Jake: August 2009 Archives

TimeOutmusic.jpgThere's a few things that have caught my eye in the press recently regarding the Shanghai music scene so I want to do a little round up here. Dan Shapiro recently put up a great overview of where to go for your English-language coverage of the scene (he also said some very nice things about this blog, thanks Dan), but the things that I'm going to write about below all come from the Chinese-language press.

One is from Time Out Shanghai about band contests, one is a piece on Top Floor Circus by a swanky upmarket lifestyle magazine and the third is an appearance from the Curry Soap and 8 Eye Spy in XMusic. Unfortunately, I can only link to the Top Floor Circus piece as the others don't appear to be online, but I'll try and give you an idea of the content anyway.

The title of this post is lifted from the headline of Time Out's main music feature for the current issue (the one with the luggage tag on the front cover). My first thought was 'no' followed by 'and what's consumer rock anyway?' If I tell you that this headline is surrounded by photos from a certain soft drink-sponsored battle of the bands, you might get an idea (see the picture above).

The angle of the article is basically a face-off between the aforementioned band contest and the Global Battle of the Bands, as both have their "finals" taking place in Shanghai soon. This is kind of misleading as there aren't any qualifying rounds for the GBOB in Shanghai, but whatever. Despite this premise and most of the article focusing on these two competitions, there's actually some fairly well-reasoned comments in the introduction.
To prevent these videos pushing everything else off the page, I've put them all in the same post. There's Joker's 化肥, Tian Pin Dian's dirty Jingle Bells song Ding Ding Dong and Sonnet doing a cover of Billie Jean with Sun Ye all from last night's Michael Jackson tribute show.

First up is Joker doing 化肥. Eventually. They have a bit of a false start. This song is a pretty bluegrass-folk number and doesn't really represent their overall sound (which is more blues-rock) but it's a good song regardless and it's the one I happened to catch on video so take a look. To listen to more Joker tracks, hit their Neocha profile here and if you want to catch them live, you can do so on Sunday at YYT's Blues Night. 

Wait wait wait - the bands played their own stuff too, it wasn't all Michael Jackson nonsense. In fact, the bands played a couple of Jackson covers each at most and, given that Sonnet, Tian Pin Dian and Joker were on the bill, it was actually a really strong line-up at Yuyintang last night, regardless of the theme.

Time was, you could get to Yuyintang at least half an hour after the advertised start time and you'd still have to hang around for the bands to get going. Not so much these days. When they say things are kicking off at 9:30pm, they usually mean it now. So when I rocked up nearer 10pm, things were already underway. Then again, my tardiness was partly informed by the fact that I knew Fusion were opening so I was hardly heart-broken when I arrived over half way through their set.

The downside of arriving a bit late was that the place was packed when I got there. I'm not sure if it was the decent line-up of bands or the MJ theme, I think it may have been both, but Yuyintang was the busiest it's been in a while. And the hottest. I was hoping that when Fusion finished the screaming girls would all slink out of there, but they held their ground while some dude in a glittery jacket, trilby and white glove took to the stage and threw out some Jackson-inspired dance moves. Hmm.

Luckily the night got better and better from that point. First Joker played another great gig, then Tian Pin Dian produced a solid set before Sonnet saw the night out with a storming performance and easily the best cover of the night (but a far more interesting choice than a Michael Jackson one).

Ben Houge, Not Me

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benhougenotme(2).jpgBen Houge played live at Not Me last night. If you don't know who Ben Houge is yet, you've not been paying attention. More on him on this very blog here. His show was part of the Indie Heart Attack night they do there. Doesn't ring any bells? Again, more on IHA here.

Not Me isn't realy set up to be a live music venue to be honest. It's a smallish bar on Dongping Lu with the music side of things looked after by Reggie from STD and it tends to be mostly DJs playing there. So Ben was set up with his keyboard on the dancefloor and his laptop sat on the shelf behind him. I got there ridiculously early but there was a decent sized crowd (the biggest I've seen at an IHA night) by the time Ben opened his first set. He'd told me earlier in the night that his first set would be an "acoustic" one which confused me a little because he had a keyboard and a laptop, but turned out he meant the first set was keyboard only and the second (a little later in the evening) was laptop-backed. He also mentioned he might play a third, crazier set if there were still people left later in the night but, as it was a school night, I'm afraid I headed home after his second set and a bit of Archie's DJing.

