We emailed indie-music bible Pitchfork Media about the Dirty Three story we told you about last week. They went and interviewed the band’s violinist Warren Ellis, who said Shanghai gave him “one of the most exciting moments I have ever had onstage” (OK, so it was more an “afraid for my life” excitement than a “holy shit, Shanghai’s music scene is awesome” excitement — but we’ll take what we can get). We were not really surprised to learn that certain officials threatened to cancel the Dirty Three gig before it even happened, because they assumed, from the band’s name, that it was a “pornographic act.” They wanted the Aussie chamber rock trio to go by the name “Dirt Three” while in Shanghai, but when they found out the band had no lyrics, Dirty Three got the go ahead. Here are some of Ellis’ comments on the night:
“It was in the middle of ‘Sue’s Last Ride’. I had my back to the crowd. When I turned, I noticed some people climbing the curtains trying to pull them open. The audience was going crazy. Probably one of the most exciting moments I have ever had onstage. You could hear them screaming over the music, and we were playing very loud. In the wings, the acrobats were dancing and watching. Then a guy ran and jumped on me.
“By this stage, I had no idea what was happening, but our tour manager was white and shaking, holding people and the curtains back, assisted by others. There were people everywhere: crowd, security, and acrobats. It was fantastic. When we stopped, the place exploded, and James [Chen] grabbed me and said, ‘Get the fuck out. The police are coming, and you may be arrested.’ I asked why, and he said he couldn’t explain. We packed and were shielded into a waiting van. The audience was chanting ‘Dirty Three,’ and the theatre staff shook our hands. Confusing? You bet.
“We were back in the hotel for half an hour, and my friend, guitar maker James Trussart, was at the show [and] called me and said all hell had broken loose, the people wouldn’t leave and were throwing things at the officials and that it was announced we would do another show. Jim [White, drummer] walked back to the venue to see what was happening. He spoke to some people but didn’t come back with any clearer picture.
“We played a second show that night in another venue. James Chen spent the whole night refunding people’s money. I didn’t know the price of the tickets. We do get involved in that sort of detail but really had no idea what was the norm in China, and you hope that your people represent you well. Dirty Three were not being paid for the tour, only costs and a token fee. [Chen] returned all the money he had. Then the theatre director felt sorry and gave him some to refund. Then a policeman gave him some from his pocket. I think they just wanted everyone to leave. He refunded 300 people and expected to refund the other 300 people over the following days.”
Fortunately for the band, said Ellis, “the rest of the dates were fine, maybe a little less exciting. We had a fantastic time and thank the people of China and Taiwan. A lot of these places don’t have the infrastructure or the experience dealing with this sort of thing, and it’s really part of the attraction of touring there: you never know what is going to happen.”
Pitchfork did not mention Dirty Three’s opening act, Taiwan’s Goodbye!Nao! (pictured) — maybe that’s who the authorities should have been worried about.
Photo of a member of the band Goodbye!Nao!, the opening act for the Dirty Three, from 163.com.