July 2009 Archives

Sonnet release S-File for free

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sonnet-s-file.jpgFans of indie-rock rejoice! Sonnet (十四行诗) have made their 《非正常人类研究科档案》 S-File EP available for free download. This record came out back in April and I still listen to it regularly now. It's got two of my favourite Sonnet songs on it - Rejection and Stupid Baby - and if you're not familiar with Sonnet's stuff I suggest you start there. To download the record, go to their Douban page here and click the green arrows next to the tracks.

Sonnet also produced a full-length record in 2005, From the Last Century (从上世纪来), and both CDs have been self-produced and self-released. The band even remain self-managed. They're really talented and make good music that's fun to listen to and to see live, so it's good to hear they're planning on recording some new songs in September. For the moment, check out those downloads linked above and if you want to see them live (albeit in a shopping mall) they're performing next weekend as part of the Channel One series.

Heart Attack

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heart_attack.JPGTalking to Sacco and Sophia last night (in between their time on the wheels of steel) they told me about a new website they were launching with Hans from Miniless. Like the regular DJ night at Not Me, it's called Heart Attack and is basically them posting up their favourite tracks and albums and giving recommendations on what they're listening to at the moment. It's still early days, but selections so far have included PK14's How Majestic is the Night, Pixies' Debaser and Holland, 1945 by Neutral Milk Hotel - all great tunes. Sacco, Sophia and Hans certainly know what they're talking about when it comes to indie rock so it'll be interesting to see what other picks they come out with along the way.

The site is bilingual with the same content going up in Chinese and in English and, though they're just getting going, there'll be a whole load more stuff coming to the site in the next few weeks. One of the most interesting things that they're looking to do with it is to produce regular podcasts to complement the MP3 posts. When these start, they'll certainly be something to listen out for.

The website is here so add it to your bookmarks and check it regularly.
monroe cd rel party New hipster hang out Not Me have a series on Thursday nights where they invite local band members and scene people to come and DJ. It's all organised by DJ Sacco and is an interesting addition to Shanghai's club/bar scene - they've already had Han Han from Miniless and Boys Climbing Ropes' Little Punk take to the decks.

Tonight the lovely Super Sophia from Yuyintang will be throwing down her favourite indie rock tunes and has promised to include plenty of Chinese stuff. Also bringing along his stacks of wax (or an MP3 player and some CDs) will be Morgan Short from Boys Climbing Ropes.

These guys know their shit and this is a night worth checking out I reckon. It's called Heart Attack, starts about 9pm and you can find Not Me at 21 Dongping Lu, near Hengshan Lu (东平路21号,近衡山路).

For some real live rock music meanwhile, you can catch Monroe Stahr over at Anar. I like the back room at Anar, usually the home of Zooma-fronted stoner-dub-rock band Magnetic - it reminds me of the place in A Clockwork Orange where Alex and his droogs go to drink milk plus velocet. Not that it's 很黄很暴力, just that it's kind of retro and '60s-ish. I digress. Anyway, Monroe Stahr are a good band (I've been especially listening to Summer Starts Here a lot recently) and are also worth checking out. It's free, kicks off at 10:30pm and Anar (石榴) is just down the road from LOgO at 129 Xingfu Lu, near Niuqiao Lu (幸福路137号,近牛桥路).

While I'm writing about upcoming shows, tomorrow is Convenience Store (便利商店) at Yuyintang - the Modern Sky-backed indie rockers who are not to be confused with Candy Shop (甜品店), Glorious Pharmacy (美好药店) or Supermarket (超级市场). That one kicks off at 9:30pm and will set you back ¥40.
kaleidoscope.jpgLouis Yu is a DJ on the University of Victoria's student radio station who recently started producing a show called 夏日的实验 (Summer Experiment) - a Mandarin language show about indie rock music. In the past, Louis has interviewed head of Splitworks Archie Hamilton and former Shanghai music scenester Aric S Queen. In the latest episode of his show, Louis speaks to Miniless Records head honcho and front man for Lava|Ox|Sea and Duck Fight Goose Han Han/Hans.

Han Han is a fascinating guy (you can read my interview with him from a month ago here) and on Louis' show he talks some more about Lava|Ox|Sea and indie music. In addition to playing Concrete Avalanche from the outstanding LOS album Next Episode:Lord Smart VS Dr Jin, Louis also rounds out the show with another Miniless pick, this time Fading Horizon's Bloody Square. You can listen to the whole show and Louis' interview with Han Han, by going here and downloading mp3. Just a reminder: the show is in Mandarin.

