Gig in Kunming, Cici is Inbound

I’ve been in Kunming since Friday afternoon (I didn’t miss my second flight in the afternoon) and have been hanging out with Mael, my French Kunming tour guide.

Kunming is a 60 minute flight south of Chengdu, and also the capitol of Yunnan province, which borders Laos and Vietnam. I expected the weather to be warmer than it is, and I came largely unprepared, with SE Asia clothes. It’s still warmer than Chengdu, though.

I came here for a single Saturday night gig which was two nights ago, but decided to hang out here for 5 days and check it out, since Mael is here and I haven’t had much of a chance to really see Kunming. I’ve had a pretty great time since arriving here and I think I can identify some significant advantages and drawbacks of the capitol of Yunnan as opposed to the capitol of Sichuan. In some respects, this place feels more like SE Asia than China. There seem to be exponentially more foreigners here (especially French people, of whom I’ve probably met two dozen in the 3 days I’ve been here; as opposed to Chengdu where I’ve met two of them in 8 months), the weather is more moderate and doesn’t reach extremes, the sky is blue and the landscape is more tropical, and this place is much more affected by outside culture. This city has better music, and more of it. The gig on Saturday is a fair example.

The club, called Kundu (on the main club street in Kunming) is a Chinese club through and through. I’m not sure how to explain it to someone who doesn’t know what that means. Although Mael took the effort to actively promote the party, which isn’t very common up north where I live, and as a result, the place was jammed with foreigners. This was the crucial first step to the success of the party in my mind. I played an hour of hip hop and then another 90 minutes of house and breaks (30 minutes past the time that I could have stopped), after which Mael and I tagged drum & bass for two hours. This is simply something that couldn’t have possibly gone down the way it did in more than three cities that I’ve played at in China (Shanghai, Beijing, and Canton). Needless to say, the place was going bonkers until 4am and between Mael and I, we played for a combined 5 and a half hours straight, which is definitely some kind of record for me. Mael soon returns to France for 2 weeks to complete some paperwork, and we have a New Years party coming up.

And since it’s nearly Thanksgiving – my sister is with her husband in New York now, waiting to board a plane to Beijing in six hours. I last saw them in Bali at the end of August, so it’s only been three months. They’ve been to Lijiang before in West China, but I don’t think they really had the opportunity to see China as I think they should have. I’ll fix this as soon as they arrive in Chengdu. Here’s a short list of places I’ll take them:

– Sichuan opera. Famous for mask changing. I found the best place in town to see it and I haven’t even been to this place myself. Sip tea and watch masked acrobatics while listening to a 12-piece traditional Chinese ensemble.

– Computer Square. Four buildings, five million square feet, thousands of vendors, and more advertisements than I’ve ever seen anywhere outside of Hong Kong. David (Cici’s husband) will love it, being a psuedo-hobby IT professional.

– Hot Pot. The hottest fondue you’ve ever had. Burn their mouths off, and don’t let them ever forget it. Chengdu is famous for this, and I simply wouldn’t be a good host without showing them this. Getting David to actually try it instead of eat a bowl of rice might be difficult, but my confidence is high.

– The Panda Reserve. The panda is to China what the bald eagle is to America, and the national reserve is in my city. We have to go early when they’re active and being fed. Pandas are very lazy.

– The Art Market. I’ve heard that it’s the largest in China outside of Beijing. If you want art, you can buy it here directly from artists. Painting, calligraphy, sculpture, metalwork, furniture, ceramics; whatever you want, it’s here. My father and I are interested in reselling imported artifacts in Charlottesville Virginia and Cici will bring him samples.

– DVD Shopping. Years ago David and I nearly made a part time job out of a joint DVD duplication operation. He’s still doing it, but I’ve been put out of business by entire rooms full of DVD’s for sale at less than 50 cents a piece here. I’ve described it to him before but I’m positive that he won’t believe it till he sees it.

A Carlsberg promoter called me an hour ago offering a gig in Urumuqi this Friday. I told him I’d get back to him, but I think I’ll go with it, for two important reasons. I’ve never been to Urumuqi, or even really close to it (it’s in NW China near Kazakstan), and Carlberg is my favorite sponsor.

Now to enjoy my last day in Kunming.

