This show was epic. Almost too much for its own good. A charity show for Liang Heping, rock producer (among many titles) who many consider was the first to introduce ‘yaogun’ to China, at Yugong Yishan with a whopping eight bands coming out to support the recently paralyzed legend. The event racked up close to 130,000 yuan for the occasion – BeijingDaze was written a great piece on the event over yonder, so I’ll keep this as brief as I can and get the goods to you. For me though, this was my chance to get a taste of the music that set the bar for rock in China. And while everyone wasn’t up to their A-game tonight – when they were, you were witnessing legends giving back love the only way they can – through rock n’ roll. Here’s a little taste, courtesy of Askar, the Uygur rockers who gave perhaps the performance of the night, a jaw dropping, balls to the wall set of good old rock and rock fused together with traditional Uygur sounds.
How about Second Hand Rose, who are on a completely different level of their own at this point, a true reminder of what Chinese rock can achieve with the right amount of sheer talent and rock star mentality.
The highlights of the night by far, the night had plenty more to offer as well- click below to see rock veterans Thin Man, Tomahawk, He Yong, Ma Tiao, as well as still riding high sensations Liquid Oxygen Can and Zhang Qianqian.
Thin Man kicked things off with their brand of 90s infused alternative rock that got the crowd screaming with delight. The love was all out, and I must admit, while you can definitely see some wear and tear in their performance, they still knew how to work the crowd, particularly in their self-titled song “Thin Man”.
The crowd was full of die hard fans and they fed well off of that energy. A great intro to the night.
Liquid Oxygen Can, one of the bigger metal bands kicking around Beijing, completely won me over with their acoustic set. A boiling pot of hardcore, nu metal, rap, and some surprisingly heartfelt melodies it’s a miracle it all comes together so well.
The rage and fury is held back, and comes through as a calm – almost meditative in its execution. It’s no wonder that their latest album has been such a hit on the airwaves. Definitely need to check these guys out some more.
If acoustic metal wasn’t your thing, then Tomahawk came out swinging hard. A solid performance, full of cymbals crashing down, nifty guitar work, and some heavy old school rock and roll.
Nothing groundbreaking, and it lacked the spark that some of the other bands bought tonight, but they held their ground.
It was strange throwing in folk singer Zhang Qianqian smack in the middle of some heavy-hitters, but for me it was a relief to hear something slower paced and full of melancholic beauty.
And though it’s clear the singer is not in her element and has a certain shyness to her that threatens to unhinge her performance, they is no denying the talent she embodies, a poetic bone that shined throughout her set.
But really, tonight was about Second Hand Rose who literally blew the roof off of Yugong Yishan with their otherworldly performance. I’m still hold firmly to the belief that SHR are some of the craziest, talented, sons of bitches in town – true rock stars.
They exist in their own world, so uniquely foreign and accessible all at once. Every song takes on a larger-than-life feel – and never once do you get the same performance twice from these cats. A must see for anyone.
While it was given that SHR would rock the house, I don’t think anyone expected Askar, the Uyghur rockers who have been around for decades, to come out and give a performance that had the audience giddy with amazement and awe.
Having a whole bench of side players – including a meter long mandolin of some sorts, bongos, and a keyboardist, The Grey Wolf band put shame to most of the young talent that Yugong Yishan usually has to offer. With the magnitude of skill they bought, they could just as well been playing in Workers Stadium tonight truly capturing that rock and roll spirit which yaogun was founded on.
The evening ended on two performances which, while the love was their, the ‘wear and tear’ was in full view, leaving two wildly flat performances. Ma Tiao, who released an album last week to great reviews, simply can’t keep up with the rest vocally. Musically, the songs have this great rustic, dusty road feel – bringing a lot of country mojo to the songs.
But when it comes down to it, his voice simply can’t match the vivacious energy the guitars gave – it, for a lack of a better word, seemed outdated – belonging in another era. A shame cause Ma Tiao definitely has seen better days.
And finally, the night’s curator, He Yong came out to honor Liang Heping. While it’s hard to place any judgment on He Yong, for the man himself set up the entire shindig and really was playing essentially out of love for his friend and colleague, I couldn’t help but note how lifeless their performance was.
Granted it was getting well late, as most of us brave enough to stick it out from beginning to end had been standing (or sitting on the floor time to time) for well over five hours, but it was definitely one of those moments when a show ends not with a bang, but a whimper.
Nevertheless, the event was a mighty success, a true who’s who in the early rock music days, and a reminder of what it takes to embody the true spirit of rock and roll.