Saturday, November 05, 2005

Happy Avenue-Rock Music!

Given the choice, I'd go to a concert every day. Not just for the music - I like the possibility of seeing something unexpected, I like scoping out the hipsters, I like talking story with friends before and after, I like kicking it for a bit before going.

In the Bay Area I average at least one a week. When I'm really feeling the spirit, I probably catch more than two a week. In China, I've only been to a few. A very few. I hate to say it, but the music I've seen has been pretty much god-awful. 80s cover bands (usually imported from the Philippines) play at even the most prestigious clubs. I was beginning to get all analytical, wondering if the comparative difficulty of finding any CDs beyond Celine Dion and the top HK pop stars indicated a general distaste for pop music in China - perish the thought!

I'm not qualified to do anything more than muse idly, but I was happy to run across a cool band and a cool club on Friday night. The name of the band is, unfortunately, Happy Avenue. The club is alternatively called Club 288, or the Melting Pot. Neither name really fits the club but I like the first one better. It's located at 288 Taikang, an address that took a couple of native Shanghainese quite some time to find on the map.

The club itself is small and cozy and dark and dominated by the color red. That more or less exactly fits my demands for a perfect bar - although it is hard to photograph, so I cheated on a couple pictures here, and used the flash. One unusual thing is the music started at 7:30, ending around 9:30 or 10. That's around the time bands start in San Francisco. It means you have to rush there after work, you can't chill out before, and the concert is the start of a night rather than the end. However, the bar is a little on the small side, and it got packed full. It was hard to move, and it got pretty hot. Perhaps living in Shanghai has numbed me to that, though. And in response to what my sister asked, I held the camera up to take these pictures, I'm not two feet taller than everybody else in the club.

The band was fun! Their first few songs reminded me of the Talking Heads. The singer's vocals were crazy, although mostly a different form of craziness, with strange sounds, and vocals being used as an instrument. Perhaps if I spoke the lingo better, the art-school vibe would have been more distinct - the website mentions some prestigious literary university. My main comparison was, the rhythm section was really on-point and funky. I was also impressed by the guitarist who inserted stylings that at first seemed to clash with the rest of the songs, but quickly grew on you. After the first half of their first of two sets, I was ready to follow them around like the Grateful Dead.

However they didn't quit keep it up. Their music progressed towards slower songs that almost resembled an annoying rock ballad or even a Canto-Pop ballad, yuck. What kept it going was the occasional oddball guitar solo and the singer inserting weird vocal flourishes into the ballads.

There were a few demographics you couldn't help but notice. The band was 10+ years older than the average audience member, who knows why. Also, the audience was 10-20% white people, a huge percentage, mostly they hanged out in the back and drank beer.

When the concert ended I picked up a CD. I like to support the scene and it's all that much easier when a CD goes for $2.50. It's a good album, but maybe I'd prefer a bootleg of the concert. I did like the weird blue-and-red album art, predominated by knives and qipaos.

Finally, on the way back I walked through the French Concession. It's nice, I wish I lived there!

1 comment:

Oaktown Crack said...

You should mail me their CD! =)