There’s a lot of music happening in Beijing and some of it takes place in the most unexpected of locations. That was the case last saturday at Capital M over by Qianmen. Yes, you heard right: there was a concert over in the posh side of town and yours truly managed to get out of dive-bar mode long enough to attend and witness the beautiful coming together of East and West with Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei.
Abigail has carved herself a beautiful slice off of the Americana Roots music pie with Appalachian characteristics. Wu Fei in some ways has done the exact same way on the opposite direction! On saturday, both ladies got together for the coming out party of their cooperation project: Wu Force!
For one whole hour, the two of them proceeded to merge eastern and western roots sounds with flavors as diverse and their personalities: Yunnan meets Alabama, Sichuan meets Oklahoma, Banjo meets Guzheng.
Being a self-professed adopted redneck, I have a deep appreciation for everything banjo and Abigail’s performance was as good as i’ve seen or heard her. She’s just a great talented soul that is a joy to talk and listen to. Wu Fei was a bit of a mystery even though I’ve been aware of her years before i knew Abigail existed. Her instrument of choice, the guzheng, is one that i am not familiar with and definitely do not appreciate as much as i’d like to or should.
As the two of them plucked their way through an hour of melodies and rhythms, I found myself puzzled, memorized, intrigued, fascinated, astonished and left wanting for more! Truth be said, i didn’t like how the instruments and melodies merged in the first two songs. It seemed more of a clash than it was a harmonious union… and then it just took on a different dimension. It was sooo blody peaceful and beautiful... oh yeah, there was also some rowdiness with good old fashioned hillbilly stomping done to Yunnan melodies.
My favorite tracks of the evening were those where a third instrument, the pipa, was brought on! it just appeared to fill a void and bridge a gap between the banjo and guzheng that i didn’t realize existed.
Capital M was a pleasant surprise as a venue with clean sound and pretty darn good equipment for what they are. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a Bad Mamasan gig there anytime soon but it’s a really cozy and intimate venue for low key music. I wouldn’t mind seeing the likes of Mademoiselle play there.
The ladies mentioned that they had 4 songs worked out with a record coming up next year… I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it!