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.
Words + Photos: Ami Li
Your faithful Radar correspondents repeated a May holiday weekend ritual once again in 2012 by going to Modern Sky’s Strawberry Festival in Beijing. The overarching feeling of the whole weekend was repetition: same routes, same festivals, same artists. Same sponsors, even.
Located at Tongzhou Canal Park (despite our claims to the contrary – sorry again) eight stages vied for sound supremacy over the park grounds. New this year was the A Cappella stage, where co-ed voices blended mellifluously over new classics including “Dancing Queen” and “I’ll Be There For You” while the mysterious Chǎ stage played host to only 4 acts per day, including the ever-popular MC Stone (石头). Headliners for the main Strawberry Stage included Blonde Redhead, Queen Sea Big Shark and Xie Tianxiao, whereas other foreign acts invited included Laura Jansen, Jeans Team, Pitchtuner, The On Fires and Tahiti 80. Other festival favorites such as New Pants, Hanggai, Convenience Store, Carsick Cars and Hedgehog rounded out the lineup. Metal stalwarts Voodoo Kungfu, Army of Jade Kirin, Twisted Machine and Liquid Oxygen Can kept the Overdrive Stage rocking all weekend long and young blood in the form of Wanderlust, CAssette, Steely Heart held it down in the early afternoon slots.
It’s our 4th birthday. 4 years ago today, we wrote a somewhat snippy review of the first stadium show by a Western rock band in China. You can read again here Linkin Park at Hongkou Stadium in 2007. With age and maturity (!!) we understand better the difficulty of such a feat and also the significance of the show. It is only when such milestones are passed that they become standards from which we can move forward.
And while November marks four years of the Radar observing the huge growth and progress that has been made in China’s still nascent music scene, there are some other much more significant birthday celebrations this month and next that highlight the fact that China is beginning to see some experience added to the enthusiasm that has got us this far.
On Friday, we were down in Shanghai venerable old bomb Shelter celebrating 6 years of Uprooted Sunshine. China’s premiere roots and reggae outfit have been refuting the somewhat crazy notion that reggae belongs in China: the crowd at Vibronics, while still nominally expat had a more than healthy section of roots-loving Chinese fans. ChaCha, the main MC for Uprooted was performing a farewell show before heading off to Europe having been selected for this year’s Red Bull Academy. She will play at selected European festivals after the RBMA. This is all at Shelter, which of course is celebrating it’s 4th year in business at the end of the month. Lots of wonderful achievements wrapped into a tight little ball.
All the while, we’ve been following Carsick Cars as they seem to be raging through Australia on tour, and Hedgehog added to their US fanbase on their 3rd tour of the country in October. At the same time, we are over the moon to see Hanggai high up the bill on a mainstream Australian festival that we are planning to go to at Christmas.
Back to the birthdays for a second: our sister company Split Works is celebrating 5 years in the promotions business in China. a few hundred shows all over China and SE Asia, the JUE Festival, the Black Rabbit Festival, Wooozy and lots more. There will be 5 shows in 5 days for 5 years, featuring artists old and new: Trippple Nippples, the Iron Mic 2011 MC competition, Chad Valley, X is Y, Jay.Soul, Hamacide and Eat Alien Brain, a trancecore outfit from Chengdu….
Shameless self promotion aside, it is for definite exciting times for China’s underground music scene. Lots of festivals, lots of live houses, a few new labels: welcome to a brave new world of Chinese Music!
Yang Haisong Still Has It: Noisey Launches in Beijing.
words: Ami Li
A recent Thursday night in Beijing marked the official launch in China of Noisey, a “Global New Music Discovery Platform.” A collaboration between VICE, Dell and Intel, the same team that brought the Creators Project to Beijing last fall, Noisey features mostly video footage of live shows and interviews with prominent, independently-minded bands and artists from around the world. Only launched formally in March of this year, Noisey has expanded rapidly into many markets and languages including Hindi and Portuguese as well as the expected French, German, Spanish and Chinese. Currently, the Noisey site features concert footage and interviews with four Chinese bands: Birdstriking, 24 Hours, Streets Kill Strange Animals, and Hedgehog.
For the Noisey’s coming out party in China, the organizers invited P.K. 14, Hedgehog and The Offset: Spectacles to perform at Beijing’s Yugong Yishan. Your faithful Radar correspondents were there on Thursday night to check it all out.
Like many PR events, this one started quite promptly on time (thus distinguishing it from many gigs). The Offset: Spectacles were on first, and we arrived belatedly, approximately two-thirds of the way through their set. All things considered, the droning, lo-fi sound that the band is known for suited the unique acoustic profile of Yugong Yishan. The subdued crowd appeared mesmerized by the sonic architecture coming from the stage. Always compelling in concert, The Offset: Spectacles continued their streak of hypnotizing performances, managing to achieve musical innovation with their steadfastly analog values.
In a follow up (or is it an addition – we don’t really know) to the Creators Project and Motherboard, Vice and their two main partners Intel and Dell have come up with Noisey, a music discovery platform. Featuring 2 bands from Beijing already (Birdstriking and 24 Hours), Noisey is about to launch officially with a party this weekend in, you guessed it, Beijing.
On a global basis, we are seeing more of these publisher, brand, editorial connections – immediately the Dazed and Swatch: Satellite Voices springs to mind. They definitely look good and serve a purpose. The only concern we would have is that significant and loyal fan bases take time to amass, and brand horizons don’t always tend to be that long. However, Vice in particular have done a good job in creating these long partnerships, which become stronger as time goes on. Get your ticket for the show by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You get PK14, Hedgehog and Offset: Spectacles for free – what could be better than that?
And we give you… more Chinese music festivals.
In September 2009, Beijing based label Modern Sky took three of their bands on a road trip across the US of A. You can read all about it HERE. It was the subject of some fierce debate.
The tour was actually a precursor for Modern Sky’s ambitious Sing for China album, which was in the making for a couple of years, and was released in January this year. It was a Herculean effort: 44 tracks spanning 3 CDs, featuring artists from all over the world, with a predominance understandably to Modern Sky artists. Independent record labels Kill Rock Stars, DFA, Vice and 4AD are represented, alongside a single banner name: Yoko Ono.
“For nearly a year I had lived in a world that seemed, at first, like something original. It was obvious from the beginning that the menace bore little resemblance to its publicized image, but there was a certain pleasure in sharing the Angels’ amusement at the stir they’d created. Later, as they attracted more and more attention, the mystique was stretched so thin that it finally became transparent”
– Hunter S. Thompson, from Hell’s Angels
In September 2009, indie Beijing label Modern Sky put into action something that had been in planning phases for over 2 years. Sing for China was a hugely ambitious undertaking: 15 cities across the USA featuring 3 Beijing based bands – Queen Sea Big Shark, Hedgehog and Casino Demon. This is what we, after much thought, conclude from this laudable incursion.
After our round slating of yesterdays video car crash, we give you something a little more edifying.
Andrew Field teaches Chinese History here in Shanghai and made a film in 2007 “Notes from the Chinese Underground” which was screened for the first time in D-22 last week. The press release says it better than we could:
Maybe Mars are going to New York for a big old party. Central to this party will be a photographic exhibition by Matthew Niederhauser, a photographer who has documented Maybe Mars and D-22 through images of the bands that have created this label/ venue community up in Beijing’s Northern reaches. He is launching his second book, Sound Kapital, at the same time.