A Cult Indie Band Reunites in China. A first for everything!

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This week, Joyside announced a reunion tour in China. Presale tickets for their first two shows sold out in minutes.

The boozy, sloppy drunk-punk band built a cult following in the early 2000s before breaking up, and singer Bian Yuan had since established a fairly high-profile image as a solo performer and songwriter.

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Rock comebacks are a rare thing in China, where alternative music only stretches back till the late 80s, with most of it dominated by pop or solo performers. Joyside join their erstwhile label mates Carsick Cars (who reunited as their ‘original lineup’ in 2017) in not quite going away but returning in a form that stirs nostalgia.

“Nostalgia” is the key element here. It’s a lodestar – something stable in a country and market that changes so fast and so suddenly. Carsick Cars, Joyside, Miserable Faith, Second Hand Rose – it’s a memory of a certain era for China’s post-80s generation (now in their 30s). Incredibly talented bands like ‘Omnipotent Youth Society’ have now flogged their sole album for over 11 years, and *still* sell out every show they play.

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It’s been a good 8 years since the infamous “final shows” by LCD Soundsystem, which were widely criticized as a hollow cash grab after the band reunited in 2016, their popularity unabated. The market rewards scraping the barrel of nostalgia, so why shouldn’t bands follow suit?

The situation in China, though, is not the same and a little bit of context is necessary here.

There’s no doubt that a bit of money is part of the motivation for bands like Joyside and Carsick Cars – but these bands also represented a rare creative ferment in China’s underground music. They stood for something – a lifestyle, a refusal to conform, a boisterous noisiness. They were not hugely financially successful in their heyday. It wasn’t possible to be.

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10 years on, and an industry has appeared where once it was just scrappy dive bars. They’re entering a different kind of marketplace – one that’s arguably more professional, and more developed.

But the audience, the vibe, the foundations of this industry were built, partly, on their backs. And if a second stint can give them the financial success and status they deserve – so be it. 

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