Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who's on first?

I have observed before that it can be vexingly difficult to find out the running order of bands at a gig in Beijing (or to identify the band currently playing - Chinese bands hardly ever seem to say "We are....... Gruntfuttock [or whatever it may be]. Thanks for listening." at any point in their set).

They don't even very often seem to follow the commonsense tactic adopted almost everywhere else in the world of putting the biggest band on last. I don't know if the phenomenon is a hangover of socialist egalitarianism, or of the exaggerated self-deprecation encouraged by Chinese culture, or a more specific product of the close camaraderie in the Beijing rock scene, but..... it's almost as if they draw lots to decide the order of playing. 9 times out of 10 there is absolutely no discernible logic to the running order, no kind of hierarchy based on seniority or ability or size of following.

I got royally screwed over by this at the weekend. I had headed over to the White Rabbit club intending to catch the wonderful band, Ziyo. It was, I think, the first time that this recent addition to the nightlife scene, really more of a dance club, had attempted to stage live music; and the gig hadn't been much publicized (I imagine the details had been confirmed too late for it to be included in any of the expat listings magazines). I happened to have picked up a flyer for it in one of my favoured 'locals', Room 101, just a day or two before. The other two bands on the bill I'd never heard of; but Ziyo are the business - probably Beijing's best (certainly most accessible, most commercial) band. Gigs in this town never start before 10pm, and rarely before 10.30pm. And, in this obscure company, it didn't seem credible that Ziyo (who, I understand, have recently landed a major recording deal) wouldn't be going on last - probably not until 11pm at the earliest, maybe nearer to midnight.

Nope, they went on first. I caught their last song as I arrived at about 10.40pm (I'd been watching the footie in a sports bar next door). The unlikely-ever-to-be-heard-of-again band who followed them on sucked lemons. I couldn't be bothered to hang around to see what the third outfit might be like.

Well, that's Beijing for you. It is a strange place: wonderful in many ways, infuriating in many others.....

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