Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 3: New York

I took the bus into Manhattan with Jay Z in the headphones and vibing off the blue skies and the raw energy that emanates from the hustle of New York City’s streets. Landed at 2pm, and in the Met by 4pm, staying with Mike, an old Taiwan hand on the Upper East Side. Go Chic would play later that night at Arlene’s Grocery, a Lower East Side indie rock joint, and Fire EX and White Eyes would play the next night at a 320-capacity live house inside the New York nightlife institution, Webster Hall.

The Taiwan government’s new indie rock policy has interesting implications, namely that it’s a way of promoting Taiwan’s name in an arena where China can’t do anything about it. China has prevented Taiwan from participating in the United Nations, World Health Organization and other big assemblies of “nations” for more than 30 years. In the Olympics and other sporting events, the Taiwanese team must arrive under the banner “Chinese-Taipei.” The world’s top biennials of contemporary art have been pressured by the Chinese government to disallow Taiwan from calling its exhibition hall the “Taiwan Pavilion.” But indie rock has no large central organization to apply pressure to, and even if it did, I seriously doubt a rock festival would be sympathetic to a bullying, repressive regime that will not offer them any economic benefits in the foreseeable future. Even more interesting – let’s not forget that this is a policy of Ma Ying-jeou’s generally warm-on-China KMT government.

Day 2: Toronto

Fire EX at the breakfast buffet

What’s the best way to navigate a 5-day, 800-band festival spread liberally throughout Toronto, where 15-minute cab rides cost around US$25? Especially in the case where I’d heard of maybe a half dozen performers – Janet Jackson, the Electric Six, the Russian Futurists and a Japanese band called Zoobombs that a friend had been emailing me about.

Orbis and I took the easy default. On the penultimate day of Canadian Music Week, we were in the York Hotel from 4pm to 2am, schlepping through conferences, industry mixers, the awards ceremony and room parties. The secret of music festival in the modern age is that, while they are still an entertainment showcase for the punters, they are essentially trade shows. In two days, I saw three artists perform but exchanged a thick stack of name cards. A Filipino promoter. A Singaporean B-girl who’s based in LA and spoke with a Jamaican accent. A New Yorker of uncertain provenance who claimed to have a website that promotes Chinese music. A smooth-talking, dandyish expat from Hong Kong who told us the Flaming Lips generate over US$100,000 in revenue per show and he can easily recoup that in Hong Kong. (I don’t know if we said it out loud, but Orbis and I looked at each other with a look that said, “Really?”) There were also a few potentially valuable contacts from Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Hong Kong and Korea.

The most interesting thing we saw was a seminar called “Music Makeover.” On a stage in a big conference room, a producer with a microphone headset diced up a song by an R&B band (also on stage), and through the process of a “live rehearsal” created a new arrangement that was – truth be told – much better than the original. Watching this was like being in the studio audience of some reality TV show, except that no one got sent home at the end. There real-time critique had its moments, like a good-natured dressing down of the goofy, flop-haired guitarist:

“Real humility is not about being deferential and shy. It’s about accepting the expectations of the audience and fulfilling that role. If you are the lead guitarist, then be the guitar god and step up there and show it. If you just shuffle around in the back, or meekly retreat from the front of the stage after your solo, you simply fail to engage people, and they will become uninterested very quickly.”

This, I told Orbis, was the difference between Japanese bands and Taiwanese. Both sets of musicians tend to be pretty humble offstage, but the Japanese hone their onstage skills until they are razor sharp. Indie rock may claim differently, but in so many ways, rock ‘n roll is not just about music, it’s about the performance. Not many people go to the theater anymore, but they go to rock shows all the time, and whether they know it or not, they have the same expectations: they want to see a show. It’s a lesson that Taiwan’s bands are slowly learning, and what will help is the type of exposure that generates a culture of performance, and a culture of giving that performance whether they’re in front of 20 people or 500. That’s pretty much this tour.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Toronto: Day 1

I knew Toronto would be one big snafu. That's how this tour was supposed to start. Toronto - a total wash. New York, well, who cares, we're playing on a Monday night and anyway, it's New York. We'll have fun. For this rock 'n roll tour, all the money is really on SXSW, and the "big" Taiwan indie rock showcase there is already showing traction. One radio interview lined up. Japanese photojournalists and Korean bands and promoters psyched to check it out. And that's just on my end. Orbis Fu, director of The Wall Music, says he's getting a lot of interest as will. Things look good.

