Wednesday, January 13, 2010

'No Publicity'

I gather the great Jimmy Page may have played at D-22 last night.

I was afraid he might do something like that - end up playing at the only music club that's foreign-run.... even though it's small, remote, and doesn't have very good acoustics. A great pity - especially if that's the only place he plays on this trip.

I'm also somewhat disturbed, disapproving that one of the owners there put the news out on Twitter.

That seems to me like something of a breach of good manners (if not of an explicit agreement to keep the appearance hush-hush); and, indeed, a breach of common sense - with advance publicity, any advance publicity at all, there must surely have been a danger that an excessively large crowd might have been attracted, that the gig would have been ruined for all concerned.... perhaps even have had to be called off.

I figure Jimmy Page sets up an appearance like that just because he wants to play, maybe wants to jam a little with some of the local musicians he's been introduced to.... not because he wants to play to a crowd. I think he's sufficiently in control of his ego that he's not going to be upset about maybe playing to an empty room once in a while (and it's not as if he hasn't played in front of enough crowds in his time).

And there's no way Jimmy Page is ever going to play to an empty room. The immediate friends and family of any other musicians present (and of the sound man and the barmen, etc.) will automatically produce quite a decent little crowd... perhaps quite a large crowd. And the musicians' grapevine works pretty damn well: if Jimmy Page picks up his axe in this town, every rock guitarist out there is going to know about it and is going to be trying his damnedest to get to the gig - they won't even have to be told, they'll just feel the disturbance in the ether.

So, in my book, publicizing an informal appearance by one of the superheroes of rock'n'roll like that is very bad form. I shall be charitable and assume that the chaps at D-22 were just selflessly - if a bit naively - trying to make sure that as many of Jimmy's fans as possible would have the chance to see him, and were not thinking of promoting their club or boosting their profits (I certainly hope they weren't charging a door fee!).

My feeling is that Jimmy's fans - enough of them to make a fun evening of it, anyway - would find out through direct word-of-mouth. Broadcasting the news of his appearance on Twitter is likely to bring out droves of 'tourists', the dread hordes of Wudaokou Mandarin students, the mildly curious music fans or mere celebrity-spotters who don't really know Jimmy's music at all but just know that he's a name. That is going to spoil the gig for the real fans. (Yes, I know: I'm an elitist - and proud of it.)

The only things that might have saved last night from such dire overcrowding are: a) Tuesday is always the deadest night of the week; b) it was also the COLDEST night Beijing has seen in years (thus, even folks living nearby in Wudaokou may have been deterred from venturing out in such Arctic conditions); and c) the Twitter announcement only went out pretty late in the day (I'm not sure exactly when: I have no truck with that Twitter nonsense myself, but a friend forwarded me the news as soon as she saw it - shortly before 10pm) [and of course d) no-one much uses Twitter here, because it's blocked on the Chinese Internet].

No, I didn't go myself. I regret it bitterly, but...... I disapprove of D-22 (I disapprove in particular of them advertising this appearance; I feared that Jimmy might pull out..... or perhaps even that it might have been a phoney advertisement in the first place). And it's just too sodding far away (well, OK, it probably wouldn't be too far away if I didn't disapprove of it so much; it's not much further from me than 2 Kolegas, maybe even a smidge nearer, but I would certainly have gone to 2K at the drop of a hat).

I don't know how long JP's in town; at least one more day, I think. I'm hopeful he might attempt another 'unannounced' performance at one of the city's other music venues, a more accessible one in the city centre.

But if he does, you won't hear anything about it on this blog until after the event.

[I was wary of even mentioning his arrival in the city yesterday - but, if it hadn't been heavily publicized in advance, it wasn't any kind of a secret either, and I figured that anyone who's interested in these things would probably have been aware of it already. I certainly wouldn't have mentioned anything about where he might be playing. When blues harp legend Charlie Musselwhite did an unadvertised Sunday afternoon 'workshop' session at Jianghu a couple of years back, the boss, Tianxiao, just told his musician friends and a handful of his most regular customers (well, OK, he's probably not that astute about marketing and new media, but..... I think he realised it wasn't appropriate to use anything other than direct contact to promote this event). That worked out just great: the room was packed, but not overfull; most of those present were musicians; indeed, almost all of them were Chinese musicians, many of them aspiring harp players looking to pick up a few tips from the master. That was exactly as it should have been. (When I became one of the lucky few to receive an invite from Tianxiao, I agonised as to whether I could pass on 'the secret' to anyone. Eventually I did so only to three or four hand-picked friends - all musicians or people in the music biz - and begged them not to tell anyone else.)

And that is exactly how it should be for any 'informal' Jimmy Page appearance around town, I feel.

Naughty, naughty, D-22, naughty, naughty.]

Update: I gather Jimmy popped into D-22 but didn't in fact play. That is a great relief to me: I would have hated to have missed a performance.

I'm still trying to find out what happened here - what kind of crowd was there, what else was going on that night, had JP ever planned or hoped to play there, how out of order were the owners in publicizing his appearance? When I hear more, I'll let you know.