Gig Review ::: 舌头乐队 (Tongue) at Mao Livehouse, Hangzhou 17.03.2017

Xinjiang rock group 舌头乐队 (she tou yue dui) aka ‘Tongue’ erupted on Hangzhou‘s recently opened Mao Livehouse this March, with a live show well deserving of the audience in attendance. With a musical background stemming from their roots in the Muslim Uighur capital of Urumqi (in west China – a predominantly Islamic culture), they have become one of China’s most prominent rock acts in recent years to sign with Beijing label Modern Sky.

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At a packed Mao Livehouse, ‘Tongue’ supply formidable, metal-riffing hard rock crossed with Islamic sounds from the bands roots in Urumqi; and come as a welcome remedy from the unblemished pop mannequins you’ll find plastered on practically every bus stop nationwide. These guys are an independently functioning rock band with exceptional technical wizardry that fuses elements of traditional rock lineage with experimental/abstract sounds both in texture and as an homage to their Western Chinese origins.

Singer Wu Tun is a big presence on stage and his often hunched form delivers a menacing growl at peak moments in the set; while during instrumentals he disappears from view altogether for up to fifteen of the full eighty minute set. He nevertheless comes across as a much liked and respected figure even as he stops the band, brings up the house lights, and then proceeds to spend a good five minutes explaining to the audience about the dangers of not stage-diving correctly; to which the audience revels in his humourous anecdotes and concern for their safety, along with a young local boy (7) whose dream comes true when his Dad helps him on stage to briefly sing with Wu Tun and then join in the stage-diving antics.

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Drummer Li Dan grasps our attention as he pummels intensely over the kit with masterful technique and an impressive ability to change the frequency of the toms mid song. During instrumentals he has centre spotlight and is no less of a showman that Wu Tun in connecting with the audience; where at times the music seemingly becomes overly abstract for a few fellow gig-goers, but they have a change of heart and opt to stay as sirens and wailing textures pulsate with the visual backdrop mid-set. Wu JunDe brings a gorgeous sounding bass that anchors the rhythm sections and adds melody and volume to the synth/keys section provided by Guo DaGang; which for my taste were probably the weaker moments in the set but certainly made up for it during the Pink Floyd-esque instrumentals with drummer Li Dan.

Head-banging lead guitarist, Li Hongjun is a powerhouse of metal riffs, with mind-blowing accuracy and attention to detail. With elements of 80/90’s Chinese leather wielding hair metal bands like ‘TangDynasty (唐朝乐队)‘ and ‘Yaksa (夜叉乐队)‘, he looks like something from the cover of Nirvana’s debut album, ‘Bleach’ for most of the performance. The animated visual backgrounds invoke images of protruding knives; moody and brooding with red hues streaked with Wu Tun‘s lyrics. At one point in the set however, the intense reds expose a strangely out of context hippie looking fractal rainbow as the band transforms momentarily into a parody of itself. The audience goes wild.

If you can get out to see these guys, then do! You’ll be blown away by what’s actually going on in China’s musical subculture, with something undeniably special a-brewing.

http://www.shuhtou.com/

https://site.douban.com/tongue/

Live at Loopy ::: Junks/Metro Tokyo/Local Suicide/Ectoplasm

Loopy is fast becoming ground central for Hangzhou’s night-life with bands, DJ’s and artists both local and international taking to the stage. One such hazy night before Christmas was no different with an eclectic mix of ‘pollution-pop, smoggy-disco and acid-rain anthems’, as described by ‘Junks‘ front man David Kay, who’s not too far off the mark considering the airpocalypse engulfing China these days. While the Wednesday night slot didn’t quite do justice to the artists or the attendance on the night, it’s a point proven that great art isn’t just for the weekends, but it certainly was a night well worth the mid-week music fix!

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Beijing-based,’Metro Tokyo‘ sets the mood. Founder of Beijing´s first Disco DJ collective The Three Discoteers, Metro Tokyo grew up near Düsseldorf, Germany. With a love for Chinese disco pop, he moved to China in 2009 and started FakeMusicMedia (FMM) and label FakeLoveMusic (FLM). He has since performed alongside musical luminaries Peter Hook, Little Boots, Holy Ghost!, and Mike Simonetti to name just a few, as well as managing and produced well known Chinese indie band Pet Conspiracy, and Nova Heart.

Junks get things cracking on the night with a set as vibrant and glossy in 80’s electro-disco synth pop as with their appealing retro imagery. It’s been a busy year for Junks amid the Hangzhou Xihu Music Festival, multiple Loopy and nationwide shows, along with performances in guises like Ectoplasm that give us a chance to peep into their diverse influences. Both on and off the stage the band strut with a confidence in sound and presence that I hadn’t seen before. Churning out catchy 2-bit rhythms and melodies with the electrical pulse of ‘Automan‘ while conjuring up hints of Daft Punk, Devo, and Space Museum‘s classic album ‘Solid Space’.