But for the moment, I'm in Toronto, which, in case you didn't know, is in fucking Canada. Pizza costs $4 a slice, and that's four bucks Canadian, which is like five real American dollars. Why is this place so fricking expensive? And how can our 4-star hotel have an indoor swimming pool but not ESPN?

I arrived Friday night at 7pm, one full day after the Taiwan showcase had ended. What was the point of my being here? The plane ticket, they said, couldn't be changed. We'll buy you a drink, they said. Would I really have to stay in Canada till Monday? This time I called American airlines. I'll make it to New York by noon Sunday and catch Go Chic on the Lower East Side at Arlene's Grocery the same night.

So far in Canada, I've managed to speak Mandarin more than English. I ate mediocre vegan risotto at an over-priced restaurant in The Distillery, a trendy Castle Elsinore-looking district of restored brick warehouses and quaint retro signage where the waiters are too-well groomed and the music sounds like techno played through a pipe organ. Steak dinner and 1.5 beers per person - with me pulling the "I'll just have salad" line - cost C$385 for seven, and I don't even want to ponder what that is in real money. On the way, the tour photographer lost his iPhone 4 in an illegal, untraceable taxi. And afterwards, I caught a couple of bands that didn't particularly impress me, including a set by former lead singer of Dinosaur Junior J. Mascis, before giving up on the 800-band schedule/clusterfuck. So I walked into a normal bar for a few bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and then took a long but fun jaunt past the bars, clubs and late night eateries lining Queens Rd. West. The walk took about 40 minutes, not including the stops for pizza and falafel, and I got back to the hotel by 3am. Then today, after buffet breakfast and three cups of coffee, I walked down to Lake Huron with the members of the bands Sugar Plum Ferry, Fire EX and the top staff at The Wall and got in a snowball fight while they all took pictures of each other in the snow.

Going to the bar last night, I did however get a chance to meet some real Canadians. One of them asked if I was American.

Wondering if' I'd failed to mispronounce "about" or "house" - though I'd been trying to avoid these verbal landmines - I asked "Is it that obvious?"

"It's the PBR."

Which I only ordered because I thought it would be cheap. Oh well. I could live with this.

But these Canadians - Torontoans? - they were friendly. Another tried to convince me Toronto was the fourth biggest city in North America. New York, Chicago, LA...and Toronto? I made a mild protest but quickly deferred, filing a mental note to Google it. A Canadian would not get this wrong. Or too wrong as it turns out. We'd forgotten about Mexico City. Toronto is 5th.

The Thursday night Taiwan gig was, consistent with the snafu-ness of it all, not even an official Canadian Music Week event. They'd been rejected at the eleventh hour, but still managed to organize a show in at some CMW-unaffiliated, Underworld-sized bar. About 50-70 people showed up, most of them Taiwanese studying abroad. Fire EX, Sugar Plum Ferry and Orange Grass played. When I asked band members about the gig, most of their answers amounted to little more than a shrug, though Andy, the soundman said Sugar Plum Ferry's set was awesome.

SPF's guitarist, Su, said their last Toronto gigs - another GIO sponsored tour - had been better. The official concert was mostly Taiwanese, but they also played a couple live houses for crowds that were at least half local and got great response.

"They all bought our CDs," said Su.

Meanwhile, The Wall manger Orbis was spending time at the CMW conference, a series of music industry talks that happens in the afternoons, before the music starts. How were they? "Boring." Then two hours later, Orbis says, "I saw a talk by Lady Gaga's manager." Troy Carter. "He's only 30 years old, and a black guy. Sometimes people think he's her bodyguard."

"People asked questions about everything. 'Would Lady Gaga consider doing an acoustic album?' The manager said, 'Of course!' 'What's the difference between Lady Gaga and Madonna?' Lots of questions like that. After it was over, he was mobbed on stage and security had to keep everyone back so he could leave."

