Remembering Joyside

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joyside.jpgSo it's finally over. Joyside, the Beijing band renowned for their chaotic tours and, well, chaotic lives have called it a day. Despite them saying that the split was "a sudden decision", rumours had been circulating about the future of the band for a while. Joyside will now play a special farewell gig at Mao in Beijing this weekend and for those not able to make it, Yuyintang will dedicate next week's film night to the band, showing a video of their 2008 China tour as part of a "Remember Joyside" night next Tuesday (September 15th).

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 . 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.

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Believe it or not, Joyside were a difficult band to 'grasp' but once you did they were mind blowing although, for me, ultimately dissapointing live. For us ex-pats, I think people who had genuine local scene friends as a result of actually going to underground shows each week as a fan could understand the impact of the band.

Of all the bands, Joyside provoked the biggest reaction here. They were a really big deal to people, love or hate. Joyside fans here showed real signs of obsession like knowing the words to every song, basing their life around a particular song, and losing all semblance of rational thought when discussing the band.

I met Bian Yuan out the front of Windows Underground when they played there. Unsurprisingly he was wasted so despite me being in a group with people who genuinely knew him, I didn't really get anything out of it apart from some drunken mumbling :)

Here's a quick story that perfectly illustrates his impact though ... true story ...

My wife, Evans, was using Myspace and posted a message on a Joyside related page wishing the band well and hoping to catch up with them at the Midi Festival that year.

The next day, she received a stream of messages from a 40 year old American woman based in Beijing telling Evans to stay away from Bian Yuan.

It went into incredible detail talking about how she knew exactly what these young slut types were like and that she was the only one who truly knew him and appreciated him. It then took an eerie turn as she moved into messages about how actually Bian Yuan was helpless and she'd guided him like a mother and nursed him when he was sick ..and finally into rants about how she hated him. The full range of psychological denial of rejection in 4 or 5 messages ..all before any kind of reply from Evans either.

It was quite something.

Andy, that story is hilarious. You should totally post all those messages! I'll bet Joyside's star status in Beijing plus Bian Yuan's wastral ways created a lot of those situations. (And Beijing gets a lot more foreign groupies, well groupies period, than Shanghai...)

Is the film showing Tuesday "Wasted Orient" or another documentary? It sounds like the latter. A couple of years I tried to help the "Wasted" director arrange a screening plus Joyside concert at Yuyintang, but it fell through as they couldn't afford a projector back then and could only borrow one on a weekday, while the band was only in town for the beach rock fest until Sunday, or something like that.

I was trying to get the right people in touch, but not willing to donate my own money and like 15-20 hours of time to set it up, and the guy got mad about the YYT cancellation. Have tried several times since to get people to arrange a screening, but it never happened. I hung out with Bian Yuan some back then...that's my Joyside memory.

Anyhow, if it's not that film, should get YYT to finally put it on some time.

RIP Joyside. They were...interesting. I'm not a big fan of their sort of nihilism, but they were in a way an honest reaction to the mess of contemporary society. I'm surprised their train wreck didn't fully derail sooner.

That's a great story Andy, ha ha! Alas, I'm afraid I never met them, the closest I got was kicking their football back to them when they were having a kickabout at InMusic and squeezing past a very sweaty Bian Yuan and loads of groupies after he'd just come off stage at YYT once. Hmm, not quite as impressive as your stories I suppose. Oh well.

I remember they were one of the first Chinese bands I really heard people obsessing about, though I think it was always hard for them to live up to such idol worship and hype - I was always a bit disappointed when I saw them live too. In fact, I was so 无所谓 about them that I didn't even read the invitation to the YYT thing properly and only realised it was a remembrance night when Andy pointed it out to me. Still, their impact on the scene and on the fans is undeniable as Andy says above.

The film is a documentary of their China tour from the end of last year called 《破碎》(Broken) so not Wasted Orient, Beijing Bubbles or the recent Joyside of Europe one as far as I can tell.

I agree that it's kind of surprising they lasted this long really. Glad you can comment at last by the way Lisa!

I'm not sure there'll ever really be another Joyside - for better or for worse

Well said, Jake. (And Andy and Lisa).

I dashed off a quick eulogy earlier this week. You can read it here. Just scroll midway down.

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