Friday, September 28, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
It's a curious event - much bigger budget than the Midi Festival that happens here each May, but somehow rather less fun, I think. The prices are higher (one day admission costs the same as a 4-day pass for Midi). The venue (Chaoyang Park, in the east of the city, where many of the wealthy expats live) is somewhat more accessible, but huge and difficult to navigate (the main stage is a good 20-minute walk from any of the exits, and there are no signs anywhere; I had a devil of a time escaping from the place afterwards). And the headline acts are..... well.... This is China, after all. We're still not exactly the centre of the rock'n'roll world. Things are improving all the time, though. This year the line-up was considered to be the strongest-ever - but it was basically dinosaur acts trying to promote their back catalogue in China. The New York Dolls? What? Am I in a time-warp here? (I mean, they had their one brief shining moment back in the early '70s, when they pretty much created the punk sound a good year or two before anyone else caught on to it, but.... Christ, they broke up over 30 years ago. What is this?!) The Ramones? I thought they were dead. (Well, actually it was a tribute band fronted by their drummer, 'Marky Ramone'. Not a bad outfit, except that the vocalist was a charisma-bypass case.) Public Enemy? Rap?! Not my thing!! And celebrating 20 years of not being my thing? I'll pass.
And the final band on Sunday was Nine Inch Nails. They have a reputation, a following, I know; but somehow 'industrial' never sounds like a recommendation to me. Maybe I should give them a chance some time. But I figure that if they've been around 15 years and I've never even heard one track of theirs, then they're probably not doing something right for me. And it's never easy to get into a band at a concert if you don't know their music at all. I was intending to give the first 2 or 3 songs a try, and then bug out ahead of the crowds to try to get a taxi home. But they took so fucking long setting up (nearly an hour - Jeez!) that I lost patience and quit without seeing them at all. The 20 minutes or so I heard while trying to find my way out of the park sounded fairly SHITE, I must say. Curious that they got permission to play at all, though. When The Stones played in Shanghai 18 months ago, several of their songs were prohibited as too racy: the coy euphemisms of 'Honky Tonk Women' and 'Brown Sugar' were considered a potential threat to China's moral purity. But now, Trent Reznor is welcome to bawl "I want to fuck you like an animal", without a peep of protest from the authorities. Progress, of a sort??
Anyway, yes, I was unenthused about most of the foreign bands appearing. (Even The Ramones passed me by in my youth somehow; and while I recognise a few of their 'classics' like "I wanna be sedated"...... well, the stuff in this set: a) all sounded the same, and b) wasn't all that good.) No, for me, it was all about the Chinese bands. (Why were SUBS not on the bill? Why? WHY?)
I chivvied my companion - rather brutally - into schlepping over there early to catch Hedgehog, who were indeed rather fun; though more effective in a smaller setting, I suspect (I missed them at Kolegas the other night; apparently they rocked the joint!). Then there was The Scoff, a decent band who benefit from having a very confident singer (stage presence tends to be sadly lacking in many of the local performers) who affects a little bit of the Jagger wiggle-and-strut. And he called the crowd motherfuckers (in English!) - that's soooo rock'n'roll! And then there was Brain Failure, probably Beijing's biggest band of the moment. They've acquired a lot of confidence from two or three US tours, and have begun singing in English as well. (This is something of a mixed blessing. The unintelligibility - and the sheer unattractiveness of the sounds - of singing in Chinese is undoubtedly a huge barrier to any of these acts gaining much of an international audience. On the other hand, most rock lyrics are complete shite, really embarrassingly bad - in any country, any language. And I find that I'm much happier ignoring the lyrics and concentrating on the music - which is easy to do with Chinese rock bands singing in Chinese. Brain Failure are now in danger of revealing how limited their songwriting skills are. Good band, though.)
In the middle of the afternoon, it went a bit crap for a while - another Chinese band I'd never heard of, Thin Man, and then some obscure overseas outfit called Ra:IN. Thin Man had a wild singer (somewhere between Rod Stewart and that chap from the Bay City Rollers - he was wearing the most outrageous pair of rock'n'roll trousers: made of something like vinyl, tight crotch but bell bottoms, and with what looked like a giraffe pattern on them) but couldn't really play. Ra:IN (never trust a band that has to write its name in a funny way in order to gain attention [at least the umlaut so beloved of heavy metal outfits is self-mocking; this was merely lame]) gave us extended, tedious 'orchestral' rock noodlings. The only real point of interest was the drummer's flamingo-pink blouse. People left in droves.
Luckily there was a second stage to check out as well. This actually had a much better atmosphere: you could get right up close to the stage (at the main stage, there was a large "VIP area" at the front), and, er, admission was free (I don't think it was advertised as such; and this may not even have been an official policy, just an omission of security on the day - but it did mean that, while the main stage area was very thinly populated until the 'big' bands came on in the evening, there was a good crowd here all day).
We went back to the main stage after an hour or so to catch Marky Ramone, and then local hero Cui Jian ("the godfather of Chinese rock'n'roll" - although he does get tired of being called that) - who has only just become able to start playing large gigs openly again (at least in Beijing) in the last few years; he had been subject to bans, or at least swingeing restrictions on his public performances, for over a decade after protesting against the TAM 'crackdown'.
Anyway, the pics:
I so want this guy's job! Great self-control he had - he was up there all day, and I didn't hear him say "Wheeeee!" once.
Proper rock'n'rollers, The Scoff.
Beijing's premier band of the moment, Brain Failure (I haven't checked up on this, but I think someone once told me that their Chinese name is a more technical term for 'aneurism' - lovely!).
Ramones tribute band, led by drummer Marc 'Marky Ramone' Bell.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
James Thurber (1894-1961)
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
Jim Morrison (1943-1971)
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Absolutely awesome show. Apparently we have Ed at Red T to thank for this. Great job, Ed - thanks a million. (I really have to get myself on to his mailing list. I was lucky I found out about this; it so nearly fell into the beginning-of-the-month black hole - events in the first week of the month are so often deserted because no-one has seen the new listings magazines yet. Heck, I even missed out on Norah Jones a couple of years ago because of that!)
It's good, sometimes, to be able to get completely ripped for a matter of pennies. One of the things this country is really good for! I did it last night before the concert..... the rest of the evening drifted by in a happy blur.....