Gig Recap: Live Music Festival (Hangzhou 2020.12.11/12)

现场音乐 Live Music:  Wasted Laika 丢莱卡, Dirty Fingers 丢莱卡, Birdstriking 鸟撞, Tongue 舌头, Carsick Cars, Railway Suicide Train 卧轨的火车, Aero Boat 空气船, Future Orients 飞去来, Hiperson 海朋森, Fazi 法兹 , Stolen 秘密行动, Howie Lee (Mao Livehouse 12.11-12)

2020 was been a whirlwind year for the music scene – one that started with a whimper and is now ending with a bang this December. It’s as if all that pent up energy is spilling out ten-fold across the industry. This rapturous celebration heralded by Beijing extraordinaire 三儿 rallying up probably one of the most righteous and overstuffed lineups in recent times – both an encapsulation of the new generation of bands reaching mainstream success and a commentary on just how ludicrous (i.e lucrative) the business has become.

Eighteen acts over two nights at Mao Livehouse in Hangzhou — from 6PM to 4PM each night —— the sold-out festival was a marathon for music goers – an early Christmas present featuring some of the year’s most talked-about acts – both bands that are just breaking through and others who have ascended through the ranks over the past years (just the fact that most of these bands had already completed sold-out tours across China gives a hint at what we’re dealing with). 

And while I didn’t quite last through the entire endeavour (my body shut down early into the first night) there was a lot to take in. By the time we reached the front of the lines that spilled out to the escalators, Absolute Purity 绝对纯洁 had already charged through their set. Was lucky enough to catch Wasted Laika 丢莱卡, the Beijing art punk renegades who have carved out a nice space for themselves over the year with their somber and sultry punk ballads that ooze with charisma that’s more compassionate than explosive. Speaking of which, Dirty Fingers 丢莱卡 once again prove they’re a band to be reckoned with – laying into their set with delirious conviction – they’ve aged like a bargain-priced wine and have only gotten better.

Birdstriking 鸟撞 as per usual hit me where all my emotions hibernate, and even as their edges get softer, they bring out the happy-go-lucky kid in me every time. Carsick Cars, fresh off their summer with The Big Band felt nice and comfortable on stage, laying into seasoned tracks with aplomb and getting nice and loud. I will have to stay the highlight of the night was Tongue 舌头 – as it had been ages since I saw them and was just taken aback at how raw, ambitious, lyrically ruthless, and off-kilter they were. It’s punk in the purest sense – funked up, stripped down, with an avant-garde streak that’s pointed and absurdly fun. A hell of a closer – though I hear Landfills 堆填区 delivered a wildly ‘loud’ set and LST added a whole lot of depth to his propulsive sound. 

Night two kicked off with Railway Suicide Train 卧轨的火车 – the sole Hangzhou representative. It’s been a couple of months since I’ve caught them and while their sound does tend to dip into being too drab, it’s a wildly inventive sound that’s beautiful to get lost in. Was many people’s first time seeing Aero Boat 空气船 live – the new band featuring Zhan Pan (of The Gar) and Li Nan (of Da Bang/LST). And yeah – this is definitely a sound I wanna hear more of – just rich and atmospheric and some truly exceptional drumming. Live they need to tighten up, but I already can’t wait to see them again. Speaking of surprises, I had no idea Beijing’s Future Orients 飞去来 had a set like this in them. They’ve dirtied up their sound and damn does it sound good – adding a combustible dynamic that feels dangerous. 

Hiperson 海朋森 delivered pretty much a flawless set – not even Ji Yinan’s busted leg could slow them down. Amazed at how effortless it seems for them – easily the set of the night. Following them was Xi’an’s Fazi 法兹 who remains one of the scene’s most bewitching acts – even when they’re not going in for the easy kill. Instead of leaning into their crowd-pleasing hooks (save for their closer) I dug how they were more concerned with wrapping the audience in a feverish psych-infused trance — giving their propulsive post punk grooves time to ferment. Stolen 秘密行动 closed out the band portion of the night, laying to waste any patrons who hadn’t managed to sweat yet. And while it didn’t quite hit me like the previous two sets from this year – which were more claustrophobic and frenzied – they remain a band that has managed to create its own little rave party each and every time they perform. We stuck it out for Howie Lee’s kaleidoscopic buzz-sawing set – which saw the artist ricocheting from Canto-pop to ethnic world music and back again with glorious and reckless abandon synthesizing his wide-reaching influences with madcap fervor. 

And like that my whirlwind two nights in Hangzhou came to an end. It’s been a hell of a ride. Props to the bands, organizers, and old friends who put this mammoth of a show together. 

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