Such was the talk around the breakfast table, where I also learned that Fire EX lead singer, Sam Yang, is being allowed to take a special "vacation" from his mandatory military service to participate on this tour - this arranged by a special gongwen (official letter) from high up in the GIO. "It's for the national glory," jibed one of his bandmates, A-Hsin. Like an Olympian.

I told them I'd seen J. Mascis the night before, but the sound was mediocre and most of the audience was just talking and drinking beer during the set.

"Cool. Then we what we saw was even better."

Oh yeah. What?

"We went to a strip bar!"

Strip bars. I get the feeling this will be a running theme for this tour. Can't wait till we get to Austin. For a long time now, I've been thinking that Orbis really needs a lap dance.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pangu Reprise

Drinking Tea with Nanchang Cops, or Espionage for Retards

I went back to China for a 10-day trip to pick up the trail of Pangu's legacy. In Beijing, the trail was mostly cold, and the stay too short to uncover a lot of genuine emotion beyond the fact that most kids don't really know who the band is anymore or know enough to not say anything. It seems the government's tactic of delete and censor has erased most memory of the band, at least in the pop consciousness. But in terms of a deeper memory, a realm of whispers that silently remembers jailed lawyers, displaced villagers, Tienanmen Square and other denied truths, the band is very much alive and imagined mainly as an earlier version of themselves, the one that was credible and raw, not the current status of extremists exiled for a highly unpopular cause. If they weren't remembered, we wouldn't have been "invited" to "drink tea" with the cops of Nanchang for an hour and 40 minutes.

But that was a mistake in judgment on our part too. Pangu is from Nanchang, a provincial city of 2 million a six-hour train ride southwest and inland from Shanghai. The city is famous as the site where the first shot of the Mao's Communist insurgency was fired, and then after Mao died, it became a minor industrial center for its state-run auto factory. Nanchang's central square still boasts a hulking stone monument to the "Aug. 1 Insurgency," a thick column topped by a stone CCP flag. The irony of the monument is just that of Mao's China; the symbol is supposed to soar but instead looks more likely to sink to the bottom of the ocean for its unwieldy weight. It was on the stone steps of this monument that Ao Bo used to sit with his rock 'n roll buddies and dream of destroying these symbols and what they stood for, namely the Communist Party's rule of China.

In August when I spoke to Ao Bo in Taiwan, he got excited about the possibility of our going to see his father, who lives in a miniature cop village next to a prison in New County (Xinjian Xian), across the Aug. 1 Bridge from Nanchang City. The idea came to him as a spark, then ignited in his mind. "If you went, that would be - wow! That would be something!" In emails since, however, he progressively began to dismiss the idea. He hadn't spoken with his father in a year, and convincing him would be a problem. Later, the day after our tea party, he called from Sweden, berating me, "Not just anyone can walk in there! If you wanted to talk to him, you should have set up a meeting outside."

But CC and LL, our local contacts, were also curious. They'd never seen the man, and Ao Bo is the type of figure that makes one wonder what could have caused a person to become like, as LL said, "always supporting some political position or other, but in that, you never got a sense of his own personal self."

So we went on a whim and a chance, and it just happened to be the last Sunday of the National Day holiday, and the community's guard was down. We found the senior Ao, a spitting resemblance, and he was willing to speak with us. What he expressed was a gruff prison-official-of-a-father's love for his intransigent and rebellious son. And we got it on tape.

At the end, we asked the senior Ao if he had pictures of Ao Bo as a boy. He said he might, but he'd have to rummage around. He'd be in touch with LL if he found anything. Then that night, he called LL, saying he'd found some artwork and notes, things we might want to take. We should meet him back at the cop village the next day at 4pm.

We arrived at 3pm, and within five seconds of stopping the car, a uniformed cop had us pegged. LL's ID was taken and we were instructed to drive back to the end of the block, where there was a precinct station. They took LL's car keys and then our passports and brought us in for questioning.

The first cop was egregiously smiley, laughing constantly in phony way and inviting us repeatedly to drink tea and smoke Jiangxi's local cigarettes. We took hot water. I excused myself to the bathroom and called a friend, telling him I was in a police station and would call back in a couple of hours if everything was ok.

