Nanqing 南青, Landfills 堆填区, The Twenties – MAO Livehouse 2021.11.19
It’s been a hot minute since I saw a full-blooded show of straight-up guitar rock. No cheeky synthesizers, no electronic drum beats, and no bursting from the seams reverb. Just lean and mean, crisp and crunchy as all hell guitar melodies from some of the rock scene’s newest contenders courtesy of Beijing based promoters D.O.G and the Far East Tunes Broadcast.
The evening kicked off with Nanqing – a young four-piece Henan band whose crusty classic rock and roll sound features both grunge-infused breakdowns and gruff-voiced folk ballads. What I love about this grunge revival that’s taking place across China is how far it reaches back. It’s easy to say we’re all Kurt Cobain children in the end, but much like the genre itself, you can trace the influences further back – to blues; to 70s psych – classic rock in all its glory. And with the distinct, deep gravely voice on lead singer Zhang Weibo, I think Nanqing are onto something here, capturing a sound that packs plays to both the harder and softer sides of rock.
It’s been too long since I last caught Beijing based The Twenties – almost three years to be exact. The band, one of my favorites from my Beijing days, are pure, unadulterated guitar pop full of pop aptitude and craft. It checks off all my boxes for me – gorgeous lo-fi indie rock that brings to mind everyone from Sleater-Kinney to The Strokes – with songs that jump off the stage and into your ears – showcasing its facility with pop and musical complexity (I still get emotional hearing Unpleasant Desire played live for both its resonance and jaw-dropping chord progression). Even the new stuff they performed tonight, which hints at a softer side of the band, still manages to crackle with fuzzy energy.
The evening closed out with Landfills, out of Guangzhou, who have been cutting their teeth on the punk rock circuit for years, but finally broke through this year with the release of their debut. It’s clear where the appeal is – an unruly mix of grunge angst, psych alt rock noodling, and scraps of Britpop crooning that snowballs into a surprisingly accessible sound, their true power lies into their frontman off-kilter energy, which fits in perfectly with the band’s robust ‘pedal to the metal’ musicality that will have will believing there is more than one guitar up there on stage. They squeeze a lot in – and are both a throwback to the late 80s and early 90s and a peppier update of those sounds.
Certainly not for everyone, but a nice reminder that there are bands out there keeping it righteously old school.