Pepsi fight back

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sweet journey.jpg UPDATE: Literally as I was hitting "publish" on this post, I got a message from one of the "indie integrity bandwagon" jumpers to say he'd just posted on it. I think you know who I mean. You can read his response here.

Remember back in April when Pepsi announced they were doing a Battle of the Bands contest? Any initial excitement was quickly nipped in the bud when the preliminary rounds of the competition descended into farce: poor production values (if any), ignorant presenters and judges, plus a lot of disrespect to the bands.

Pu Pu of The Mushrooms (a band whose t-shirt you can see on one of the members of Sweet Journey on the right here ironically) decided to take a stand together with Zhang Haisheng against the competition and announced that they would be boycotting the competition. Numerous other bands joined them, while Pinkberry went on to win the Shanghai round.

Well the competition is still going on apparently (minus Pinkberry now) and it has an English-language blog to accompany it. The blog talks to various people behind the scenes and discusses the show and issues associated with it, though fails to mention anything about the massive recent accident in Guangzhou where people are rumoured to have been killed and where Pepsi apparently ordered a press blackout.

Anyway, nearly three months after the boycott, Pepsi have hit back, belittling the bands' stance and chiding them for boycotting an event that was clearly packaged as corporate from the off. Here's a taster:
UPDATE, 2:25pm: According to this announcement posted just now, Melody has decided to leave Tian Pin Dian after two years with the band due to the pressures of her job, meaning the band now have a new female vocalist... Sammy. I guess that makes this the new line-up's debut performance.
If you can't be bothered to read my long, rambling review of Saturday's Animal Patterns Party, just watch this video instead. It's from the end of Black Luna's set where Sammy got the Tian Pin Dian boys to come and join her on stage. Know how I said Sammy can wail? She can rap too. Oh, and don't miss some impressive head-banging action at around about 2:50 in.

Animal Patterns Party, Yuyintang

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Black Luna animal.jpgCandy Shop animal.jpgPoppy animal.jpgSecond animal.jpgmortal fools animal.jpgmushrooms.jpg

A brief bit of history: Over a year ago, The Mushrooms (then Crazy Mushroom Brigade) were one of the up and coming Shanghai bands and were tipped for big things by a certain music blogger. After a series of great live performances enhanced their reputation further, the band were signed to Soma and appeared on the Indie Top showcase CD. At the same time, they went through a line-up change with guitarist Li Xing leaving the band. Soma turned their sound pop, an album with the label was delayed (and has still failed to materialise) and the band floundered. But The Mushrooms had been tied into a less than beneficial arrangement before (when they had a lengthy stint at "live music" bar Melting Pot) and they used their experience to break free and organise their own shows. The shows were huge successes and The Mushrooms not only got their sound back, but also re-established themselves as one of the best live acts in the city.


So last night was the third of The Mushroom-organised parties at YYT and this time round the theme was animal patterns, meaning the place was filled with girls wearing leopard skin print dresses. There were five bands in total as well as an extra special guest appearance from another of Shanghai's top live acts.

Channel One summer music series

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Momo stand.jpgSo I decided to go check out the Channel One summer music series today. It's basically eight local bands playing a string of shows in a shopping mall over the next few weeks, organised by Soma. You might have read about it in the Shanghai Daily:

"Channel 1 is a new fashion, dining and entertainment center catering to local hip and trendy demographic. Most of the bands are rather young and fresh, [...] with a hip and naughty style appealing mostly to their own generation born after 1980 or even 1990."
Hmm. Or maybe you saw it in this week's Access Asia update where they admitted they didn't know any of the bands who were playing and included a photo of Pinkberry with the caption "One of the bands (honestly, we have no idea which one)"*.

Ok, so the press coverage hasn't been great. But there are some good local bands on show there and I was curious so, putting aside my uneasiness about seeing rock bands in a shopping mall, I went to watch Hard Queen.

Tonight: Yuguo are back (again)

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yuguo.jpgWhen I woke up this morning, it was absolutely chucking it down with rain. I might have known. You see, indie-rock band Yuguo, who you may remember came back a few months ago after a year away, are back in Shanghai tonight after their nationwide tour. What's that got to do with the weather? Well, I'm starting to wonder if the band aren't cursed.

