If you haunt live shows in the Northern Capital like our Beijing editor does, you’d be sure to recognize an American guy sporting varying degrees of scruff and extraordinarily ugly sandals holding a small video camera unobtrusively near the side of the stage. That gentleman (whose identity we shall not reveal) is the brains and editing suite behind Live Beijing Music, a site for his live videos of what seems to be every gig in Beijing. In the past year, he’s built up quite a following especially amongst the local musicians, who rarely film themselves and regular concert goers, who enjoy reliving the memories. He’s just posted his top tracks of 2012 – parts one and two – and it includes such Radar favourites such as Snapline, Dear Eloise and Residence A. Hilariously, the songs come in all forms: Soundcloud, Youku, Xiami, Bandcamp, the list goes on. But what the layout lacks in aesthetic value it makes up more than exponentially in the quality and scope of music released in Beijing over the past 12 months.
In July of this year, Resident Advisor (the global bible for electronic music) brought their Horizons concept to China. DJ Levon Vincent played Shelter back in July.
Resident Advisor sent a correspondent to Shanghai. Said correspondent has just completed and posted a long and surprisingly accurate analysis of the electronic scene in the city, interviewing many of the main players (mostly foreign) and commenting on the fact that:
- there are very few Chinese involved in the scene, either as promoters, DJ’s or punters
- many of the local producers // DJ’s chose not to pay money to see a hot Western DJ. Rather, they mostly converged in Dada Bar which was where the local DJ’s were representing (mostly for free), suggesting that DJ hero worship here is less pronounced than in the West.
We’d just like to add that a lot of the success of electronic music to the masses internationally can be attributed to the increasingly wide proliferation of consumer // designer shizzle since the 60′s, something that hasn’t hit China’s youth in any significant way as of yet.
Two weekends ago, Expo Park (that hotbed of musical and cultural activity) played host to a new pop-heavy music festival, the White Music Festival. Produced by Taiwanese media company Idea Music, the festival boasted a credible lineup of stars including Hebe 田馥甄, Yoga Lin 林宥嘉, Joanna Wang 王若琳, Sammi Cheng 郑秀文 and many others.
Due in part to the pop-idol nature of the artists, the White Music Festival implemented a rather creative two-tiered ticketing system for “fans” and regular attendees, available through the traditional channels (Damai) as well as popular Chinese culture social-networking site Douban. The festival issued 500 fan tickets (粉丝票) at 688 RMB, which included general admission, fan area admission and a festival t-shirt. With a fan ticket, attendees were able to watch the set of their favourite performer from the fans-only area, for the duration of that artist’s set. Like an assembly line, fan ticket holders gathered at the entrance to the cordoned-off area before their idols were set to play. Festival staff ushered them in for the set, and then ushered them out again to make way for the next set of ticketholders. It was guaranteed placement in prime real estate for any ticketholder’s favourite performer. For the rest of the festival, attendees were welcome to enjoy the concerts from the general-admission areas.
For many local music fans, there still exists a vast divide between listening to their favourite artists in the comfort of their own home and braving large, pushy crowds at arena concerts and music festivals. But Chinese fans are also some of the most dedicated and “nao can” (“brain-damaged”) fans of pop idols. Though Radar compatriots Split Works and Wooozy do not usually traffic in Mando- and Cantopop stars, we think that the idea of a special fan ticket, and area for fans is a pretty interesting concept. The overall experience is augmented for all parties involved: fans get to see their favourite stars up close, the performers have the satisfaction of singing to their biggest supporters, and the promoters engender goodwill amongst their audience (and make some extra $$$. A regular presale ticket for the festival was 180 RMB and 250 RMB at the entrance).
There have been a couple of half decent articles on the Chinese music scene kicking around the wires recently. We thought we’d point you to a couple:
First up, Andrew Chin over at City Weekend does a retrospective of big international shows in China in advance of two in two days (Elton John on Friday in Shanghai and Jennifer Lopez in the same venue the following night).
From Wham, to John Denver, to the Rolling Stones to Sonic Youth to Linkin Park to the present day, the article features interviews from Adam Wilkes, Archie Hamilton, Steve Sybesma and John Cappo, it makes a nice trip down memory lane for nostalgia hunters, while demonstrating how far we’ve come.
You can read that one right over HERE.
Disclaimer, the one of the authors of this blog was interviewed for this article.
At a different end of the spectrum, Morgan Short of Smart Beijing and previously of Shanghai based band Boys Climbing Ropes baits Dan Shapiro of The Fever Machine into telling us what he really thinks about the music scene in China. Both of these brohammers have been here for over 5 years and have spent most of that time immersed in the music scene, so the interview is a good one for those of you interested in being in bands here. You can read that little gem HERE.
