September 2009 Archives
There's a whole crapload of good music stuff going on this holiday and plenty of newsworthy events too - starting with Mao's opening tonight, going via the Modern Sky Festival (maybe Festivals?) in Beijing and also including a bunch of high profile gigs in Shanghai. And I'm not going to cover any of it I'm afraid. At least, not directly. I'm heading off travelling for those two weeks on the other side of the country from Shanghai (note to thieves: I have nothing of value in my flat. Seriously, nothing. I wish I did). I'll try and post some stuff if I get the time/there's something worth posting on from t'internet, but I won't be catching any gigs in Shanghai for a little while. Just thought I'd let you know.
In the meantime, if you haven't added China Music Radar, SmartShanghai, CW's The Beat and Shanghaiist to your RSS/reader already, you might want to do so now. Not saying that me not blogging for a couple of weeks is going to leave a gaping hole in your life or anything, just that those sites are worth checking regularly anyway for music news etc.
Before I go, here's a few bits and bobs and links and whatnot:
This is what Miniless' Han Han has to say about the record:
"There is no doubt that this album is a milestone in rock and roll. Or, that is to say, I think this is the best record by a Chinese band until now.
Time will verify this statement - wait and see."
When I bumped into Sun Ye the other day, he told me he was getting married. "Congratulations," I said and beyond a bit more talk about it, I didn't think too much more of it. Then I found out last night that when Boojii play Modern Sky Festival in a couple of weeks it will be sans Sun Ye due to his impending nuptials. His replacement will be Han Han from LOS/Duck Fight Goose and they've been practising like mad, including a gig at last night's New Faces Night at YYT. Alas, I wasn't able to get free until it was too late - Boojii went on first, right on the dot and were followed by DFG, I didn't have time to make it over for their sets, but Andy filled me in. Sun Ye has confirmed that this is just a temporary arrangement and that he'll be back with Boojii soon. The band still haven't got a release date for their album but it should be out before the end of the year and is one to look forward to.
Obviously, congratulations go to Sun Ye and I'm glad that it's only a temporary change. Other bands haven't been so lucky in the past. Morgan was talking the other day about how 21 Grams' long hiatus was largely caused by a female member going and getting hitched. They seem to be doing the odd gig again now, or at least they were at the enoise showcase a few weeks back. You can read some more about 21 Grams and download some tracks by following this link right here. Seriously, some of these kids need to be a bit more considerate to us music fans and stop being so wholesome. It reminds me of a conversation I had with Xiao Bai of Bang Bang Tang once where she stated matter of factly that if her boyfriend asked her to stop being in the band she would, no questions asked.
Another band experiencing slightly more serious line-up changes due to affairs of the heart are Pinkberry. The story is that the drummer has left due to romantic complications. Before it sounds like I'm besmirching Xiao You or the other boys' good names, I should point out that it hasn't involved other members of the band. Basically, the rumour is that old A Luan is a bit of a playboy and that the band got fed up with some of the comments on their QQ from the ladies that he'd left in his wake. So much so that they have now apparently asked him to leave. Sure enough, he now only names PZ64 on his Douban page, there's no mention of Pinkberry any more. That leave Xiao You and Toni as the only remaining original members one year in after the bassist was replaced a couple of months back. Then again, those two were always the driving force of the band anyway so it shouldn't disrupt things too much hopefully.
Soma are going to move their offices down there eventually and there'll also be Tian Tian's CD shop and a 0093 practice space, but all of that will come later. For now, they're just focusing on getting the bar, stage and public area ready in time for the weekend. Remember that 200 kuai My Little Airport show that they were due to open with? It's been postponed so the place will now open (this being China, it'll be a soft opening of course) on the Saturday with Sonnet, Momo and Life Journey. That show's a freebie by the way too.
Free and 200 kuai won't be regular door charges apparently, they're more likely to fall in the 40-50 kuai range, which sounds more sensible. The guys there are also aware that it'll take time to build up the gigs and the crowds but are in this for the long haul, which could be good news for Shanghai.
More photos (including shots of the interior and some older ones of the outside under construction) after the jump.
Lezi was telling me that their next show, at Mao (more on them tomorrow) on Saturday, will be their last for a while. They're going to spend some time writing some new songs and working on their material and will be back once that's done. I'm sure they'll come back with a new spark and energy and I look forward to hearing the new stuff.