David and Ursula tag-team as lead vocalists/keytar and are at times lashing out high energy performances on songs like my personal favourite ‘Samantha’. Followed by ‘Red Cup’, and ‘Slipstream’ among some newer tunes, all available to listen on their soundcloud. Yi Fei and Onichan are on laptops keeping the engines fired up but are less reciprocal to audience attentions. Their shadowy figures are a stark contrast to their European band-mates, as one audience member pointed out the interesting cultural comparison. While tipping their hats to Siouxsie and the Banshees, Junks’ gig comes to an end with a cover of ‘Hong Kong Garden’. What sets Junks apart is their unabashed aesthetic and sheer love of the 80’s palette both sonically and visually. If you dig the bling of Mr.T, 88mph DeLorean’s, Karate Kid’s crane, Jane Fonda headbands and big hair, Sweet Arnie o’Mine, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Hip to be Huey Lewis, and Never-Ending stories…. then you’ll probably love Junks!

https://www.facebook.com/JUNKSOFFICIAL/

The Berlin-based troupe ‘Local Suicide‘ headline on the night, creating tense, dark and broody techno, nu-disco and pounding rhythms. Well versed within the music industry both as touring artists (US and Europe), and running one of Germany‘s top independent music blogs. They have consistently produced, remixed, worked in bands and as a DJ duet since 2007, and dish out a unique dose of soulful new wave, slow techno, acid house that is pulsing with underground indie spirit, dark alley brawls and dingy sweat clubs where only the bravest endure.

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Interview ::: David Kay (Junks) @ Xihu Music Festival, Hangzhou

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TSOFD: Was this your first Xihu Festival appearance? How did you find performing and what are your thoughts regarding the festival as a whole?

DK: This was the first Junks appearance at the festival, but Ursula and I played here a few years ago as Party Horse. I thought the festival was great, and it’s a cool place for a music festival, positioned as it is behind West Lake and just in front of some leafy hills. The weather was shit leading up to our appearance on the Saturday (Oct 29th) and it was pissing it down most of the day too, which impacted the festival’s overall attendance. We played on the DJ stage, which is unusual for a band, but seeing as though our sound is pretty electronic, mixing elements of synthwave and nu-disco with more traditional rock and punk structures, I guess we fit in okay. We got a good crowd during our show, and as we began to play people flooded in from out of nowhere, which was cool. I love playing festivals mainly because they are so fucking loud!

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TSOFD: Have you played other festivals in China? If so what have you made of the experiences overall and how does this compare with festivals in the UK either as a punter, performer or both?

DK: I’ve played a number of festivals in China and the UK, both big and small, whether it be with Junks, Party Horse or as DJ Ectoplazm in China or with Tiny Dancers back in the UK. I’ve enjoyed all of these appearances, and the ones in China have been particularly enjoyable due both to the novelty factor and the fact that the scene feels really fresh and embryonic here. It’s still early days in China in terms of festivals and festival culture, so it’s great to play a small part in this emerging scene. Some festivals in China have no alcohol for sale, however – none at all – which is a real bummer as it’s hard to enjoy a festival without a dozen pints of over-priced lager, right?

DK: There are lots of differences between UK and Chinese festivals. For example, the whole camping thing has largely been lost on the Chinese, as has the concept of partying until the sun rises. But, seeing as though I’m no spring chicken anymore, that’s probably a good thing.

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TSOFD: Do you feel there was a healthy representation of different forms of music at the festival – any local or national acts you’d have liked to have seen play that weren’t billed?

DK: To be honest I didn’t get to see much of the wider festival as I had to get home pretty quick after our show to relieve the babysitter, but I was gutted to have missed Queen Sea Big Shark on the Sunday as they are probably my favorite Chinese band. Helen from Nova Heart also DJed on the Sunday and I heard she was great, so it was a shame to miss out on that too. That’s often the case when you play festivals though, you often miss other bands you’d like to see due to scheduling issues, although I did catch Chengdu rapper Kafe Hu, who was pretty cool.

Overall the line-up seemed pretty eclectic, with acts from the mainstream and the underground well-represented and genres like hip-hop, trap, pop, rock, electronica and house all getting a look in. I think it would have been nice to have a third stage, maybe one exclusively reserved for acoustic acts, as that would have given punters a place to kick-back and relax and, moreover, a chance for local singer/songwriters like William Gray and John Carroll a chance to flex their acoustic muscles.

