Shanghai Music Scene: December 2009 Archives

2009's best albums

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a 074.jpgWith only a few hours of 2009 left, here's another "best of" list for you. It comes courtesy of Chengdu's CGrooves magazine and is a run down of the five best underground albums released in China in the past twelve months. You might recognise the author.

It's not up online yet so I can't link to it, but if you click on the image to the right here, it'll take you through to a high resolution picture where you should be able to make out the text on it if you really want to read it. Alternatively, if you don't already live there, you'll have to go over to Chengdu and get your hands on a copy (it's the December issue with the scary cover, as you can see). 

The albums, in no particular order, are:

Carsick Cars - You Can Listen, You Can Talk
Muscle Snog - Mind Shop
Sun Ye - Trash Can
24 Hours - No Party People
LAVA|OX|SEA - Next Episode: Lord Smart vs Dr Jin

The Shanghai bands of 2009

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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.

It's on (and I'm off)

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2000sduel.jpgEvery time about this time of year we're inundated with end of year lists. This year, listmakers have been outdoing themselves with end of the decade lists and what not. Some of these I put more stock in than others.

Morgan has done his usual piss-yourself-laughing-hilarious lists of flyers (here for the good, here for the bad) and he's also done a round up of his favourite gigs from the last twelve months (here). Andy's contributed his own thoughts on that last category here. Morgan's also done one on DJs by asking nearly everyone in Shanghai to submit their favourite DJ performance from the year. I'm in there (as a contributor, not as a DJ) way, way down near the bottom somewhere.

Over at Layabozi, Zack's got an interesting take on the whole listmas (sorry) thing by organising a kind of list showdown, a fight to the internet-based death. Bring it. You can read about the whole thing here and the lists themselves should be going up in the next couple of days, including one from me, so get out and vote dammit.

Finally, I'm heading back to the UK for a little bit so the blog will slow down a bit. In the meantime, I have a sneaking suspicion someone else might pick up the slack... 

Runaway Snail put up a track

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fanqiechaodan.jpgAll these songs being put out, it's like Christmas is coming early.

Remember Runaway Snail? Of course you do, they're the excellent new band from Fanqie Chaodan, that I wrote about here and here and that Andy and I raved about here. Well, now you don't have to base your judgement on the crappy video I shot as they've put up a quality recording of Frenchman and His Landlady on their Douban. Listen to it here.

It's a witty song about a French friend of Fanqie Chaodan who lives next to Yuyintang and gets so wrapped up in a Mogu Hong gig one night that he loses track of time and returns home to find he's locked out. This results in him shouting at his landlady to let him in - the sing-a-long chorus that you hear.

Go give it a whirl.

Top Floor Circus release new track

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dingma.jpgUPDATE: More from Andy on the Expo crackdown here.

And another track to round off your Monday.

This time it's a new song from Top Floor Circus, called 我想为你唱一首顶楼马戏团的歌 (I Want to Sing a Top Floor Circus Song For You). Listen to, and download, it here. It's a comedy pop song referencing some of their other tracks and features vocals from the Curry Soap.

Today is also an important day for other reasons for Ding Ma and could be when we find out if their planned Christmas Day gig at MAO will be allowed to take place. If you haven't read Andy's post about the Expo yet, go and read it now.

Lu Chen's message yesterday was "don't worry, it'll be fine in a bit" but MAO have also been called in for a friendly chat with the powers that be and Yuyintang are already weighing up possible closure for part of Expo. The Olympics was bad enough, but this is an event that lasts six months remember.

Boojii release Detective M

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boojii.reserved.jpgBoojii, one of this blog's favourite bands, have released a new track via their Douban. If you're as excited as me about that news, you'll want to go right ahead and hit this link right here, ignoring the general fluff that follows in this post. The track is called 侦探M, which I'm going to translate as Detective M, unless anyone has any quibbles.

Presumably, this is from their still-to-be-released album Reserved. Initial word was that the record would be out in October, but we're rapidly running out of days in 2009 and I've still not seen a copy. Of course, Muscle Snog and 8 Eye Spy have taught us that we shouldn't put too much faith in rumoured album release dates.

Anyway, go give that track a listen and if you're thinking 'who the hell are this band?', why not read a little bit about Boojii right here.

Melodic death metal Monday

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fearless.jpgWhat better way to kick off your week than with a bit of melodic death metal eh?

Fearless have stuck up a new demo on their Douban and it's face-meltingly good. It's an instrumental track, like the other one on the page and you can listen to it here.

Andy's covered the metal scene here in Shanghai a fair bit. A good starting point is this post right here on the Hell United collective, which also includes some handy links to other metal artists and Andy's previous posts on the genre.

Go check it out.