If Sonnet weren't quite on top form, Bigger Bang! certainly were. I used to think they were kind of a poor man's Queen Sea Big Shark, but when I saw them up at Zhangbei I realised this was unfair - they're a really good band in their own right. At Zhangbei I thought Pupi (the lead singer from Guangzhou) was a bit lost on stage - she gave a great performance but the stage seemed to big for her and the band at times. Of course, that wasn't a problem at Yuyintang and the packed crowd was able to get up nice and close. They produced a blistering set and proved themselves a class live act. They also added more weight to Dan Shapiro's fat bassist = good band theory. Ask him about it some time.
To round it all off, the drummer handed his drumstick to me at the end of the show (just before I swiped a setlist to add to my collection). I'd been talking to them just before they went on about Zhangbei and he told me afterwards that's why he gave it to me. Pupi and the rest of the band (including Tookoo's Abe) are all really nice people too and I had a good chat with them after the show. Sorry if that sounds a bit name-dropper/ligger-like but, as I think I've mentioned before here, I just like the fact that you can hang out with these bands too. Plus, it's much better to like bands who aren't c**ts (although thanks to my playful use of ** you may never know quite what I mean).
For some of my photos of Bigger Bang! on Sunday go here, for some much better photos by Tim Franco, go here. One last thing, keeping on the Sonnet and Bigger Bang theme, you can read an interview (in Chinese) with the latter by Lezi, drummer of the former, by clicking here.
Of course, Neocha's NEXT player is always one of the best places to go if you want to hear some underground Chinese music and most of the bands I write about have Neocha or Douban pages (if not both) where you can stream songs and occasionally download some stuff too.
For Sonnet, if you downloaded their EP for free and enjoyed it, you can download their live set from the Michael Jackson tribute night here. It's shared via RayFile which a lot of the bands seem to use at the minute. You have to download some software first (doesn't seem to work on Macs, sigh) but it seems safe. You can get the Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal covers as tracks on their own from Sonnet's Douban artist page too.
I mentioned a little while back about Five Pointed Star bringing out an EP soon called Awake. The release party isn't until the 29th, but you can have a little preview listen here. All clips rather than full tracks and only available to stream, not download I'm afraid, but isn't that what the kids are into these days anyway?
It was less New Faces at last night's new band showcase at YYT, more familiar faces in a new line-up. Resist! Resist! are a new synth-powered band but when you see them you'll probably recognise some faces. Boys Climbing Ropes' Morgan Short is there twiddling nobs and what not (headbanging while doing so), while Natalee Blagden "messes around" on the keyboard (her words) and Lucy Brydon adds vocals with an Edinburgh lilt (not the soft drink). That was the line-up when I saw their first show at the Antidote Festival in Zhujiajiao a couple of months ago, but last night I discovered that they now also feature Mortal Fools' Tim Anderson on the drums.
While I recognised the people up on stage, Yuyintang's New Faces night was less recognisable due to a decent crowd of people being in there. Last time I went to one of these showcases, designed to give new bands a testing ground, there were about half a dozen people there.
I don't have any MP3s or a site or anything to link to I'm afraid (unless I'm missing something?) except for Natalee's blog (right here) where there's a bit more information on the band. This was only their second show after all. They've been away redoing their songs since the Zhujiajiao festival debut and they've come back with a more polished live show with added oomph (for want of a better word) now they've got Tim on the drums too. Unfortunately, I got there a bit late and didn't catch all of their set. I didn't manage to get any photos either so I've stolen this one from Natalee's blog. Still, I saw enough to know that they've already improved a lot and that they're going to be well worth following.
If/when Resist! Resist! get a site or put up some songs I'll link to it, but for now I can only recommend that you go check them out live. They'll be at Not Me next week (minus Tim) and then supporting Jeans Team on the 30th when the German electronic group returns to LOgO to no doubt tear the place up like last time.
Anyone who's suffering from Battle of the Bands fatigue out there, I feel your pain. And yet, here I am, stealing Elaine's headline and taking up more space on the interwebs about them. I know, I'm part of the problem.
So why bring these competitions up again? A couple of reasons: first, Dan Shapiro has offered "Another Look at that Pepsi Battle of the Bands" over on his blog at CityWeekend (go read it here); second, the Global Battle of the Bands that I mentioned before here, has been taking a bit of stick on Douban of late.
