(2008-06-28: updated with correct band identification.)
There are a half dozen or more clubs in Beijing where live original local bands play. I’ve written about Star Live, Yugong Yishan, 2 Kolegas, and MAO, so now it’s time for D-22. This place is generally regarded as the center of the creative rock scene, and I finally got there a couple weeks ago.
It’s located in the Wudaokou area, a part of town that’s home to several universities, most notably Peking University (known as Bei Da for short) and Tsinghua (it’s spelled the old-fashioned way rather than Qinghua). The area is home to many foreign students and teachers, and there are lots of Korean, Japanese, and other restaurants around. Getting there is easy on the subway. I grabbed dinner at a nearby Yunnan style restaurant, but the less said about that the better.
There were four bands on the bill: Ourselves Beside Me, the Molds, the Scoff, and Nark (or possibly Narks – I’ve seen it both ways). I recognized Ourselves and the Scoff from pictures I’ve seen, but I honestly couldn’t tell you which of the other two was which.
This band was up first, and apparently their name involves the word "mold" either singular or plural, with or without a definite article. Take your pick: Mold, Molds, The Mold, or The Molds. Maybe it's a matter of translation, and their "real" name is in Chinese.
They were a four-piece with a core style that might be called distorted surf-rock. They reminded me a bit of the drunken, slurred basic rock that Joyside is known for.
The leader was a good guitar player, with a great natural feel for what worked without being too cliché.
Here you can see that D-22 has an upper level.
People seemed surprised when Ourselves Beside Me took the stage second – I think they were supposed to play third. They were the band I was mainly here to see.
I don’t know if it’s an artistic choice or they’re just shy, but these two women spent a lot of time with their backs to the audience. Quite a few tunes were instrumental (or nearly so) so they didn’t need to approach the mics often.
Their music is a kind of arty, deceptively simple post-punk. They take their name from the title of a song by another female Beijing band, Hang on the Box, who are in the same vein but rock harder.
As usual, the drummer doesn’t show up well in pictures, but I will state for the record that this drummer is very good, solid and imaginative. I enjoyed the band a lot, and look forward to seeing them again.
Third on stage was the Scoff (which seems to be sometimes written without “the”).
They have a boyishly charismatic lead singer and a guitar player with a Ramones haircut (which seems to be pretty popular in Beijing these days).
Their music is pretty standard rock, sung in a mixture of Chinese and English, and seemed to include a lot of quotes from famous songs (or maybe they were drastically changed covers). I particularly remember “Who do you love?”
They were a lot of fun to watch even if they’re not musical groundbreakers.
Here's a fairly low quality clip from YouTube:
The evening finished off with Nark (or Narks, or The Nark, or The Narks).
This band is a five-piece fronted by a female singer, and I’m happy to report that she’s not a screamer like Kang Mao of Subs.
By this time, decibel inflation had set in pretty solidly and they were loud enough that I can’t say a lot about their style.
Or maybe I just waited too long after seeing the show to write about it. In any case, I enjoyed them and would be happy to catch them again on a bill, though I might not seek out a show just for them alone.
And here's a video clip someone took of them:
And while it’s pretty easy to get to D-22 by subway, getting home to my neighborhood after the trains shut down is a bit of a pain – basically more than I like to spend on a taxi. But such is the lot of a dedicated chronicler of a developing music scene.