, cowbells, whoop-whoops and 'we rock the house's to a disco beat costumes. 

So, I give you The Mushrooms, appearing for the third time on the blog but the first with the new line up changes. It's one of their older songs though 为什么你爱他 (Why?)

Cor Blimey Mate! I just popped off to their Douban page to check on the song name and saw a demo of that song has appeared there. The two tracks marked Demo are new recordings and they both fade out a little way in but are worth hearing.

And now the vid ...

Transmit - Straight Oota Canada & May Day

May Day has two meanings for me. Firstly it's one of many traditional British festivals going way back, this time involving a Maypole and some dancing. It's also International Labour Day. You know, when the oppressed workers of America staged a number of strikes and revolts and won the right to an 8 hour day and 5 day week. 

So, no work on Labour Day, great, and off to Yuyintang for the first night of Splitworks' Transmit Live show featuring bands from Canada paired with local acts. And on the first night:

Creature (Canada)
The Mushrooms (China)

First up was the Mushrooms ... and yes coming on for one year since signing with Soma and no tracks available. No material to link. However, I got a good video this time and will post it soon. When they opened for Hedgehog the place was rammed with Mushrooms fans and the gig was a mad mosh. Tonight's crowd took their time getting in and was only half as full as it would later be for the opening band. They still gave us a good show though. 

Creature came on and really showed what quality is. Well. To be perfectly honest, I really can't stand self-conscious indie-pop that has been constructed from design swatches. But, credit where credit is due, whether I liked the style or not, the sound was as good as it's ever been at YYT and Creature are tight, professional performers. I also concede that Whitney Houston is technically a good singer. Doesn't mean I have to like her vacuous music though. 

Anyway, another winner from Split who are just as happy at YYT, in Dream Factory or on a bus to Xi'an. 

Other people's Youtube: Jue Festival review

In January 2009 Splitworks put on the Jue Festival. It was an urban festival of art and music held across many venues in Beijing and Shanghai. It ruled and mastermind Archie Hamilton put on two excellent indie rock shows at the Dream Factory. They were Demerit and the Maybe Mars Showcase.

Now Spilt have put up a video looking back at the highlights. Archie really went beyond the commercial promoter role here to put on something diverse and meaningful. That's not surprising to people who know him as he really cares about music. Enjoy.

Jue Festival Photos and bonus throwdown

New Shanghaiist writer Elaine Chow has just posted up a photo gallery of the two Jue Festival shows I blogged here. There's a lot of pics and you should go there and check them out

I notice there's a bunch of gig/blog regulars cropping up in the pics, perhaps you recognize yourself in my little montage below? No me, I'm afraid, although Abe Deyo posted one of me in the Demerit mosh on Facebook. Good catch, I was only in there for two songs.

Quick comment. That Elaine knows how to tag her blog posts correctly. There are a number of different phrases and word you can choose to describe the scene ... she happens to go with shanghai music scene and shanghai underground. Yup, the blog category name and the Youtube channel name. Is this a Google ranking throw down? Seriously though, it's good to see someone at Sha-iist covering shows again. This blog is watching you, mwa ha ha.

jue montage

Jue Festival two: Maybe Mars showcase

Round two. Tonight's Jue Festival show at the Dream factory was the Maybe Mars showcase. To start you might want to check the bands and label out. AV Okubo don't seem to have a page though, fill me in in the comments if I'm wrong.

Quick shout out first. On the way to the show I stopped by the Neocha second birthday bash in their basement art studio/office. Neocha provide a networking site where artists and musicians can display their work and demos in their profiles. I often use it to link Chinese bands. Happy Birthday guys! Keep up the good work. If you go to the site - here it is - you can download a desktop mp3 player (the Next player) that goes through their entire database of Chinese indie music. Do it.

So. Tonight's show got the turn out it deserved. By mid way through the night it was nicely full and there was a great atmosphere. There was a lot of buzz about each band too. First up was AV Okubo. Everyone I bumped into at the show was telling me how good these guys are. I was a little surprised. With the tight rock combo, black suit and shirt type outfits and synth sounds I thought I'd been transported back into the eighties. They played a good set but not special. Next, everyone was lining up to tell me how usually they are much better, when I didn't seem so impressed. So obviously these guys are turning heads now and we will have to wait for their first CD on the label.

