LBM Abroad: Xi’an/Wuhan/Xiamen
Some the best experiences last year was dipping into the music scene across China – kicking off during the Chinese New Year where I was able to squeeze in two wildly different shows on one night as well as swing by the much hyped Wu Qiong, I was bewildered how much the scene has evolved over the years and can’t wait to go back. During the Qingming Festival, my Nasty Wizard cohort and I made a beeline for Wuhan and Nanjing – for some punk rock excess at the always-welcoming Prison before hanging with the electro kids over at MonoHouse in Nanjing. For the Dragon Boat Festival, I took a short vacation to the coastal city of Xiamen and of course snuck in some music over at Shapowei Art Zone and Real Live, catching wide-eyed adolescent sets from Hotkey Killer and YunJing – two bands we’ll be hearing from in 2019. Basically, what I’m trying to say is get the hell out there and explore a city via its music scene and the folks who inhabit it.
Lysistrata at Fete de la Musique
When Lysistrata, the featherweight emo rock champs took the stage last at Fete de la Musique’s family-friendly afternoon outing I had no idea what to expect. The moment they kicked off their set, there was no letting up. Inched together in a triangle formation, the three young adults delivered one exhilarating math rock infused song after another and like that insanity broke loose on the floor, with everyone from sanitary workers to muesli pushers getting in their licks. It was surreal to say the least, and will remain one of the finest musical moments I’ve witnessed this year.
Farewell Ting Ting x Temple
There’s nothing more satisfying than giving into Temple Bar for the night – relinquishing everything on your plate (including my camera) and throwing your self head first into a mosh pit. It happens at least once every two months there and it’s always a blast. Ting Ting’s going-away bash was two-fold that resulting in a night that my camera can recall better than me.
The Burning Deck Weekend
Sandeep Madhavan aka The Burning Deck means business when he says he’s rolling through town. The Mumbai-based bassist and electronic producer, whom I met while working in Bangkok this past summer, is above all someone who relishes the idea of collaborating. So when I set him up with a couple showcases late in October, much of the fun came from plugging him in with some of Beijing’s other creatives, such as the ever dynamic guitar demi-god Jukka or the live animation crew Shining Soundscapes. Watching the way everyone performed, interacted and played off one another was by far the highlight of his stay..
Caliph-8 at Yue Space
The one and only Dee, the beautiful, mischievous, and unpredictable sound shifter of the Beijing experimental scene who moved to greener (and more madcap) pastures in Shanghai last year, returned to his rightful home this past summer. And with some very good company – Caliph-8 – the one of a kind, awe-inspiring, insanely talented Manila-based producer who straight up slapped a shit-eating grin on my face. A deep dive into hip-hop, experimental, folk, no wave, sound art, soul, rare grooves, exotica, krautrock, jazz, psychedelia – my friend (a fellow electronic producer) said it best – ‘it’s as if something took the sound a collapsing building and slowed it down a hundred times’. Mesmerizing.
Trip Fuel at DDC
I had been bugging Trip Fuel for a good half year before they were finally able to clear off their schedule and head up to Beijing from Hefei. Setting up the show was a bit of a struggle – we were supposed to have a band from Xuzhou (who released one of my favorite albums of the year) come through but due to being unable to keep the proper permits it didn’t fan out. But guitarist and vocalist Chen Zoumei’s enthusiasm and bubbly persistence made the whole ordeal fun – from doing promotion to giving him suggestions as to where to shop his release to. The band had already made an impression on me, but when they finally made it to Beijing, it was clear why – they had chops.
Plastic at Yue Space
Maybe when each month – a group of bands were going to come from different parts of the country? That concept sadly didn’t last long but at least we got a taste of Kunming back in March – the real treat of the night came in the form of Plastic, the nonsense melodic punk band who entered the stage like a cherry bomb of charisma and punk rock swagger, delivering one frantic, surly, and sure-footed punk jam after another. Maybe it was the desire for something fully instrumental at that point, but Plastic felt like a breath of fresh air.
U.T.A at School Bar
Have to give School Bar some love as it still remains the most authentic rock and roll club this town has to offer – a place where the front stage can become a dance den. That happened back in March when I went to check the atmospheric and devilishly intriguing U.T.A from Taipei. Conjuring a starry-eyed psychedelic dream pop world that was equals parts foreboding and alluring; playful yet dead serious, filled with both moments that had you rocking your body in motion and others that left you in a daze it was the perfect closer to an intoxicating evening of shoegaze, noise rock, and enigmatic dream pop.
Hiperson at Yugong Yishan
It’s not often you find a band with zero pretensions in China – who come in and lay it all down there for their audience. There’s no divide between them and the audience – every note, every whispered cry, every drum snare, snakes its way through the crowd till all you can do is stare in awe and simply listen. During ‘Ceramics’ which finds singer Chen Sijiang all by her self – the room was completely silent – not a sound among the five hundred plus crowd. The collective silence and active ‘listening’ became a transporting, communal moment that you rarely find in Beijing anymore. Hiperson have tapped into something grandiose, intimate, strange and messily beautiful – and have once again proven themselves to be one of China’s most captivating acts.
Tsenjen at Yichang Cafe
What if Kenny G invaded your KTV Room whilst you were jamming out to European techno music from the 90s? That was one of the first thoughts that formed in my head as I watched multi-instrumentalist Tsenjen, a veteran of the Beijing music scene delivered with the conviction of a minister his sermon – ‘Dance!’ – below blurting out a badass sax solo. So yes – the answer is yes. One part kitsch, two parts awesome, and a whole ton of fun – Tsenjen walked the line between absurdity and righteousness with his ‘electro-jazz’ act and it was something to behold. Yicahng Cafe – the cozy little hutong spot just south of Dongsi was too good to be true. You’ll be missed.
WuTiaoRen at Yue Space
As we all remember Sound of the Xity – China’s International Music Industry Conference & Showcases – had to pull the plug back in April when authorities decided that the folks behind the event couldn’t organize a large-scale ‘festival’ without the proper paperwork. Quite the hit but at least those lucky enough to venture out that first night were treated to WuTiaoRen. The Guangzhou-based outfit who hail from Haifeng, Guangdong have a knack for urbane story-telling and unhinged folk rock antics and they surpassed my expectations, turning the genre inside out and infusing it with psychedelic playfulness, rugged almost unhinged charm, and yes, a twisted yet very much honest sense of humor. It’s loud, frantic, sexy (not just the accents), with enough grit and poetic guise to satisfy any music fan.
Railway Suicide Train at Tango
Been eager to check out the Hangzhou neo-psychedelic band Wogui de Houche whose 2016 release Aftermath was one of the my favorites of that year. The band is great at capturing that humid poetic sound that sways in and out of daydream romanticizing and reverb heavy rock and roll blitz. Lo-fi buzz that’s turns volatile when shaken. They certainly did not disappoint.
DFA1989 at Magnet Theater
It’s not often you get the chance to soak in doomy noise symphonies in a theater in the afternoon – so I jumped at the occasion to check out what DFA1989, the infamous doom drone collective, ‘with a constantly shifting line up of musicians with a diverse repertoire of instruments and talents’, had cooked up. And the answer: some dank ass, epic audio-sensory dreamscapes that manage to entice and engulf the senses while remaining tons of fun (at least for those who enjoy staring into the abyss). Kudos to Magnet Theater for the deft meat locker aesthetics – very nice touch.