Live Venue ::: “Loopy”, Hangzhou, PRC

Over the past six months Hangzhou has had a facelift. In anticipation of the hyped-up 2016 G20 economic summit for example, as well as the general interest in the city as one of China’s UNESCO heritage sites and general tourist traps. The Zhejiang capital will also soon become host to the Asia Games and is fast gaining a reputation on the international map for global travellers and business entrepreneurs alike. Hangzhou is well known for it’s serene landscapes (according to the expression…shang you tian tang, xia you su hang/上有天堂,下有苏杭) while it’s West Lake has drawn retirees and folk enthusiasts to enjoy the music of their fore-bearers.

img_2894

Behind the gloss of the stereotypical Chinese postcard though, there is an underbelly of artists, musicians, writers, performers and creators who have seen venue after venue come and go, and a city of young people whose stage may as well have been made of quicksand. Without the same underground emergence as other Chinese cities who have embraced their youth culture (check Wuhan, Beijing, Changsha, or Chengdu), Hangzhou has been left in the dust until recently.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

In the middle of a construction site and a developing area of Zhongshan nan lu (中山南路) there’s something happening. Paint fumes fill the stairways, elevators and the shell-like cement corridors. Atop the wavering scaffold, workers still mount the electrical fittings on the walls and ceilings, while empty shops and stalls await the bricks that will build their future interiors. I climbed the stairs through the fire-exit to join the opening night of Hangzhou’s new club, ‘Loopy’. While directions were few, you need only follow the red carpet and the distant pounding of drum beats from the far reaches of this unlikely venue – inside a shopping mall.

From outside, Loopy’s young party-goers are scattered all around the spacious cement corridor. It’s distinctively modern graffitiesque logo is chiselled into the wall where two large concrete arches open into the outer bar area. On the right leads a small doorway into the club. With many venues in this neck of the woods, you’ll generally find a disproportionately large number of punters hanging around the outer atrium but as I pushed through the curtained entrance I was pleasantly surprised.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

The grand opening of Loopy, took off where many of the same Lineout Stage crew at XXCafe left off, with the party ‘Begin Again’. The night represented the combined talents of Rebekah, Sulumni, Shao, Loukoko, Stephen K, Badtooth, and Onichan; a great mix of both local (HZ/SH) and internationally  (UK/France/Ireland) based electronic artists and DJ’s (House, Acid) pounding out the beats til sunrise. While the dance floor isn’t quite as big as some of the more exhausted clubs in the city, you’re getting way more for your buck (or for free as it was on the night!) Unlike many venues in Hangzhou, the artist’s space takes centre stage and precedence over the whole room which was really refreshing.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

There are no dancing girls in cages or any zoo-like distractions taking away from the music and what’s happening on the stage. At the back of the stage, there is also a moveable screen for back-drops, projections and installations which could also presumably be used for fine art events; while above the entrance there is an overhanging balcony. As room’s go, it’s as real as Hangzhou has ever had, in my opinion. It’s all about people, socialising, dancing without any need for expensive over-decorated furniture or rich dudes flaunting themselves over copious amounts of fake booze. It is a great minimalist space that is purely dedicated to bringing independent artists to Hangzhou and to thrive in a place that is as the construction outside suggests – developing.

We decided to meet up with Loopy’s lead guy, independent event organiser, photographer and musician Yi Fei, to get an insight into the beginnings of the venue, what we can expect from them in the future, some of their concepts, designs and ideas and what makes a great venue great. Stay tuned..!

Wechat: loopylive

Weibo: @loopy

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/loopyliveHZ/

Instagram: loopy_live

enquiry and reservation: info@loopy.live, 

phone: +86 156 5801 8959 / 186 5718 8959

Address: 上城区中山南路77号313室 /// Room 313, no.77 zhong shan nan lu

 

Jon Gomm Live @ Cafe XX, Hangzhou (with special guest William Gray)

Jon Gomm at The Avenue Theatre in Sittingbourne

On 4th December last, I was wrapping up my week’s work that bit earlier because I’d heard Jon Gomm was coming to town. I’d never listened to his music before, but I’d heard a story of a previous performance he’d given in Hangzhou. It involved an uncompromising battle of the decibels between a game of pool and Gomm’s intensely up-close and personal stage presence that didn’t end well. At this point, one might be inclined to jump into a cultural or ethical debate of East meets West blah blah blah… but what immediately gripped me was Gomm’s drive to deliver his music as he had intended it.