Snapline got a great reputation last year playing high energy shows of upbeat guitar punk with a modern nerdy edge and use of a drum machine. This included a legendary show at Logo in Shanghai. Their CD Party Is Over Pornostar scored big points too. They threw everyone a curve ball tonight by ditching their old sound completely in favour of a more slow and spacey electronic approach. It was still very cool, a recurring theme of the night, for those who like that kind of music and got a good reception. Now I was getting eager to hear Ourself Beside Me, who i'd come to see.

The three girls took the stage and succeeded where I'd seen The Molds fail not so long back. They launched into an uber-cool set of atmospheric anthems that was almost dismissive of the audience altogether. They twanged out cool riffs, sang mopey half spoken vocals, went at their own pace and played long stretches with their backs to the audience - but all with purpose and clear orchestration. They are on another plane of cool-ness that went way over my head but created a great atmospheric set. 

Full disclosure, I bailed for Carsick Cars. Sorry about that, ran out of energy. Little observation. A few parallels between tonight and the Indietop showcase. Both a label showcase put on at Dream Factory (the closest we have to mid-scale touring venues). Both well attended. But where as Soma's Indietop do was characterized by over managed bands with new hairdos and styles, intro segments with ads and an MC explaining everything through the night - Splitworks just let the bands do the talking for themselves. 

Jue Festival one: Pinkberry and Demerit

andy at jue
If I don't preface this, readers surfing in might get the impression that the two Dream Factory shows are the entirety of the Jue Festival. 

The Jue Festival is a multi venue event in two cities over two weeks. I'm covering the two indie gigs that feature guitar bands. It's still going on - here's the schedule. It's being put on by Splitworks.

Let me go to a new paragraph to explain things here. Splitworks put on larger pro shows and usually finance this by booking name acts from abroad. This time they are putting on two nights of Chinese bands at a time where the rest of the scene is slow. You might want to thank them by actually turning up to the shows.

I was hanging with Louis Yu, a college radio DJ based in Canada, tonight. Louis is a little different to most scenesters/musos in that he has a sideline in being a PhD researcher in computers and last worked at NASA. Don't hold it against him. As you might have guessed from the end of the last bit, the turn out was not as good as hoped and it's a larger venue. But never mind that, there was enough people to have a great time and a great time was had by all. As promised by Splitworks' Archie Hamilton the sound was of a higher standard to previous shows at the Dream Factory and there were some impressive amp stacks at the back of the stage.

Pinkberry came on first and, as usual, singer Xiao You was a standout with her great voice and attention to image. I got close in, well lit footage this time so be sure to check the channel. Pinkberry are solid and have good songs, what they need to get up to the next level is to be full-time. Jake Newby has an article on them coming up in That's Shanghai which is the other thing they need: more support. There are not that many new Shanghai bands with ambition like Pinkberry and we have to get behind all of them. Kudos to Splitworks for giving them a spot at the show. And while I'm on about Shanghai bands with great potential who deserve our support, keep your eyes open for Hard Queen in the near future.

Demerit, on the other hand, have reached the next level and fully deserved their reputation. They were worthy headliners with a great set of hardcore punk/metal songs. They were so good, in fact, that despite the hall not being that full they got everyone up front and moving. I was internally debating whether they were still really punk or if they'd crossed over into traditional metal in the vein of early Metallica and Iron Maiden. This was settled in my mind when they played two ballads with classical guitar arrangements and solos. Their riffing was sublime and they know how to rock a show. 

Next up at Jue is the Maybe Mars Showcase tomorrow/today (Saturday). See you there.
bar 288
The story I'm about to comment on was first broke at China Music Radar here and then reported at Shanghaiist here

University radio presenter Louis Yu decided to spend part of his China trip seeing a local band and chose the Melting Pot. How unfortunate. His review of the terrible experience is now posted at the CMR link above. That's the Taikang Road branch pictured, this story is about the newer Hengshan Road branch. But, believe me, the story goes for both. 

