2011 in review: Best Live Music Performances in Beijing (and the worst)

it started with a bang at 2 Kolegas as Buyi, Nucleus, Rustic and Subs rocked the hell out of the drive-in. That was one hell of a good show to start the year and remains in the top ten of best shows in Beijing for 2011. Many bands came, some vanished, others just took a break and some just lost any guidance… how did they fare IMHO? Let’s check it out! Here are some random musings about the best, the worst and the mediocre from my BIASED perspective!

AK47 @ MIDI:

Never been a huge AK47 fan but this past MIDI, they put on the performance of a lifetime! The crowd was all in it at the side stage, moshing, screaming, jumping, singing…. IT was a trance-like state for almost everyone there! The music was heavy, loud, sharp like a razor blade and was the perfect accompaniment for dust storms.

The Black Snakes @ ‘dazeFEAST:

Holly mother of god were these cats impressive! I had no idea what to expect when i added them to the bill other than they were friends of Kang Mao. Boy am i glad! Their energy was out of this world, stage antics second to none, sweating it out and getting the audience in a frenzy! That was just beautiful! Thank you again guys!

SUBS @ King of the Road:

When all was going to hell with drunk people in the audience, douchebags and 2 Kolegas filled to the brim, Kang Mao and her gang came out to deliver a blistering powerful performance to show those pretenders how things were done! It might not have been the band’s finest hour but it was one of their best freaking shows ever, especially with the new lineup gelling together. The amount of energy around the room at that point was stratospheric.

Dong Zi @ Jianghu:

There was something special about that show that just can’t be described in words. At some point, past the songs, things became strangely intimate. The audience stopped mattering and the musicians entered their comfort zone, where all was one. The turnout included the who’s who of folk/roots music in China with Wu Tun, Zhang Zou, Ma Tiao, Guo Long amongst others, some of which even got on stage to play a few songs. It became the folk equivalent of a Ningxia night at 2 Kolegas… Having the musicians so relaxed brought out the best in them IMHO…

ChunQiu @ Gulou 121:

I’ve seen the gang play their share of shows all around Beijing and even in Tianjin… truth be said though, they could have played them with their eyes closed. But on that early October 2011 at Gulou 121, the dragon was unleashed again! The band played with a passion, determination and energy I had not seen in a very long time.

Last Choice @ Mao Punk Fest:

In a sea of baby punksters, Last Choice, hailing from Changsha stood as men! They were heads and shoulders above most bands at this year’s Punk Festival with their demeanor, energy and proper old school punk that had the crowds at Mao Rioting.

Out of Control @ Mao Rolling Stones Tribute:

I don’t expect much from tribute shows usually, especially in China. So when Scott Chen and his gang hit Mao Live like a hurricane, I was not ready for it. The band put on an awesome show with usual suspects and even some of the more recent covers like “anybody seen my baby”… I throughly enjoyed this! They played well, had great charisma, perfect style and even changed some of the songs around. Made me happy!

Abaji @ Jianghu:

A master displaying his craft… this show was so magical in may ways for me. Seeing someone i never expected to see live in Beijing after hearing him in Paris back in 1999. Abaji made me and the rest of jianghu dream that night with an amazing performance. He is a class act! and a talented one that is. The magic of this show was reflected best in an email i got the next day from a reader: “[..] The concert the other evening was fantastic! [..] For me that concert has been the best I’ve seen in my time in Beijing, […]”

Hanggai & La Pegatina @ Mako

As far as fun times go, this show scored through the freaking roof on so many levels. 2 extremely fun and energetic bands, a Mako live house filled to the brim but not uncomfortable, good music, good mood and ok weather… recipe for great fun! The amount of dancing and screaming along that went on inside Mako that night could have been mistaken for a riot if one was not aware… Last time i walked out of a show so worn out and sweaty was Exodus at Mao…. strange if not bad comparison.

Bad Mamasan Album Launch @ Yugong:

I’ve seen Bad Mamsan for pretty much every show they played over the past two years but this one was special. All the friends were there and all the guest performers were there helping the band bring out “jeanine the wolverine” successfully. The Who’s who of Metal came out to pay tribute and have one hell of a good time with over 2 hours of blistering riffs. hell yeah!

Special mention (out of town)

Concrete Blonde @ Hangzhou West Lake Festival

I travelled far for this gig but the band travelled even further to play it. They are one of my favorite bands around and Johnette is everything a lead singer should be. Powerful, charismatic, humble and so freaking talented! The set they played in Hangzhou under the rain, in the mud with the audience just jumping up and down hanging on to every piece of lyric and every chord was magical. I expect them to know Metallica songs but not to be able to sing along to Joey or Tomorrow, Wendy.

Most disappointing Gigs:

Thin Man @ Anda (September 2011)
In the rank of disappointments, this one is pretty big! I used to swear by Thin Man as one of the most underrated and oft-forgotten bands in the country. I insisted that if China had a yaogun hall of fame, they should be one of the first in line…. never more! Dai Qin looked like a wanna be teenager decked out in a velvet suit and going through the motions with a made-for-cctv band… I almost puked in disgust! I was ashamed to see one of the heroes of scene come to that.

Bigger Bang @ Yugong ( Women night) (March 2011)
“crappiest performance I’ve seen in a long long time” is how i described it at the time. Even Pupi’s “barely there” outfit couldn’t save them. words like “boring” “uninspired” “tiresome” come to mind when describing the band that night..and I haven’t even covered the bad music/vocals. A year later after they had rocked the 2010 women show, the band has regressed on a regular basis. It’s entirely possible to blame it on this being their first show together in a while but i had noticed a downward trend too long ago to let it slide. I haven’t seen them since they became known as Da Bang

Voodoo Kungfu @ Mao (december 2011)
This was not actually a bad show but it was so freaking disappointing. Li Na might still be one of the most talented frontman in China but having more than half of the songs coming out of a computer doesn’t cut it. I’ve seen Voodoo Kungfu be great and I have a hard time settling for just an average version… no sir! that’s a cop-out!

Free the Birds (Ziyo)
the few times they played Beijing, they were just completely off sync. What can i expect from a band that doesn’t really play much or practice much together at this point? Much like Voodoo Kungfu, I’ve seen this band be great and it pains me to see them crash and burn the way they have over the past 12 months. They should be ruling the scene and the festivals at the same level as queen sea big shark but instead, they’re almost an afterthought.

Cui Jian @ intercity
I was really impressed back in 2007 by Lao Cui at the Chaoyang Pop Festival. He was on the spot, edgy, controlled the crowd and delivered an awesome performance. This year, he looked old and going through the motions. Voice was completely off, the jumps and screams manufactured… just a shame

There were a whole bunch of other good gigs, some probably even better than the ones above… that said, as far as I’m concerned, the ones mentioned above were the cream of the crop

There was a shitload more bad shows as you might imagine but these could be considered as my biggest disappointments of the year :(

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