Published on November 21, 2005

Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck

Well, that didn’t work. At some undetermined time last night I nodded off on my couch and woke up at 9am halfway lying over. Super cool, I missed my flight. I booked another to give it one more shot this afternoon at 4pm. This is the first time I’ve ever missed a flight. I’m glad it was only a $50 one. I woke up so frantic and with so little sleep that I can’t figure out if I’m dead tired like I should be, or strung out from frantically formulating a backup plan. I’ll listen to Herbie Hancock to soothe my frazzled nerves. Oh hello, Watermelon Man.

Published on November 18, 2005

Digweed in Chengdu

Digweed was here tonight on a Chivas tour, along with Sasha and Deep Dish. Yeah whatever, Digweed, who cares – but it’s hard for people outside of China to imagine how much of a big deal that is here. He played at Babi, a club down the street which I’ve been going to on and off for the last 9 months. I can’t really describe how weird it was to see Digweed playing in a small place so familiar, out here in west China. He played some slower tempo, deeper progressive jams, as opposed to the in-your-face trance that I’ve only heard him play (5+ years ago). The place was pretty much going bonkers, which is why I decided to stay and hang out, despite knowing that I had to board a plane early the next morning. It’s 5am and my plane departs in exactly three hours, so I’ve made the decision to stay up and bear it. I saw a bunch of people I haven’t seen in a while, including a German guy with some weird name that I can’t remember who’s nearly as tall as I am. I never think of myself as the oversized giant among a room of Chinese people, but I tend to ocassionally think of myself in that sense when I see him lumbering over everyone. Cruel Intentions is playing on the tv in front of me, but I’m not really watching. When I’m done on the computer I’ll pack a small bag for Kunming and be ready to go. My sister arrives in five days – I’ll take her to see Sichuan opera, the panda reserve, the art and computer markets, and hot pot.

Published on November 18, 2005

The Shoe Dilemma, New Apartment

    No matter where I go, you elude me.
I see you in the shop, but alas, you are the wrong size and don’t fit my evidently gigantic feet.
All I want to do is wear you because you are comfortable and look nice.

I went to three Adidas shops today to try and invest in a new pair of shoes. All of the stores have the pair I want, but none of them have a single pair in my size. My size is 12.5, not some ape-like size 16. But the search continues, and I always hear ‘dui bu qi, wo men mei you’. Do you know how difficult it is for me to find shoes? Not only because of the continental size issue at hand, but because I’m picky. I’ll go in ten shops and not find a single passable pair. But I found them here and they continue to taunt me.

I moved into a new apartment. I rented the old one out to Rob, an American from Portland. He’ll live out the remaining three months on my contract, while I’m across the street in the new spot. It’s a new complex, this time I’m on the 11th floor instead of 10th, but the major draw of this place is that it’s a larger fully furnished 1BR spot, as opposed to the last one which was a furnished studio. I’m trying to get wireless internet working and it’s been a bitch, so for now I have an unsightly network cable running from room to room to my laptop. The view up here is pretty excellent and my DJ equipment arrives with my sister around Thanksgiving.

I’m throwing a party in exactly a month, at a local club here called the Loft. It’s not really so much of a club as a warehouse, but that’s the reason why it’s perfect. It’ll be a drum n bass and hip hop/funk party. A Parisian drum & bass DJ is coming up from Kunming and besides myself I’ll get a handful of Chinese hip hop DJ’s to play. I’m anxious to make some real music available to people living in this city. Mostly foreigners, but the Loft is right next to a place called Hemp House. It’s a marijuana-themed lounge where you can’t really sit upright anywhere in the place, you have to lie on beds of pillows. It’s a fairly insane concept for the average Chinese person, but this is the kind of place which hosts an exceptionally eccentric crowd. The area seems to be conducive to alternative styles of music and culture which is why we selected it.

I’m listening to a new DJ Shadow mix called Funky Skunk. True to its name, it’s funky.

Published on November 10, 2005

In Mei Shan, Sichuan

I’ve been in Mei Shan for the last two days for 3 gigs here on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s halloween weekend, but in a crowded club there might be 30 people in costume, which I suppose isn’t too bad. I read in the newspaper today that 12 children were trampled in a school when there was an electrical blackout and some of the students yelled “Ghost!” inciting a violent and frenzied dash to the exits.There isn’t a sponsor at these parties, so there’s nothing that they’re trying to sell, which is different. It’s more laid back and casual and less structured. On Friday night they opted for me to hang out with them and drink rather than go back on to play another hour from 1-2am like I was supposed to. Okay, whatever you guys want.