I definitely do don't want to come across as all I told you so but let's also revisit some blog posts on the same subject first:

Here's a quote from the last of my three posts. Does it sound familiar (to anyone who's been there)?

The warm up act was in fact a crooning KTV guy singing pop hits to a backing track. Why? Whhyyyyy!!?? Because it was someone's birthday party. Yes, they let someone have their birthday do at the bar on a gig night and put they show back to 11.45 to accomodate a round of KTV crooning and some announcements etc. This is totally normal in the local stylee bar environment and dice shakers continued unabated.

So, here's a quote from when Louis went to see Cold Fairyland on New Year's Eve:

I went into the melting pot and asked the waiter" is cold fairyland playing?" "uh?" "band, is there a band?" "yeah, yeah band..." "what band is playing" "I don't know, new, new band" "do I have to pay for a ticket?" "no, no free". I sat down and it took me a while to clue in that cold fairyland was just some bar band that night ...

...Then he tried to continuously participate in the band's game, until Lin Di (the Pipa player and the leader of the band) said "no you had enough", and he proceeded to tell his friends to go on stage and participate in the game.For one of the games he was asked to give his fav number, in which he said "oh my fav number, beside cold fairyland's promotional number (WTF) is the number 69″, and then he looked around the room and laughed proudly. At that point I wanted to throw my glass at him. Another game he was asked what his fav animal was by which he said "pussy...", and another one, he finally won the game, and the band member gave him a gift, in which he pulled out a condom from his pocket and gave it back to the band member...

What more can one say? There are places like Live Bar and Yuyintang that get it. There are people like 0093 who live in windowless basement rooms in order to push new local bands. There are people like Frank from Mortal Fools and Splitworks pushing for larger events. There are even Indie Labels popping up. Louis adds that some famous bands he has spoken with lately said that they started out in places like that. The debate is, is mismanaged bad exposure better than none? I say - with places like YYT to play at and an established community of locals who know how to present their music, it will hurt you. This is because the choice is not between bad and nothing, it's between bad and something. 

Upcoming shows I'm off to in January

 warm songs flyer
Believe me, I still have no plans to start any kind of listings or be a regular website type thing. So, be clear, this is not everything that's going on in Shanghai, it's just what I'm thinking of doing. This is often determined by the distance between my house and Yuyintang, i.e. a short walk. 

I don't think this month is slowing down, but ... the schedules are not filled out as far in advance as they were lately. It's a Yuyintang weekend for me first:

Friday 9th: "Warm songs for a winter's day" showcase featuring seven bands in the folk style. That's the flyer pictured. Mogu Hong (Red Mushroom) is the only familiar name for me. Check her out.

Saturday 10th: A Brit-pop style night featuring Shanghai's own Hanging Gardens and The Way from Ningbo. The Way are really cool, check out an older review. While you're at it, read a magazine feature on Hanging Gardens here.

Sunday 11th: Abe Deyo brings legendary Hardcore Punk act D.O.A. to Shanghai who will be supported by one of the hottest bands in China right now, Demerit. Look ahead in the post to find another show by Demerit and check them out here

For all you stalkers out there, do stalk me, no problem. You know, as long as you are the talking type and not the stabbing type. Don't know anyone in the scene? No one else going to the show with you? Drop me a comment or a mail (via the about page) and we'll go together or meet there. It's all good. After just one show you'll be able to dump me for all your new found friends! Or your money back!

Continuing ... 

Friday 16th and Saturday 17th at Dream Factory: Up to the larger venue for the Jue Festival. On Friday is the main Demerit show that also features Pinkberry. Then on Saturday we have the Maybe Mars showcase with Ourself Beside Me, Carsick Cars and Snapline. These shows are being put on by Splitworks who are adamant about splashing out on pro sound set-ups and trained sound engineers. I'm especially looking forward to Ourself Beside Me.

Looking into my crystal ball I see one more show planned in advance. It's at YYT on Saturday 24th and features Sonnet, Banana Monkey and Cold Fairyland. Sonnet have been getting tight again and Banana Monkey are a big deal on the scene ... remember this story? This will be the first time I check them out since they re-formed. 

