The Shanghai bands of 2009
I was talking to Elaine at Shanghaiist the other day about the Shanghai bands who had a good year in 2009. They've been doing all kinds of lists over at the 'ist this week (including this one from Archie Hamilton on the best China music moments of the last five years) and she wanted to do one on the bands of the year. I gave her my opinion and I've summarised it below here.
Despite the hopes of some that 2010 could be a strong year for international music acts in Shanghai, it could be a disastrous one for the local scene. The Beijing Olympics effectively caused a shutdown of local gigs and the Expo is threatening to do the same - the difference being that Expo runs for six whole months. Mao has already been called in for a chat with the powers that be after they organised a Top Floor Circus show that saw the band voice dissent against Expo. They've since had a subsequent TFC gig banned. Yuyintang is now talking about closing down for a few months in 2010. The impact that the closure of these venues would have is enormous and is something to be deeply worried about.
2009, on the other hand was a strong year for Shanghai bands. Here's five who particularly stood out for me in the past twelve months.
1) The Mushrooms. 2009 was the year they recovered their mojo. They shrugged off Soma's inaction to organise their own shows and pack them out with devoted fans. In terms of complete gig experiences (music, performance and atmosphere), they gave the best shows of the year. The School Uniform or Animal Patterns parties were the highlights (see Andy's take here), with band and audience members moved to tears.
2) Duck Fight Goose. Formed in May, this band was the year's best newcomer. Of course, they're all familiar faces - Lava/Ox/Sea's Han Han, Boojii's San San, Muscle Snog's Panda and Hard Queen's Damen - and it's hardly surprising such quality in one line-up has created a brilliant band. They get better every time I see them and their last show, at the Roots and Shoots thing, was one of the best performances of the year musically.
3) Candy Shop. It was a shame to see Melody leave (though she has since resurfaced with Caramel Mint), but Sammy really came into her own as their female vocalist toward the end of the year. The rest of the band continued to improve and they now have a solid set of material and a strong local following. Expect more from them in 2010 - as someone else has stated in this month's
Men's Health That's Shanghai.
4) Boys Climbing Ropes. Another band who gave one of the best performances of the year (their support slot for Pet Conspiracy at Mao where they really owned the stage), BCR had a bunch of new material and a really strong year in 2009. Their new album is out at the end of January and I can't wait to hear it.
5) Top Floor Circus. The latter half of the year saw Ding Ma return to full band mode with new material and a possible new album on the way in 2010. That, of course, may depend on other factors now. The success of Shanghai Welcomes You (and the more direct Shanghai Doesn't Welcome you version) have caused the authorities to seek to stamp it out. Hopefully, the band won't suffer because of it - they're not ones for lying down and taking this kind of thing.
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