Dan makes some interesting points in his piece and argues that the exposure the bands receive is far greater than that for bands who remain underground and gig at mid-sized venues. He admits that the sticking point is the sacrifices a band may have to make in terms of their artistic vision, but argues that sticking with an indie label doesn't mean you get a carte blanche artistically either:
"Of course, mainstream labels may limit artistic control; singing with an indie label should ensure your band receives complete creative license. But wait, in Shanghai, singing with a local label means you may have to change your sound, your style, your hair (Little Nature) and even your band name (MOMO / Happy Strings), in order to fit the target demographic."This is a fair point in regard to Soma - they have changed the artists they've taken on board. Andy wrote a while back about the changes to Momo's appearance and when I interviewed lead singer Ding Jia nearly a year ago I asked her about why the band had changed their sound so dramatically and she simply said "because we signed with the label." She didn't bat an eyelid.
But that mail out was an invite to a shoot for a music video, part of which took place at Yuyintang on Saturday and I took that as a positive sign. I went along to see what was going on.
Before I go any further, a few links to Bang Bang Tang on the web: here they are on Neocha and Douban. Both of those pages have tracks for streaming so go have a listen.
So the video is for the song 我最爱缺陷男 (I Love Flawed Men Best) and they shot some of it on Friday morning up at 1933 Factory, and a couple of bits at Yuyintang and Moganshan Lu on Saturday. "It's been tiring", Xiao Bai told me, but she seemed to be enjoying it too.
They've been produced with the help of Italian designer and noise artist Nicola Vinciguerra and come in red and black. They're 69 kuai and are available on Taobao here.
I'm actually a big fan of bands doing their own merchandise like this. It's a good way for them to make a bit of money and I find people often ask me about the bands when I'm wearing the t-shirt which then means I can tell them where to find their music and see their shows. I reckon having Torturing Nurse emblazoned across your chest is going to be a conversation starter wherever you wear a t-shirt like this. So if you buy one and someone asks you about it, you can send them a link to this post right here, which I'd say is a nice introduction to the world of Torturing Nurse.
Andy first started writing about Pinkberry around this time last year when he saw them play what by my reckoning was their third ever gig. There were a few sound problems that night, but here's what he said at the time: "if they stick at it they are going to be a great act on the Shanghai circuit soon." So Mr Best picked another turkey. Just kidding - he was bang on of course.
After reading the glowing reviews on his blog, checking out a few MP3s on Neocha and catching a couple of their shows I saw the attraction: they played no-nonsense pop punk and had a firecracker of a frontwoman in Xiao You. For me, the first time I met them was in November when I did a feature for SH magazine on some of the more prominent female figures on the Shanghai underground scene and invited Xiao You along to be interviewed. This was my first time talking to her properly in person and I was completely charmed by her - she was smart, funny and great to interview. You can read the resulting feature here.
In the meantime, Andy continued to follow the band's progress and even produced a music video with them for the song Run Away. You can check it out here, as long as you're not behind the Great Firewall or have a VPN or something for getting over it.
Whisper it, but the long-delayed 0093 compilation album might finally be on its way. A date of November 30th has tentatively been set and there's even a track listing available. Tian Tian and Fanqie Chaodan have both posted messages on Douban stating how hard it's been, but it seems like maybe, just maybe, the record could be about to see the light of day.
Here's the tracklisting:
1. 甜品店 - 我们 (Tian Pin Dian/Candy Shop - Us)
2. 空中花园 - 奇迹 (Hanging Gardens - Miracle)
3. Mortal Fools - 傻X时代 (FoolXEra)
4. 棒棒糖 - 暗战 (Bang Bang Tang - Running Out of Time)
5. 伍角星 - 对白 (Five Pointed Star - Dialogue)
6. 胶壳 - 大公鸡 (Joker - Big Rooster)
7. Pinkberry - Beauty Doll
8. 羽果 - 漂浮 (Yuguo - Floating)
9. 香蕉猴子 - Double Trouble (Banana Monkey)
10. 吴雪颖 - Sweet Night (Wu Xue Ying)
11. 顶楼的马桶团 - 上海欢迎你 (Top Floor Circus - Shanghai Welcomes You)
Andy first reported on this back in January (read his original post here) when a April 1st release was cheekily suggested, but the CD has been beset by delays. The release of a full tracklisting (with some changes to the original lineup) and the fact that Wang Tian Tian and Fanqie Chaodan say they listened to the CD yesterday suggest that, come November 30th, the CD could finally be a reality. Let's hope so.
Here's what the band have to say about the live recording:
"The band's life lies in live shows and this is the reason we've decided to release a live album. Perhaps you're used to the feelings you get listening to the studio album, whether it's the passionate and powerful vocals or the more low-key singing, but you can't miss the primitive and instinctive feeling of the live show, which produces a different kind of joy and excitement than the CD."So there you go. A bit more information about the album can be found here (in Chinese) and for some background to the band and the tour check out this link and this one.
