Top Floor Circus: One night in Beijing

Sure, Beijing has the lion share of good musicians as far as the Chinese rock scene goes but other cities also have some pretty gifted acts. Shanghai based Top Floor Circus (顶楼马戏团 / dǐng lóu mǎxìtuán) is one of those! I caught them earlier this year at strawberry where they were one of the highlights of the day so when they announced the beijing leg of their tour, i made sure to triple mark it. Having SUBS opening for them on halloween weekend guaranteed it was going to be a fun evening… and it was!

The show was on a saturday night competing to a bunch of other decent gigs as well as all the major halloween parties in the city but i guess the audiences didn’t not really crossover. Those that showed up at Yugong Yishan were definitely there for the Shanghai band.

SUBS kickstarted things around 10 with all band members in costumes of sort, a little nod to the festivities going on elsewhere. Funny thing about these guys is that their Chinese name “sha bu si” literally means “killed but not dead” which is so befitting! They wasted no time getting the audience screaming along, no small feat IMHO as more than a few of them looked to be SUBS virgins who came along for the Shanghainese only.

There’s isn’t much more i can say about these guys that i didn’t say tons of times already! They are fun, entertaining and just freaking powerful. Granted, they’re not for everyone. This past saturday, I ended up staying in the photographers pit for their whole performance and it just didn’t feel right. It’s the kinda band that requires you swimming in a sea of sweaty people jumping and screaming along.

Top Floor Circus were next. They had spent the intermission and the early part of the evening showing a little video with the likes of Li Tiexiao, minsandao, miserable faith just to name a few all talking about TFC and their coming to Beijing. Just two years ago, these guys were pretty much banned from Shanghai due to their “sensitive” lyrics and here they were in the heart of the capital.. that can be considered progress!

The band set up a projector with lyrics to help us ignoramus Beijingers understand as their vocals are pretty much exclusively in Shanghainese (funky pronunciations they got) which i though was a cool touch and went a long way in helping me. Admittedly, as a foreigner with slightly sub-par Chinese, I missed out on 30 to 50% of what they said but the vibe was there. Songs about express delivery companies, suzhou river or the funky Ayi song set to knocking on heavens doors had the crowd laughing.

The band is good! Musically, they didn’t stick to one particular genre but went through folk, rock, pop, crosstalk and even some pretty darn heavy punk with band members occasionally swapping instruments. Frontman, Lu Chen, is a specimen: part musician, part entertainer, part clown and whole lotta energy plus charisma. He was completely in charge of the public in attendance teasing them both verbally and physically. Last time i saw so many gyrations on stage, it must have been the belly dancers at 1001 nights when i was there for dinner. His strip tease had a few eyebrows raised but what the hell, it’s rock n roll baby, even if you’re singing in a pair of briefs.

It’s hard not to compare Top Floor Circus to Second Hand Rose as they do have quite a bit in common with their charismatic frontmen.. the comparison stop there though as both bands have their respective strengths. and both good!
I managed to drag myself out of a nasty flu funk to make it to that show and boy am I glad I did!

oh yeah, the sound at Yugong Yishan held up for a change… I give them shit usually but this time, they get some credit!

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