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?

Photo from HeathMarshal.com

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?)


a kiwi, a music lover, a traveller & an IT geek hanging around in the 'jing planning her next adventure.

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5 Responses

  1. Alex says:

    It’s probably just temporary, but honestly in tiny venues like Jianghu and Jiangjinjiu I sometimes wonder why the sound system is there at all. Obviously bands that rely heavily on electronics to create their sound are different, but for the folky acoustic guitar & hand drum set, there hardly seems any point. They should have just turned the speakers off and wailed on into the night. See if they can complain about that!

  2. Beijing Daze says:

    This has been happening more and more often lately to an extent that doesn’t make sense to me! As Ruby pointed out, the venues routinely play music louder than their live acts and never have a problem when that’s the case! However, as soon as a musical instrument makes an appearance, the local jingcha appear…

  3. Ruby says:

    Agreed Alex, & I would have been the first to suggest they go acoustic i had I been there on Thursday! Anything to keep the music going. I remember once offering to help carry all the sound gear inside at 2Kolegas just so Wu & the Side Effects could play after the outside curfew!

    Hoping whatever is upsetting the locals / jingcha will be sorted before Ember’s gig @ Jianghu next weekend.

  4. DaMa says:

    I’m one of the Nanluoguxiang residents who can’t take the noise anymore. It’s bearable in the winter, when most bars keep their doors and windows closed, but at this point in the summer, when it’s nice and cool in the evening, I like to sleep with my windows open and it’s impossible with the racket going on outside. I’d have to say that cars honking are my biggest beef, but a close second are the above-mentioned bars that keep turning the sound system to 11. I’d have no problems if they kept things acoustic but, please, understand that some of us are trying to sleep. We chose to buy homes and raise families here a long time ago, when NLGX was just another quiet hutong. I accept that things change, but that doesn’t mean that me and my neighbours don’t have a right to complain when we think things get too loud. I know that many of the street’s elderly residents have made their case to higher authorities which is why these bars are getting frequent visits from the police. These visits will continue unless bar owners take measures to cut down the sound.

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