The cop, Smiley, asked us our names, place of residence, occupations, and how I had come to speak Chinese so well. And what we were doing there. I told the half truth that I had met Ao Bo at a rock concert in Taiwan and kept in touch through email. When I told Ao Bo I'd be traveling through China, he'd asked me to pick up a few things from his father.

After a few minutes of this, a second, sterner uniformed cop came in, Bad Cop. He had a hard jaw, a louder, deeper voice and slicked back hair. He asked us the same questions, and we gave the same answers. He told us that Ao Bo was a serious matter. That's about as much as they ever told us about Ao Bo, though through opportune mentions of "Taiwan" and a few other things, it was obvious they knew a lot more.

Different cops kept shuffling in and out of the room, but whoever was asking the questions, they were always the same. We were offered more hot water and smokes. Some plain-clothed cops appeared and were introduced by Smiley as being from "our travel agency." The euphemism was so ridiculous I didn't even bother to ask what it meant. I guessed they were the National Security Bureau, though that may have been wrong. The next day, LL was to meet with National Security Bureau agents for questioning. So who the hell were these guys? They all had buzz cuts, wore slacks, dark gangster shirts and bad leather shoes. Two of them were young; they never spoke and unsubtly perked up their heads the couple of times we spoke English. The senior plain-clothes asked us the same questions as the others. We gave the same answers.

One thing they never asked though was why we'd been filming, and this worried us, and not just then, but all of that night as we rode an overnight train in hard sleeper berths to Guangzhou. During the interview a day before, Ao Bo's father had called me a "journalist," and at one point I'd told him I was making a documentary. This was potentially damning. My partner P, in China with the special pseudo-passport that China gives to Taiwanese citizens, was mulling the fact that China has imprisoned tens of thousands of Taiwanese accused of spying. I was even more worried for LL, who had a wife, kid and a government job to lose. As a Western national, the worst that could happen to myself was a few days of detention and expulsion from China. I kept telling myself, fuckit, these are cops, and played dumb, repeated the same story and tried to crack the odd joke.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, P heard one cop say that he wanted to bring in Old Ao. But another said, "No, they're not finished talking to him yet." The father was being questioned somewhere else at the same time, and I think he must have been putting up a smoke screen, possibly for himself, possibly for us, possibly for his son. I'll probably never be sure. But the cops did repeatedly say that Old Ao was "one of our own" and that they had to "take charge" of him and "protect" him.

About an hour into the tea party, we told the cops we had a train to catch, and we showed them the tickets to Guangzhou. They told us not to worry about it and offered to drive us to the train station in a police car. "In America, if you ride in a police car, it is only because you are a criminal," joked Smiley. "But in China, that's not necessarily the case."

Our excuse to get out of this was our wish to have a final dinner with our friend, LL. Also, we had no desire to give the cops even the faintest idea of how much camera equipment we were carrying by putting our luggage in one of their cruisers.

When we opted out of the royal escort, Bad Cop just shrugged and said fine. I got the feeling it would save him some trouble. Our passports were handed back, and LL got his ID and car keys. Smiley waved and said it wasn't a big deal and he hoped he hadn't inconvenienced us. I was about to get in the car, but after thinking about it for a sec, turned back to him and said, "Look, I want to ask you something. There's still one thing I don't understand, and that's why Ao Bo is so sensitive. I don't really know this guy, and now I'm wondering if I should call him up and tell him he's an asshole for sending me here and getting me in trouble with you people."

"No, no, no," said smiley. "It's just that...this is a sensitive area. There's a prison here, and outsiders never come in. You're outsiders. Of course we just had to find out who you were. Next time you're in Nanchang, feel free to come back."

As we drove out the gate of the cop-prison village, I assured LL we'd keep his name out of the film. Then in the back seat, P wrote on a piece of paper, "They may be listening." This was all a little surreal, so I did what anyone else who'd only ever seen movies about this kind of thing would do, I kind of smirked to myself and ran my fingers over the dash, around the rearview mirror, opened the glove compartment...

"Would you stop that!" said P from the back seat.