Today they took me to a park where I had tea with them, Brandon, and a pair of Swedish girls. We saw half a dozen or so Chinese people jam out in an outdoor gazebo area, playing traditional instruments and singing. It really sounded more like whining, but I took a video of some of the performance with my camera. Oh, last night I took a video when I was playing which I think turned out well. I help the camera up and pointed to it and everyone went nuts. Now that I have a (another) new domain, maybe I’ll host the file and put a link to it here.

Tomorrow I get back to Chengdu and I’ll meet with a landlord of a new apartment which is right next to where I am now. I’m learning about the flexibility that renters have here which you aren’t really afforded in America, and I’m capitolizing on that to score a slightly larger place to stretch my legs out.

I see my sister in 3 weeks!

Published on October 30, 2005

Worship That?

Let me give you a little inside information about God. God likes to watch. He’s a prankster. Think about it. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does He do, I swear for His own amusement, his own private, cosmic gag reel, He sets the rules in opposition. It’s the goof of all time. Look but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, don’t swallow. Ahaha. And while you’re jumpin’ from one foot to the next, what is he doing? He’s laughin’ His sick, fuckin’ ass off. He’s a tight-ass. He’s a sadist. He’s an absentee landlord. Worship that? Never.

Published on October 26, 2005

Sweet October

I’ve been at home for two weeks now and besides the ocassional gig a few times a week, I’m chilling at home and with friends full time. It’s unreal, it’s like the summer vacation that never ended, except I also DJ… and it’s not hot here.

I’ve been watching a ridiculous amount of movies and recently gotten back into downloading and playing PC games. I beat Fahrenheit and I’m playing Simcity 4, Age of Empires 3, and F.E.A.R. on and off. These hold me off until my turntables and 56 arrive in a month.

I don’t think this makes particularly interesting reading, so I haven’t been writing much, but I posted new photos from Laos and Bali.

I have gigs in Shanghai the last week of this month and then a 3-day gig in Song Pan from the 29-31st. I’ll dress up as something for halloween, but I still haven’t figured it out. In good time.

My new cell phone should arrive today – Motorola E398. All of my Chinese friends love me for getting a new phone. They hate my old one (Panasonic) on the base of it being Japanese. Yes, they really hate Japan that much.

Published on October 19, 2005

Climbing the Sacred Mountain

There are four sacred mountains in China, Emei Shan (shan means mountain, in Chinese) being the tallest of the four, where I just got back from climbing up the length of the mountain and then down from the summit.

At just under 10,000 feet, it was my first mountain climb. It took three full days and it fully kicked my ass. I can’t remember the last time, if ever, I’ve gotten an extended cardiovascular workout like that. The summit goes higher than the clouds, so when you look out and around you from up there, it looks like you’re looking out at the sea – everything is white, but there’s nothing around you as far as you can see in every direction. Lots of unbelievable sights, including dozens of monkeys happily living in their natural habitat, and lazy tourists being carried up the mountain by the most fit Chinese people I’ve ever seen in my life. They crafted bamboo stretcher-like structures which two of these guys put on their shoulders, and they climb up the mountain with some lazy fucker sitting in between the two of them on this bamboo chair. Totally bizarre sight.

At the top there’s a visual phenomenon known as Buddah’s Halo. At sunrise, when the fog rises to the peak of the summit as the sun hits it, somehow a circular 7-color rainbow is naturally produced. As if this weren’t enough, if you stand at the right angle, you can see your reflection within the center of the halo. Centuries ago monks from the monestary at the peak saw this blissful sight and thought they’d reached Nirvana – and, full of unspeakable pleasure, instinctively threw their bodies from the cliff. I saw this with my eyes.

I downloaded a new DJ Shadow mix from Fight Club called Funky Skunk. I’ve been listening to it on repeat for 3 hours. It’s fuckin’ off the hook, and I’m searching everywhere for a tracklisting.

Yesterday I saw It’s All Gone Pete Tong and Wag the Dog, both of which were good, but “…Pete Tong” was fantastic.

Published on October 7, 2005