Lezi launches a label

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zhuhelu.jpgHis bosses at Soma may have been, err, less than prolific in the past twelve months, but now Lezi (Sonnet drummer, part of the management at Mao) is trying his hand at his own label.

The bands involved are:

Sonnet (naturally)
Joker/Jiao Ke
21 Grams

I wrote a while back about how he'd formed the Beautiful Western Suburbs collective with these bands and now he's taking them into the studio with plans to put out records on his just-this-minute-founded 竹露荷风音乐社 (Zhu Lu He Feng Music Society) label.

Sonnet and Pinkberry have already begun recording material, while Joker and 21 Grams are in the process of writing new songs in preparation for some recording time next summer. The label has a website under construction and there'll be more details as they emerge, but for now this seems like a positive step. Soma have shown us that we shouldn't hold our breath when local bands join a label, but Lezi, who has had an inside track on developments there, is positive about getting some releases for these bands out soon.

Going solo

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the curry soap.jpgA bunch of tracks have gone up recently from people on the Shanghai music scene who are striking out with their own projects. Here's a round-up:

Blog favourite the Curry Soap has a new demo up. It's called You Keep Everything But His Heart (Flesh Version) and is pretty brief, but it's another winner. Check it out here.

Speaking of former Muscle Snog members and their solo projects, Mai Mai has a new experimental recording on his Douban artist page. From the sounds of it, it's him playing the guitar with his teeth as he tends to do. You can give it a listen by going thissaway.

Hama, the talented young lady behind all-girl rock group Second, also does her own stuff and has a new song up on her Douban. It's a pleasant, bop-along acoustic track and you can listen to it here.

A couple of drummers doing their own thing are Lezi (from Sonnet) and A Luan (formerly Pinkberry, now with PZ64). All the kids seem to be downloading Garage Band these days and going all electronic/IDM. That's the route Lezi's solo stuff seems to be taking and you can hear the results here.

A Luan's previous solo stuff has been, unsurprisingly, in the pop punk vein, but the track he's just put up on his Douban page is something of a departure and could almost be from DJ Wordy. That one can be heard here.

Not really a solo project, but there's a video up on Tudou of Li Pang from Crystal Butterfly performing a cover of U2's With or Without You together with Super VC. I'm not going to embed it on this blog (I can't even bring myself to hit play yet), I just wanted you to know it's out there.

And finally, New Vector have a new track up here. Again, not a solo project at all, but I like them and this seems as good a place as any to post a link to their new song. Go check it out.

LOgO improves its soundsystem

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fender.jpgAfter Mao's new photographer policy, comes another victory for Nah, I'm joking, I don't really think we had anything to do with this, but LOgO have seen sense and have decided to do something about their crappy soundsystem. After the fifth anniversary show at YYT last Friday, I headed over to the Xingfu Lu strip to check out the Mod Dance Party (I do love a bit of Northern Soul) and found an improved sound.

I got there to find a band tuning up. It was The Bandits, an instrumental rock band led by him out of Banana Monkey. They were good and were helped by a whacking new amp placed in the middle of the stage. They've added a couple of other new amps as well apparently, meaning that the sound is now much better. Anyone who made it to Papier Tigre over the weekend will have seen it in action as well I expect.

It's easy to criticise and throw out disparaging comments on blogs and, while I'm not really suggesting it's related to the whinge I had after the Steely Heart show, LOgO deserve credit for realising there was a problem and doing something about it.

What other people are writing about

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hollerado.jpgUPDATE: According to Brad in the comments, about 300 people were at the ReTROS show. Not a bad turn out, but not good either - last time they were in town there was around twice that many. Given that there was a quality support act in the shape of Boojii as well, you've got to think that a turn out of 300 is disappointing. Of course, promoting events here has never been all that easy, but for this show it seemed particularly poor. 

I didn't make it to ReTROS and Boojii at Mao last night - I wasn't feeling too great. If anyone did, I'd be interested to know how it went so drop us a line in the comments. ReTROS always draw a big crowd, but the promotion for this show had been pretty dire. My feeling is that you can probably just about get away with it for ReTROS because they're one of those bands that people seek out the gigs for, but the fact that Shanghaiist didn't even include it in their music preview last week shows how little marketing had been done. If someone went, I'd be interested to know what the turn out was.

So yeah, I'm feeling a bit crappy, but I'm hoping to make it to tonight's Hollerado show at YYT. I don't usually spend much time on foreign bands on this blog, that's not the point, but I recommend checking this show out. I saw them at Midi back in May and, though I'd never heard of them at that point, I enjoyed their set. Their music is pretty easy to get into, but the thing that struck me about their performance was how genuinely excited they seemed to be playing China. The crowd could see it too and it made for a great atmosphere. They were one of the few Western bands to play that festival who didn't patronise the audience. The fact that they're back within the year shows how much they enjoyed themselves in China and you can read more about them and their love for the country over at Mr Shapiro's blog here.