Dinner was grim. We barely ate, just drank beer instead. CC had just gotten off work and finally joined us. Thank god she'd missed it. She said she wasn't worried, even if the cops did come knocking. She'd been through that before and knew they couldn't touch her. LL also assured us he'd be fine, but I had no idea if he could possibly mean that.

On the train, P and I had a comically paranoid conversation, a long, drawn-out "What would Jason Bourne do?" bull session. I saw two alternatives. One, hide ourselves in a safe house in Shenzhen, have one person cross the border carrying nothing, and if he made it, call back to the other to give the all clear.

"Dude," said P, "That's how drug smugglers get caught." He was convinced they were setting us up, that they'd let us keep going to see what we'd do and who else we could implicate. "You don't know how the Communist Party works! This is the let-a-thousand-flowers-bloom shit!"

The cops' conspicuously blind eye to our filming activities was the unnerving question that kept stabbing back at us. I bemusedly proposed an Occam's razor solution, "Look, since they have to write a report to save themselves from getting in trouble if anything happens later, maybe they are just happy enough to play along with our bullshit story because like most cops everywhere, they are lazy and just want a plausible answer that will save them from any extra work."

P was having none of that. Every other guy on the train had a buzz cut and bad leather shoes, and even though we had bought our tickets through a scalper and without showing any ID, he was lining up suspected shadows.

"Well, how about at the next stop I'll grab my backpack and hide in the bathroom, and we'll see if secret agent Larry does anything," I said.

At least that lightened things up.

"Yeah, what would Jason Bourne do?"

God! he was thinking it too!

In the end, P chose option two - get the hell out. We arrived at Guangzhou East Station around 8am, and he left me with the camera and tripod, took the tapes and bought a train ticket to Hong Kong. I was fine with this. He had the most to lose.

P made it through customs in Guangzhou before 8:30am, too early for whatever the hell it was we were scared of. We'd figured that since the cops let us go around 4:40pm the day before and still had someone to question today, they may not have filed any reports before getting off and we wouldn't be flagged yet. I now doubt we ever were flagged, or else the process was so slow we won't find out till next time.

I headed for a safe house in Shenzhen. Actually, it was a friends apartment I had keys to, but calling it a safe house was really feeding into my whole spy fantasy thing. Now that I look back on things, that whole 24 hours was like the Bourne Conspiracy for retards. It was like, 'Geez, I may be a national security threat for my little videography project, so I'll just hop a train to Shenzhen, switch SIM cards, then go check my email in Starbucks.'

Which is exactly what I did. When I called P that afternoon, he'd just gotten off a plane from Hong Kong and was back in Taipei. "Yeah, there was a little bit of a scare going through customs, but I think it was just a random check." He was fine. I also got an email from LL, who said the meeting with National Security had just been routine, and I hope it in fact was.

Perhaps a bit like Chai Ling, the student leader at Tienanmen Square, I had a lingering hope for a more brutal police display. She had so infamously anticipated - in fact almost awaited - the bloodshed of Tienanmen, saying it was the only way the Chinese people would learn of their government's oppressive nature. Unlike her, I graciously never got my wish. What I got instead was an afternoon of drinking tea with cops and a brick wall sealing out everything people knew about Pangu and would never say in public even if they knew it to be true.

This affected the Nanchang cops and Beijing's rockers alike. The old punks and metalheads I found in Beijing who clearly hated the band wouldn't express anything openly, even anonymously, i.e. with only a voice recording. Talking into a microphone to someone who didn't even know your name was still too public and potentially dangerous for most. My being a stranger and a foreigner I guess had a lot to do with that.

Getting to real feelings may take longer and require less direct questioning, maybe even a different identity. Two and a half years ago, a kid tried to stop me from buying a Pangu CD in a Wudaokou music shop, in no uncertain terms letting me know "Their music sucks!" "They betrayed their country!" "They sold out their country!" This time, the best I could get was some dorky metalhead trying to evade all my questions, but not so slyly saying, "My view on Pangu is consistent with that of the government." That and a Guangzhou music critic saying he thought they were conned by Chen Shui-bian and the DPP, that they were naive and didn't know the deal going in.