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TSOFD: It has been said that China’s live music scene is more geared towards festival season but this is steadily changing with more and more live venues opening up nationwide. How well do you think Hangzhou is currently competing with the likes of Beijing and Shanghai, or even Wuhan and Chengdu?

DK: I think Hangzhou is a little behind the cities you mentioned in terms of its live music scene, but with Mao Livehouse and Loopy opening up recently, at least we have a couple more great venues to call our own. I think Hangzhou has plenty going on – and has lots of good musicians and DJs walking its recently spruced-up streets – but the city as a whole lacks edge and any kind of deep-rooted music scene. There’s too many cigar-bar style venues and not enough CBGBs.

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TSOFD: What’s next on the horizon for Junks – any new releases or gig or festival dates our readers should be making a note of? How about DJ events?

DK: We should have one or two more shows before Christmas and the work on our debut album continues behind the scenes. The best way to keep up to date with the band, and to find out what makes us tick, is to head to either our Facebook page for gigs and vibes, our Soundcloud page for music or follow us on wechat (ID: Junks_hz) for more detailed show info etc. You can also search for us on YouTube to see a few of our VHS-style music videos. We also making a short documentary about our musical adventures in China – so watch this space!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JUNKSOFFICIAL

 

Interviewed ::: YiFei from ‘Loopy’

中文 – CHINESE VERSION (see below for English)

Loopy背后的概念和设想是什么?凭什么可以让这个空间在众生中脱颖而出?

一个城市的文化进程中总有人会做一些让它变得更丰富、更美好的事,无论是什么职业,什么行业,都凭借着自己对城市的喜爱、事业的执着和生活的热情,一直默默坚持着。

loopy也是这城市中的一个小角色,和众生一样并无特殊之处,自然的发生,适时的消亡,如果说能够脱颖而出,也许是因为它一直努力着带给人们新鲜的事物和体验,时间久了便能记得它,运气好的话还能在城市中留下一点点印记。

 可以再说一些关于Loopy的设计和详细情况吗?

在传统百货商场里放置这样一个空间本身就是一种尝试,我们用建筑的设计语言来构造室内,以营造出不同区域中的不同氛围。让人一转弯就能发现一处惊喜,而这样的小惊喜又充满了整个场域,甚至在场外也能感受到,于是你在空间中就能一直处于探索的状态,最后总能找到令自己最舒服的位置安顿下来。

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 人们在Loopy可以期待怎样的音乐?

以电子音乐为主,其他音乐类型为辅,所以参演的会有乐队,DJ,制作人,声音艺术家、视觉艺术家等,另外loopy也对声音与视觉相结合的新媒体艺术作品感兴趣。

你觉得现在杭州的音乐场景是怎样的?

就像我之前说的,杭州一直在慢慢变的更好,音乐相关的艺术家、厂牌、主办方、场地等等都比之前变的更多元化和国际化,市场也开始慢慢变的规范和成熟起来,特别是现在的年轻人,资讯的发达也让他们都有了甄别优劣的能力,玩的也越来越有品质。我对杭州之后的音乐场景表示很期待。

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除了音乐,Loopy还可以提供什么?

几乎可以提供与音乐相关的一切体验,loopy还有黑胶展卖和试听、乐队专辑和周边产品售卖等。目的是想营造一种氛围,能对本地音乐文化有所促进,让年轻人多一个去处。当然我们还有美味的西班牙tapas和各种酒精。

 如果有人想要来Loopy演出,该怎样做?

最好直接过来现场,可以一起喝杯茶先。

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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: 313, 77 Zhongshan South Road, Hangzhou

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英文 – ENGLISH VERSION

What is the concept behind Loopy? What makes the venue stand out from the crowd?

There is always someone keep doing things in order to make the city getting better, no matter what he is doing, it only rely on his passionate for career and love for life.

Of course, Loopy is one of them, like all crowd, normal and peaceful, born naturally and die timely. But if we have to admit something that makes Loopy unique, i would say enable and inspire. It will keep bringing people fresh experience and leave something behind, fortunately.

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Can you tell me a little about loopy’s design and specifications?

It is a try that loopy was placed in a typical shopping mall, Architectural design language made this interior space have different area with different atmosphere. people can keep exploring as there are full of surprises at very corner, even from the outside. and there is always perfect place that you can finally settle down.

What kind of music can people expect to hear?

Mainly electronic music, sometimes other types as well, Performers including Bands, DJs, Musicians, Visual Artists, etc. also loopy is very interested in  audio/ visual and contemporary media work and installations.

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What do you think of the Hangzhou music scene?

Like i said, all those artists, labels, event organisers and venues are making Hangzhou’s music scene getting better. Everyone in this industry are getting more professional and international, as well as the market. Especially those teenagers in these days are improving their ability of telling music stories, even their life story too, all of these are great for the city and i am expecting.