While you're there, you might want to check out his piece on the year in Soma records and all of their era-defining achievements. That's here.

Dan writes that the label's lack of any releases has been due to a 'restructuring of priorities' and their concentration on opening Mao. And Shanghai's hot shot venue is the subject of an insightful piece over on the Radar. Go read it here. As well as an appraisal of the space, the article talks about how Mao and Soma have changed the game in Shanghai and how promoters who were bringing bands in before Mao opened, are now being cut out when the same bands come back to town. It's a very interesting read.

Meanwhile over at Layabozi, Zack has not only joined the ranks of The Mushrooms admirers, but has eloquently expounded his views on the recent photographers debate. Click here to read his thoughts.

Elsewhere on the interwebs, CNNGo and Shanghaiist have managed to arrive fashionably late to the Top Floor Circus anti-Expo party. I wrote last week about how the band had put a twist on their song Shanghai Welcomes You when they played the 0093 CD release and now, following a translation of the updated lyrics over on ChinaGeeks, both sites have posted the video and regurgitated the translation. Shanghaiist at least realises that it's a new take on what is now a fairly old Ding Ma song and drops a link to this here blog. Anyway, the kids are digging it apparently, sticking it up on their Kaixin wang pages and bbs fora etcetera. The video has been receiving a lot of hits, hopefully helping the song to become a real anthem by next May.


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yyt5.jpgAs China Music Radar pointed out a few days ago, "this weekend marks significant birthday celebrations for 3 of China's most enduring musical institutions". The Shelter held their two year anniversary last night, Splitworks will (unofficially) celebrate their third birthday on Sunday when Hollerado come to town and Yuyintang are five.

While other venues have come and gone with varying degrees of importance, Yuyintang has been crucial to the development of the Shanghai music scene in the five years that it has existed. And last night was a classic Yuyintang night: packed, sweaty and great fun.

Mao had shown that it's easy to cram a venue full when you make it free entry, but Yuyintang last night was ridiculously busy. At 9 o'clock on the dot (the advertised start time), they stopped letting people in it was so busy. Half an hour later, they relented and just abandoned the door as people built up on the street outside.

Having fought my way to the lockers on the stairs, I was slapped on the back by Pupu of The Mushrooms who told me they were about to go on. The trouble is, there were so many people, the band could hardly get down the stairs. People let them through eventually so I followed them down and managed to worm my way into the middle. And then I couldn't move. I was properly squashed in. It was the sort of crowd where if one person moved even a little, everyone moved and soon the whole room was swaying from side to side. That was before The Mushrooms even came on.

Earlier Yuguo had gone on at 9pm (they had to catch a train or something, hence them being first), but they were already done by the time I got in. Plenty of people were there for The Mushrooms though and they tore into their standard performance, i.e. blistering. A few people flaked out after a while, partly due to the crush and the heat (most of them were still wearing their winter coats and sweating like crazy) and it became possible to jump a bit more, but it was still packed. And The Mushrooms are always at their best in front of that kind of crowd.

You could tell it was an important occasion for them and they didn't disappoint with their set. Pupu led the crowd in a chant of the venue's name as well and talked about the place's importance. When he thanked Yuyintang for everything they'd done, you knew it was genuine. As he put it, "no matter what else happens, there's only one Yuyintang."

Must read: The scene story of 2009

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5a5bd665g738d0f510686690.jpegI know that most of you reading this came to my blog via Andy's in the first place and that you probably check back there regularly anyway, but just in case you don't, please go and read this now. It's Andy's scene story of 2009 and is an excellent read. Yes, he's a friend and he gave me this blog and blah, blah, blah, but it's not like he gets a load of money each time you click on the link or something, I just genuinely think you should read it. It's a fantastic piece.

That's it really. Sorry if my posts have been a bit light recently (get off my back, I averaged a post and a third a day last month), but there's some good gigs on this weekend so no doubt I'll be back with some write-ups of those. Now, go read Andy's post.
dingmacrowd.jpg Mao's new photography policy seems to be working pretty well so far. There's clear signs at the entrance about the use of flash photography and they're ensuring people with enormous cameras are registering before the gigs. Of course, it's not a total ban, which means that there are still people catching some good gig photos and occasionally turning and capturing a crowd shot like this one above, taken during Top Floor Circus' closing number. More photos from the 0093/Rock Shanghai CD release party here.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Shanghai Music Scene category from December 2009.

Shanghai Music Scene: November 2009 is the previous archive.

Shanghai Music Scene: January 2010 is the next archive.

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