5 Years of Maybe Mars: Independent China In Stereo

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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.

The night was filled with beloved artists from the label: Yang Haisong (PK 14) DJ’ing, Xiao He, Liu Kun (Low Wormwood), Zhan Pan (The Gar) and Yang Fan (Ourselves Beside Me), Mr. Graceless, AV Okubo, Chui Wan and Carsick Cars. We arrived just as Xiao He, who’d enjoyed the festivities perhaps a bit too much (and whom we heard made a hilarious, moving toast to the label), shuffled off-stage to make way for Zhan Pan and Yang Fan’s acoustic solo songs and duets. Catch a video of Zhan Pan singing 圈 (“Ring”):

Mr. Graceless is one of the bands that the Radar has seen grow up, both literally and musically, over the years. This time at Yugong their stage confidence was palpable as they played a short, lively set. On next, AV Okubo had the biggest crowd of the night for fan favorites such as “Love Song” and “Breakbeat.” For the older bands, it was a greatest-hits sort of night. An incessant drizzle did not deter the crowd from escaping outside during the changeover between them and Chui Wan. If Mr. Graceless are the anointed successors to Carsick Cars, then Chui Wan is this decade’s Snapline. Complicated and cerebral, their set was the most creative of the night, and played to the smallest crowd. Even more surprisingly, the crowds did not return for the headliners of the night and Maybe Mars MVPs Carsick Cars. No matter – much like AV Okubo, they played a rousing set chock full of old favorites, including the rarely-performed “Zhongnanhai.” Even though the crowd had thinned out considerably, they were clearly into it:

Though we’re usually quite demanding of fellow industry players on this good blog, today we just want to take a step back and congratulate Maybe Mars on a job well done. We didn’t even see the usual expat-asshole “have you heard this new band? I think they’re called, like, Carsick Cars?” crowd so prevalent at previous, non-secret CSC gigs. We hope it was the rain that scared them (but not the 600 other people squashed in Yugong for Mr. Graceless) away.

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