It's a secret to everybody. In Nangang district, down a nondescript staircase, lies Wan Pi Bar. No lit up sign. Just four Chinese characters. In the basement, Han Yu, who's almost 50, brews beer, "because he loves beer". He started 6 years ago. It's a good sized space. His tap handles, from foreign friends. He shows us photos of his 2nd spot he's building, says he's not happy with his progress, but hopes this new space will get him there. He wants to have shows. We sit for 90 minutes, try his new brews, and Lena translates everything I want to say to this man. We talk beer. InBev being assholes. Andy Junk & Lakefront Brewery. How we run shows. Selling. Nobody is doing this type of thing here. He doesn't want money. Just enough to do his thing. We left a bit blown away, and sauced for 50 kuai. Inspirational.
Filtering by Tag: harbin
Rainy Season. A few weeks ago, Shaun told me he booked another show at The Door. His band, Cut Frenzy, and a band from Russia, who have a home base here. I wondered how many people would show up. I guess we both did. No touring band to draw curious minds. Doing a thing, just because. We arrived to a packed bar. As CF played, we looked around, and saw there was nowhere to move. Rainy Season play Russian cover songs, and are damn good at what they do. Those not watching the show mingle, and in this vibe, we realize, we've got a damn good thing happening right now. It just works. The true test comes this summer, when we try and bring our favorites from China to this city, and...gasp...charge an entry fee.
Let's see what you're really made of, Dongbei. It will be worth the risk. Here's to making something out of nothing.
P.R.C.M (中國絞肉機) last week, in Harbin.
This gig almost did not happen. It was originally scheduled at "The Door", but the Chengguan had other plans, locking down the main bar street in the city for an undetermined amount of time. For an undetermined reason. Leaving everyone to keep their front lights off, and lay low. Such is life in China.
Moving shows can be a disaster, and that being said, I am truly amazed at how this went down, especially for a city such as this. I don't mean to rag on Harbin. Really. It's just that, this type of thing, it just doesn't happen here. Even neighboring Dalian, home to bands like Wang Wen, is simply spotted with shows throughout the year, but Harbin, Shenyang, and Changchun, where many of these acts come from, it's still very much a crawling toddler in the grand scheme.
Six acts performed in just over three hours. Artists from Yunnan province, Changchun, Switzerland. Live visuals. A kraut rock band. A lot of people showed up. They actually put money in the donation hat. I have seen hundreds of rooms totally clear out for more tame things than much of last night, but everybody stuck right where they were, all the way until the end. I can't begin to describe how happy it all made me.
Thanks so much to everyone who made it what it was. It really means a lot to us. Dongbei, GOOD JOB! Stoked on summer. Bands : Come hang! Cheers.
Incoming noise to Harbin, Heilongjiang! It can be very difficult to get gigs together up here, but we've done it twice, and we're about to do it again. Largely thanks to "The Door", who is letting us do basically whatever we want, we've got a killer one coming up on March 15th!
Meizhiyong joins forces with a crew of other people, including a fellow from Sweden!
Full line-up :
粗糙影像（psychedelic rock 迷幻摇滚）changchun长春
PRCM (noise 粗噪音）(CN）
... (NIKO) notebook noise 笔记本噪音/CH瑞士
LGOOOO（experimental guitar 实验吉他）changchun长春
Consider everybody here super excited.
If you have any friends in Dongbei, let 'em know.
Until next time,
Time is very unforgiving. I've been in Harbin, Heilongjiang for one year. Overall, it's been an extremely positive experience. It has forced me to seek solace in strange and unusual circumstances. Get out of my comfort zone. Hit ramen shops with Russian girls. Take my bank teller out for beers. Skulk around the extremely dirty streets, shooting whatever's around. There is no music scene here to speak of, outside of some classical concerts, which believe me, I've gone to just to maintain a sense of normalcy.
It would be easy to sit back and pickle your liver. Stay inside when the temperature drops to around -30 degrees, where it stays for weeks. Many do this. Dongbei...what a trip.
Since coming here, I've wanted to set up a show. There's some things happening in Dalian, of course, with Wang Wen and Doc Talk Shock (now just DOC). Chanchun has a very small scene, with Meizhiyong recently releasing the excellently crazy "China's Steel". Harbin, though...nothing. There are a few metal bands, but they never play. They're on some label, God knows who or what they do, and we've had conversations with them. They just don't really understand the whole "just do the thing" outlook that we have. I do not blame them. China as a whole is not set up in this way, outside of a handful of cities.
