Random musings on music and why I'm not more talented at it : )Read More
Yesterday I posted a rant about how the Olympics ought to be depoliticized and treated as a game rather than a political spectacle. Of course this in itself is a naive aspiration, since (as one of the commenters to my post rightly remarked) by its very nature the Olympics plays into our atavistic nineteenth century nationalisms, with nations sending their best athletes to compete for a countable stack of medals, to be tallied up at the end like coins.Read More
“I wish we could go back to the Cold War so that the Olympics would be interesting.” Thus spakeAmerican actor John C. Reilly in jest during a mock interview with his co-star Will Ferrel for ESPN. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5ILh9X2wRA) But the statement got me thinking about how the Beijing Olympics is being treated and mistreated by the international media. First, there is the false promise, made by who knows who, that somehow the Olympics would CHANGE China. I mean, let’s be serious. This is a country of 1.3 billion people struggling over a very limited set of resources. 1.3 billion, foax. Think on that for a minute. If you took the entire population of America and subtracted it from China, YOU’D STILL HAVE A BILLION PEOPLE to feed, house, and clothe. And you think a two-week sporting event is going to change their lives???Read More
In an effort to cash in on the Olympics, a flurry of books has been published recently on the topic of Beijing. These include several histories of the city, such as Geremie Barme's _The Forbidden City_ and Lillian Li et al, Beijing: From Imperial Capital to Olympic City as well as books by Stephen Haw and Jasper Becker, all of which have come out in the past year or so. It seems that everyone is rushing to the publisher to get their Beijing book out before the Olympics hit in an effort to boost sales. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does have the potential pitfall of creating a bunch of hastily written thinkpieces.Read More
Last fall, at the end of the Dartmouth in Beijing FSP program, my students delivered several outstanding presentations on the history and contemporary society of Beijing. I am putting these online so that others may benefit from them. The file size is a problem, since these are all nearly one-hour presentations, so I've compressed this one in mp4 form, hence the fairly low quality. If anybody has an idea for doing it better, let me know. This presentation is about the Hutong neighborhoods of Beijing and what is and can be done to preserve them.
It was another whirlwind week in the dusty capital, folks. Here are some of the highlights.Read More
Last night I attended the opening party for the new Ullens Center in the 798 Arts District in Beijing. The Ullens Center takes up a large factory space across from the bookstore/cafe Timezone 8. It has been nicely renovated and painted in white. The center functions as a museum and knowledge center for Chinese arts, showcasing the Ullens collection.Read More
Above: Snapline lead singer Cheng Xi at Mao Livehouse Oct 6 2007
If you like the Talking Heads and the Cure, and enjoy the industrial noise issuing from a distorted electric guitar, you'll like Snapline. In the words of my mate Jimbo, this is "the ultimate geek band." The lead singer is a thin, gawky, sharp-featured and oddly handsome dude named Cheng Xi. He dresses like a hip schoolboy, with baggy pants and a white collared shirt with semi-long sleeves. He sports a pair of glasses with thick black frames, common to the hip punkster scene. When he sings, his face contorts into a weird grimace, as if he were laughing at his own secret joke. He does a gawky David Byrne-like dance as he holds the mic. As Jimbo my swing dancing pal said, he ought to be wearing a zoot suit a few sizes too large for him.
The music is jumpy, punchy, catchy. It isn't angry punk stuff. Not quite happy either, but somewhere in between. Bizarre stuff. It's fed by the industrial sounds of female guitarist Li Qing, who is similarly dressed in a white shirt and dark pants. The bassist Li Weisi keeps the rhythm going. He also wears a thick pair of black framed glasses, dark pants, white shirt. In other words there's some coordination in couture going on here. The band is tight and polished.
Like a kid playing with a new toy--a dangerous toy at that--Li Qing keeps bending down to adjust the knobs on her distortion controls. I like it better when she's at the synth backing up Cheng Xi's vocals--you can hear him better that way, and he really is the show.
I've seen them twice now, the first time at D22 on Thurs night, second time on Sat night (Oct 6) at the Mao Livehouse. Spoke briefly with Cheng Xi at the Mao bar, where I enjoy hanging out owing largely to the cute bartender (the gal not the guy, but he's pretty cute too), who knows her shit when it comes to music. She used to manage a band. Anyhow, Cheng Xi comes across as a pretty humble guy. I asked him how many albums they've sold so far. He said somewhere in the hundreds, and that he was surprised they were doing so well. I told him I'd talked to an Aussie bloke at D22 who organized tours for rock bands, and that he wanted to take Snapline to Australia. He said he knew about this and would be happy to go. I told him he was most welcome in Sydney and that his band would definitely have a following.
So far they've put out one album, "Party is Over, Pornstar" (2007). It's more polished and less industrial-noise oriented than their live act. Good music for Halloween. Haunting. And unlike many other Chinese punk singers who sing in English, you can actually understand the lyrics.
Will be paying more attention to this band in the future.
A week of touring old historic sites and visiting rock clubs and festivals in Beijing...Read More
Last night (Tues Sept 18) we were graced by the presence of none other than legendary Tang Dynasty rock guitarist, Kaiser Kuo.Read More
If you want to do a day-hike on the Great Wall, the best place in my reckoning is Simatai to Jinshanling (or vice versa). This is the trip I chose for our Dartmouth in Beijing program, which I am now running.Read More
When the capital city of the world’s largest authoritarian police state hosts a rock concert with headliners Public Enemy and Nine Inch Nails, how does it prevent mayhem from breaking out? Answer: police. Lots of em. The Beijing Pop Festival was an impressive contradiction of rock-fueled mayhem that brought performers and audience together, and rigid military discipline that kept them apart.Read More
This entry was written by my student Nate Pattee for the course I'm now teaching on the comparative history of Beijing and Shanghai.Read More
More bands, concerts, and clubs in Beijing...Read More
Having seen too much in the way of punk and metal rock these past few weeks, I was glad to take a break and head to Mao Livehouse Tuesday night for a concert featuring more classic rock-oriented bands. The first band was Water Ripple 水纹.Read More
A night at D22 and 13 Club, featuring the bands Guai Li, Hedgehog, Carsick Cars, and Evil ThornRead More
Are the Ramones really a “punk” band? Personally I don’t associate them with the punk movement of the 1970s [I do now--AF, 2017] but people here in Beijing seem to think they are the quintessential punks. At least judging from the tribute concert held last night at Mao Livehouse near the drum tower.Read More
This review was just published on MCLC. I am using Dong Yue's book for my course. It is the best single publication on Republican era Beijing, which compared with Shanghai has received precious little attention.Read More
More blogging on the Beijing rock scenes and nightlife...Read More