2017 BEST SHOWS 最佳演出

I really did try to dial it back this year. And when the LBM website was hacked, erasing thousands upon thousands of pictures and other uploaded content, I thought I’d found the perfect excuse to slow down and perhaps even enjoy the other fine things Beijing has to offer. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, it seems I found myself hunting down shows more and more often, grabbing ahold of anyone or anything (my camera as my wingman) to join me, and even more Machiavellian, organizing my own shows to get in my kicks. Simply put, my obsession intensified. Yeah, I failed hard. But in my epic failure, I did happen upon some truly kickass shows, catch some on the cusp of success, and put to memory some glorious times. Here’s just a touch of the crazy gigs 2017 brought in no particular order:

1) Mirrors and Faded Ghost at Wetware Festival
Skeptics be damned – I thought the Wetware Music Festival held in May by Douban was hands-down the best festival Beijing has seen since the glory days of MIDI. And while it’s easy to gawk at some of the more esteemed artists who performed there (Actress, Tim Hecker, RP Boo) it was these two Shanghai debuts that blew me away and twisted my earworms with pleasure: primal psychedelic pile-drivers Mirrors headed by the gleeful lunacy of Aming, who ripped School Bar a new one, and the menacing allure and trance-inducing witch house vibes of Faded Ghost. Distinct, surreal, cutting-edge, and proof that some of the best festival talents are be found within China’s borders. Full writeup

2) Xiao Wang vs. Struggle Session at Temple
Struggle Session’s performances were already a sight to behold – an aerobatic, flailing muscular yet jovial hardcore punch to the face. And Xiao Wang, led by the determined Anlin were slowly becoming one of Beijing’s most fierce acts. Now place them up against one another in a ‘battle-style’ face off and you have one of the wildest, free-wheeling, riotous forty minutes of mayhem Temple has ever seen. And that’s not even mentioning the bare butts, circling crowd of ravenous concertgoers, and the loaded relationships boiling over on stage and off (having Oliver’s family on hand was the icing on the cake). High concept concerts pay off, boys and girls.

3) Lonely Leary at Cassette Store Day
While it’s hard to enjoy yourself at gigs that you’ve had a hand in organizing, there are moments where the stress melts away and you dive headfirst into a performance. And Lonely Leary closing set at Cassette Store Day was just that moment when the remaining patrons had zero f**ks to give anymore, rallied up front at Yue Space and tossed out another in a frenzy feeding off of the riotous post-punk pulse of Lonely Leary, a band that fully developed into its own this year. A glorious cesspool of insanity. Full writeup

4) Bohan Phoenix, Howie Lee at Omni Space
2017 has the year of hip-hop in China. No question about it. And while I was resilient to the genre for some time, once I found myself in the spectacle of Bohan Phoneix, whose wondrous mix of Far East sampling and American hip-hop, trap stylings, and charismatic swag had me and more importantly the audience worked up. It was infectious and in many ways a palette cleanser for me. If that wasn’t enough, bonafide producer Howie Lee was on hand proving again that there is no electronic producer quite like him out there. Full writeup

5) Last Goodbye, Birdstriking at School
Nothing beats a sweaty, giddy mosh pit at School Bar, singing along to a band who you’ve been high on since you first stumbled onto the music scene here in Beijing. Birdstriking are that band and catching them in close quarters is an absolute must. The evening also began my friend and I’s semi-creepy fanboyish obsession with Last Goodbye and one song of theirs in particular that we have since made up verses to and screamed at them from afar. It’s weird and Last Goodbye are awesome.

6) The ROMP at VOX Livehouse, Wuhan
During the May Day holiday, I went on a little gig journey to Ningbo, Shanghai, and finally Wuhan to check out the famous VOX Livehouse which has been a staple of the music scene in China and should be visited by anyone popping through Wuhan. Too shy to talk to anyone, I simply just took in the space and the bands – but when Fuzhou’s The ROMP came out decked out in flip-flops (always a plus in my book) and beach attire I couldn’t resist and scurried up to the front where I watched and joined a group of kids having the time of their lives whipping out the cheesiest, most baller dance moves this side of China. Not a word was spoken but what goofy fun we had. Full writeup

7) David Thomas Broughton (UK) at Yue Space
While some stellar international acts have rolled through Beijing (including being able to scratch off seeing Tinariwen off my bucket list) it was Yorkshire artist David Thomas Broughton that left the biggest impression on me. Part comic act, part alt-folk, there’s something strangely beautiful about seeing a performer lay it on thick in barely attended Yue Space on Tuesday night. Looping intimate chords, performing deadpan physical comedy, and even singing alongside the jarring sonata of a rape alarm, it was surreal, spontaneous, honest, and awkward all at once. Full writeup