The final one for today looks in depth at the present and future of music access in China, pointing to the fact that more and more of the big players are introducing options for the consumers to actually pay for content. The model seems to be that streaming will continue to be free, while downloading would cost. The author makes some pretty broad claims without backing anything up. The Chinese consumer has never paid for content before – it’s going to take a pretty significant breakthrough in simplicity or usability to make it happen
Read this one HERE
Thanks to Cool Ghoul over at Rock in China for this one. In 2011, American garage rock band the Morlocks did an extensive tour of China. Lots of train rides, shitty backline and a continual struggle to get from the train to the hotel // venue characterize this description of the tour.
You can read it in full HERE.
Words + Photos: Ami Li
There isn’t much that hasn’t already been written about Maybe Mars. China’s first record label focusing exclusively on young Chinese bands, the 1-2 punch with D-22, pillar of the still-young industry here. With offshoots Maybe Noise and Maybe Folk, the label has expanded beyond its original expertise of indie rock to acclaimed artists including Xiao He, Low Wormwood and WHITE+. This summer, Maybe Mars has been touring it’s artists all over China in celebration of their 5th anniversary. On September 1st, they had their triumphant homecoming bash at Beijing’s Yugong Yishan. The Radar was there to congratulate Maybe Mars and pour a little out for the next 5 years.
UPDATE: Shanghai lo-fi punksters Pairs add some commentary around this (and other things) HERE
400 RMB to see Mojave 3 play in China.
220 RMB for a Peaches… DJ set.
As some learned the hard way last month, DJ sets are not the same as live gigs, and even then all artists can find new and different ways to disappoint audience members. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s €50 ($63) and €28 ($34.50) respectively. By comparison, a 1-day pass to Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival was a mere $45. Club shows in New York, LA and London generally top out at 25-30 pounds/dollars even for the likes of the Arcade Fire or Bon Iver. So what gives?
As someone that is English, but has spent the last 7 years in China, this article for the Guardian, a comparison between the opening ceremonies for the last two Olympics, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, resonates with me for many reasons and articulates the reasons better than I ever could have.
- Britain is more self confident on a global stage, reflected in the content of the ceremony
- China was trying to create an image for the world, London was a party for everyone.
- Britain dealt with its history and took ironic pops at that history, while highlighting the importance of a political touchstone, the National Health Service, and the problems that it faces.
- One event reflected the passion, hopes and struggles of the people, the other reflected the nationalism of a single party state.
- China’s was immense, monumental, hugely impressive, but so scripted they even replaced the little girl singer in person with someone prettier.
I did enjoy both ceremonies for different reasons and let’s face it, both countries are at different stages of their development. It was interesting to see what AWW had to say about it though and it would be good to hear what you think.
Benoit Florencon, a Shanghai based photographer, recently self published a photo essay that dives deep into the home studios that put out many of the underground beats that make up Shanghai’s musical underbelly.
It’s a nice snapshot of the scene in general – 70% of the artists featured are not Chinese, an accurate representation of what’s happening here at the moment. MIA summarizes the reasons why
young people here have a lot of pressure during childhood – they don’t have free time to care about or explore art and music.
As X is pronounced “Sh” in English, this festival has a someone unfortunate phonetic name, but enough of that. The poster is also a little on the risque side. Checkit:
word: sophia pederson
Nipping on the heels of JUE | Music + Art Festival, Sounds of the Xity (SX) event round 2 took place last weekend from April 1-6. The bulk of the events were held in Beijing, but made a small splash in Shanghai and Xi’an, too. The “festival,” now in its second year, is a group of events including live music performances, a music culture summit forum plus roundtable talks, and a national tour of documentary screenings at selected universities. Their mission is lofty and this year’s theme awkwardly translated into English (SX’s translation, NOT mine) is “The Relationship Between Chinese and Western Music and Encroachment Between Chinese and Western Music.” (It sounds a lot better in Chinese: 中西方音乐文化的互亲与互侵.)
As far as the “sounds” in Sounds of the Xity, the event brought some pretty solid but safe Chinese acts to various Beijing stages, including Mr. Graceless, Pet Conspiracy, Hanggai, Sound Toy, Hao Yun, Wangwen (more on this in a moment), etc… Almost as an afterthought, a few foreign acts came to take part as well – Korean punk rockers, Strikers and French dance music project We are Not Invited… a little strange given this year’s theme – but perhaps there was more on Western/Chinese relations and “encroachment” during the summit forum and roundtable talks.
SX music events coincided conveniently with one of China’s holidays – Tomb Sweeping Festival. To celebrate, I decided to pay my respects to Dalian post-rockers, Wangwen in Beijing at Yugong Yishan. They started off with crowd favourite “Waterless Pond” and continued in their depressingly beautiful instrumental post rock glory for almost a full 2 hours. Things got a little mundane in the middle – really, how long can a band hold a crowd with melancholic instrumental rock? (I’d say about an hour at best). However, the night ended on a good note as Wangwen played encore songs off their new album and with the help of flashing pink spotlights from the lighting booth and supportive crowd (gotta love Beijing!) it made me feel the 80RMB that I roped my friend into paying was well worth it.