Oh, Dos Kolegas, how I missed you! Your homey setup, cheap beer, subpar sound, laid back attitude and amusing bathroom graffiti – it all adds up to perhaps the easiest going venue in town. And the bands they pulled for the night – couldn’t of hoped for better.
Things kicked off rather late, with Me Too not taking the stage till half past ten. Scared that the last time I enjoyed them was a fluke, I was pleasantly surprised at how impressed I was. Much like Re-Tros (who I’ll get to in a bit), Me Too’s music isn’t exactly audience friendly. Sure, a lot of it has a steady beat – yet, something is off. It’s the voice, which as I’ve mentioned before, is icy, cold, yet strangely comforting. Some of their songs come off as Beatles’ tracks filtered through post-punk debris. The elements are there but rearranged ever so skewed. In that regard, Me Too that had me arching to hear more from them and I hope to catch them again in the near future.
Sadly, I missed most of Candy Monster’s act due to enjoying conversation over chilled air outside. Catching their last few songs I will say this – Candy Monster is harmless fun, and I mean that in the best possible way. Kinda like 80s sex comedies. They’re charismatic, laid back, and well, solid. And the lead singer has a great raspy voice which fits the band well. And I always get Betty Bop big-eyed when they cover “I Wanna Be Loved By You”.
Soon after, the place steadily began to fill. Why? To see what Helen Feng had been up to these past months, as Nova Heart, her solo project took the stage (is it still solo if you have a backing band?). A part of me worried that perhaps this would be Helen Feng’s undoing; that she was spreading her talents too thinly over a vast number of projects. Those fears were subdued early, as Nova Heart put a spell over the audience with dreamy electronic synchs combined with Helen’s heavy emoting voice. Part Pet Conspiracy, part Free the Birds, with a dash of Little Dragon’s minimalist disco-techno, all Helen Feng.
I’ve enjoyed all of Helen’s previous incarnations (it still saddens sometimes to imagine what Pet Conspiracy could of been), and Nova Heart can now join that list. And though the electronic beats, added textures, and looping tricks are an integral part of Nova Heart, the focus here clearly falls more on Helen Feng’s voice and lyrics, which honestly, has always been her strong suit. And that voice is a winner friends – one that even raised, like the living dead, my inebriated friend from drunken stupor. It’s great to see Feng back in business!
Lastly, Re-Tros came out. This was my first time catching them since the May festival season. And I don’t know what it is about these guys but their stock keeps rising each time I see them. Frankly, the first time I saw them, I wasn’t impressed – I might of even written them off as Joy Division rejects (in my early days, I viewed a lot of music in Beijing like that). But there was a silver lining in their performance that forced me to check them out again. And again. And then again. Last weekend might’ve done it – I’m tempted to call Re-Tros the most talented group of musicians to come out of this city. First off, they are great song tellers – each song feels like a story unfolding before me, as they conjure up delightfully menacing imagery. Second, the vocal back and forth between lead singer Hua Dong and Liu Min simply rules…these two were meant for standing across from each other. Lastly, they’re experts at song structure and have a real sense of rise and fall, of increasing rhythm toward climax, sometimes even into manic frenzy. And I swear to the demi-gods, that the ghost of the Talking Heads in lurking in there somewhere, most notably on “Viva Murder”, which is perhaps my favorite song of the year – anyone know where I can find it?
So yeah, thank you Dos Kolegas once again for turning me into a gleeful maniac. Enjoy more videos!