Sound of the Xity: Chengdu’s Sound Toy at Yugong Yishan
With all the shows lined up for the Qing Ming Holiday (most of which are under the Sound of the Xity 影响城市之声 banner) it would be quite easy to overlook a show because I’m not familiar with the band’s name. Luckily for me a friend happened to give me a heads up about Sound Toy 声音与玩具, a band he described as sounding ‘a little like older Zhaoze albums…” That was enough to peak my interest to check them out, after all Zhaoze (though mainly their most recent 2 albums) are one of my favourite Chinese bands.
Sound Toy, based in Chengdu, have been on the scene since around 2001. They’ve been through various line up and instrument changes over the years fluctuating between 3 to 5 members. They released their one and only album in 2003 and from what I can tell this was their first show in Beijing since Strawberry 2009. I got to Yugong right on the scheduled start time of 9pm and edged my way through the surprisingly full venue to get as close to the front as possible. Just as I was getting up to the stage singer Qu Bo walked on to cheers from the crowd and started strumming his guitar, being joined mid-song by his bandmates.
Their music is hard to classify, it’s been called britpop, which it’s really not. It ranges from post rock tracks like 不朽 to more prog rock on 奇迹 and a little pop on 伟大说谎者. There’s also a lot of bluesy slide guitar, with two of the three guitarists picking up slide at different points. The one thing I didn’t like was the excessive use of backing tracks to fill in the instruments that weren’t on stage; piano, keyboard, violin, extra drums and even a tambourine! I know these are there on the recorded version, but if you can’t have someone on stage playing them, then just leave them out. The whole point of a live show is to see how the band plays the songs live, it should be more stripped down, less polished and sound more real than the mastered album versions. They are a really tight band though, you can tell they’ve been playing together a long time, they just looked really comfortable on stage. Qu Bo is a great front man, he’s very charismatic, and had the crowd singing along with him on most songs. He also has a gorgeous voice especially on the songs where he uses it as an instrument, rather than singing,
They played for a full 2 hours, moving through the tracks I recognised from their album and others rest of the crowd knew well. Their songs are on the longer side or things, most ranging from 6-10 minutes. And after one of the most enthusiastic calls for an encore I’ve heard in a long time, they came back on for one more song. I couldn’t get many pictures due to the excessive use of the smoke machine, but definitely check out their album on xiami here!