What surprised me though was the continuing belief in what Pangu was, an identity the band assumed in person around 1998 and was slowly disseminated throughout China over the next two or three years. I found a steady collection of rockers from Guilin to Shanxi to Xinjiang with a consistent story, namely that when they were 14 or 15 or 17, they suddenly found a band that was telling them the truth through rock and roll. "Before them, I listened to Cui Jian and Zhang Chu and He Yong, and I thought that was great. But then I heard Pangu and realized that everything they were saying was all wrong."

It was not just one kid that made such claims. It was several. And the stories were so often the same.

And it's that memory, of a band that suddenly meant something, which is Pangu's legacy in China. The egregiously political entity they have become since then, for worse in the eyes of most who still even remember them, seems not to be the important thing. It is the whispered legacy of some raw punks from Nanchang who screamed out "You won't let us rock!", who lampooned Cui Jian and the whole Beijing scene, and who intimated that kids had a right to want something better. That's what remains. And that's what's buried behind a wall of official silence, not forgotten, and waiting for its story to be retold.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More on Death Metal and the DPP

Freddy: "I'm not deep green, I'm pro-independence!"

The lead singer of Taiwan's best loved black metal band and concert empresario Freddy is in the political columns again. Actually, let me just translate this, from Formosa TV:

On the petition brought out by scholars to recall President Chen, one
English name was included - Freddy. Local media has indicated that this is the
Chen supporting lead singer of the band Chthonic, but on July 26
Freddy personally came out to clarify the situation, saying that the name
on the Internet petition was not his, that he doesn't want to get caught up
in political battles, and that he supports Chen as president until his
term runs out in 2008.

The web petition set up by the scholars was intended to use
"democracy" to "fulfill Taiwanese identity," and Freddy's name appeared there on
July 16. Media immediately reacted by thinking the Chthonic lead singer had
turned against Chen before Freddy came out and personally clarified that the
name was not his.

Freddy emphasized that he was a die-hard supporter of Taiwanese
independence who had voted for Chen in the last two presidential elections. His
recent call to "reform justice," he said, was meant to indicate that both the
blue and green camps have made mistakes, but he continues to support Chen as
head of the government.

Freddy said he is now busy promoting his band Chthonic's 10th anniversary
CD release and also with this weekend's Formoz Festival, so how would he have
time to get mixed up in the blue-green political battle?

Another article someone sent me had Freddy talking more about politics, saying, among other things, that there is a difference between the "greens" and supporters of Taiwanese independence, that difference being that "greens" belong to political parties while he doesn't.

Blogging at Fujirock

The 10th Fujirock Festival is underway as of a couple of hours ago now, and I will again be blogging about it for, a festival adjunct. Note I don`t link to the site....This year the e-team has set up a blog for show reports, news, and other hopefully qualified observations culled from the rather less penetrable Fujirock Express site, where content will also go if you want to wade through 70 percent Japanese and pulldown menus that hide most of the articles. Feel free to compare for yourself.

Of minor interest, Fujirock Express becomes a daily newspaper this year (Japanese only) distributed (free? still don`t know) throughout the Naeba Valley. Just another trick they`ve learned from Glastonbury.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hmmm. Should I bother to read this?

There's a new book on Taiwan out by Joshua Samuel Brown, you know, of 'Off the Rails' column in the China Post fame. The title, Vignettes of Taiwan, does not make me want to rush out and get a copy... though it did get a decent review from the Shanghai free monthly, City Weekend, where Brown is now a contributor. But for some reason I doubt this will be as good as John Ross' Formosan Odyssey, which is probably a bit underrated and managed to tell us a few things about the island we didn't already know.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Chinese Rockers Play Taiwan for the First Time Ever

And Cui Jian gets axed from the lineup

Could Formosa TV have screwed up a concert any more royally? Cui Jian (崔建), the king daddy founding godfather ultimate dudeman of Chinese rock 'n roll, had applied three straight years to play the Hohaiyan Music Festival in Taiwan, and this year for the first time by some fluke or brain spasm or act of God finally got approval from Beijing authorities and was ready to come. This was to be a historic first, a landmark in cross-strait music, the first ever Chinese rock bands to play Taiwan.