Formed in early 2001, the Beijing punk rock outfit became well-known for their memorable live performances, which regularly consisted of the band getting absolutely hammered before going on stage, just about managing to get through some songs and then getting into fights after the gig. For some, they were a shambles, for others they were punk gods. Even as recently as May this year, Beijing's Time Out magazine chose Joyside lead singer Bian Yuan as the capital's coolest rock star over Hedgehog's Atom and Queen Sea Big Shark's Fu Han. Here's what they said about him:
"On stage, he's been known to be a drunken mess, singing songs such as 'I Wanna Piss Around You!'; off the stage he's professed that he just wants to get girls. Yet, whether ranting about the meaningless of life (as in gonzo rock flick Wasted Orient) or finding God under a Xinjiang sun, he somehow comes across as a poet rather than a hooligan."
Despite such accolades, it seems that "China's answer to Jim Morrison" was never the easiest of people to get along with and the band had been through a number of line-up changes over the years. Nevertheless, while their early shows were legendary for their drunken antics, the band had mellowed more recently and Bian Yuan had even explored more acoustic sounds with side project 浪. The release of an EP on Maybe Mars and of the documentary film The Joyside of Europe (not the first time they'd been the subject of a film, see also Beijing Bubbles and Wasted Orient) back in April seemed to suggest the band weren't finished yet, but ultimately they have decided to call it quits. The band have stated that "the break up of Joyside was something that no one wanted to see and it's the same for us. But the fact is that it's happened now and so we all have to accept this reality."
For an excellent overview on the history of Joyside, visit the Rock in China page on them here. Film night at Yuyintang is every Tuesday, starting at 8pm and entry is the cost of one drink (they start at 10 kuai, though for Joyside it seems appropriate to buy a beer). If you're in Beijing, the farewell gig will be on the 12th at Mao. Entry is 60 kuai (they wanted to make it free apparently, but couldn't because of the venue cost so are giving everyone a free CD on entry instead) and it kicks off at 9:30pm.
The night before had been so packed that any movement more energetic than blinking resulted in you sweating buckets. Last night, it was nicely busy, but with plenty of room to move around freely. Of course, Glamorous/ Glorious Pharmacy are a completely different kind of act to Handsome Furs so it was hardly a surprise that the crowd was completely different too. One similarity that I hadn't expected however, was the 80 kuai door charge. And there was no support act.
It's a measure of the quality and status of the band though that, even at these prices and even on a Sunday night, a decent-sized crowd turned out to see them. Not only that, but they were all dedicated fans too, which made for a really good atmosphere. Headed up by Xiao He, Glamorous Pharmacy are real heroes on China's underground folk scene and deservedly so. Their music is more accessible than Xiao He's solo stuff and their recent Rumbling Footsteps long-player is a good starting point if you're new to their music. It was this album that they played from last night.
The band were at their mischievous best with Xiao He (from Hebei) trying out his Shanghainese and peppering the set with jokes and references to the Expo. This is no doubt under the influence of fellow Expo-lovers Top Floor Circus, most of whom were in the audience and to whom Xiao He dedicated the track Acrobat. There was even an impromptu cover of Beat It, playfully spliced with a classic Chinese pop hit that I recognised but can't name and the patriotic anthem Love My China. The crowd lapped it up.
Above is a photo of members of all three bands down at Venice Beach. It wasn't taken by me unfortunately.
Anyway, last night's gig. Yuyintang was predictably rammed, though with a different crowd to those who usually pack it out (and I assume to who will come out for Glorious Pharmacy tonight). Despite there being a few people in the audience who clearly knew members of Boys Climbing Ropes, the crowd was largely pretty still for their set. They weren't unappreciative of the band - each song was met with a roar and there were long calls for an encore (until Morgan pointed out that there was such a thing as etiquette and that, as support act, they wouldn't be doing an encore). But more jumping from more people would have been good. Maybe that's just me though.
Boys Climbing Ropes were excellent regardless. They played some new material as well as some classic old tracks from the aforementioned EP. Little Punk looked a touch nervous at the start - not an emotion I'd usually associate with her - but she seemed to settle more as the gig went on and the whole band were on top form to produce a cracking set. Let's have that new album soon please.
