Gig Recap: Xi’an Punk Music Festival ​(2020.10.02-03)

Smash Your Ass! 双日稀巴烂!Xi’an Punk Music Festival 西安朋克音乐节: Pumpkins小南瓜, SUCKER, The Sailor’s Grape 水手葡萄, Xiao Wang 小王,  CoreSo 咳寿, Joy Old (VeinLab 未来俱乐部 2020.10.02)

Xi’an is a strange beast of a city — one that I’m been grappling with for nearly ten years. It’s far from paradise – and in many instances feels like a third-tier city that somehow lucked out and was promoted to the big leagues despite it looking the exact same a decade earlier. Nevertheless, it’s gritty charm has slowly worked me over and at the end of the day is a city that continues to surprise me. Case in point: VeinLab. Located within the city walls, the subterranean venue has been cutting its teeth for over a year now, playing host to an array of punk, rock, and indie acts. It has very affordable drinks. There’s a bed in the main room for mosh-pitters looking to take a breather. There are lots of red and green-tinted neon lights and derelict TV/computer monitors littered about the stage. And even a coffee shop upstairs that sells, for better or worse, an iced Jagermesiter latte. It’s all kind of ridiculous. And I kind of love it. 

Over the holiday break, it hosted one of this season’s nation-spanning punk festivals – this one aptly named Smash It Punk. I swung by night one for a righteous, diverse, and swift lineup of punk music that left nothing on the table. Kicking off was Xi’an’s own Joy Old – bringing scrappy, old school bluntness to their Oi!-flavored anthem building tunes. Hardcore got its due via Chengdu’s CoreSo, whilst reggae and ska found unlikely champions in The Sailor’s Grape. 

Beijing powerhouse punk quartet Xiao Wang continues to prove to be one of the scene’s most vital and visceral outfits – taking aim at all who stand in their way whilst delivering some seriously catchy ballads that can twist into a knife at any given moment. 

Finally, not enough good things can be said about Xinxiang’s Pumpkins, who take the remnants of London punk sound and run with it – explosive, deranged fun that makes me wish more bands in China would treat Britpop with the same combustible and dangerously alluring reckless abandon these cats do. They’re true rock stars. 

To top it off, I swung by late the next night to get my first taste of Xi’an legends Sucker, described by a fellow attendee as ‘Rancid ska tastefully mixed with blues, surf, and rockabilly” which sums it up better than I ever could.

Props to Vein Lab for bringing good vibes and punk rock galore to the holiday week and for every Xi’an the jolt of life it deserves. I’ll definitely be returning soon enough. 

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