This will be the fifth time I have compiled a list of my favorite musical moments of the year. So on top of the eighty plus documented shows I attended this year (and a heck ton more which reside in solely in the membrane) there have been four other years of shows I have to deal with. Cause simply put, there comes a saturation point when every show you’ve been to blur together into one alcohol-soaked, sweated-filled, euphoric blob. Which is why it’s important to break out of your comfort zone, seek out new sounds, and find yourself surprised. And while I still struggle to not go for the easy choice, I did find myself drawn more and more to gigs that offered something different. There’s a lot out there fellow Beijingers – get after it. Here’s my top ten fifteen gigs of the year.
Soulspeak x TTechmak at Café Zarah
Now this is how you pull off a release show. In the spirit of the jazz flavored summer vibes present on the sexy, soulful Love In The Land Of Robots, from maverick producer Soulspeak and trumpeter TTechmak, Beijing label Ran Music decided to bring the music to Cafe Zarah‘s courtyard and terrace. And I gotta say, it was a treat, even in the blistering heat. Summer vibes. Bloody Mary in hand. And watching a master work his magic with a child-like enthusiasm. There’s no way this could have worked anywhere else. A fresh and unique to shakeup to our weekend routine. Full writeup/pictures
Seippelabel x LiveBeijingMusic at Old What? Bar
My last dance with the Forbidden City ‘hole in the wall’ was about as perfect as I could imagine. Teaming up with local label Seippelabel (headed by Beijing artist thruoutin) we miraculously managed to fill the space and then some, as audiences were treated to the lush diverse sounds of SNSOS, who managed to take their jangly post rock to new levels, indietronica duo Nocturnes, and electronic wizard Mengqi. But really, the real star was the Old What? – a venue that felt like home to many and will be irreplaceable. Full writeup/videos/pictures.
Cave Hand Rod at School Bar
Well that certainly was something? A grindcore band living pure and true to their genre, with songs about tapes worms in your bumhole, protests against maxipads, and some dude dressed up as the most terrifying Ronald McDonald – Cave Hand Rod (even the name stops me in my tracks) went the extra mile, with props, gusto, and a large dose of batshit crazy which had folks foaming at the mouth. The band has yet to play since then and really, they don’t need to – they went out on a high note as far as I’m concerned. Full writeup.
december3am at School Bar
Hands down my favorite band of the year – december3am, which formed from the ashes of a former band I had strong nonsexual feelings for, Inner Mongolian trope Horse Radio, broke onto the scene this year (despite their complete lack of promotion and unrecorded material). Simply put, Lao Du and Dala are operating on a whole other level and are exploring uncharted territories. Post post kraut rock is just scratching the surface. Otherworldly. It’s not often School goes silent but this was one of those times. Full writeup.
Last Goodbye at DDC
Again, there’s nothing more satisfying then stumbling upon a new band that immediately lights a fire in your chest. And while DDC has remained a fascinating place to mine and test out new talent, I wasn’t quite expecting to be won over so quickly by the young psychedelic shoegaze outfit Last Goodbye. Assured and with plenty of swagger they caught plenty of wide-eyed concertgoers off guard. Full writeup.
Wang Wen at Yugong Yishan
Grown men don’t cry unless it’s because you’re watching Dalian post rock giants Wang Wen for your first time. Multiple times. Enough said. Full writeup.
Mai Mai Mai at fRUITYSPACE
Italian soundsmith Mai Mai Mai, kicked off his China tour and gotta say – couldn’t of picked a better venue than fRUITYSPACE. Some devilishly intriguing sounds coming out of that basement. Noise music with a taste of the primal that subtly finds a groove that slowly takes over and enraptures. My kind of darkness. Full writeup.
