Mao’s other house

It’s been a while since I wrote about a local music show, mainly because I haven’t been to many. I caught a Hedgehog acoustic show at the Stone Boat a few weeks ago, but haven’t posted anything about it. Maybe I’ll get to that eventually. Last night I headed off to the MAO LiveHouse for a multi-band bill that looked pretty promising.

When I came in the door, the girl taking money pointed out a little sign. It said there was no re-entry to the club once you left, though you would be welcome to purchase another ticket to come back in. Cute. I paid my ¥50 and stayed in.
I never definitively caught a mention of a name, but I think this is Fire Balloon. I’ll post a correction if I’m wrong. As you can see, they are typical of Beijing bands in one way: it’s a three-piece with a female member. (edit - It is indeed Fire Balloon, 火气球.)
The lead singer and guitarist, aside from a rather crazy hairstyle, is quite good at his instrument. He doesn’t play a lot of solos, but when he does, they’re worth listening to, with an interesting tendency to work into unexpected notes. His singing is of a mumbly, indistinct style that reminds me a bit of Joyside.
The bassist contributes backing vocals, and her bass playing is excellent. Whether using her fingers or a pick, she is really good, with quick, imaginative lines and solid rhythm. If they have a weak link, it’s the drummer, who is pretty steady in the main but awkward sometimes on his fills. I searched the net for information but came up with very little, just mentions of their name on other bands’ sites.
Next up was SKO, who fit in with the kind of pop punk you hear from Green Day, Good Charlotte and the like. Not the most original music, but well written and very well played.
The lead singer is (from the sound of his accent when he spoke English) an American. He mostly spoke Chinese, however, and seemed quite fluent. Their lyrics were in both languages.
The main thing I noticed is that they are extremely precise in their playing in spite of the rowdy nature of the style. They also have a knack for coming up with sing-along choruses that are very catchy.

Next was a band called Perdel, and they’ve got a very different take on rock than any of the other local bands I’ve seen.
Their set started with a drum solo. Not a long or indulgent one, mind you, and he started out standing up.
Then the bass player walked out and joined in, playing a Rickenbacker-style Fernandez bass.
Keyboards next, with a burbling rhythmic sequence that he altered by fiddling with the knobs on a beat-up old Korg. I have a weakness for knob-twiddling keyboards, so this pleased me very much.
Continuing the progression, the lead guitarist was next. He’s quite good, with a style that mixes good melodies with outside touches.
Finally the lead singer and rhythm guitarist came out and the build-up worked into a song.
They had quite a lot of fans in the audience, cheering and singing along, including a group of girls next to me. This one took video of pretty much the whole show. Stylistically, they’re maybe a bit more poppish and melodic than most Beijing bands, and the keyboards give them a bit lighter edge, though they are nowhere near wimpy. Once again, lyrics in both English and Chinese.
When they finished their last song, there was a drawing when slips of paper with names were pulled out of a box. The winners came up on stage and took over the band’s instruments. The guy in the middle with the guitar was actually able to play a bit, and he sang part of a song while the others mostly just stood there.
The headliner of the evening was Subs, whom I have written about before.
They were pretty much the same as previous shows I’ve seen. This band gets tons of press here (comparatively speaking – it’s not like any Chinese rock gets mainstream notice here), and I guess I can see why, but I find Kang Mao's constant throat-rending screaming a bit much. When she makes an effort to sing, she reminds me a little of Lene Lovich or Pauline Murray, but there’s very little room for that in the full-on assault of angst-ridden noise.
After she screamed her last song, she left the stage to the band and headed for the mosh pit.
And that was a night at MAO’s house (the live one, not the dead one). The venue gets a thumbs up in almost every respect. Good size stage, good lighting system, decent sound, working air conditioners, reasonable drink prices, room for both dancing and avoiding dancers. All for $7, plus $4 for a gin and tonic.

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