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Rock 'n' roll in Chongqing

Viewed 1254 times 2014-3-31 18:25 |Personal category:Chongqing life|System category:Life

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Last Saturday my British friend Fran told me about some bands that were playing that night at a bar called Nuts in the Shapingba (沙坪坝) district of Chongqing. I'd been to that bar before and found it to be a cool little place with decent black beer at the very reasonable price of 10 RMB a bottle. I had no idea what the bands would be like but was up for giving it a try.

The first band that played were called “The Deep Green Sea” (“深绿海“). They played a slow, shoegaze style of music with distorted guitars and a host of electronic effects. Their vocalist was fantastic, with a strong and powerful voice with touches of Amy Winehouse and Florence Welch. She also had a commanding stage presence and moved like she belonged there. After the first song I felt that my 50 RMB was already well-spent. I was so chuffed with the quality of the band. It was also great that the sound set up was professionally done, with no problems with the mix and no embarrassing technical hitches. The sizeable crowd (nearly all local, with the odd foreign face) soaked up the enthusiasm of the musicians and responded with heartfelt applause and loud cheers.

The second band was an all girl band called “Miss Hormone” (“荷尔蒙小姐”), a five-piece with acoustic guitar and vocals, electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards and effects. They reminded me a lot of the Brazilian band “CSS” and also the British band “Foals” and mixed a largely riff-based rock and indie sound with dance and electronic elements. The sheer joy that the band felt in playing spilled over into the audience and we cheered each song successively louder. With each song in the set the band seemed to get tighter and more alive. The crowd loved it all, singing along with the choruses and jumping to the beat.

After “Miss Hormone” had finished playing we went up to say hi. My friend Xiaofan had been taking photos with her big Canon SLR and promised to send them to the band later. We got a photo with the band which was cool. We also bought them a round of beer to say thanks.

A bit later I got talking to the bassist Mingming. She joined the band after first seeing them perform without a bassist and then asked if she could join them. She has only been playing bass for two years and is entirely self-taught, which is pretty impressive. But as she explained, when you have a group of friends with a shared goal you help each other and you learn pretty quickly. The band hadn't made any money out of this trip to Chongqing (they formed in Chengdu and are based there) as their pay barely covered their expenses for train tickets and so on. Nevertheless, they were out to get experience and have a great time doing what they love.

I think this is so fantastic to see in China where it seems there is considerable pressure from society to succeed academically, get a stable job and generally to play it safe rather than follow your dream. A friend of mine from Chongqing called Yue who I met at university in Sheffield has just moved to Shanghai. As she explained to me in a lengthy email, she always dreamed of living and working there and it took a lot of courage for her to make the decision to leave her family and stable job in Chongqing behind. She told me about the pressure and expectations that she feels her generation faces from society and their families. My British colleague Matt observed the other day that there is quite a negative focus to the Chinese education system: you are told that if you don't do certain things you won't be able to succeed rather than being told that if you do certain things it will benefit you in the future. Thus the fear of failure is predominant. I think he makes a good point. Therefore I'm so happy to see people like Yue and Mingming and her bandmates taking these big steps to do what they really want to do and ignoring those who might discourage them or try to hold them back.

This was a brilliant night out with some great music. I'm really grateful that I got to chat with Mingming and her bandmates. I wish both “The Deep Green Sea” and “Miss Hormone” every success and hope that I can see more live music in Chongqing in the near future.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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