Gig Recap: American Football, Chinese Football (2019.07.30)

The iconic band American Football, whose 1999 debut LP became a touchstone for the Midwest emo movement, made their historical China debut last week. Not only is it remarkable considering it took fifteen years for the band to reform, resulting in two more LPs, including this year’s LP3. But even more historic was that the trendsetters were joined on stage by none other than Chinese Football, the Wuhan-based emo rock juggernauts who used the Illinois band’s sound as a starting point and inspiration to inject life in the underground music scene here in China. The surreality of it all wasn’t lost of either band, as Mike Kinsella reminded audiences more than once that they were, in fact, American Football, not Chinese Football. Nevertheless, it was nice to put the bands side by side just to see how distinctly different the bands are in overall temperament. While Chinese Football does dip its toe into tender-hearted instrumental breakdowns, their more powerful songs are full of crusading angst that overflows into uplifting anthems. It’s louder, with sharper edges and yes, injected with more youthful vitality. Obviously, American Football has sailed past those years in their life, so it was only fitting to see them play up their newer songs, which are sprawling, grandiose and gorgeous pieces that are as indelible they are haunting. At the same time whenever the band dusted off their essential hits they injected them with an almost hazy longing – adding another layer of emotional complexity to them that felt very much appropriate. Bittersweet, wistful yet without remorse. Spellbinding stuff. Till next match!  

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