DazeFeast 2012 at Beijing's small but mighty club Dos Kolegas (http://www.2kolegas.com/) proved to the 1,000 plus crowd that Beijing truly is the hub of the Asian music scene. With the Beijing air quality index at an impressive level of 239 (health warnings of emergency pollution conditions) and impending clouds in the sky, nothing could hold back this critical part of the World Music Days June 23rd celebrations in the capital city.
Starting at 4 PM and ending at 4 AM, the 15-band (local save one band) showcase celebrated the diversity, dedication, unity and power of the Beijing music scene.
The set list was impressive not only in number but in range of sounds and styles: SUBS, Fever Machine, Bad Masaman, Amazing Insurance Salesmen, Residence A, Randy Able Stable, Flying Mantas, Not There, Perpetual Motion Machine, Devils at the Crossroad, Lulu Galore, Capoeira Mandinga, Richard Todd, bluegrass Jam, Sorry Darling for my Silence, Li Xia and Ember Swift.
Arriving on the scene at 8 PM, yours truly was still suffering from a toxic street taco from the night before. After a mere glance at the crowd, the feeling of enthusiasm and pure party spirit made it clear: there was to be no backing out. I was in it for the ride until 4am. Dos Kolegas put their awesome back yard to good use: beer tent, food tent (think of lamb meat on a stick and noodles), pool table tent, DJ tent, and hanging out tent were packed out. Inside the small club, the sound system was getting a full workout; things were running smooth as silk. Purple Smog, tribute band to the mighty and sacred Jimi Hendrix, was playing their last gig ever as I entered.
Lots of familiar muso faces were around, and the first person I ended up talking to was owner of Temple, another major club and hub of the local music scene. Clement Berger has been in Beijing for 8 years and when asked about the Beijing music scene, said the following: "There are different sounds, different styles. The scene is new and young and moving a lot. There is punk, metal, electric, traditional, rock. 10 percent of it is good. 2% of it is excellent. Tonight will be great. Look, it's free and that is awesome. The bands are not in it for the money. Just enough for a taxi home."
I then watched the Flying Mantas and have to say; they are talented musicians with a wave surfing (not crowd surfing) sound. If you ever want to feel like you are on a surfboard in the middle of Beijing, this is the band to see. What more do you want? Suntan oil?
The next chat was with Joris, the guitarist and singer from the wall-of-sound Devils at the Crossroad. When asked about the Beijing music scene he stated, "It is the best music scene in Asia due to Beijing being an expat and local melting pot." The changes he has seen over the last six years include, "The quality of bands and venues. Dos Kolegas is the best."
Devils at the Crossroad (http://site.douban.com/devilsatthecrossroad/) always pull in a crowd with their shredding, killer guitar riffs, strong stage presence and heavy head-banging sound. Needless to say, they've done it again and remain one of Beijing's front running bands in my opinion.
I was lucky to catch up with the event organizer, the legendary Badr. When asked about the difference between last year's DazeFeast and this one he said, "It's bigger, it's better organized. Now bands come to me. I don't have to find them."When questioned about where the music scene is currently at he stated, "It's at a nice stage. It is one of the most vibrant music scenes I have come across in a long time. It is happening, it is growing, it's vibrant and it is mostly amateurs so it is more genuine. It is open-minded and warm-hearted…… " How is the scene changing? "Heavy metal is on CCTV (Chinese Central Television) now and there is rock in ads for Adidas and Converse."
When asked why Beijing is the centre of the music scene in China/Asia he affirmed, "Beijing is a city of culture and music is culture. Musicians come here from all over China and this is what we have today... look at this" (he points to the 1000 + crowd, up from 7-800 last year despite a major downpour)
One of the more surprising acts of the night for me was Randy Abel Stable (http://site.douban.com/randyabelstable/). A foot-stomping, banjo picking, harmonica blasting ho-down fit right in to the night's killer mix of music. Crowd sing-alongs, quirky lyrics and straight up bluegrass left me craving for some Jack Daniels and another set by these guys.
The SUBS (http://www.purevolume.com/subsbeijing) took the stage around midnight. The SUBS have become a bit of a buzzword and hopes are high for them. Their 80's punk sound and look is far from original but certainly new to Beijing. The female vocalist puts a lot of theatrics, stage makeup, jumping and fantastic clothing into her sets. Actually, these guys (and gal) are pretty in your face and a very high-energy band. For a young scene, it is no surprise that they are gathering a bigger and bigger following. They get a good mosh-pit going, too. The first time you see them it is quite a spectacle. But then the second and third times are very much like the first and offer nothing new. However, the SUBS have packaged themselves well and are sure to go far.
I also got to check out a band called Fever Machine (http://site.douban.com/thefevermachine/), who came all the way from Shanghai just to kick it for one night. Tight shredding guitar solos with an air of heaviness, a strong driving sound with flashbacks of Sabbath, they added plenty to the night of musical delight. I personally think they should all move to Beijing. That way we could see them more often.
Next up, I spoke with Zhang Si'an (Jean-Sébastien Héry, http://zhangsian.com/), front man of the Amazing Insurance Salesman It would take a full feature to get into what he does, so let me just call him "Mr. All Things Music In Many Languages And Styles." When asked where the scene is headed, he answered, "No idea where it's going. It has been a long road."When questioned on who is going to break big in Beijing, he stated, "Apart from us, don't see whom." I would have to agree.
Their amazing set at DazeFeast featured their attention grabbing fusion rock sound and rounded it off with beer bottle slide guitar, full-on crowd interaction and crowd surfing. These guys, to put it simply, never disappoint. Add into the Insurance package an amazing drummer (think Animal in the Muppets) and a red-trouser wearing pipe-smoking maniac of a bass player. Yes indeed. If I could turn myself into a fancy record-producer, I'd be quitting my day job tomorrow.
Beijing metal-god Jaime from the popular Bad Mamasan (http://site.douban.com/www.badmamasan.com/) had some good insights to share about the local scene.
When asked where the scene has been he alleged "Developing." When questioned where it is going, the answer was: "Developing faster. There are going to be some real pop stars coming out of these groups. Things are accelerating."His prediction of the breaking band? "The K. Actually a number of bands could with the right producer."Other predictions? "We are going to blow the roof off of this (M*F*) place tonight!"
When asked what makes Beijing the centre of all things music, he said, "It's the political seat of the country, very working man. The Northern China mentality goes well with art, art is dirty."
Bad Mamasan is a true homage to old school heavy metal. Their set consisted of ear-splitting covers complete with power stances. Head-banging metal devotees went wild. Broken strings, flying hair, fast riffs, soaring vocals and a high-speed mosh pit. Is metal dead? The unequivocal answer is 'Hell No!' Don't believe me? Well, then go see Bad Mamasan.
At 3 AM, Not There took the stage. How could a band possibly follow up from a day like that? Answer: They could. The hard-core hanger-on-ers were still going strong. Some were muddy (it had POURED down earlier), some were drunk. And there was some super free-style dancing going on. And yes, we were all in a daze.
Not There (http://nottherebeijing.com/) had an electro-keyboard, smooth solid bass, and funky snazzy drum sound featuring electronic calls to outer space: it was a Close Encounters of the Third Kind vibe and what better time for aliens to land in Beijing than Dos Kolegas at 4 am in the morning? The perfect closing to a perfect event, indeed.
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