I met Shaun Handlen, who offered me the position that would bring me to Harbin. Technically, we met over 15 years ago, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This was either at Concert Cafe, or a DIY space called "The ______ house", where I met Andy Junk of Holy Shit! and began a lifetime addiction of going to rock and roll shows in dark, dirty spaces. It's a long story I won't flesh out now. Obviously, Shaun gets it, because we grew up in literally the exact same environment. For the entire year I've been here, I've poked and prodded, trying to make something happen. Nobody really wants to come, and I don't blame them, because there's nothing in it for them aside from just doing a thing, and a high probability of losing money on either, or both ends. I just got back from a spectacular week in Chengdu, which I'm finishing up a piece about in the next week or two. I hit Beijing, though simply to interview Michael Cupoli in Noise Arcade.
To my surprise, Michael contacted me recently. His girlfriend has family in Harbin, and he was coming to visit. Perfect situation for a rock and roll show.
Shaun's band is always up to play. So, with and answer to "with who", we began a search for a place that would actually allow us to do it. This proved an interesting feat, with a spread of outright denials, a couple indifferent parties, and many simply with a response of "it's too loud." Harbin loves their guitar and medium volume microphone cover-band schlock, but a drum set? Heavens forbid. Finally, we found not just one, but two places on Qiao Nan Jie, Harbin's main bar street. One was pretty large, they seemed into it, and agreed. However, for the local crowds here, the vibe was definitely a bit out there, for our purposes. We decided to see if we could find another space. I contacted a guy who had his hands in a few different things here, including an old, shuttered venue that has just opened up once again. He suggested a small place he co-owned called "The Door". A tiny stage in the corner. Not much room to move around. A perfect place for our first real run at something in this city for quite some time. The type of place that looks full with 20 people. Everyone was on board. So, we firmed it up, and I made my first posted in well over a decade.
We began spreading the word. I figured with it starting early, and ending at a reasonable time, that turnout could be alright. In the end, we really had no idea. We would have been happy with 20 people. To our surprise, a shitload of people showed up. Even at nine on the dot, the place was nearly full. By the time Cut Frenzy left the stage and Noise Arcade began setting up, you could barely move. Russians mixed with American expats and Dongbei locals. College kids turned up, and stuck around because the whole damn thing was over by 10:45. Sure, it was a free show, in a city starved for events of this nature, but that surely doesn't mean what you put on is going to be successful. This is a city where most are in bed by 9PM, and college kids have curfews ranging mostly from 10PM, with some around midnight. Expats, per Shaun, could give a shit less, and "won't pay for shows." For the university curfew crowd, after speaking with dozens of them, the whole "hopping the gate" thing isn't really something that's really on their radar.
That said...the show went perfectly. We threw Noise Arcade dough from our own pockets. The bar's manager and sound guy were extremely into the whole thing, and want to do it again. "We need to charge money next time!", he told Shaun. Yeah., we do. It left me impressed, and honestly, I'm quite proud of this city at the moment. Hell, even my banker friend showed up. That's a pretty big deal.
Recently, I met a kid who does freestyle hip-hop, mostly outside of a sandwich shop right down from where this show went on, spitting over beats from a dirty speaker. I asked him about performing when we put on another thing, and he said he's nervous, but entertained the idea. Anqi from Changchun is into coming. We're cooking something up for December. P.K.14 said "it's been ages" since they've been up here (the last time was on their 2013 tour, when I did the film.) and I think if I bother them enough, they'll make the trek, likely tacking on Dalian or something else on the way.
I thought I'd put some words up here, while this moment was still fresh in my head. One gig per year, it's better than zero, I'd say, and I'm extremely happy to be able to do it. We'll keep rolling up here. There's some really exciting shit in the works for 2017. Episode 2 is forming, and will get released. It's taken longer than expected, but I'm really excited about it, and this second film isn't something I can force out of me. I'm juggling quite a few things,. Trying to set up a long-term life, for a more long-form avenue to document things, and next year is really going to be something. It will begin in late January, when I head back to Indonesia, and Malaysia.
More to come on all this. In the mean-time, here's an unmixed, drum heavy live recording of Cut Frenzy for your listening pleasure.
C-ranking's for all.