 Beside the music, what else does loopy offer?

Almost every experience related to music.  for example, hundreds of new release and second hand records you can try, brand-related products for sale and relaxed atmosphere that you can enjoy conversation with everyone. Also Spanish tapas and alcohol are indispensable.

If someone wants to play at your new venue, how do they do this?

Better come over and check the venue. Experience it and have a cup of tea.

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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: 313, 77 Zhongshan South Road, Hangzhou

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Introducing ‘Bricks’ ::: 介绍杭州萧山板砖乐队

In case you didn’t know, it’s not all happening in the big cities. Some of the best bands you’ve ever heard of come from insignificant specks on the great cosmos of the musical map. Nirvana were from a tiny coastal town called Aberdeen in Northwest USA, before The Beatles hit the big-time, Liverpool may not have been widely significant either. The list is endless, including, The Cranberries from Limerick in the west of Ireland. Taylor Swift from Pennsylvania, Johnny Cash from a rural town in Arkansas.

When I heard about ‘Bricks‘, the first thought I had, as with many of my friends was, ‘Wait a second, China does ska?’ As bizarre as I originally thought, I was also intrigued. It suddenly opened my mind up to the untapped creative underbelly of possibilities and ideas that must be gurgling around in the small towns of China and the millions of youngsters across the country sharing the same hopes and dreams for creating something special that I did when I first found my passion for music.

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Bricks are a (7-piece give or take) ska band from Xiaoshan, a developing city on the outskirts of Hangzhou with a population of not much more than a million people. Their recorded music to date includes five albums of collective punk-ska-rock-hardcore artists from various cities around China, independently released and distributed by the infamous Wuhan Prison Records, Punx Rebellion China, MLGB U LifeCountry Punk’s Party, and 2014’s Juncture Fugue (音渡神游) .They’ve toured all over China at this stage and have performed in countless music festivals from Beijing, to Hong Kong, Wuhan, Chengdu and Xi’an. It is an absolute catastrophe that a band making live music like this in China is so under the radar that people aren’t talking about them in daily conversation.

On their douban website , you’ll find some seriously upbeat, dance-enducing brass arrangements with trombones, trumpets as well as punky guitar rhythms, all tub-thumping in a rumpus of visceral and lively rock’n roll. To be honest, if you’re already a ska-aholic you’re not likely to find anything that hasn’t been done and mastered by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Specials, Bad Manners etc… but whatever Bricks lack in the train of innovation, a night out (and there’s been a few!) in the company of this band will be one of your highlights in Hangzhou (or wherever you run into them). Although you’ll find a few tunes like ‘Punx United‘ sung in English, they definitely have this knack for really making me want to improve my Chinese.

Just check out their recent album, Juncture Fugue. It is totally infectious ska pop with a blatant lust for reveling in energy and passion, unlike many other bands you’re bound to see in this neck of the woods. Listening to an album like this you might as well be at the gig, or alternatively, just have the band play in your living room.

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Listen to more music from Bricks on their website NOW –

https://site.douban.com/banzhuan/

Introducing Hedgehog ::: 北京刺猬乐队

Hailing from Beijing, the cultural, musical, and actual capital of China, Hedgehog consist of Zo, the epitome of slacker cool, on vocals and lead guitar, the Astroboy referencing Atom, the epitome of being tiny, Chinese, and bloody beautiful, on drums, and Yifan, the epitome of being a tall bass player, on bass. They peddle the kind of psychedelic, poppy, feedback drenched, fuzzed up indie rock that wouldn’t have felt out of place in the early 90s US college rock scene.hedge-2

Most famous among Zhongguoren (中国人) for the album ‘Blue Daydreaming‘, considered their pop masterpiece by many and still the album whose songs get the wildest reaction at gigs six years, and five more albums, after its release. Most famous among me for the fantastic album Sun Fun Gun; the point where the earlier pop sounds start to give way to the full on psychedelia of their later work.

Atom also plays drums in the increasingly successful Nova Heart, who bring to mind the soundtrack to the film Drive in their stark indie electro take on the 80s, and also include Box, the original bassist from Hedgehog among their ranks.

Where to Begin

Try ‘Toy’ & ’61 Festival’ from their second album ‘Noise Hit World‘ to catch them at their jingle jangle indie-pop best, ‘Blue Daydreaming’ from the album of the same name for their stand out live song, ‘Paper Airplane’ from ‘Honeyed and Killed’ to see the first efforts of the current line-up to move away from their power pop roots into something more grungy and psychedelic, and ‘Dear Boy I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’, from Sun Fun Gun, for an Atom fronted slice of pop perfection.

https://www.facebook.com/hedgehogband

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