The new band of my good friend and frequently collaborator, Kafe Hu.
The new band of my good friend and frequently collaborator, Kafe Hu.
Strawberry Music festival was last weekend in Chengdu, attracting thousands to Poly 198 park in the North of the city. I played on both days, the first day on the Chengdu Music stage and the second on the Electronic Stage. Both days of the festival were fun, but the second was even better than the first due to a much larger crowd.
As mentioned in this post about Tippa Irie.
Last night a UK reggae MC named Tippa Irie performed in Chengdu at a local performance venue called Here We Go. Although I listen to a lot of reggae, I had never heard of Tippa Irie before – judging from the people I’ve spoken to and Wikipedia, it seems that he was most well-known during the 1980’s and 1990’s in England. His performance was very good though, and it’s been a few years since I performed as an opener when the legendary Jamaican record producer Clive Chin came to Chengdu on tour of China. Before that one of my most memorable reggae performances I’ve seen was Jah Faith & Family Tree at Dub Club in Echo Park, Los Angeles.
Of all the songs that Tippa Irie performed last night, this one (“Rebels on the Roots Corner”) was easily my favorite. Brilliant production by Mad Professor on this track.
Read about Tippa Irie on Wikipedia
Over the last year in Chengdu there have been a handful of Tailor Made events in the city, organized by an American expat named Michael. Trying and failing to get a suit made in Chengdu of high quality and reasonable price, he coaxed a group of Beijing-based tailors to visit Chengdu for a weekend, taking orders for custom shirts and suits from dozens of expat customers. Tailor Made was born.
I visited for the first time yesterday and ordered a pair of custom cotton shirts which I should receive in about two weeks. The selection process was a little overwhelming – hundreds of different fabric types, in addition to shirt styles. I took about 10 minutes to finalize everything, choosing a pale blue and patterned white shirt, totalling about $80 US. They offered cheaper synthetic shirts but I’m willing to pay more for cotton.
A few months ago a Dutch friend of mine who’s the co-proprietor of one of Chengdu’s longest running bars (called Machu Picchu) approached me with an offer. He had a large house on the outskirts of Chengdu that he had tried to run a bar at, but couldn’t make it happen for personal reasons.
Having many of my own projects to attend to, my approach was to assemble a cast of collaborators to cultivate a venue to host events throughout the summer. After weeks of trying to pull together all the pieces, it looked like it was going to fall apart. But at the last moment, it came together and we signed a contract on the house.
Now that house is called Dojo, and last weekend we hosted our second event there, which we have been calling Mega House Party. In a nutshell, it emulates the American house party experience in Western China, usually with stunning accuracy.
I’ve been designing and printing event flyers for years, mostly for Disco Death events. When everyone was making A4 size posters, I begun making one meter-tall feature film size posters, which were 300dpi Photoshop files that were multiple gigabytes in size. In 2013, big posters are pretty common in Chengdu. So once again, I’m taking the next step and doing something new, that’s never been done before in Chengdu: digital-only, animated flyers. This will be the first of many.
It will be interesting to see how many people will be doing this by summertime 2014 – I expect it will be a lot. However, since there are few flyer designers in Chengdu, the technical hurdles of creating this kind of flyer are a bit higher. This month’s flyer is around 70 frames, which demands a new workflow that I haven’t yet mastered.
At this event, we cooperated with the Natooke fixed gear bicycle shop in Chengdu to host the after party for their Kill the Hill event on Longquan Mountain. In layman terms, Natooke hosted a fixed gear and single speed bicycle race up a mountain (meaning no mountain bikes allowed) and held the award ceremony at the house.
Around 6pm a mass of 60+ rainbow-colored fixed gear bicyclists swarmed to Dojo like bees to the hive. Everyone had a blast. The next event is in two weeks on Saturday, June 15th.
Fortunately I had my camera with me at this months event and had the opportunity to capture a lot of photos. As it got later into the night and I started playing music and drinking more, I stopped messing with my camera. With any luck, next time I’ll get photos that span the entire night instead of the first few hours. Still, I look at these photos with great satisfaction. The two Dojo events that we’ve hosted so far have been the best parties that I’ve seen in Chengdu in my seven years here. I’m proud to be a part of it and share American house party culture with an international audience.
Here are a handful of photos, with more at the link below:
More photos here: Dojo May Photos
I captured a brief clip of one of the fire poi performers and uploaded it to Youtube:
For the last few months I’ve been working on a new project for the summer: renting a country house on the outskirts of Chengdu, in a rural area affectionately called Flower Town in English. The house had been rented for over a year by my friend Hise, the Dutch owner of the Machu Picchu bar in Yulin, who expanded to Flower Town but decided to back out when business wasn’t booming. We assembled a group of friends to pitch in and rent the house for the summer, and we hosted out first house party there on Monday, the first day of the 3-day national holiday in China.
And what a house party it was. At the party we had:
The only other time in my life I’ve seen a house party on that scale was the house that we called “Triangle”, in Quantico, Virginia. A group of ravers had rented out this enormous house in the middle of nowhere, and assembled the largest house parties I had ever seen. Tons of DJ’s, 500+ people, and just total mayhem. There would be hundreds of cars parked near the house. This was on that level, but in China. Absolutely insane. Miraculously, no one was injured and nothing in the house was broken.
After the party concluded, we stayed at the house for the following 2 days and it was beautiful. The sun shone, the birds chirped, and we didn’t hear a single car horn. It’s a wonderful departure and much needed break from Chengdu.
The name that we’re calling the house is The Dojo. I look forward to spending more time there this summer. And, of course, for the next big event which is on Saturday, May 25th.
This show was actually on the 23rd of March (last month), but I want to put this photo here in remembrance of what was surely one of the best Chinese rock bands I have ever seen. Nova Heart, a Beijing band that has toured the US and Europe but remains little known inside mainland China, their home turf.
What I find as a generalization with Chinese pop musicians in general is that they borrow heavily from a single source. It’s usually another band or DJ that might be relatively unknown in China (like Sublime or DJ AM), but it doesn’t work with international audiences who can spot their source from a mile away. Nova Heart breaks the trend and has a sound all their own.
In their music I heard Zero 7 in the lead singers beautiful voice. I heard David Gilmour and Pink Floyd in the lead guitarists airy riffs. I heard Brad Wilk and Rage Against the Machine in the drummers sparse and heady rhythms, peppered with cowbell. It sounded totally new.