When I saw them in one of their first comeback gigs earlier this year at the Midi Festival, they had one of the longest festival soundchecks I've ever witnessed. Once again the weather was a problem - they were opening the second day of the festival, an absolute mudbath despite the other two days being gloriously sunny. People weren't in the mood for sound problems. The band got through a full minute of their opening track at one point before cutting it off, shouting at the sound guys and starting all over again. Even the most ardent fans were getting impatient. Once Yuguo got going, they played a great set and won over the vast majority of those who watched them, but plenty of people had drifted away during the soundcheck by that point.
Top Floor Circus, the Shanghai band whose name is often prefixed with "the elusive" or "the legendary", have announced that they will play the Daning Music Season event on August 9th. As well as announcing the show, "Attic Circus" (as the Shanghai Daily decided to call them yesterday) have taken the unusual step of saying exactly which songs they'll be playing. The band are currently writing a bunch of new material with a view to recording a new album at the end of this year/beginning of next. There'll be five old favourites as well as five new songs on the Daning set list. The songs are:

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

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

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

Here's the details for the Daning show:

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

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

Hey, what's going on?

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pupu.jpgI caught several great shows at the weekend. But something struck me about two of the three: the size of the audience. Coverpeople's audience was small and that was to be expected, but it was a bit thin on the ground for Guai Li at YYT on Friday and for Carsick Cars and PK14 at the Dream Factory on Saturday.

It struck me as strange because YYT has been packed on a regular basis the last few weeks, regardless of who's been playing. Guai Li (quite apart from my mild crush) are one of the up and coming Beijing buzz bands and support from Duck Fight Goose (an admittedly new band) and Boojii meant a good overall line-up. Yet come half nine - the advertised and planned start time - Yuyintang was pretty empty. This meant Duck Fight Goose didn't come on until a fair bit later and, though people did start to drip in, by the time Guai Li were on it was hardly rammed.

Likewise, Dream Factory pulled in a decent sized crowd on Saturday night, but given that Carsick Cars and PK14, two of China's biggest indie bands, were on the bill it should have been packed.

There were competing shows on both nights. Second Hand Rose were at the Dream Factory on Friday, but they appeal to a different crowd and a friend (who incidentally left part way through SHR's set complaining they were 很土, ha!) told me that that was only half full. On Saturday, there was a good bunch of local bands playing at eno, while YYT had a pop punk act from Xinjiang. I don't know what the turn out was like for those two, but given the size of the crowds at some recent gigs, there should have been enough rock fans to go round.

So where was everyone? This Saturday, The Mushrooms have their their latest theme party while Ziyo are at the Dream Factory the same night. Will it be the same story? Is this the start of a summer malaise? Is it because the universities have broken up? Or something else? As The Mushrooms will no doubt scream this weekend (packed crowd or not), what's going on?

Midi moving to Chengdu?

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Click here for more Midi Zhenjiang photosUPDATE, July 28: Those Midi rumour machines are spluttering into action early. The latest story? Midi will hold a festival in Anhui province in 2010. Don't hold your breath.

There's been some mutterings on Douban for a while about Midi Festival heading to Chengdu for the October holiday and now China Music Radar has heard some whispers that have led them to post on it too. Midi of course upped sticks from Beijing earlier this year in favour of Zhenjiang and it seems that the success of that festival has emboldened them to look even further afield. The Zebra Festival in Chengdu, which was also held in May and featured a pretty impressive line-up, went down well over there and Midi would expect a similar response. Nothing official has been announced yet, but organiser Zhang Fan has spoken before about a desire to take Midi on the road and stated back in May that "for the 11th Midi we'll go to another important city".

On the Douban thread there's a few upset Beijingers moaning about Midi not being in the capital again. But I kind of like the idea of a Midi on tour, hitting different cities and provinces. Maybe that's because I can afford to get to most of them without too much hassle, but it's also because Midi is really the only festival in China with the sort of reputation that Glastonbury enjoys in the UK - i.e. people will go just because it's Midi. As one commenter on the thread said, "where Midi goes, I go". This sort of name recognition means exposure for bands that people might not have otherwise gone to see and hopefully benefits the local scene wherever Midi decides to put on a festival.

I'm not suggesting that Midi will revolutionise the music scenes in Chengdu or particularly in Zhenjiang, but it can't hurt. Chengdu's music scene is pretty small at present, even smaller than Shanghai's. The excellent 声音与玩具 are from there and there's a venue which I love called The Little Bar (effectively Chengdu's Yuyintang), but not an awful lot else. At least, not that I'm aware of. Feel free to point out my Shanghai-based ignorance in the comments below if you have better information on Chengdu.

