Music is a big deal in Chengdu. Not just for me, a music teacher, but the live scene here is much more hopping than one would expect. The music scene here can be a bit of a conundrum though, as it is in China in general. This is a country where much of artistic expression has to go through the proper government channels to make it to the masses. Which gives live music a special role in the development of a new arts culture as it is more spontaneous, less tangible and less controllable. Foreign Policy featured some great photos on this topic as well as some text for thought here. My favorite quote is “Hip-hop, rock and punk aren’t Western music — they’re urban music,” and that kind of urban development, a healthy venting of frustration and angst, is just want China needs sometimes.
I’m not a fan of heavy metal. But I have a good friend, Riz, who teaches in Hong Kong that is the lead singer of the famous King Ly Chee or in China, 荔枝王. The hardcore band had a show last night at the disney-fied Wide and Narrow Alleys in Chengdu and I took the opportunity to spend the afternoon with a bunch of rock stars. It was a beautiful evening and Chengduren turned out in droves to appropriately vent their angst in mosh pits, crowd surfing and as a former colleague once called it “the hamster wheel of death.” I enjoyed spending time with a good friend and finding out that musicians, no matter what the genre, all do the same things backstage.
They finally practice the stuff they’ve been procrastinating getting right (and the drummer naps).
They play cards with audience members during sound checks.
Perhaps my favorite moment of the night however was just as the sound checks began a Chinese aerobics class began on the square to the right of the stage. Blaring bad techno and Chinese pop, grandmas, aunties and anyone wanting to get their heart pumping stood in straight lines following the aerobics dance instructor, oblivious to the hardcore music festival that was going on in the same courtyard. I’m not sure if its stubbornness, village mentality or obliviousness (it’s kind of hard to ignore a five piece hardcore band) but they kept dancing all night despite the fact that the music was still loud through my ear plugs.