By W.E.B Lowery
When you’re a musician who’s lived in/contributed to the scenes of storied musical cities such as New Orleans, New York, London, or Melbourne, seeing live local music can pretty much define who you are. Those of you who’ve been here awhile understand how this causes a major inner confliction, because we do love living in Shanghai. It’s just that for us, an underground music scene is something out of the tales of yore, only existing in far distant lands.
Last Friday night, some 200 people met at C’s Bar to Get In The Van (4 large buses, really) and headed off to the Live Bar, to see some local rock bands. Perhaps this was a rare, well-organized event, but if you put some 300 people in the Live Bar, things seem far from desperate!
And the music was great, too. First up was Boys Climbing Rope. This is not a band indicative of a dead scene! They freakin’ rocked! First of all, having two lead singers can always provide a nice change of pace, provided neither are tone deaf. When the girl sings, (we know no names here) it reminds us of Sonic Youth. She has a sultry voice, and the band reaches into noisy, yet moody indie rock terrain. Whilst the guy singer brings an anthemic, shout-along-with-me vibe that brings to mind another (and more current) great indie band, the Arcade Fire. Maybe there’s some sort of Canadian thing at work here, either way, their set got us all jacked up. (Side Note: Bands rightfully hate hearing who they sound like, because the reviewer usually gets it wrong anyway, but people do need reference points when being encouraged to support something they’ve never heard of.) See these guys, and girl, if you like good, adventurous music.
Next we were treated to a set by The Rogue Transmission, different than Boys Climbing Rope, but just as fun. These guys play that classic brand of music known as Kick-Ass-Rock-And-Roll. This genre is easily distinguishable by its bad-ass riffs, and rock out with your c*** out vibe. The front man definitely knows what it takes to lead a band like this. He’s got tons of moxy, while the band is made up of very capable musicians, who’ve all listened to their Motorhead, QOTSA, and MC5 records. Definitely a raucous set that got the crowd pumped, even though at this point the club was so packed that patrons lost more and more ground each time they inhaled.
Up last was Banana Monkey. They are proof that this scene won’t be built purely by Westerners. Chinese kids playing vintage sounding garage rock? C’mon, who’s NOT for that?! By this point in the evening, The cozy Live Bar was stretched to its capacitorial limits, and paranoid pangs of claustrophobia started creeping in for many. But Friday wasn’t about being freaked out by a large crowd. It was about a large crowd gathering to see LOCAL rock in Shanghai! It may be under the radar, but something is a brewin’ here. Rock lovers can’t wait till it overflows.