Glamorous Pharmacy, Yuyintang

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glamorousacrobat.jpgLast night was one of those nights that just makes you really appreciate the Chinese music scene and the intimacy of a venue like Yuyintang - a really quality band performing a great set while being totally approachable and friendly in the process.

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.
Despite their status, the band were really down to earth, chatting away to them and knicking their cigarettes. There was some great banter amongst the band members and with the crowd and plenty of singalong moments too thanks to the dedication of those in the audience. There was a really inclusive and welcoming feeling, as cheesy as that sounds, partly due to the size of the venue and the fact that the band played mostly sitting down at only just above audience level. I say mostly sitting down because at one point Xiao He decided to try out some amateur acrobatics on his chair.

Having played for about an hour and a half, the crowd demanded more at the end of the band's set. At this point Xiao He suggested that Glamorous Pharmacy's accordion player, Zhang Weiwei, play some of his stuff, which the audience was more than happy with. Zhang Weiwei, together with Xiao He, is one of the leading figures on the Chinese folk scene and is well known for supporting Wan Xiao Li (also at YYT later this month) and for having been in Wild Children with fellow Glamorous Pharmacist Guo Long, who plays the xylophone and various other percussion with the band. The two proceeded to perform some of their own material and some covers before declaring that it was "time to go to the bar" and sending everyone home very happy.

To download a live recording of Zhang Weiwei and Guo Long for free go here.

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I learn so much at this blog. And your descriptions of these shows make me wish I were there while feeling almost as if I were. Thank you.

Is the lead singer doing the shot-put on stage? He looks like a young Geoff Capes

Yeah, people didn't really know what to make of it when he shouted out "wo shi jiefu kapusi" and then proceeded to rotate in a circle on top of his chair before throwing a 16 pound metal ball into the audience, but - despite the serious injury sustained by the person the ball struck on the nose - everyone seemed to appreciate the performance. There's some more photos of his shot-putting here.

There's a couple of videos for Zhang Weiwei's song Li Baibai here as well by the way. If you understand Chinese, the lyrics are pretty funny - he had people laughing along on Sunday night

reckon you might need a spam filter . . .

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