Coverpeople at 03 Space

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coverpeople.JPGBack in October last year, Neocha released a free downloadable album called Tomorrow's Afternoon Tea. The record was comprised of original tracks from bands or solo acts with female singers. It's a great listen and something that I keep coming back to months later. One of the stand out tracks on the album was Coverpeople's 我们 and last night she played down at the 03 Space at 0093.

The 03 Space is pretty small and generally the shows there are soloists with a semi-acoustic guitar. Last time I was there on a Sunday afternoon, there was about a dozen people there - some parents, friends and a couple of little children. There was a trestle table to one side with bottles of Coke and plastic cups. It reminded me of a village hall back in the UK.

Coverpeople, actually just one girl, has more of a following though and there were over 70 people crammed in last night, including a group of six or seven girls from Wuhan who came wearing home made Coverpeople t-shirts. It was ridiculously hot down there, with only a couple of ceiling fans to keep people cool. Still, it was completely worth it.

It was an intimate and personal show with Coverpeople able to engage the audience in conversation in between songs. I often think when you're just one person with a guitar it's hard to maintain the audience's focus, but her simple yet beautiful tunes are hard not to like. She also enlisted the help of a piano player for several songs which kept things varied.

我们.JPGOn the door, they were selling CDs which made me think of Trent Reznor's comments on distributing music. I was kind of disappointed when I got home to discover the CD only had two tracks on it, but it's a nicely produced object and still worth owning.

The "label" that produced the CD is Eryu Forest, basically Coverpeople and her friend iiiis, and I recommend you check out their website and join their Douban group if you haven't already.

pk14.JPGI'm going to do a few posts about what I got up to last night (musicwise I mean) and this first one is, confusingly, the last part of the night as far as the gigs were concerned. I'd been down at 0093 checking out Coverpeople (more on her in a minute) so didn't get to the Dream Factory until about ten. That meant I missed Hot and Cold, which was a shame. I wasn't the only one to miss them. Ben Houge, who told me he'd met them up in Beijing last week, was gutted to have not seen them as well. I'd only found out about them playing from Han Han at YYT on Friday - there was no mention of them on the flyers or any of the promotional stuff, which was odd.

Anyway, Carsick Cars went on after them and did a bunch of stuff from their new album as well as a couple of classics including 中南海 and its requisite cigarette shower. I'm glad Carsick Cars have a new album out. I feel like their live show had gotten a little stale. They're really good live and always worth checking out, but when you've seen the same set a few times it starts to lose its edge. Some new material was definitely needed and it was a good set. That said (just to contradict myself), I was disappointed that there was no 广场.

Next up were These Are Powers, which threw everyone a bit as we'd all assumed they were the headliners. According to Archie, they had insisted on PK14 headlining. A nice touch as he said, but I have to admit that at that point I was thinking the line-up had been a bit skewed. With Carsick Cars having a new album out I'd have thought if either of the Chinese bands was going to headline, it'd be them. Archie said he thinks they'll come and do a proper album release show in Shanghai soon anyway, but the other reason I felt this way was because I'd simply forgotten how good PK14 are live.

It'd been a while since I last saw them. In fact I think the last time was when they played two gigs in the same night - one at YYT before jumping in a taxi (literally, I was on the street with them hailing it) and heading over to 4Live for the other. They took a little while to get going last night, playing some stuff off City Weather Sailing. But once they hit their stride and started smashing out the classics, there was no stopping them. As soon as I heard the opening riff of 她丢失信仰 I was down at the front and jumping around like a loon until they closed the set out. I was reminded just how good they are and exactly why they deserved to be the headliners.

In the beginning

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by Wee LingSo Andy's out of action. That sucks.

This is no replacement blog. Andy's blog is great and he's built it into the authority on the Shanghai music scene. I sincerely hope he feels well enough to continue with it soon. But we'd been talking for a while about me blogging more and then he surprised me just now by dropping this link into my inbox. So here I am. 

I'll be tweaking this page over the next couple of weeks so please bear with me while I sort it all out.

Like I say, this is no replacement, but don't be surprised if the focus of this page is also the Shanghai music scene or if some bits look a bit like Andy's blog. We pretty much go to all the same shows anyway...