8) Re-TROS in Brooklyn, New York City
One of the pleasures of running a site dedicated to all the great music coming out of China is turning folks aboard onto something they would never expect to hear come out of this place. But as many of you in the same boat know, that’s never an easy task. So when the opportunity came to check out one of my favorite Beijing bands, Re-TROS, in New York City of all places and where I was spending a large amount of my short summer holiday, I immediately became ecstatic. No better way to turn people on to a band than seeing them in the flesh. I managed to drag out my childhood friend and I watched as my friend’s eyes lit up as the band performed, ’cause yes, as many of us know, when Re-TROS are on, they’re f**king on. A contact high indeed. Full Writeup

9) The Devil & The Libido (JP) at Temple/School
Another international surprise came from the ragtag team of Japanese artists and bands who financed their own little tour of Beijing over the course of a weekend in August. Besides the DIY bravura and meeting some insanely nice people, I was treated to the wonder that is The Devil & The Libido, a bass drum noisecore duo that set Temple ablaze with their assault of technical mind-blowing two-piece waltz of musical mayhem. So much so that I immediately went out the next evening to catch them again at School Bar. And am the owner of a new shirt. Full writeup

10) Hiperson/Fazi/Dream Can at Various Venues
Being sick in my apartment with my mother-in-law gets old quick, so I jumped on the Maybe Mars bandwagon during the October holiday. While people like to point to bands like P.K.14, Carsick Cars, and Snapline as the paradigm for the label, I think the new guard is going to emerge elsewhere. And after catching the young impassioned Hiperson from Chengdu, the frenzied pop aplomb of Xi’an’s Fazi, and the quirky psych rock of Shanghai’s Dream Can, I think the label’s real merit will be measured by their crop of bands outside of Beijing in the future. Full writeup

11) Backspace at School Bar
Backspace might just be the rookie of the year. After impressing the hell out of me late in 2016, I didn’t catch them again till the infamous annual Xiaoxiao birthday bash at School Bar – and it was there and then, for better or for worse, that I knew they would get signed. An inspired, honed-in set that hit audiences like a sledgehammer and best of all, left you wanting more. Full writeup

12) Dee at Fruityspace
I really don’t remember much about Dee’s performance. He followed a relay of experimental and noise performances from a collective of Shanghai’s noise scene. Some really cool stuff. I recall being invigorated in the most soothing of ways. But the image of Dee shaking a cage with an apple in it, which also happens to be ‘plugged in’ – well, it was probably the most fitting farewell for the mischievous artist and friend before he left Beijing. Full Writeup

13) IZ at Yue Space
IZ, the powerhouse industrial noise duo made of Urumqi musician Mamer on guitar and Zhang Dong on (the coolest ever industrial fan) drums came out last on a warpath of noise and destruction, throwing listeners into the deep end with a chaotic, harsh, industrial, and extremely funky noise set that felt like a glass of cold water to the face and plastered a shit-eating grin on my face. Dude was literally pulling out Home Depot tools out of his pocket. Full writeup

14) Die! Chiwawa! Die!, Underdog, Boss Cuts at Temple
Just one of those drunken happy-go-lucky nights you need every so often at Temple Bar – and a perfect volatile mix of bands, including the incredibly fun, spirited and gonzo Die!Chiwawa!Die! from Guangzhou. The evening also solidified my (and my wife’s) unabashed love for Underdog, who have filled the ska-gaping void in my life. Full writeup

15) Ying Shui Di Jiang at DDC
I had no idea what to expect from Ying Shui Di Jiang. The supergroup formed by Buddhist-faith-raised Nanjing artist Zhao Yuan and featuring 10 members (including a bassist from Japan) is less a band than a massive sound project that just happens to get together once in a blue moon. In fact, this was their second ever live performance. But my goodness – what sweet music they make. Combining elements of Buddhism, folk music, improvisation, turntable hip-hop, electronica, and ever slivers of doom metal, it’s an invigorating gathering of sounds with beautiful attention to detail. Full writeup

Honorable Mentions: DFA1989 at Yue Space; Briefs Dryer at DDC; David Boring at School Bar; L+R at Omni Space; thruoutin at Dada; SNSOS at School Bar; Glow Curve at Omni Space; Downstate at Dada Shanghai

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