On The Scene: Old What? Bar 10-02-2012

To say I’m jealous of Pangbianr is an understatement – in over two years Josh and crew took a simple website that promoted and created awareness the underground music scene in Beijing and turned it into a juggernaut collective which puts on events and shows, release music, make videos, all the while providing a outlet and community for the DIY art scene. Even down in Hong Kong, I’ve heard people reference the bilingual site – impressive indeed.
So while I’ve been trying to infiltrate the crew for the past six months to see just how they do it, they’ve treated to some of the city’s loudest, dirty, proficient genre-pushing bands out their. Friday night was no different, as the Pangbianr crew, rolling deep as usual, took over the Old What? Bar with a little help from their friends Chaos, You Xi, and Skip Skip Ben Ben.


Things started off grungy, as Chaos came up on stage and gave it their all. Sporting perhaps the greatest christmas sweater ever, the lead singer Quan Xin proceeded to howl and wail into the microphone like it was his last day on earth. Now, here’s the thing – this doesn’t always work, as I’ll make note of later on. But for the most part, our man pulls it off here –

– that’s some authentic distress in that voice – it may not be perfect; it made not hit those necessary high notes, but it’s real and raw. The words “Good Morning” never sounded so heartbreaking before (at least that my ears told me I heard). And drummer Houzi, of Carsick Cars as well, is a machine out there, never flashy but always strong (he also adds his skills to Skip Skip Ben Ben). I’ll be curious to see what Chaos kicks up with in the future.

Last time I saw You Xi, I didn’t exactly rave about their set, but I’ll be damned…they got one of their tunes stuck in my head – a funky slow groove of a jam that escalates from calm confidence to brimming agony (or pleasure…always two sides to that coin).

And though the lead singer’s high-pitched wails doesn’t mold well with the duo’s sound every time (a little too feminine for my tastes), it fits this particular tune to a tee. The band closed strong again, by giving way to Meng Yao’s stronger raspier voice, which is the perfect contrast to leads’. I’m not sold yet on You Xi, but I might just be coming back for more. At least till this damn song gets out of my head.

Here’s to thanking the smog gods above that the first time I saw Skip Skip Ben Ben was no fluke. The band takes all the best features of decades’ worth of music, genres and styles and run with it. A little art folk there, noise-rock here, some 60s psychedelic groove, some 90s shoegaze rock – it all intertwines so gracefully. These three know exactly what they’re aiming for on each song, and make contact every time.


And Ben Ben, whose dreamy tiny voice, though so petite at times its hard to understand, remains sharp as a knife, or as her guitar plucking – she’s something straight out of a Haruki Murakami novel. Let’s hope the trio stick around Beijing after opening for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart – cause they might just steal the show from these Brooklyn youngsters (hopefully not though).

Check out some more videos below and be sure to check out Pangbianr’s own music festival – the Sally Can’t Dance Festival, taking place the first weekend of March.

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