A Guiguisuisui Wedding at Caravan
Being no stranger to a rock and roll wedding, I knew fun times were abound when my two good friends, Dann and Sue, of the band Guiguisuisui, planned an evening of riotous music to accompany their wedding. Just how quickly the festivities would break me down and turn me and others in giddy, lovable messes was not as expected. Joyous indeed. Full writeup
P.K.14 at School Bar
One of those times where you just say to hell with it and dance for two hours straight and then realize that you have soaked through your entire wardrobe as well as the person standing next to you. Nothing like a little P.K 14 to get you in shape for swimsuit season. Full writeup.
Serge Teyssot-Gay (FR), Octopoulpe (FR/SK), 1000 Postures at Hot Cat Club
Hot Cat Club has been picking up the slack as of late – and I couldn’t be more pleased. The venue hasn’t got a fair shake in years due to piss poor management and the catch all ‘bad sound’, but in just six months, the venue has been throwing some kick ass gigs, the best of which came just earlier this month when French avant garde musician Serge Teyssot-Gay (of Noir Desir fame) gave a wonderfully transcendent solo outing with Jukka Ahonen. However, the event went into serious jaw-dropping mode as a circus of artists from Korea and France took the stage, including the mind melting technical drumming of Octopouple. Full writeup.
Social Boar/Alpine Decline at DDC/Yugong Yishan
We lost some extremely talented musicians (and friends) this year to Trumpville, and it hit hard. First, the grizzled math rock trio Social Boar, a band that had only formed in late 2015, and were already proving themselves to be one of the scene’s more inventive bands. And then later in the summer, we lost the fuzz and drum indie rock duo (late addition bassist Yang Haisong of P.K.14 has stuck around for obvious reasons) – and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the when they sang ‘The Aftertaste of Gold’ in their farewell performance. And while it’s not the last we’ll be seeing from those talented folks, it certainly has shed light on what Beijing means to people creatively. Full writeup.
Glow Curve at Mao Livehouse/Temple
For me, this is the year Glow Curve really came into their own. I’ve always been a fan but for some reason, this was the year they decided to kick it up a notch and turn up the volume. Whether they’re playing to a full house at Mao Livehouse (back in early April where they outshined just about everyone on stage including Hedgehog) or to a pack of hungry music lovers at Temple, the band knows when to strip back their sound or when to punch it up. Guess that explains their new booking price tag.
Puking Unicorns at Temple
Really don’t remember much about the show. But what this night will forever go down as is the time Xiaoxiao knocked out her teeth. You see – Xiaoxiao, being the little ball of rock and roll that she is – joined The Puking Unicorns as their new singer – a match made in heaven. What wasn’t a match made in heaven though was the floor and Xiaoxiao’s face which met full on in the band’s closing number. And while I was too ethically concerned with taking pictures of the concussed chaos, I can proudly say it was I who found her dislodged teeth fifteen feet away from the contact point. Rock and roll at its finest ladies and gentlemen. Full writeup.
RyoSuke KiYaSu (JP), Ding Chenchen, Wang Ziheng at Sanyuanqiao Underpass
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or in this case, when Beijing authorities forbid you from performing in a venue you straight up take that shit to the underpass. That was the underlying reason for having Japanese noise artist and percussionist Ryosuke Kiyasu perform in an underpass by Sanyuanqiao. The artist’s three-night residency in Beijing was axed last minute due to, well, being Japanese and getting a little too volatile with his drum(s). So, with the help of labels Zoomin’ Nights and Subjam, the shows were moved to living rooms and in this occasion, a frigid underpass. And what beautiful noise he made alongside fellow Beijing artists Ding Chenchen and Wang Ziheng. Full writeup.
CDC Punk Festival at Morning House (Chengdu)
And the prize for the most off the beaten path gig I went to! While Beijing has plenty to offer there’s nothing like bursting out of the Beijing bubble and realizing that there’s a heck ton to offer in China’s bustling second-tier cities. This festival on the outskirts of Chengdu was perhaps the highlight of the year. For you old time Beijingers – imagine if Dos Kolegas owned just about every building on its plot of land and was stuck in Huairou. Hot pot galore, punks bands aplenty (with Hiperson absolutely shaking the earth), and legions of genuine music fans – Chengdu more than impressed me. Full writeup.