Ok, that's all for now. Now to figure out my Douban problem. I have a bunch of friends there, mostly local and all of whom I see have been to the same shows. The problem is that 80% of Douban users use nicknames and avatars that are not their own pictures ... and have no indication of who they are in their profiles either. It's like the thing with getting an "it's me" text and not wanting to say "yeah, but who are you?" in case you offend someone you know. Arse.

Marathon New Year weekend and Jue Festival


flyer jue soundtoyThe shows are still not slowing down. A lot to see in January with ample back up from traveling bands. Well, to be fair, when people write/say that the scene has quiet moments they are talking about bigger shows by name bands but there's always something on.

Before we go on, let me ask: what's with the talent show rejects forming bands and invading the scene? I already noted my surprise when Wang Xiaokun, of Wo Xing Wo Shou fame, turned up at Indietop with a guitar band and a bunch of rock/indie songs. Next I thought we saw Wang while shooting the Pinkberry MV at Yuyintang but actually it was Yu Siyuan, another graduate from the same show. Now I see he's playing a 100 RMB per ticket show at YYT in January. Who's next ... f*cking Shi Yang (师洋) ? 

Ok, so here's what's going down near me this week (all at Yuyintang):

12/31 New Years Eve Party, 6 bands including Chaos Mind
1/1 Kongzhong Huayuan Cd single release party (jangly Coldplay-esque indie)
1/2 Soundtoy (highly rated post-rock band from Chengdu)
1/3 The Queers come to Shanghai with Pinkberry in support

It's a four day holiday marathon and I'll go to all of them. 

And also this month, Splitworks are putting on an urban festival of music and art that is split across several venues. I should start with the official link to the full schedule so check it out: Jue Festival. The reason I'm mentioning it here is that part of that festival is a Chinese bands punk show at Dream Factory featuring Demerit and Pinkberry on the 16th of January. Now, I know for a fact that Splitworks are bringing in international quality sound people and extra equipment for this. I'm not sure if the festival will attract punk people per se, but with those two bands, a good rig and a good crowd, it should be a wild show. As always, supporting shows like that equals more shows like that in the future. You know it makes sense. 

'Control' PK14 live @ Dream factory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More festival talk


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

Here's Lisa:

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

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

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


And here's Archie:

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

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


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

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

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

Festival talk 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

Carsick Cars @Yuyintang


muscle snogCarsick Cars are one of China's biggest acts and have played shows with Sonic Youth in the states. Unfortunately, industry people and journos were confounded by a bizarre turn around of the usual scheduling. There was one support act only, and they played on time and suitably briefly. Then Carsick Cars went on right afterwards, also on time, and played a short set. This really scuppered a bunch of folks who used their common sense turned up fashionably late.

Check out Carsick Cars' myspace page here.

I had no idea who was supporting until I got there but I was in for a treat. Yuyintang has been really picking up lately and are getting a lot of new young local fans in the doors. As I made my way into the hall I overheard a trendy young couple telling the staff how it was their first time here and they were really excited. How pleased they must have been when the support act kicked in - two members of Muscle Snog doing a 20 minute experimental/noise improvisation. I don't mind noise and its related genres too much but it's probably a good idea to bill it in the flyers as some kind of warning to indie fans. I videod it as part of my new dilligent approach to this blog.

Great crowd of genuine fans for the Cars. They got stuck into tracks off their new CD and everyone nodded along, holding it in for the big single, Zhong Nan Hai. Between two tracks Shouwang managed to change guitars and tune the replacement without breaking the feedback and effects that linked the tracks. A great feat worthy of Hansel's underwear removal trick in Zoolander. The real fun was yet to come though. The Cars broke into Zhong Nan Hai sending the crowd into jumping mode and suddenly the air was full of cigarettes. You see, Zhong Nan Hai is a Chinese brand of ciggie. This could never happen at a club gig in my hometown of Liverpool as a riot would breakout as various scallies and students rush the stage trying to pick all the cigarettes up.

Met loads of people at the gig. Archie Hamilton promotes larger shows with Splitworks. They put on the Yue Festival last year but have an olympic related kick in the groin break this summer. In the meantime they have been busy with their website China Music Radar. Check it out.


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