So yeah, last night Ben was in synth-pop mode and it was great. He played the songs from his 3 Heart-Shaped Cookies EP with 99 Men, transforming the short pop-punk tracks into upbeat piano Ben Folds Five-esque songs, as well as some of his electro-pop stuff and my personal favourite 口口口口口口口口. Last time I saw him play this material, it was at the Antidote Festival in Zhujiajiao but he was the opening act that day and people were still drifting in when he started. He also had to borrow a keyboard stand from Resist! Resist! which was a little short for him. This meant he played the set legs akimbo as it were (at the time I actually just thought he was affecting a rock star pose). But this time everything was the right height, the crowd was good and totally into it and he showed what a great performer he is. If you get a chance to see him live, do so.
thisweekendaugust28.JPGIs it still only Thursday? Really? Sigh. Well, whatever, here's where to head this weekend for your live music fix. And by weekend, I mean Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights - just because.

If you haven't made it down to Not Me's Indie Heart Attack night yet, tonight's might just be the one to go to. My reasoning is fourfold:
1) Ben Houge is doing a live set, should be rocking.
2) Friend of the blog Archie Hamilton (whose excellent China Music Radar site just got a rather fetching makeover) will be guesting as a DJ.
3) Sacco and Wongton will be filling the gaps in between with their usual class.
4) Next week's one is going to see a sharp drop in quality as they're letting a certain local music blogger loose on the wheels of steel. Yikes.
>>> Free. Tonight, 9pm-ish, Not Me,
21 Dongping Lu, near Hengshan Lu (东平路21号,近衡山路)

For something a little different, folk group 如是我闻 (Ru Shi Wo Wen),  will be celebrating ten years over at Yuyintang with support from KE.
>>> ¥40. Tonight, 9pm, YYT, 1731 Yan'an Xi Lu (entrance on Kaixuan Lu), 延安西路1731号 (入口在凯旋路)

A little bit about Muscle Snog

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Musclesnog.jpgA couple of years ago Muscle Snog's Meng Noize album, recorded live at 4Live, confirmed them as one of the leading experimental rock groups in Shanghai. The group - comprised of Mai Mai, Vivien Fan, 33, Zhong Ke and Xiong Mao (Panda) - were all excellent musicians in their own right with their own side projects and other bands. This meant that when they were together, Muscle Snog gave fantastic performances, but getting them all on the same stage at the same time was difficult. Nevertheless, this year the band have been recording a full studio album thanks to the Miniless/Maybe Mars collaboration. So, they must be back together and ready to reclaim their mantle as one of Shanghai's most interesting bands right? Err, not quite. Indeed, from what Mai Mai and Vivien say, this record is far from a new beginning and instead may signal the end of Muscle Snog.

>>> You must get asked this all the time, but Muscle Snog - what's that name about?

VF: When we first started, Muscle Snog was just me and Mai Mai. He asked me if I wanted to be in a band and I said I did. He said I could choose the name and I came up with two for him to choose from: Muscle Cat and Crystal Snog. He thought about it, then said let's call ourselves Muscle Snog and I just thought 'genius'!

>>> How did you guys meet?

VF: Back in 2005 when we were both at university, he was in a band called Pillow Walker and he was looking for a keyboard player. At that time we had a mutual friend who told me about this and I decided to try it out. I was also in a band at my university at the time, but it was just a cover band. I spoke to Mai Mai and the other band members online and we got on really well so I went to see one of their rehearsals. After I'd seen them rehearse a few times, they broke up and nothing really happened, but I kept in touch with them online. Then one day in 2006, Mai Mai asked me if I wanted to form a band, like I say, and I told him I did. After a while we found a guitarist, Panda, and then we started practising. We had our first performance on March 9th 2007 at Live Bar.
>>> How do you guys write your songs?

VF: Most of the songs are written by Mai Mai. He'll record something at home first and then send it to us to listen to. Then we'll meet up and practise it and we'll play around with our own parts a bit.

MM: We write songs in lots of different ways really. Some of them take a long time and are really seriously written, some are just pure nonsense, some are just chaos. 