So what happens? FTV axes Cui from the lineup because instead they want Black Panther and Tang Dynasty, two legendary China bands to be sure, but they are not Cui Jian. If the essence of Chinese rock 'n roll can be distilled to a single man, that man is Cui.

Two Japanese bands, Dragon Ash and 雅 (sorry, no English name at present), were also cut from the bill at the last minute, and some people were pretty pissed off by this.

At least this is what I heard from a longtime Beijing rock scene insider with solid connections to all of Taiwan's music festivals and Japan...

...who told me all this drinking beer outside the Beijing Club D-22, after the 8th band birthday concert for girl punk rockers Hang On The Box, who played for all of 25 minutes. (Great stuff tho.)

Cui Jian, said my can-of-Yanjing-beer-drinking source, wanted to come, but not to FTV's candy-assed pop parade. He wanted to come to the other Hohaiyan put on by Taiwan Colors Music (TCM), a real-deal indie label that founded Hohaiyan 6 years ago and only lost the fest this year through the supposedly "fair" practice of open bidding, which in this case was actually just money politicking. Ronnie Brownlow reported this much in the Taipei Times, but in the end had trouble ironing out the tangle on how the concert was split in two. The bottom line is that TCM got screwed out of the concert it created because the yokel bureaucrats at Taipei County Government controlled all the money and thought they knew better, so in the end TCM decided to do its own concert on the same beach but a week later. Then a typhoon came on FTV's weekend, so they delayed, which of course bumped TCM right off into oblivion. Record label head and visionary behind the whole thing, Zhang 43, announced that the TCM Hohaiyan is now delayed to next year.

"Of course a TV station can run a music festival better than a record company" is how I interpolate the idiot thoughts of the Taipei County Culture Bureau, who through Zhang 43 have stumbled on to a way to make a more popular and international version of the Changhua Flower Festival - "Heck, as long as there area sausage vendors, the people will come!"

(Now whether this has anything to do with the DPP losing Taipei County in last year's election to the KMT I'm not sure, though that was predicted by many. Still, FTV is not far removed from being a DPP propaganda arm....)

The Good News: Tang Dynasty (唐朝) and Black Panther (黑豹) play tonight (Friday), which will be historic. These are the first real rock scene bands from China ever to get permission to play Taiwan, something no one thought could happen after the last Taiwan concert by a Chinese group. That of course was by Pangu in Feb. 2004 - they went into exile immediately after the concert.

So everybody go, and tell me about it. Dagnabit. Wish I were there.

Tang Dynasty - Chinese Led Zepplin

Black Panther - when rock was for dudes!

More headlines:
崔健宝岛行告吹 民版海洋音乐祭遭台风搅局停办
(Cui Jian's Jewel Island Trip Cancelled: Hohaiyan Music Festival People's Edition Called Off)
【海洋音乐祭】官版恐因台风遭延期 民版伤脑筋
(Hohaiyan Music Festival: Official Version Delayed By Typhoon; People's Version Scratches It's Head)
海洋音乐祭大和解 角头义助唐朝黑豹工作人员赴台
(Hohaiyan Music Festival Compromise: TCM Helps Crews for Tang Dynasty and Black Panther Get Visas)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Odd Job Lives!

And he's a lackey of evil foreigners with mustaches

The carnage. Source: Xinhuanet

This story of a two blond, mustachioed foreigners sending their Chinese friend (or interpreter or bodyguard, depending on who you believe) as a samurai punisher on eight young males taunting them in a Beijing restaurant a few days ago and in a flury leaving seven of them on the ground with non-fatal stab woundsand has been more than good enough to wake me from my blogging slumber, especially as there seems to be at least enough truth to it that it was reported in the local press. First here it is in Chinese on Xinhuanet, and then here's a good write-up on the blog the Shanghaiist(English), which also gives an idea of how in only a couple of days this has already become something of an urban myth with all kinds of bizarre permutations. I first heard that it happened in Chengdu and involved diplomats and their hitman - take this with a grain of salt. But what I really wonder was where was this guy in the Pig and Whistle in Hsinchu?

...okay, now I finally feel like I'm back in China.... and to make a quick follow-up on the last post, Gmail works fine here, so does Google, for the moment...