Hands down one of the best events of the year thus far…I suppose this was expected thou – we’re talking about Dos Kolegas. And though Dos Kolegas’s birthday was the immediate week after – this was the true start of Dos Kolegas’s celebration with Li Dong’s Ningxia-flavored folk front and center. It was also time for other veterans to pay their respects as well – Hanggai-lite, Buyi with a new haircut, and old schooler Zhao Laoda, whose belligerent charming self won me over.
After milking the Beijinger Awards for all it was worth – a shit ton of Chimay and Hoegarden that is – I rushed over to catch Hanggai, but interestingly enough (and to the anger of a few) it turned out to only be a fraction of the whole Hanggai horde, with front man Ilchi ‘s absence being most notable.
Nevertheless, it gave the songs a more relaxed, at calm feeling, and gave Bagen a chance to shine with his incredible voice.
In fact, I’m kinda hoping they can pull off more of these Hanggai-lite unplugged style gigs in the future – I think they can be a hit, especially in the smaller Gulou venues.
Next up came Buyi and man how I’ve missed these guys – with Wu Dingyue sporting a new haircut and bassist Xiao Niu back in the mix, these guys got heavy on the crowd and I couldn’t be happier.
These guys know how to make their guitars heard. Between their axes tearing it apart, and Dingyue’s growl, this is the tough-as-nails sound the 90s would have put on a pedestal in an instant. Great stuff as always.
Right off the bat, you could tell Zhao Laoda is a character and a half. The man reeks with charisma – perhaps not the charisma you find in a hot shot, but the kind of charisma you find your awesome absurd uncle. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as soon he strung those guitar strings, I knew the guy are about bestow some wisdom on us.
The man packs a punch – the emotion, range, and naturalness of his performance was simply staggering. And the fact he’s glassy-eyed drunk just makes it, somehow, that much more profound –
it’s almost as if he’s trying to erase the memories he conjures up in his music – like in “有个女孩名叫失意”, above, clearly about a girl.
This was Li Dong’s night though and congrats to them all for getting their gem of an album out and boy, did they put on a show.
Lush, vibrant, and full of life, if there ever is a band to make you forget about the smoggy city life and take you to a simpler time it’s them. As hard as Beijing tried, it just couldn’t get that Ningxia blood outta these boys – that pristine past can still be heard in every beat and harmony.
Still though my favorite track by far might have to be “Rainy Day” (YuTian) – there’s something about the addition of the accordion, mixed together with an up-tempo melody yet with a melancholic undertone that burns like a fever dream of nostalgia.
All five of them were glowing up on stage tonight. From Wu Kejia, on acoustic, to Liu Miao, driving the beat on drums, to Shi Zhenaki, on bass, the lovely Marie-Claude LeBel on accordion and flute, and the man himself Li Xia, whose deep stripped voice, rounds out the group. The communal aspect of the band is such a prominent part to me – it feels like a big family up there, even when they invited guests on stage to join in.
By the time it came to a close, it seemed no one wanted the party to end, so in true Dos Kolegas fashion, they just kept jamming away, in what turn out to be one the sweetest jam fests ever, as friends and family, joined in and out on stage to sing a verse, take a crack at an instrument, and even simply wig out. It was the perfect cap to a great night at Dos Kolegas. Congrats to Li Dong once again – hope you guys keep kicking up dirt wherever the road takes you next.