Reflecting the smaller crowd that comes to these kind of shows, Yuyintang had the candlelit tables out on the main viewing area last night but there was a decent turn out with all the seats taken. Mai Mai kicked things off, exploring the limits and possibilities of his guitar. The highlight came when, in a trademark move, he pulled the instrument up close to his face and silmultaneously plucked at the strings and shouted into it creating an incredible sound.
Next up was Ben Houge. Ben is the guy whose art show I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, but he's also released a rock 'n' roll EP with 99 Men, has some fantastic electro-pop tracks here, has worked as a composer for a number of high profile videogames and has been a regular on the Shanghai noise/experimental scene for the last few years. He's pretty multi-talented. Last night he was in lofi soundscape mode, producing an absorbing downtempo piece composed of samples and field recordings that gradually swelled and filled the room. He'll be playing a different kind of set at Not Me this Thursday, but is seriously well worth seeing whichever kind of music he's playing.
Another guitar-focused piece, though in a completely different vein to the others, completed the first half of the evening with Torturing Nurse's Xu Cheng going to town on a small battered old guitar. He half picked at it, half destroyed it as he pulled at its strings and ran them over the surface of the wood creating incredibly plucking and screeching noises. That probably sounds horrible, but it was weirdly entrancing.
The second half of the night consisted of the four performers embarking on various collaborations. First up, Ben Houge provided yelps and shouts to Hans' guitar improvisations before Mai Mai and Xu Cheng (this time on a better conditioned electric) had a sort of war of attrition on guitar that somehow came together pretty well. Finally, all four joined forces for an improvised jam session. Thinking that such a collaboration could be pretty special, I did pull my camera out and film for this, though I balanced it on my knee so I could watch it live rather than via the camera's screen. I'll put what I filmed up soon, but let's just say I wasn't disappointed.
I realise these nights aren't for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoy them and if you're in Shanghai I urge you to try it out sometime. You might not love it, but you will be guaranteed an interesting performance.