Last night was one of those occasional times in Beijing where a foreign band plays. In this case it was the British band Go! Team at the Star Club, the same place where I went for The Soundtrack of Our Lives. I’ve got the band’s first album, and while it’s a bit samey (all the songs very similar), it’s fun, cheerful music, and seemed like a reasonable way to spend a hot Beijing evening.
The opening act was The Verse, a local funk outfit featuring a horn section and four backing singers — a total of 13 musicians. Aside from a few problems with vocal intonation (I think maybe the singers couldn’t hear themselves very well), they were tight, funky and enjoyable. Their inexperience showed a bit in their unassuming stage presence. This kind of music cries out for at least a little bit of choreography from the BV’s and maybe even horns. They varied their style and tempo just enough to keep things interesting, with touches of ska, punk, and reggae tossed in with the funky beats. One of their songs featured a slow interlude in the middle where one of the guitarists sang a bit of a famous (so I’m told) song by Teresa Teng.
The Go! Team seem to take their inspiration in roughly equal parts from action movie theme songs and revved-up cheerleader chanting backed by an electric pep band. The lead singer was even dressed a little like a cheerleader. Most of the songs feature shouted interjections like, “Go!” and “Oh, yeah!” and not much in the way of lyrical or melodic content. The driving beats are energetic, but feature very little variation between or within songs. I did enjoy watching the players switch instruments. At times there were two drummers, and the woman who played guitar also switched off to melodica, keyboard, xylophone, and percussion. I think the second drummer played guitar for a while.
And the main drummer came out and sang a cute little song backed only by a pre-recorded piano.
The evening was sponsored by Bacardi, part of a series bringing acts from around the world to China. I’m sure it’s virtually impossible for any artist to play here without losing money, given how expensive it would be to come so far and the low ticket prices that the market will bear. The entry ticket stub was good for one free drink at the bar, and they had a staff of drink makers (somehow “bartenders” does not seem like the right word) mixing a set selection of rum drinks furiously all night. At ¥20 a drink (about $3) there was a mob at the bar all night, and it took a half hour or so to work to the front. Unfortunately the rudeness quotient was through the roof, and I’m sad to admit that the foreigners were the rudest. I saw one guy order four mojitos, and when the poor girl had them ready, he grabbed them and made a dash without handing over the drink tickets. She ran after him without success, which of course slowed down the line for the rest of us. It was definitely Survival of the Rudest. The whole thing was handled very badly from a logistical standpoint. If you’re going to present that kind of opportunity for mass consumption, you should come up with a way to make drinks more efficiently. The guy in front of me ordered seven mojitos and they were made one at a time, which is very silly considering how easy it is to make them in bulk. Oh, well.
In any case, it was a fun, hot, sweaty, loud evening. RR and I were there with our Chinese colleague CZ, and we bumped into a friend of hers who is a reporter with a fancy professional camera. She promised to send CZ the picture she took of us, so if I get it, I’ll post a copy.