Earlier this year, I was invited by Beijing band Nocturnes to work with them on their first nation-wide tour – specifically finding them supporting acts in each city. I gleefully took the job and dived headfirst into each city’s music scene, making some wonderful contacts along the way. The band invited me to join them on the last leg of their tour – here’s my recap
The bustling city of Guangzhou won me over pretty quick. The southern juggernaut was the first stop on the tour and after some cancellations, delays, and what have you, I managed to jump on a Mobike and barrel toward T:Unionjust as Love Is A Reverb kicked off the show.
A sultry mix of jazzy indietronica with a splash of shoegaze thrown in for good measure, the band proved to be a perfect fit with Nocturnes, equipped with a strong female presence, ample use of keyboards, synths, and a city pop sound that was quaint.
While the next band Nouvelle was a far cry from the ethereal grooves of Nocturnes, I have to admit I dig the shit out of them. Indie pop that’s not afraid to get loud and crass, all the while maintaining a keen sense of melody and crafting some seriously catchy singles that trigger all those bottled up feelings of angst, ambition, and recklessness.
Nocturnes did their thing, and once again, the fans were out in full force, getting up close and personal. I’ve talked at length about these two so no need to get into the nitty gritty of it – they delivered. Props to T:Union – a fairly large space with killer sound, a full scale bar, and plenty of table seating for the fancy pants (think of it as a better laid out Yue Space).
The next morning I let the band go ahead to their next stop, as I was dead set on getting in my Record Store Day licks. After picking up some LPs from Nocturnes I strolled around Martyrs’ Park, where I caught a set from the elderly lakeside yacht club (minus the yacht but with a killer female drummer). I met up with Bryan Grogan – writer of both That’s Guangzhou and One Year in Guangzhou – an most excellent blog of music happenings in Guangzhou and beyond (seriously check it out).
We headed to Vinylhouse Café – a super cozy, super homey, super friendly record store and café run by husband and wife Mong Huang and Paula Peng – and joined in the festivities as they hosted Record Store Day. It was as you can imagine a hoot – loads of friendly locals, curious customers, artisanal bread, 7’’ throwaways, and music lovers gathering for some fun. I sold some Nasty Wizard cassettes, chatted with the owners, and before I knew it, two hours had passed and I had to skip off to my train to Shenzhen.
Thanks again to all the bands, to Bryan Grogan, Vinylhouse Cafe, Jesse from Baobab Backpackers Hostel, Hannah at Post Wave Music, and White Noise Records.
Shenzhen was a bit of a mess – mostly on my part. Don’t trust Booking.com ever – the place will either not bother keeping your reservation or in my case, not even exisit anymore. Nevertheless, the crafty hostel owner ten floors up was able to find me a slot. So knowing I was in good hands, I cycled down to Brown Sugar Jar, one of Shenzhen’s longer standing venue, though it seems they’ve jumped around quite a bit in the city address-wise. A tiny, subterranean space – it was the perfect setting for a slightly rambunctious night.
Thin City were the find tonight – a twangy energetic mix of guitar pop and art punk that left a big ol’ smile on my face. Infectiously catchy, with a heavy dose of C86 power pop that’ll have you humming their tunes long after their set. Speaking of which, the band, made up of three expat dudes and one Chinese female (ala Boys Climbing Ropes) had just received their just released 7’’ debut off of Shenzhen label Boring Productions, headed by Jovi of Atta Girl and I was able to snag one (keep your eyes peeled for a review of that one). Friendly bunch – hope Beijing gets a chance to catch them in the next year.
After Nocturnes jumped on early (due to technical difficulties with Atta Girls set up) the early evening turned into a jinjiu soaked affair outside, followed by a late evening snack. Kudos Shenzhen – it was all too brief (clocking in at sixteen hours).
I used to hang around Hong Kong a lot – every three months in the heydays of visa runs and visiting family, I sought out to explore every nook and cranny of the cosmopolitan city. Of course, I was just scratching the surface, but as far as cities go – it’s one of the most familiar cities to me. So it was nice to finally swing through once again (this was probably my shortest stint ever there). And yeah – quite a bit has changed. In with the new and out with the old, but at a much slower and reasonable pace. Some of my favorite (i.e affordable) drinking holes had vanished, and the harbor front on Hong Kong Island has had a complete makeover. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to eradicate the personality of Hong Kong and it was a pleasure to hang out in there once again. Nocturnes performed at Fringe Dairy – an old renovated dairy and cold cuts market located at the top of Lan Kwai Fong.
So It Goes – an all female shoegaze trio whose members all go by the name Emily. Hells yes. One of the tightest groups I’ve seen in some time – the band jumped from wistful melancholic dream pop tunes to savage shoegaze grooves with bite, with some seriously menacing rhythms that had my ear worms jumping in delight. Again, it’s amazing the talent that Hong Kong withholds from us, and in many ways itself – it’s a scene whose crop of bands deserve so much more.
After saying a quick hello to an old Beijing buddy and taking in one last Nocturnes set – where the two once again won over their wide-eyed audience (and subsequently sold out all their CDs) we joined the local promoters – Post Wave Music – for a night cap hookah, enjoying the rat sightings and humid air.
With a bit of time to kill the next day we stopped by White Noise Records, a long-standing haven for record lovers and a place to tap into the local scene. The band dropped off their vinyl LPs while I was able to unload the rest of my Nasty Wizard cassettes – bliss! Do be sure to check them out – they’re located in the hustle and bustle of Mongkok/Prince Edward. And like that it was over, we jumped on a bus and headed back toward the border and within a couple hours were on a flight back to Beijing. A three-day southern China tour complete.