Friday, September 17, 2010

D-22 doesn't travel

The Chinese have a penchant for codifying everything into numbered lists.  Hence, the latest crop of Beijing bands are coming to be known as 'Generation Six' (this appears to be fairly new nomenclature: I'd be curious to know how well-defined the previous five 'generations' are).  They are mostly indie pop kind of bands from the D-22 stable.

I haven't summoned the motivation to schlepp out to D-22 in about a year now (although it's not really any further away than 2 Kolegas, it's just not anywhere near as much fun).  But last Saturday they were supposed to be hosting a heat of the Global Battle of the Bands competition there, so six or seven of their 'house bands' de-camped to the town centre for the night to fly the flag for 'Generation Six' at Yugong Yishan.  No need to go all the way out to D-22, if D-22 will come to you.  I thought I ought to check out what I've been missing there for the past year or two.

Boy, did that suck!  I should perhaps have been alerted to the general quality of this 'generation' by the fact that the only stand-out band to emerge from among them thus far is Rustic - who impress with their engaging personalities and exuberant stage presence rather than their musicianship.  I thought some of the playing on Saturday was OK, but none of the bands seemed to have a very distinctive style or personality, and all were let down by droning or caterwauling vocals (decent male vocalists are rare as hen's teeth on the Beijing music scene).  I was hesitant to curmudge about this too much, since I only survived half of the show (plodding changeovers meant that it was seeming likely that the event would drag on until 1am or 2am), but I gather it's been widely dissed by other laowai music scene enthusiasts too - one of whom wailed that "if this is the future of music in Beijing, we're in a bad way".

Most of my friends had opted to go to MAO instead, for the launch of a CD by metal band Mo Yi (Descendants).  I should have heeded their advice.  It sounds as if this was a much better show - mainly due to the strong support acts, Mongolian folk rocker Gangzi (who launched a CD of his own at Jianghu just a little while back) and the unplugged version of Spring & Autumn. 

That's another in the long line of disappointing experiences I've had at Yugong. I struggle to remember the last decent show I saw there (well, OK, the last Zippo Hot List night was pretty good - but before that...).  There's a big show tonight for their 6th anniversary, but I struggle to raise the necessary enthusiasm to give it a try: there's a long lineup of mostly very missable bands - the turgid RETROs, for example - and the only thing I'd really like to see is Free The Birds (formerly Ziyo) debuting their new drummer Ubuul; not having any idea what time they're likely to be taking the stage, I don't really fancy standing around suffering a lot of crap while I wait for them.  

[Final, supplementary curmudge:  It's NOT their 6th birthday.  The new Yugong Yishan is nothing like its original - much better - incarnation.  And there was a hiatus of at least three or four months before the new one got up and running.  If Gouzi's going to celebrate the anniversary of his entry into the music bar scene, he really ought to go back to the launch of Loupe Chante back in.... '03, was it?  But we generally record the longevity of a particular venue (in a particular location), not just its name or its 'concept'.  The new - and mostly rather sucky - Yugong Yishan is not yet three years old.  A party in honour of its lamented predecessor seems rather out of place.]

1 comment:

Froog said...

Ah... The Generations, apparently, break down like this:

1st Generation is "The Godfather", Cui Jian (and a few of his mates) in the second half of the '80s.

2nd Generation were the early metalheads like Black Panther and Tang Dynasty emerging at the beginning of the '90s.

3rd Generation was the belated explosion of grunge towards the end of the '90s, although that seems to have been fairly short-lived and Cold-Blooded Animal is the only significant name that anyone seems to mention any more.

4th Generation were the far more musically disparate crop of bands who started popping up in the early '00s, like Reflector, SUBS, Joyside, and Ziyo.

The 5th Generation are the ones who came along in the mid-00s, mainly out of the D-22 stable: Carsick Cars, Hedgehog, and er....

And the 6th Generation are the those who've just started to make a name for themselves in the last couple of years, many of whom started off as student bands playing at D-22, and who are apparently distinguished from the earlier generations in that they mostly cite other Chinese bands rather than foreign ones (and mostly, indeed, bands of only the 5th or 4th generation vintage) as their main influences. (While that may be all well and good for national pride and individual self-confidence, it's probably not a very good thing musically. The scene here is still too small - and mostly not yet that good - for it to become so incestuous!!)

There's inevitably some room for doubt or ambiguity in this categorisation. At the start, the movements might have been more musically homogeneous and temporally distinct, spread out by 3, 4, or 5 years, with perhaps some lapse of relative inactivity at the transitions; but nowadays it seems that people are wanting to impose one of these 'generation' labels every couple of years or so, without any very clear difference in the background or orientation of the bands lumped together in one or the other.

Does this classification only work with Beijing bands? Do all Generation 6 (or Gen 5) bands have to be in thrall to D-22 svengali Michael Pettis? Are The Gar or Ghost Spardac (only recently discovered by me, but I'm assured they've been together over two years) assigned to Generation 6 or Generation 5? Do Queen Sea Big Shark - a little younger than SUBS but a little older than Carsick Cars - fall under Generation 5 or Generation 4?

It's all a bit SILLY and pointless, if you ask me.