Alright, I’m gonna come clean here…I’ve never been to any of D-22’s Zoomin’ Nights. Not once. Period. I could sit here all day and make excuses, but at the end of the day, I never had the itch to venture across town (on a Tuesday night further more…shit, another excuse right there) for ‘experimental music’, a phase which even scares away the most avid music goers. The idea of music with no simple structure, no reference point, no traditional styles, well it can be off-putting to some, even myself. A shame though really, on my part, for if last Tuesday night was any indication, I’ve been missing out on some of the city’s most unique music.
And on this particular Tuesday night, there was something in the cigarette smoke laced air. Artists, promoters, journalists, college students, and plain ol’ music lovers – just about every ilk of person was here, paying their respects to D-22 tonight, the establishment which gave so many bands and artists their start, providing them a outlet to create music, and in the case of the Zoomin’ Nights, create something entirely unique, off-beat, and exotic. No one captured that feeling more tonight than Zhang Shouwang (of Carsick Cars) on guitar and mic, with help from Yan Yulong on violin whose fifteen-minute rendition of “Invisible Love” left the place speechless. More on that later though, as my first and last Zoomin’ Night had plenty of more to offer, and in many ways became a showcase for many of the great ‘on the fringe’ acts out there.
I made it in time to catch Chui Wan, the four-piece rock group, who have a mean psychedelic streak in them. Bizarre, funky, colorful, and just a bit uneasy, their music is a carnival trip of sorts, full of exotic sounds and always on the edge of going off the deep end. Yet remarkably, their sound never goes off the rails – its controlled and completely accessible, though perhaps not at first listen. At times, Liu Xinyu ‘s voice even reminded me of David Byrne’s, albeit if David Byrne had gotten into some other drugs. Give them a listen below.
Next up was Lu Xin Pei, a duo who play and sing against one another, each a distinctive sound – in the case of the video below, a bass line, and the scratch and static of a sound mixer, later joined by a drum beat. It was audibly pleasing to hear these two sounds which seem to work against each other some much in the beginning gradually begin to harmoniously join to create something singular.
Though it became somewhat jarring by the time the two were joined by two others, who began sprouting off line of line off a paper, in true beatnik fashion, Lu Xin Pei have earned my interest, and I’ll be sure to check them out again (which will be at Hot Cat Club this Friday).
Paper Tiger Jamboree consisted of Richard Deorian of Low Bow, and Wang Xin Jiu of Birdstriking (who I sadly missed tonight) playing drum, guitar, keyboard, with a whole lot of looping from a beat box. Distorted melodies, looping effects, pedals galore and the other staples of lo-fi are there. But what PTJ brings to the table is a forward moving energy and a punk attitude. This is lo-fi music with a pulse. Hear for yourself below, abd tell me if that doesn’t keep your foot tapping.
And then Zhang Shouwang came onstage and presented his love letter to D-22. Give yourself fifteen minutes and take it all in
Or if you’re lazy watch the abridged version here (holding a camera up high for fifteen minutes is damn near impossible I learned – if you were there you probably saw me struggling to maintain).
From the beginning loop which invoked The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”, to Shouwang’s opening guitar licks, to Yang Yulong’s violin, to the opening lyrics, “On a perfect Sunday”, to finally the last minute freak out, everything about the performance was ace, spot on, perfect, and while watching it, I realized that I was witnessing something special, a performance that will probably be talked about for years to come. This is when I can finally say, “You just needed to be there”.
Though it was going to be impossible to top the previous act, Skip Skip Ben Ben, managed to rock the house down tonight and then some, emerging as my favorite band of the night. With elements of lo-fi, psychedelic, folk, shoegaze, and straight up rock and roll, the four members, hailing from different bands and backgrounds have a created a sound that feels fresh, new, eccentric, original, and well, let’s just say I could see thses guys doing big things in the future. I guess opening up for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in February is a good start.
Soviet Pop came onstage next, and then to everyone’s surprise took a seat, Indian-style on the stage floor, with them, two drumsticks, a sanxian (a Chinese bango), a mic, and ten minutes of my time. That’s all – nothing else. The result:
Soviet Pop has never been my cup of tea, too much distance between performer and listener, but it was refreshing to see two skilled musicians dial it back and give a performance that probably wouldn’t sound out of place in a temple here in China.
And finally as the time neared 2 pm, Little Red, Small Little Red, a boy/girl duo walked on and well, no better way to put this, went batshit crazy. My attention was had and eyes were locked on, as lead singer (and Zoomin’ Night organizer) screeched into his throat microphone whilst pounding on a single cymbal. This was literally the final stretch for D-22, and Zhu Wenbo and Zhao Cong were taking no survivors. Hats off!
A fitting end I say for the last Zoomin’ Night at D-22, hopefully not the last Zoomin’ Night in Beijing. Be show to check below for some more pics, sound bites (which I’ve recorded with my new nifty H4n Zoom), and videos. Only one show left at D-22!
Lu Xin Pei
https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F33530936 Lu Xin Pei (路新配) at D-22 by livebeijingmusic.com
Skip Skip Ben Ben
https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F33527462 Skip Skip Ben Ben – NNYYY live at D-22 by livebeijingmusic.com
https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F33258580 Skip Skip Ben Ben Live at D-22 by livebeijingmusic.com
Little Red, Small Little Red
https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F33541014 小红与小小红 Little Red, Small Little Red live at D-22 by livebeijingmusic.com