BEIJING ROCKS!!! The CH-INDIE Fest at Dos Kolegas

I should have a T-shirt saying I survived the CH-INDIE festival, organized by Tag Team Records and Modern Sky Records, held at Dos Kolegas on Saturday July 7 and Sunday July 8.  Despite some weather issues, a less than ideal crowd size, and the usual sound problems.  As Jaime Welton pointed out in a discussion we had on Sunday, sound check problems are a common occurrence here--Jaime plays in Black Cat Bone, a kick-ass blues band in Beijing, and is trained as a sound engineer.

It rained.  So f*in what?  We all had a blast anyway.  Those who attended that is.  Matt Kagler and the other organizers (Kagler runs Tag Team Records) were expecting a lot of people.  A LOT.  Not that many showed up.  Only 400 or so on Saturday, around the same on Sunday.  Not the thousands they were expecting.  Those who did show up tended to be the diehard rockers.  There were mohawks and nattily dressed gents with black hats and retro outfits (Stan won hands down), weird facial hair, nose rings galore, and more tattoos than Beijingers crushed into a rush hour bus.  Students or English teachers, or musicians/music industry folks from the looks of it--who else would have the freedom to dress and accouterate in such a BOHEMIAN fashion?  The concert began around 5 pm and ended around midnight on both Sat and Sun.  The stage was set outside, but a sudden rainstorm took it into the club, where, given the size of the crowd, it really belonged.

PUNKS dominated the scene on Saturday.  We kicked off with No Name (, a f*in great band from Xi’an.  Their lead singer, Yao Rui 姚睿  is China’s version of Joe Strummer.  His voice was hard and raw, and he drummed his vocal chords to pure exhaustion.  Afterwards he could barely hold a conversation.  They played on the outdoor stage until the rain came down.  I have a shot of the drummer pounding the f*k out of the drums as the tarp behind him rattles in the wind.  Ten seconds later the rain came down and everyone scrambled inside.  Some of us grabbed wires and mikes and whatever else and rushed it all indoors.

After No Name, Scoff took the stage.  Their lead singer Leo is a small guy with long kinky hair that gets in his face and a mean look in his eye.  He scoffed all right.  Young punks, having a blast.  The crowd was small at that point but picked up.
We didn’t catch too much after that.  I’d had a few beers and felt like hanging out.  Some of us went outside.  It had stopped raining.  Tom ( and I brought our guitars and were giving our own private concert to whomever would listen.  We hung out with some of the CET folks and a few others who were getting tired of YOUNG PUNKS.

We left early to catch ZIYO at the Mao Livehouse, missing Brain Failure--more punks, but not so young (they’re one of the more successful, longstanding bands here).  Funny how all these punks sing in English!  Makes me wonder who their audience is.

On Sunday, I was back.  This time I vowed to capture every band in action.  And I did, despite (or perhaps because of) drinking steadily just to keep standing the whole night.  Ironic, eh?  But as I’d woken up at 4 am that morning, my body wasn’t in good shape.  (We’d missed Helen’s act the night before and I headed back to my pad early to catch some rest, but my body didn’t cooperate.)

The afternoon began around 4-5 pm with Nuclear, Liu Miao 刘淼 s band, which was more post-punk than punk.  Not that I can really tell the difference.  Liu Miao is Dos Kolegas’s co-owner by the way, and he’s a very cool dude.  He plays drums, with a vengeance.

After endless sound checks, Hedgehog 刺猬 was on.  I like the Hedgehogs.  They’re young and cute and full of spirit and ideas.  They have an upbeat sound, less punk than the others.  The female drummer Shi Lu (also known as Atom) a diminutive young imp with a bowl cut who also sings, makes the band.  They’re young and they still have a ways to go.  But they get the crowd going.

Not as much as Joyside.  They are old favorites here in Beijing.  They sound like early Clash.  They sing in English, about beer, sex, and cigarettes.  Their lead singer Shang Huanhuan 尚欢欢 has a mop for a hairdo.  They would probably piss on the crowd if they could get away with it.  Judging by the moshing, they are dearly loved here.

It was fun to see tiny Shi Lu and the other ‘hogs moshing to Joyside.  I got some great photos and footage.

By evening the crowd had grown.  Matt in an interview said that it was around 60-40 westerners and Chinese, but I think the ratio was closer to 80 20.  A lot of westerners showed up, including a gaggle of cute girls from England, who were on a three-week junket in Beijing.  I felt sad for them that they had to return so soon.

Pete and Qing, two of my old Dartmouth ‘mates, showed up for the finale.  Two bands, Lonely China Day and SUBS, played to a loaded house (in every sense of the word).  LCD is also a local favorite.  I bought three of their albums and listened to them before the concert.  They sounded pretty cool, with a mix of ancient Chinese poetry (thankfully they sing in their own language) and some ancient sounds thrown into the mix, but predominantly a trancelike sound heavy on guitars.  

The two front members of LCD Deng Pei 邓裴 and Wang Dongtao 王东韬 both play guitar.  They stood across from each other and communicated musically onstage, as another member fed the electronica from a computer offstage.  A trippy light show beamed on them throughout their act, adding to the sensation of a magical journey into a sonic wonderland.  It was hard driving and loud, but also melodic and inventive--they were definitely jamming and improvising their way through much of it.  There was less in the way of lyrics and more pure sound in their act.  The crowd was mesmerized.

Finally, the SUBS finished off the night and the concert.  Simply put, they f*in ROCKED!  Their lead singer Kang Mao 抗猫 is a woman--rare for the punk scene.  She put heart and soul into her singing, going down into the fetal position at times--and my intuition told me this isn’t an act, it’s the real thing.  There was so much intensity, so much energy in their performance, they were like PUNK SQUARED.  I’m interviewing the band tomorrow.  Kang Mao 抗猫 is one cool chick.  True to her name, she has a black cat tattooed on her arm.

Thank god it was over.  After two days of filming, I was exhausted.  Still, the SUBS had stirred up a second wind I didn’t know I had.  I couldn’t help but accept a telepathic invitation from No Name singer Yao Rui 姚睿 to join him at Propaganda for a bit of rug cutting.  

If Joe Strummer invited you to an after party, would you refuse?