Monday, April 12, 2010


More and more places seem to be offering live music of late.

I mentioned the big new music venue Mako Live down at Shuangjing a few weeks ago. I haven't had the chance to check that out yet, but apparently they've had quite a few gigs there already, and it's starting to create some very good buzz.

This weekend, I finally got around to trying the Orange Tree, the new bistro venture from the people who created Fish Nation (well, I guess it may have been open about a year now, but they haven't been promoting it very heavily, and it's only recently that anyone seems to have begun talking about it). The food and the service are still a bit hit-and-miss, but it's a much broader and more impressive menu than we were used to at Fish Nation, and seems mostly quite good, and reasonable value. And it's a great little space they have there. Ooh, and a good list of imported beers too. The weekend brunches - which currently come with a complimentary Bloody Mary or Mimosa per person (my companions weren't drinking on Saturday, so I got moderately wrecked on their freebies) - could well become a regular indulgence: comparable to The Vineyard, but without (as yet) the crazy crowds; and only a couple of minutes' walk from Houhai. However, most intriguing aspect of the place is that they are apparently planning to offer live music (they have a fairly decent-looking little PA and their own drum kit). This Saturday evening, jazzy chanteuse Jess Meider was scheduled to play a solo show. I would have been very tempted to go back for that, but.....

Well, while walking off my Bloody Mary excess on the only properly sunny afternoon we've yet enjoyed this year I happened to pass a discreet little hutong bar on the 2nd Ringroad, just east of Beiluoguxiang. The name seems only to be advertised in Chinese script; I'm told it transliterates as something like Zui Le Fang. (Correction: it's actually Zui Yuefang, 醉乐房, which of course means 'Drunk Music House' [sometimes I find the simplicity and directness of Chinese quite beguiling!]. I blame Guitar Man Dan for the initial error.) My guitar-playing friend Dan tipped me off about it when he played a gig there a month or so back, but I hadn't been free that night, and I'd rather forgotten about it again.... until this Saturday afternoon, when I just happened to notice that there was this possibly bar-like place in front of me - with what looked like they might be gig listings chalked on a blackboard by the door - and the recollection suddenly rushed back. I wandered over to check it out and discovered...... young American bluegrass band The Redbucks were due to play that night! I was sold. And the gig did not disappoint: it's a very cosy space, with a good sound system, not unreasonable prices (the Tsingers is 20kuai, which always smarts a little - but I suppose that's not at all bad for a music bar; and the rather murky 'draught' beer was bizarrely being served out of kai shui flasks - I never did get to the bottom of that little oddity!), and friendly owners. I'll definitely be back.

My perambulations that day also introduced me to Vanguard (or VA Bar, as they seem to be preferring to call themselves for short), a new-ish place on the Wudaoying Hutong, just next to The Vineyard. This place, too, is evidently attempting to establish itself as a fairly regular live music venue, with more or less weekly gigs, mostly of a jazzy character, over the last month or so. Quebecoise siren Marie-Claude will be there this Friday. Sold!

It's particularly nice for me that all of these promising new venues are within about 15 or 20 minutes of where I live. Why do so many people choose to live on the east side of town??

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