Lockdown in Nanluoguxiang or the Days the music died?
Two gigs shut down at two different NanLuoGuXiang venues inside one week, is it simply the police flexing their authority for a little while or the start of something more serious?
I wasn’t at Jianghu last Thursday, but I was getting reports during the night from friends who were. Three songs into their set Jean-Sébastien and Ubuul put down their instruments and called off the show. Apparently the neighbours thought it was too loud and asked the police to pay Jianghu a visit. Really, too loud? They have done something to the sound system at Jianghu, it’s significantly louder than it used to be, but this is Zhang Si’an after all, it’s folk! I’ve seen GAWTMY with 7+ people on that stage, yet a hand drum and guitar is too loud?
I made it to Jianghu a little early last night, so I was able to catch Heath Marshall’s sound check. No problems checking the guitar, but when he started the drums (yes, he plays guitar and drums at the same time, the guy is an octopus!) suddenly there was a lot of discussion and the call came from Tianxiao (BD note: the owner) – no drums, too loud. And not only no drums, but turn down the vocals and guitar. It seems that Thursday wasn’t a once off, the police have been round a few times this week. Everyone was a little on edge about the noise levels, there was even mention of the bar being shut down ….
I hung around for about 45mins of the set, Heath was quite vocally annoyed at not being able to play the drums and the volume was getting lower and lower with each song. Unfortunately it wasn’t really my kind of thing, started off promising with a couple of original blues tunes, but then slipped into random covers … Sweet about Me, Gimme One Reason, a medley of Self Esteem & Save Tonight and Ring of Fire … sorry Heath, but I think you lost me at the Gabrielle Cilmi cover!
I decided to pop round the corner to Salud and see what was happening there. Getting in around 10, the band were still setting up, not even sound checking yet! MAX BoB, a strange name for some fresh faced boys from Xinjiang, with Ubuul on hand drums (his name keeps coming up, I think he’s challenging Mao Mao to be Beijing’s drumming whore!) They finally started just before 11, but three songs in I looked over my shoulder and saw the local jǐngchá trying to get past me to the bar. And so the music was stopped. Nico waited until the police were safely gone and told the boys to start up again. Nothing outstanding, but some nice latin covers like La Bamba and My Way (in Spanish) had the crowd dancing. Nico didn’t seem to concerned about the police visit, writing it off as just part of having a bar in the hutongs … you have neighbours and occasionally they complain. Interestingly while the band was outside smoking we were listening to Highway to Hell – which was even louder than the band had been!
The police seem to be making their presence felt around the area right now, I’m hoping it’s just a temporary thing, maybe something happening now that has them a little on edge, but will be forgotten in a few weeks. Or maybe just some new neighbours who haven’t realized what area they’ve moved in to. I spend a lot of time hanging round these bars, would hate to see them closed down, or not allowed to have live music! (Strange co-incidence that Ubuul was playing in both bands …maybe he can borrow BD’s blond wig for the next show?)