Subs' Kang Mao is angry

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kang mao.jpgRemember how I had a few gripes and grumbles about the InMusic Festival? Turns out things weren't all that great backstage either. China Music Radar alluded to the poor treatment of acts in their excellent review of the festival and now Subs' lead singer Kang Mao has posted an entry on her blog where she says, "I didn't eat a single mouthful of food, I was too scared to use the toilet and I didn't dare drink the water" (maybe that explains why Fu Han from Queen Sea Big Shark had to go on a beer run) - plus they've still not been paid. However, that's not what's really got her angry. Indeed, though she says conditions were far from ideal, Kang praises the sound set-up on stage (in general it was really good from the audience point of view too), says that she felt really comfortable up there and that overall she had a good time. You can see some video of the band's performance in this post, also on her blog.

So what's really wound up China's leading lady of "spunk rock"? It's the press and their coverage of the festival.

In her post, "I don't want to talk about Zhangbei", she writes of how, in the week leading up to the InMusic Festival, the media and public opinion had been whipped up into a frenzy about the event and what it meant for Zhangbei, a poor town in a remote part of the country, and its government. There was a lot of attention in the press in the run up to the festival talking about what a momentous occasion this was for a town that had only received press coverage in the past when it was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake in 1998. Some of this hyperbole came from the organisers, naturally trying to promote their festival, some of it came from the local government - essentially saying "look, we may be just a poor backwater town but look at the great music festival we're putting on." It's hardly surprising that the local government and the organisers wanted to attract more people to their event, but Kang's real fire is trained on the reporters who regurgitated these lines, compared the festival to a certain American one that took place 40 years ago this summer and contributed to "a media and public opinion frenzy with discussion groups on the topic growing and growing."

Video: RESO 7 jam session

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This is the final jam session from last night's RESO 7. It features (from left) Mai Mai, Hans, Ben Houge and Xu Cheng in all their experimental, beer-gurgling glory.

RESO 7, Yuyintang

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Han Han on the trumpet.jpgSunday night down at YYT seems to switch between alternative/experimental night and blues-rock from cover band The Sultans of Swing. The last couple of weeks have been the former. First, Brainwave Communication had their latest evening in Shanghai, then last night saw the seventh edition of RESO, the experimental night started by Muscle Snog's Mai Mai, also the man behind the Asthma Writers Union. RESO stands for Reconstruct the Experimental Soundscapes of Ourselves and that's a pretty accurate description of what takes place.

Reflecting the smaller crowd that comes to these kind of shows, Yuyintang had the candlelit tables out on the main viewing area last night but there was a decent turn out with all the seats taken. Mai Mai kicked things off, exploring the limits and possibilities of his guitar. The highlight came when, in a trademark move, he pulled the instrument up close to his face and silmultaneously plucked at the strings and shouted into it creating an incredible sound.

Next up was Ben Houge. Ben is the guy whose art show I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, but he's also released a rock 'n' roll EP with 99 Men, has some fantastic electro-pop tracks here, has worked as a composer for a number of high profile videogames and has been a regular on the Shanghai noise/experimental scene for the last few years. He's pretty multi-talented. Last night he was in lofi soundscape mode, producing an absorbing downtempo piece composed of samples and field recordings that gradually swelled and filled the room. He'll be playing a different kind of set at Not Me this Thursday, but is seriously well worth seeing whichever kind of music he's playing.

The Mushrooms22:08:09.jpgHere's a paradox for you: I don't really like shouty rap-metal, but I really like The Mushrooms. It's odd and it means that I often seem like a hypocrite when talking about other bands, but if you see The Mushrooms perform live, then you get a pretty clear explanation. Take last night for example, they went on last in the double-header with Angry Jerks (which will be repeated in the Jerks' hometown of Nanjing in a few weeks) and brought the house down. If the Soma-produced Mushrooms album ever sees the light of day, it'll be interesting to see whether it can really capture the energy and atmosphere of their live shows (how do you really record the kind of performances that can bring band and audience members to tears?!). In the meantime, they remain one of the best live acts in the city.

They rounded off a night that had opened with Double Control Where. And this is where my hypocrisy comes in and I feel a bit guilty. They're good Double Control Where, they're just not really my thing. Yet they play a shouty-chorused metal that isn't a million miles away from the aforementioned headliners. Indeed, with the singer's bleached hair, they look a bit like a shanzhai version of The Mushrooms. That's no criticism - the band weren't purposefully ripping anyone off at all, they just looked a bit like them (mostly the hair). Anyway, they were a lively opening act and the crowd really got into it.

