After abusing my body all of day 1 and goofing off just a tad bit much, I decided that Day 2 at Strawberry was to be my day of rest – which essentially means that I was on my best behavior (relatively speaking that is) with the intent of capturing as much as possible before my arms could went limp. With that in mind people expect a lot more videos this time round.
I arrived late again, though in time to catch Namo (Nanwu) in the midst of their set. It was the perfect way to start off the day. Cheery, lively, humorous, and most importantly good-hearted, Namo were a delight. Lead singer Liu Xiangsong has this geeky rock star charm that is irresistible. The rest of the band look the part too, especially Zhang Shou who was decked out in a wedding dress (which looked pretty damn comfy). But really though, Namo’s success lays in just how relatable their music is.
Whether mockingly reciting a childhood television show, or fantasizing about beautiful women, or simply making it through the Beijing grind in one piece – it hit home for many of the young adults that afternoon at Strawberry. By the time they sang “Good Good Study Day Day Up”, the whole place was bursting with nostalgic joy and high spirits. Like I said, a good way to start the day.
Afterwards I headed over to the always-intriguing AV Okubo – the Wuhan-based schizophrenic synth-rock band, a melting pop of Chinese pop culture, robot vocals, gleeful levity, old school punk, and dance beats. It’s an odd combination for sure, but AV Okubo pulls it off fairly well.
It’s clear that these guys grew up watching lots of anime and kung-fu films – hell that tune above could easily be played over the opening credits of a hype-stylized kungfu anime show. This was all too clear on “ShaoLin Kungfu Is Good!” – as lead man Lu Yan managed to have the whole crowd dancing and practicing their Shaolin (“Pao! Pao!”). There is a sense of excitement that drives their music, which is unpredictable, and in the end downright infectious. The standout for me though is their “Love Song” – an incredibility humorous and dirty declaration of love.
I ran back over to the main stage to catch Perdel (or Escape Plan…which is it people!!) and I let my guard down.
Maybe it was the white wine swimming in my veins but I found myself being oddly moved by the boyish charm of Perdel. I must admit I was embarrassed but what the hell – tell me this doesn’t do anything for you.
A mix of some of the Brit pop, melodic pop ballads, and my junior high school adolescence, this is the type of music that you loved when you were younger and pretend you don’t dig anymore. But deep down there is a part of you that wishes we could play these songs to all the sweet ladies out there. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that these guys have crafted a nice collection of polished, entertaining, well-crafted tunes.
Come on, with cotton flying about and Mao Chuan rubbing his bare chest in front of the audience – how can this be bad? How!?
The guilty feeling of enjoying Perdel was quickly erased as I truly learned just how wrong Perdel could have been. This wrong.
I should of known something was wrong when the hordes of Chinese fans started filling up the up the area like no other – seriously, there wasn’t one show in all the three days here that got as big a reception as this (well almost, but more on that later) – ladies and gentlemen, I give you Yico.
Words can’t even express the horror. There is no erasing this from my head – even worse I had to edit this together and rewatch it again. Everything – I mean everything – from the Indy 500 jeans jacket, to her childlike voice, to the giant karaoke style microphone – it’s all fucked. Fucked in every which way. And I’m usually a pretty nice guy – but this just is bonkers.
I quickly retreated the scene – I only way I could cleanse my soul at this point was to get my mosh on – so I headed to the metal stage to exorcise those demons.
By all means not the best the metal stage had to offer – but believe me at this point, it was exactly what I needed. So thanks Dark Haze, for bringing me back to sea level.
Rejuvenated I headed back to the main stage to see the Belgium group GOOSE, an electro-rock band who love their synths and heavy beats, and know how to have fun.
Blunt and catchy lyrics, swift and abrasive beats, and emancipate timing – these guys embrace their sound and worked it for all it was worth, roping in a larger and larger crowd as they went through their set. It’s hard not to wanna jump up and down listening to them. I have a save spot in my heart for this kinda music, and no ones pulls it off quite like those Europeans. Give in, and dance your ass off I say.
Next up came Zhang Chu, the old school folk rock singer who has gained a pretty large reputation in the past two decades for his easy-going verses, deep expressive voice, and subtle digs at the government within his songs.
There is most definitely a tint of sadness that creeps into his songs (and a old raspy voice which showed signs of age), that I appreciated, and in many ways their style reminded me of the more laid-back country bands of the US, full of nostalgic lyrics and pristine sound. Not exactly my cup of tea, especially after the dance rock of the previous band, but enjoyable enough.
Once again I needed something raw at this point, so back to the metal stage where I had the pleasure of checking out Die From Sorrow, the death metal band, who impressed the hell out of me, and from the looks of it just about everyone else.
Crisp, razor-sharp, melodic, and not overwhelming in the least (usually my issue with most metal), these guys have got rhythm. The guitar playing is top notch, the dynamic between them is there (usually the highlight of metal bands), and the vocals are well, what you expect. But what really stood out for me was the addition of the keyboard; it adds an element to the music that makes it to me, a lot more accessible and melodic.
It’s a nice touch which elevates the bands sound to more epic levels, exactly what’s needed for metal.
I rushed over to the next stage to find the crowd waiting for Second Hand Rose to be enormous – probably the second biggest turnout of Strawberry overall. Man how I missed these guys. SHR’s music to me is the epitome of the possibilities of what Chinese rock can accomplish. Even with influences from all sorts of other genres and countries, their music is so distinctly Chinese and foreign, – I’ve never heard anything quite like them before, and I’m glad I found it.
I love love their sound, it’s energetic, full of life, rousing, fun, and straight up awesome. Liang Long is a true rock star to me, and his compatriots are all integral parts as well, each with a distinctive personality and role in the group. Really, I want more from these folks.
I finally forced myself to head over to the main stage to catch the last show of the night – Queen Sea Big Shark. Just as I always been fond of electro-party surf rock, I’ve always enjoyed QSBS outlandish grandiose sound. Not particularly a game-changer, but always a good time.
Fu Han’s stage presence is undeniable and see knows how to show you a good time. I must admit though, her voice is losing some of its appeal, unable to keep up with pace she begins with. And while, she moved into more electric territory with her last album, I think she’s at her best when she slows it down and adds some emotional gravity to her lyrics. Her newest song “Bling Bling Bling” is simply that –
a lovely piece of pop that flows just right, and utilizes Fu Han’s voice to better use. That doesn’t mean I’m against QSBS wilder side – that was exactly what got me into them in the first place. Just that maybe their sound is still finding its footing. What I do appreciate is how they play around with the structure of their most popular songs, reworking them, and having them unfold differently – it’s this kind of experimentation which not one gives the band enough credit for. Take for instance on “Comxxpuda” –
I’m not sure it’s a 100 percent success but I’m impressed they’re not sticking to the road map. Queen Sea Big Shark still in the end manages to be one of the more fascinating bands in the city, and are far from showing their best work.
Well, that was it for Day 2 of Strawberry – many new bands for me, some hardships, and some good finds. Check next week for Day 3 and if you didn’t see Day 1 click here.