Then the headliners took the stage. I've got to admit I was always more into Wolf Parade than Handsome Furs, but I've still been listening to their stuff for a while and was excited to see them coming to China. They didn't disappoint, producing an outstanding and memorable performance that sent the crowd crazy - on-stage snogging, crowd-surfing and all. They were brilliant.
Though I've had this information on good authority, this is probably still one for you to file under "I'll believe it when I see it". When a music festival is announced in China (and this one's not yet official) it's never really certain that it will take place until usually a couple of days before - and some times even that's no guarantee. Midi, for some reason, seems to be particularly adept at creating their own melodramas in the run up to their events and generates more gossip and rumours than all the other festivals put together. Just a few weeks ago, the word was of Midi going to Chengdu, the current talk is of it being in Wuhan and there's even whispers about a Midi in Anhui in 2010. Add to that the failed attempt to bring Midi to Shanghai back in May (when it ended up being in Zhenjiang instead) and you've got yourself a recipe for skepticism.
It'd be great to have a festival like Midi in Shanghai, but, if it does come, is Lingshi Park really the place to put it? It hardly seems big enough to be honest. JZ have got their annual jazz festival out in the huge Century Park in Pudong in mid-October - a different breed of festival of course, but a far more suitable venue you'd think.
Then again, Midi Shanghai is still a long way from being confirmed. Don't get too excited just yet.
Tian Tian's excellent Taobao shop, previously under the name of 0093, has now been renamed to Indievox. In the announcement on Douban, he lists Soma first as among the labels he'll be stocking together with Modern Sky, Miniless and most other indie/alternative labels that you've heard of in China (though he doesn't name Maybe Mars, perhaps just an oversight?).
Tian Tian has been here before of course. The short-lived CD shop that set up in Yuyintang (where the seating area is now directly in front of where you come in) was his and it was great to have it there, but unfortunately the sales didn't cover the rent and he shifted it all online after just a few months. Perhaps with backing from Soma and Indievox, he can make a success of it this time around.
Speaking of Soma and MAO Shanghai, Dan Shapiro recently revealed more details on that opening show here. The date will now be September 25th, the band will still be Hong Kong "twee rock" outfit My Little Airport and they'll be charging a whopping 200 kuai on the door for the privilege. Just in case you're wondering if that's a typo, I'll repeat: 200 kuai. Ouch. I know My Little Airport are fairly well known and all, but still. By way of a comparison (I don't mean to favour anyone here, it's just because it's coming up in a few days), Splitworks have got Handsome Furs in town on Saturday at YYT with Boys Climbing Ropes in support for 80 kuai on the door. Hmm. Apparently the new MAO will put on a Casio-sponsored showcase of local bands the following night for free, but let's hope 200 kuai for twee rock isn't a statement of intent eh? I at least hope they put Momo or someone on in support to give them some exposure.
Triple Smash are the instrumental rock band formed by guitarist Jerry Li after he left The Mushrooms about a year ago. Most of their gigs have been as Zhong Chi's backing band, but the Indiechina showcase back in July gave them a chance to do their own thing and they impressed.
They'll be performing at a few shows in the run up to the EP release, first supporting Guangzhou bands Golden Cage and Dahua@Mei tonight at YYT, then with half-Brit, half-Chinese outfit Strobolight (as well as Duck Fight Goose) on Friday and finally with China's answer to Mogwai, Wang Wen on September 11th. So there's no excuse not to catch them really.
Also releasing an EP soon are nu-metal band Five Pointed Star. They've been playing gigs on the fringes for a while now - often involved in the 0093 showcases and playing out at Yangpu's Live Bar - without headlining too many of their own shows downtown. They did take part in the Shanghai Night Fever event last month and gave a good account of themselves, but they were a fair way down the bill. That's set to change though with their Awake EP and a dedicated release party at Yuyintang on September 29th at Yuyintang.
While we're on the subject of forthcoming releases, Lezi has posted a topic on Douban stating that Soma's Indie Top 2 compilation is nearly done. They're just putting the final touches to a record that will feature 14 tracks from local artists. For some background on the ultimately disappointing first Indie Top CD, check out coverage from Mr Best here. Anti-climax doesn't really come close to describing what happened last time around with Indie Top, but Soma claim to have listened to the feedback and taken it on board when producing the follow up. We'll see.
Finally, one of the bands who featured on the first Indie Top compilation and will most likely feature on the second are Little Nature. These guys are apparently in the final stages of producing their album too. The band have been a bit flat the last few times I've seen them and seem to have lost their old energy. Will the CD bring it back? Again, I guess we'll have to wait and see.