STD turn 3 at MAO Livehouse

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p499839342.jpgThis was a huge line up at MAO Livehouse. There were about 213 DJs and noise people, Danger, Lymbyc Systym, Pet Conspiracy, Boys Climbing Ropes and The Fever Machine. Yet the turn out was a bit disappointing, more on that in a minute.

First up, the bands. I missed all the experimental/noise acts unfortunately. The first band I saw were The Fever Machine. Check them out here. I'm one of those people who has to listen to a song a few times before I can really decide if I like it, often my instant reactions aren't entirely accurate. I've now seen The Fever Machine about three times I think and their songs are getting some traction in my head - they've got a couple of belters. They played a tight set with hardly any breaks in it (perhaps due to the smallish crowd) and were on good form. They've been playing a lot recently and are showing no signs of slowing down any time soon so go see them.

Next up were Boys Climbing Ropes in possibly their last show before a summer break. It'd been an age since I'd seen them play at MAO Livehouse (around a week) and it was good to see them back on the stage. Seriously, I can't get enough of this band and when they dominate the MAO stage in that way there are few better live shows. It was a short set, but if they are taking a little time off for Shanghai's ridiculous summer, they went out with a bang.

That's pretty much it for the bands from my side. Pet Conspiracy weren't on until later and I had to scuttle away to watch an abysmal England performance. But what about the attendance? China Music Radar recently posited that the Expo was having an impact on gig attendance in Shanghai. The massive influx of foreign acts, they argue, has possibly led to foreign band overkill and has bred indifference among local fans. Read the CMR piece here
In terms of foreign acts coming over, I feel it's a fairly logical argument. Usually, when Splitworks bring in a foreign band, even if you haven't necessarily heard of them much, you generally know they will be a quality act. That's what Splitworks do. But when there's wave after wave of foreign bands coming because of Expo and they're all being touted around, then things get saturated and if you've not heard of any of them, why go? Add in the fact that a lot of these gigs charge higher than the usual prices and you get small crowds. 

For the local scene, I'd argue that the impact has been minimal. Subs maybe didn't pull in as big a crowd as it could have done, but there were other factors at play there (namely the holiday) and in general, attendance at the local shows hasn't changed dramatically. The other thing to keep in mind is that crowds at gigs always drop off around this time of year. In fact, one of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about the drop off. At the time, I wasn't really clear what was happening, but thinking about it, it happens every year.

For the STD show specifically, I'd say it was a mix of all these factors. Foreign band fatigue is easily trumped by quality acts who have laid the groundwork in China - the return of Handsome Furs in August should be packed. But it's the summer, attendances are dropping off anyway, the World Cup is hitting anywhere not showing it fairly hard and 150 kuai on the door is a big ask, even with such a strong line up. But that's just my two jiao, maybe I'm wrong.

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1984 at YYT were good (if you like Muse) but again a fairly lacklustre turn out. It felt like about 50% of the audience seemed to comprise of the entourage of one of the support bands, Damallamas.

What I'm hearing a lot is that we're losing a lot of crowds to football. Generally I think the shows at Expo are a little to ____ [insert adjective/expletive of choice] to be much competition to the rock scene. At Mao, even much of the staff is awol this month watching football. I'm surprised they haven't started broadcasting games on the big screen behind the bands (which I really hope they don't do).

The summer dropoff is at least partly due to the student exodus, Chinese and foreign, I suspect. But there also seems to be masses of foreign summer students and interns at shows lately. They keep the minimart next to Mao in business, you know how it's struggling.

But this really is a watershed for the scene: such an abundance of shows, and no seasonal slack-off of shows (just audiences). So many choices, it's exhausting but nice. The audiences definitely are expanding, just there are a lot more shows competing for them.

I think the ticket prices have to figure in as a major reason for some shows stagnating - especially with younger locals.

I blogged it over at Indie Everything and stand by the post - the cut off point for attracting a good local audience is still 40 rmb together with the main band having to get done by 11.

Anything else is subject to the whims of the international or party crowd.

Mao have forgotten an important point. They knowingly came in 'early'. There wasn't necessarily a need for a larger venue - that is, there wasn't 800 die-hard fans every gig night being turned away from smaller venues. It was a move designed to build and yet within only the first few months ticket prices have risen over the cut-off for many.

Sure people do save up for shows at home - when the band is dear to them already and they go like once every three or so months. But for building up a long term locally based audience - both Mao and promoters such as STD have been doing all the wrong things.

Well, we needn't talk about STD together with this topic. They are a good party promoter with their own crowd. What they do is not aimed at scene development (pertaining to bands who write original music and are shanghai based)and has very little effect on it.

And then there's those cheeky interviews with Reggie where they claim they sat round bored and a light bulb went off and STD was born ... like the previous time with the Antidote crew didn't exist or something.

@ Lisa

Mao's bar keeps the minimart in business, actually. It's now a legendary topic.

The main reason I didn't go to the STD show was that I didn't find the line-up all that impressive. Nothing to do with ticket prices or EXPO events.
Same reason I didn't go to the TRANSMIT China shows. Just didn't think the bands were all that exciting or worthwhile. Nothing to do with location, time, cost or any other factors.

For me, if I think I'll find the acts exciting or interesting - I'll make the time and spend the cash to go see them.

Yeah, well they are obviously talking about people who would have gone to the concert if one or more mitigating factors were different. They're thinking about people who are interested in the bands and DJs but couldn't afford it or something.

"I didn't go because I didn't want to go" kind of slots you in with about 17 million other people in Shanghai that also didn't want to go because it wasn't their thing. Who cares.

But yeah, you're right. If the organizers had booked someone like metallica or sting or U2 or bette midler or meatloaf or animal collective or whatever else, the attendance would have been a completely different picture.

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