Unfortunately this evening, for one unsuspecting socialite, a night of tomfoolery and taking the general mick is out of the question – it’s just not that kind of buzz! Don’t get me wrong, I like a good bar brawl as much as the next man but at a Gomm gig, you (the audience) need to adhere to a strict code of silence, as requested, unless of course you want a confrontation. With Jon Gomm, a threat is as much of a punch with a talent as ferocious as his; and for your attentive comportment you’ll get so much more in return!

Guest performer William Gray (UK), is a resident of Hangzhou and artist with local label, Medic Records. It’s been a busy year for Gray, a vigorously prolific songwriter of no less than four self-produced albums and a BBC session. In early 2015 Gray joined Medic Records, released a five song EP called, ‘Tish’, in April; spent the summer touring around Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Jiangxi provinces, also putting the finishing touches to his new album, ‘Flounce’ which is due to be released on Medic Records in 2016. During sound-check there was a notable sense of anxiety. Gray’s guitar had taken a fall earlier in the day, and on exhumation thine axe hath been beheaded!

Nevertheless, a replacement was soon found and William Gray’s performance puts him at the helm as one of Hangzhou’s finest musical imports. Opting to play unrestricted, he took to the stage without a setlist and cherry-picked from his vast back catalogue. Gentle finger-pickers, indie ballads and folk songs chock-full of social commentary, diverse and dynamic, were all brought to life by Gray’s wit and between song banter as he made his Lineout Stage debut. Personal faves include ‘First Dog in Space’, ‘Crash Test Dummy’, from second album ‘Vertical Wealth’ and ‘Freaky Dreams’ from 2009 debut ‘None Of The Above’.

Jon Gomm emerged from the shadows of the audience wielding his custom acoustic guitar like a medieval hooded wizard. After a few moments of a visible struggle with frequencies, effects pedals and whatnot he was away. Like some highly-evolved sea creature flailing its tentacles yet striking his instrument with predatory precision Jon Gomm brings the acoustic guitar to life with a bountiful array of percussion, rhythm, melody and airy soulful vocals, as distinct in artistic flavour as his technical mastery. As well as his own music, Gomm gave an arresting instrumental rendition of the Kate Bush classic, ‘Running up that Hill’ that sent a shiver of quiet excitement through the air. Gomm’s signature songs, ‘Passion Flower’, ‘Telepathy’ and ‘The Weather Machine’ were also played with the sort of ingenuity that leaves you staring in awe, as if watching some freakish talent on You Tube. He’ll either prompt your passion for improvement, or leave you in the dust to chuck it all in with a deep, disheartened puff.

Best moments include Gomm’s introduction to his instrumental ‘Wukan Motorcycle Kid’ where he announces that the last time he introduced this tune, the microphone was turned off due to the sensitivity of the real-life tragedy, as he explained the inspiration behind the beautiful instrumental piece. The song begins with a solo that sounds as much a part of traditional Chinese folk music as 十面埋伏 (Shi Mian Mai Fu) and no less exhilarating. The final song of the night was an unplugged rendition of ‘Gloria’, a homage to an ex-girlfriend, which brought up the house lights and was as viscous and ghostly as the ‘hazy’ night.

Jon Gomm is a master craftsman of his trade who brings elements of technique and instrumentation to a heightened level of precision and detail. He utilises everything from finger-picking blues and gospel to funk, jazz, even traditional Chinese, but what sets him apart from others in this style is the discretion he shows in his approach to writing a song. Rather than brandishing any sort of cocky ego, he has a well-earthed perspective on songwriting and his place as a self-managed independent musician has garnered him fitting notoriety and success with audiences worldwide.

For more listens, check out both artists online: http://www.williamgray.bandcamp.com /// http://www.jongomm.com