There was a great post on City Weekend last week about the underrated Old What Bar and how it’s so much friendlier than other music venues in this city. I agree with Liz that Mao, Yugong and others are not the best places to go just to hang out and make friends with other music lovers. You got there for the show and leave when it’s done.
But spend enough time out at 2Kolegas and you become one of the extended family of musicians and music lovers that call the drive-in their second home. And that’s just what it felt like on Friday night for the LiDong / Zhao Yiran (LaoDa) show, like you were standing in your living room surrounded by family, watching your brothers, cousins and uncle play.
Both LiDong and LaoDa are originally from Ningxia, as are the 2Kolegas owners, so when I got out there around 10.30 the crew were all there drinking and chatting as any other Friday night. LiDong started around 11pm, to a modest crowd of mainly regulars. They played a great set of their north-west China infused folk songs. The standard run of a LiDong set is LiXia singing with his guitar the first song, then joined by GuiXian singing harmony on the second, then ZhangQian comes in on drums and Guixian plays bass for the third, by the fourth song Wu KeJia joins them on stage and the band is complete. Sometimes for festivals such as Ditan or dazeFEAST they are joined by Marie-Claude on accordian, but I like it better when it’s just the guitars and drums, it has a more rustic, earthy feel. The place was by no means full, but it was a chilled intimate vibe. They ran through all their usual songs, including BaoBei, my personal favourite. The boys have been recording and hope to have an album out this year.
On the back wall of the stage they had set up a screen and during LiDong’s set photos were being projected, pictures of the band performing, having fun at festivals, hanging out with their friends and even a few of LaoDa came up as well. It was like watching the family slideshow, you really felt like part of the it, laughing at them pulling funny faces, or remembering seeing them at Ditan when those ones came up. Everyone drifted outside after the set and conversations continued, friends catching up, musicians chatting to their ‘fans’. I few strains of acoustic guitar were heard so I popped my head inside to see what was happening to find Wu KeJia tuning a guitar for LaoDa. This is the kind of respect they have for him, how often to you see the guitarist from the headline act tuning the guitar for their support act?
LaoDa took stage not long after that to a round of applause from the small crowd who had stuck around. And they were rewarded with a superb performance. LaoDao is a true entertainer, he held the crowd’s attention with his distinctive folk/blues voice and passionate guitar playing. He chatted and joked between songs, smoking and drinking his water, at one point saying he’d rather be drinking whiskey and immediately a glass was set beside him. LaoDa is almost impossible to get a good picture of, he just doesn’t stay still, constantly rocking and swaying with the music as if it’s coming from his body, not the guitar. He played a few songs, not wanting to steal the show from LiDong, but was called back for an encore of two more songs.
If you haven’t heard of him before, look up BD’s post from last year or his Rock In China Wiki page, he’s one of this city’s unsung musical legends, amazingly humble and hugely talented.
After the set people drifted outside again, I had to head home, but I’m sure there would have been a jam session, there always is at 2 Kolegas, it the kind of place where anyone can grab an instrument and get up on stage, a place where musicians come after shows to chill and drink with their friends. A place I love just hanging out, even when there’s no show on.