Second were on, err, second and this was the, ahem, second time I'd seen them. Sorry. UPDATE: I tell a lie, this was actually the third time I've seen them (caught them at the Shanghai Night Fever event last month too) rendering my lame puns even more pointless. I found myself a bit more engaged by them than last time and they gave a pretty strong performance. They're aren't many all-girl bands in Shanghai (though I'd say the gender balance on the scene is better than most, if far from equal) but Second eschew the cutesy pop-rock trappings that the other girl groups seem to go for and their show is all the stronger for it. They're not exactly Happy Strings (the punk outfit that became Momo) but it's refreshing to see an all-girl band that doesn't feel the need to go all shiny happy girly girl. If you know what I mean.

Video: Zhi Wang live at Yuyintang

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Here's a video of the last song of the set from Zhi Wang, the Lu Chen-fronted experimental group who supported XIao He last night.

Video: Xiao He live at Yuyintang

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See for yourself what I was talking about with all the sampling and looping etc in this video of Xiao He performing live last night at Yuyintang. Sorry if it gets a bit shaky in places, I was trying to hold the camera up over people's heads to get a clear view but my arms got tired. Aww.

Xiao He and Zhi Wang, Yuyintang

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Xiao He live.jpgIt was a decent-sized, if far from packed crowd at Yuyintang last night. It'll be interesting to see how many The Mushrooms and Angry Jerks pull in tonight. There's some good shows coming up next month (Bigger Bang, Glamourous Pharmacy, Wang Wen) but it might be a bit early to say that this weekend marks the beginning of the end of the summer malaise. We'll see.

Anyway, Xiao He's old friend Lu Chen opened the night with his Zhi Wang side project - minus Ba Fang again who I guess is still on her travels. The set consisted of a mixture of sounds, though most tracks had a clearly discernible rhythm and plenty of instrumentation helped by having a bassist and drum loops from the Macbook. With Lu Chen performing with his back to the audience, the band wove their way through a number of songs that I'd describe as offbeat more than experimental - including probably one of the most original covers of Billie Jean you're ever likely to hear. The best moment came when they ditched the Macbook drums for the real thing and everyone went all out on their instruments.

It'll be interesting to see how they develop, particularly when they have a full complement of members, and Lu Chen has talked about how he wants to take this group in a "more experimental" direction. For the moment, it seems as if they're still finding their way a bit.

Top Floor Circus x The Thing

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lu chen.jpgmei er.jpgYeah that's right, I'm coming over all Hypebeast on you. Remember those Top Floor Circus t-shirts I mentioned a while back? They're now available for you to get your grubby little hands on. Some in depth research (i.e. me stopping by The Thing's Wujiang Lu and Changle Lu shops yesterday afternoon) reveals that they're not in the shops yet, but you can get them from Taobao and they were being sold at the Zhi Wang and Xiao He show last night (more on that in a minute).

More supermodels after the jump.
xiaohe.jpgI've been out of town the last couple of weekends so there's been no gig reviews. To be honest, it's been a bit quiet in Shanghai anyway. Not literally of course - last weekend's metal extravaganza and BrainWave Communication's night of noise put pay to that - but there's only been a handful of shows that I would have gone to anyway, truth be told. Not this weekend though, this weekend's a good 'un.

First up on Friday night is avant-garde folk artist Xiao He. You might know of him from Glorious (sometimes Glamourous) Pharmacy, or 美好药店, themselves in town in early September. Even when it's just him and his guitar, he's a great performer. Last time he came to YYT solo, he was supported by Lu Chen and both produced pretty pared down sets. This time round, Lu Chen is supporting again but by way of his experimental project Zhi Wang. Meanwhile, the cover of Xiao He's new album sees him sporting a look that falls somewhere between Beijing opera and The Village People. Whether these factors will make for a more dramatic show than last time remains to be seen - these two are rarely easy to predict.

Next, The Mushrooms are joined on Saturday by Angry Jerks - the "psychobilly" band from Nanjing. It promises to be a lively double-header. Rap-metal isn't really my thing (one of the shows I wouldn't have gone to were I in town was last weekend's Linkin Park gig), but The Mushrooms' live show is infectious and I, like many people, have been won over by their performances, especially since they've recovered their mojo in recent months. Double Control Where and Second are also on the bill for that one.

That leaves RESO 7 to complete the hat-trick. I wrote a bit about that one last week and, as I'm still knackered from my travels, and am generally fairly lazy, here's just a quick recap of who's playing: Mai Mai, Ben Houge, OK=NO and Torturing Nurse. They'll also be collaborating with each other in the second half of the night.

