Entire shows or individual performances that made my jaw drop, made me dance like a madman, plastered a shit-eating grin across my face, and basically rocked my world. And take note, because of the sheer awesomeness of these acts, my camera was not always priority number one – so excuse any shite camera work because I was too busy having my face melted. These are the performances of the year.
Shouwang had a top-notch year in my opinion, from white +’s Colors blowing the minds of many, to the resurgence of Carsick Cars as one of the best acts in town, but it all started with his performance at D-22 (rest in peace) and their last Zoomin Night last Janurary. Creating a maelstrom of noise which eventually settled into a rendition of “Invisible Love”, Shouwang, along with Yan Yulong, gave audiences the greatest memento to D-22, a intimate love letter to the place that raised him. The show was also my first encounter with Skip Skip Ben Ben who no secret I crush hard on. Like I said before, underneath all the shoegaze indie pop, and Ben Ben’s minute voice, they packed a heavy sound that’s rocks hard. This was only the beginning of my love affair.
Of course Li Dong had to make it here – the Ningxia folk group hasn’t been around too long, but when they played at Dos Kolegas for the release of their debut album, it felt like the band had been together forever. Both intimate and feet stomping, the group never kicked up more dust than tonight. Not too many bands can give that warm homey feeling. And Buyi, well, I love me some Buyi, they have yet to let me down. The energy these guys bring to the table, it’s riles you up in seconds.
I don’t listen to hardcore music at home – I can’t commit to it. But going to a hardcore show, seeing hardcore music up close and personal, now that’s something. Screw massages. Need to release some tension? How about six hours of moshing with the some serious shredding, blood-boiling screams, and the happiest group of hardcore fans out there. Was riding on fumes after that one.
While the collaboration between the two was a bit much for my liking, individually these two artists impressed the hell out of me one calm afternoon at XP. Though thruoutin’s album Dots keeps finding its way onto my playlist here, it wasn’t until I saw Brad perform at XP that I realized he was the real deal – dreamy electronics, a friggin pipa – the very definition of chillll. And Li Daiguo is a whole other level of genius – I’ve never seen anyone manipulate his or her voice to the effect this man has. I was literally laughing during his set, out of delight, confusion, and nervous wonderment. Bonkers.
Cause nothing spells a good time like shirtless dudes jamming out some mighty catchy melodies in a narrow two-meter by five-meter room where your only option is to get moving. And it was my first reminder of how just how awesome Perpetual Motion Machine were and still are. And how underrated the Old What? Bar is – let’s hope it stays that way.
Dos Kolegas, what are the chances you bring back the outdoor setup you guys had for Hanggai? Cause what they say is true, Hanggai in the grass is that much better. If you can’t take off your shoes while listening to Hanggai, then what’s the fucking point. Come on people. I wanna rub Ilchi’s belly as well. Is that wrong?
Performance-wise I’ve seen better from these boys. But as with most shows you bring a lot of your own package with you which can make or break a show. My package – bottles of red wine, and some of the jolliest friends this side of the world. The outpouring of joy was simply contagious that night, and I’ll always remember arms chained to these misfits singing and kicking along to “In Spring” (送春) – good times, bad wine.
Birdstriking’s album was one of my first here in China, and it’s stuck with me since. No holds barrel raging rock and roll. There’s a resonance to it that I simply can’t shake off. Seeing them live on their hometurf definitely was a treat, even more so, since this was their last show before they went on hiatus. The icing on the cake was seeing Alpine Decline for the first time, and being surprised at how much it clicked with me – something about these duo bands that get me.
I’ve caught the post-rock bug – it took some time but I finally get it. It’s larger than life music, that’s epic, romantic, and the closest I’ll probably ever get to seeing a symphony. Zhaoze takes it one step further. Listening to the band, which utilizes a guqin to badass effect, is indeed a journey on itself, exhausting at times, but holy shit, some of those highs they pulled off were simply awe-inspiring.
Why: Goofy, giddy, shiny, and fucking righteous, New Pants still have the magic that makes their shows high scale fun. Oh, and mushrooms plus New Pants equals the greatest dance party I ever invited myself to. Yeah, it’s cheating a bit. But hey, sure beats trying to watch Voodoo Kungfu on shrooms – huge mistake there.
Yeah, a foreign act, so what. While JUE Festival gave me the gift of revisiting my adolescent love of Death Cab for Cutie as well as seeing new shoegazers on the block The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it was this unknown gent from France that literally blew me away. Some of the most hypotonic beautiful music ever contrived, from a wildly talented person who fused together violins, electronic loops, keyboard, and hell, even a singing TV into a performance I was gushing about for days.
Because these guys were playing the soundtrack to the most badass action movie I’ve yet to seen, playing at one of the most badass joints in Beijing. And it started immediately as I walked upstairs, so I came to the conclusion that it was my own soundtrack. Slow motion explosions!!! I wish I could go back in time, and play this music in the hockey locker room before games.
Three is a good number – two simply isn’t enough, four is sometimes just too much – three is the perfect number. Three bands, three styles, one awesome show. Nothing got bogged down, not an ounce of fat anywhere. And the music, fan-fucking-tastic, Casino Demon gave me an old school rock and roll, The Gar left my jaw hanging, and Hedgehog got me jumping up and down like a madman. The place needed ice cubes for crying out loud, it was so friggin hot.
Dos Kolegas is always a fun time in the summer – when the crowd is overflowing outside, chuanr is being cooked, and sun dresses are out. But add in three of the most fun bands in town, including Rolling Bowling who have been on a hot streak all year, and Mademoiselle herself showing the Spaniards how it’s done, you’ve got the recipe for landmark show. Dare someone to get a lineup like this again.
Zhang Shouwang continues his hot streak with his electronic lovechild white+. Well, I love electronic music, I found myself often this year keeping it at a distance. While the entire show was rad in its own right, with special props to Dead J, when white+ came on, the mood changed completely – you knew you were about to witness something inspired, unique, and memorable. Really, white+ is a fever dream of colors and music that simply worms its way in.
Click on the title cards to see further videos and photos of these amazing shows. And stay tuned for more ‘best of’.