So, three nights, three great gigs and three completely different genres. I can't wait.

The details: All of these are at Yuyintang. I'm not purposefully featuring them so heavily, it's just they're putting on the best shows right now. All of these will start around 9:30pm. Xiao He is 60 kuai, Mushrooms and Angry Jerks are 40 and RESO 7 is 30.

Battle of the bands returns

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GBOB_challenge09_on_white.jpgNo, not that one. Not that one either. This one. Starting next month, the Global Battle of the Bands competition is holding heats in Shenzhen, Beijing, Hong Kong and in Shanghai on September 27th. There'll then be a China final in Hong Kong before the winners from China are flown to London for the big finale where they have the chance of winning $100,000 and "global promotion". This will be the competition's second year here.

If it passed you by last year, don't worry, you weren't the only one. The competition suffered from being held in The Melting Pot down on Taikang Lu and from being on a Sunday night. The bands who competed were Lan Cao, The Mushrooms, Momo, Dovetail Joints, Little Nature and Guitou Hunter. This being The Melting Pot, the crowd was largely indifferent and the eventual winners were Dovetail Joints, who just edged out The Mushrooms.

This year, though it's still on a Sunday, it'll be at Yuyintang, hopefully ensuring a crowd more interested in music than dice rattling. That, after all, is what the event is all about according to Chris B, National Director of GBOB China. Although she doesn't mention anyone by name, she is perhaps also mindful of some other recent band competitions when she says
"We're looking for real bands who play real music, not because they are good looking, can dance or can be a good TV star! Playing real music, whatever age, whatever genre. Also at the event, the audience votes count for 25%, so if a band is popular their fans can make a difference. All those working on GBOB China are musicians themselves, we know how hard it is to get our bands and our music recognition, this is a way of doing it."

Noise news

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maimai.jpgThere's a couple of big experimental/noise nights coming up in the next fortnight so below are a few odds and ends that are connected to them in some way or other. Or something like that.

First up, this Sunday is the latest BrainWave Communication night at Yuyintang. The experimental label will be showcasing a whole host of artists including Torturing Nurse, Ben Houge and Zhi Wang (Lu Chen's experimental project). It starts at 9pm, will set you back just 40 kuai and is well worth checking out. 

CityWeekend recently interviewed Junky, one half of Torturing Nurse, and, though I haven't been able to find their article on it yet, Junky posted the full interview up ten minutes after it took place. You can read the whole thing on Douban, but here's just a quick snippet:

A little bit about Sun Ye

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new Sun Ye.jpgSun Ye (孙晔), former guitarist with The Fuck'ndrolls and Sonnet, is currently in Boojii. But he also does his own solo stuff on the Miniless-E label (the electronic/dance offshoot of the Miniless label). His debut record Trash Can is a beautifully kaleidoscopic album featuring collaborations with B6 and JJ (who together are IGO) and a couple of tracks with vocals from Sheena Du of Hard Queen. It's a great record and recently I asked him about it, his solo work and his job making music for computer games.

>>> You've played in an indie rock band, a punk band, are now in a post-rock band and are making your own electronic music. Is there any kind of music you don't like?

I pretty much like all types of music, I don't exclude anything. I go along with the idea that there are only two types of music in the world: good music and rubbish music. Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Middle-Eastern music and Armenian folk music. I've always liked folk music to be honest - when I was at university, a friend brought me a tape of 12 Muqam music from Xinjiang and I just feel like folk music is the most natural thing.

I also bought a CD of ancient Chinese music recently. My generation of Chinese are a generation who are used to the influence of Western culture and maybe it's because recent years have seen a number of political and cultural conflicts between West and East, or maybe it's because as I get older the Eastern feeling in me gets stronger, but I really like this CD. I feel like there's so much we can learn from ancient Chinese music.  

In terms of rock, I've also started listening again to 1970s progressive rock - Yes and King Crimson's earlier records. That stuff is well structured and full of interesting material.

>>> How did Trash Can come about?

After I left Sonnet, I spent a lot of time playing around making my own music - stuff that really interested me. Trash Can is the accumulated result of that period of time so there's no specific or clear cut genre running throughout the record. It's kind of like a bowl of Oden [the Japanese noodle dish] where I've just thrown a whole bunch of things into it and out of it has come something which proves to myself that I'm not just a guitarist, not just tied to one type of music. Of course, I know that what I've made isn't good enough, that's why I've called it Trash Can - you could also say it's a slightly self-mocking title.

>>> Is making your own record something you've wanted to do for a while?

Yeah. I remember when I was in Sonnet, we had introductions to each member of the band on our website and mine was "guitarist. His ultimate goal is to make a solo record with rubbish sound quality".

MAO Shanghai opening in September

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MAO.jpgIt's been a couple of months since news first broke of Soma's move to hook up with the people from MAO and open a Shanghai live music venue. Since then, locations have been scouted, proposals written and trips made to Japan to persuade investors to buy into Soma's vision of a "livehouse revolution." It's now been confirmed that they will be opening a new live music venue in the space formerly occupied by WTF next to the Red Town area. It will be called MAO Shanghai and it should all be ready by September 18th, when Hong Kong indie-popsters My Little Airport will take to the stage. UPDATE: Latest word is that the My Little Airport opening show could be delayed, possibly to the following week, possibly until even later.

The news was confirmed by Lisa Movius (who is doing PR for Soma) in an e-mail/comment by proxy here:

"While it will be a subsidiary of the Japanese investor, and not of the Beijing locale, it sounds like the Shanghai and Beijing Maos will be quite closely affiliated, with a coordinated line-up. Which hopefully will mean that our Shanghai bands will get more chances to play in Beijing and Japan.
Mao Live Shanghai is now slated to open on 18 September with a concert by Hong Kong's My Little Airport.
Mao Shanghai's space can hold 800-1000 people and is on Huaihai Xi Lu, adjacent to Red Town. Zhijiang Dream Factory will, after this month, return to New Factories' management."

InMusic from way out there

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InMusic.jpgWhen I told a friend last week that I was going to the InMusic Festival on the grasslands of the Hebei/Inner Mongolia border region, their response was "that place is really remote - I hope you find it ok." They weren't kidding. From Shanghai, it took a combination of sleeper train, two buses and a taxi to reach the site out in the middle of the grasslands. But then, that was kind of the point - this was supposed to be a festival in the wilderness.

It took us a lot longer to get there than expected and as a result I missed most of the first day and was already heading back to Beijing when the bands started on the last day. In between, it was generally a good experience though and the organisers can't really be blamed for poor transportation planning on my part.

Here's a quick run down of some highlights and some lowlights together with a whole load of photos: 

A little fest on the prairie

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I spent the weekend at the InMusic Festival on the grasslands of Hebei province. Or rather, I spent the weekend travelling to and back from the InMusic Festival on the grasslands of Hebei province - the festival site was pretty remote. Anyway, a proper post on it all will come soonish, but for now, here's a video of Re-TROS performing on the opening night. For some background to the festival check out this post and this video on China Music Radar.

Incidentally, a little bit of pop trivia for you: according to this article, Re-TROS's Hua Dong was once a fellow student of Kanye West while the latter had a brief stint in Nanjing while his mother taught at the university there. You can read an interview I did with Mr West where he talks about his time in China here.
Carsick-Cars-001.jpgAt least that's what Mick Jagger believes. Mick Jagger, university student in Shanghai incidentally, not Mick Jagger, frontman of The Rolling Stones. Mick makes his bold statement in the most recent column from Alex Hoban on The Guardian who writes mostly about the Japanese music scene (a massive thank you to Suzy for flagging this up for me). The other week when PK14 and Carsick Cars hit the Dream Factory with These Are Powers, Hoban was there and his Turning Japanese column has therefore turned Chinese for the week.

Before going any further, check out his article here: 'Turning Japanese heads to China: The Shanghai scene'. You might also want to have look at my review of the same night here.

When I saw the title, my first thought was how refreshing it was to have someone in a Western newspaper write about the Shanghai scene instead of the Bejing one. When international newspapers cover the Chinese music scene, they invariably talk exclusively about the capital and often just about Carsick Cars - other cities don't get a look in.

Alas, before you even get to the text in Hoban's piece on the Shanghai scene, there's a big photo of... Carsick Cars. By the second paragraph it becomes clear that they, together with PK14, are the focus of the piece. That's Carsick Cars from Beijing and PK14, once of Nanjing but now essentially part of the capital's scene too. Oh.

Live recordings from Yuyintang

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Yuyintang have created an artist page on Douban, which basically allows them to upload songs to an embedded music player. They're using it to put up live recordings of tracks from their gigs and right now they've got a selection of songs from the Animal Patterns Party. They're also mooting the idea of releasing a monthly CD or free download of the live recordings from the gigs (that's what the vote is about at the bottom there). You can check out the page here and start listening.

If you prefer to see the performances rather than just hear them, you can check out the livehouse's Youku site here. That's where they're sticking all the recordings from that camera perched on top of the aircon unit at the back and they're pretty good quality. So far you can see bands performing at the Animal Patterns Party again plus Self Party supporting The Radio Dept (as well as a video of the Swedish outfit themselves). Here's one of Pu Pu and The Mushrooms shaking their thing for you.
没有文化但是有人民币.jpgI spent Saturday afternoon with Lu Chen and Mei Er of Top Floor Circus. They're filming a music video for the hilarious alternative Expo anthem 上海欢迎你 (Shanghai Welcomes You). It's a play on the Beijing Olympic theme 北京欢迎您 and is full of great lines. You can listen to the song here (it's already had over 10,000 plays) and read the full lyrics (in Chinese) here. Here's a quick translation of a few of lines to give you an idea:

上海欢迎你 欢迎来买东西
Shanghai welcomes you, welcomes you to come buy things
Don't forget to bring millions of yuan
上海欢迎你 奥运会有什么了不起
Shanghai welcomes you, what was so great about the Olympics?
Let Expo bring us together
上海欢迎你 欢迎来买东西
Shanghai welcomes you, welcomes you to come buy things
We don't have any culture, but we've got Renminbi

Last time I witnessed a music video shoot for a local band, it was Pinkberry making an MV for their Pinkberry Song. There was a director, a crew, fancy lighting and camera set ups and quality sound equipment for playback of the song. Saturday involved Lu Chen, Mei Er and I walking around town meeting various friends of theirs and Mei Er catching their lines on a handheld camcorder. If they needed prompting by hearing the song, Lu Chen found the appropriate bit on Mei Er's iPod. It was great fun.
Another music video for you. This time it's Pinkberry who have just released their second music video (the first one is here). Weirdly, the title says this is for Pinkberry Song and that was what they played when they filmed this, yet the song is actually Live in Live, one of the tracks that the band did as an experiment with a new sound. That means the party scene with a crowd of people (and a cameo from some bald Englishman) chanting the "P-I-N-K-B-E-R-R-Y" bit has been cut. Whatever, it's a classy video from a great band - check it out.

UPDATE: Oops! In my rush to put this out, I didn't really read the Chinese too closely. Turns out, this is just a preview of the Pinkberry Song video, which they're just putting the finishing touches to. Sorry, I got a little over excited. Guess this means there's hope for that lao wai to make the final cut after all. 
The Rogue Transmission might be taking a little break for the summer, but they've just stuck this video up on Spin Earth. It's for the track Simon Says and is a compilation of live footage of the band at Zhijiang Dream Factory, Anar and down in the 0093 rehearsal space. It's their entry into the Free The Noise competition that will see the winning band pick up a development deal with Island Records so make sure you give it 5 stars after you've watched it (click here if you can't get the embedded video to work). 

Joker support Jeff Lang, Yuyintang

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Joker.jpgSo once again this weekend, Yuyintang was packed out both Friday and Saturday nights. The crowds couldn't have been more different though. For Convenience Store on the Friday, it was mostly young girls who had come to swoon at the Beijing indie-popsters and the support act Fusion. Most of the talk in the crowd was about how handsome the various members were. I'd known that Convenience Store were a bit poppy, but I hadn't realised quite how pop they were or quite what a poser their lead singer was. The crowd lapped it up, but it wasn't really my cup of tea and I left part way through their set.

Bluesy folk-rock guitarist Jeff Lang was always going to bring in a different crowd on the Saturday and so it proved with YYT packed to the rafters with an older, more male crowd and a significant increase in the number of expats. Alas, this included the really annoying people who insist on holding loud conversations at the bar throughout the gig. If it's a loud rock band, this doesn't matter so much. If it's one guy and a guitar it's just rude and irritating for everyone else watching. The same thing happened with Jens Lekman at Glamour Bar a few months back.

Anyway, Jeff Lang captivated the rest of the audience for nearly two hours. I have to confess that I'd never really heard of him before I started seeing the advertising for this event, but he was a very impressive performer and it was yet another top quality gig from Splitworks. Their next big show is Handsome Furs on September 5th - another one to really look forward to.