Yesterday I got back from a 2-day trip south to Chungking (known here as Chongqing) for a gig on Valentines day. I was especially looking forward to the gig for two reasons; 1. it’s on Valentines day, and 2. it’s an unsponsored hip hop party. Also I got to eat brain on valentines day (maybe I should have eaten heart instead?) for the first time, which was probably even more strange than my own words accompanied by photos can explain. The club that I played at was called Cotton Club and has a website: Cotton Club in Chongqing
I’d say that easily 75% of my gigs are sponsored, if not by a beer company, then by Chivas or someone else (tonight I’m playing a show in Chengdu sponsored by Rio, a Zima-looking fruity alcoholic beverage). While sponsors can guarantee generous and timely payment, they often add some restrictions to the creative control that I have over my own sets. I don’t have to follow a playlist, but if something falls out of the boundaries of what’s considered to be club music, they don’t like it. There are exceptions, but generally speaking, sponsors don’t want to rock the boat as far as Chinese club culture, even with foreigners in the booth. With no sponsors, anything can happen: good or bad. In this case it worked out, and they were looking for a hip hop dj. There was no DJ booth, so I was situated on a small platform with a pair of sideways 1200’s and a DJM-500. There were some b-boys and hip hop fans in the house, including a Chinese guy who I met named Kobe who spoke English so well that I mistook him for a Chinese American. I played a lot of love songs to commemorate v-day, including some Beatles and the 80’s classic “Just the Two of Us”. The place was pretty festive and everyone seemeed to be in the spirit for valentines day. At one point I got on the microphone before asking if anyone else didn’t have a valentine and then played No Woman No Cry, hahahah.
Just before going to the club, I was taken to a Chongqing hotpot restaurant. This province (Sichuan) is known all over China for its hotpot, but I believe that Chongqing hotpot might even be more famous than Chengdu’s (for those who don’t know, hotpot Chinese cuisine in which raw meat and vegetables are cooked in boiling oil on the table in front of you, similar to fondue).
Although I don’t usually eat hot pot unless it’s a special ocassion, I’ve had it many times. It’s the hottest food I’ve ever had, and I’ve searched for the hottest food I could find in Thailand and Laos (one day I’ll do the same in India). But I’ve never had this before. Among the things I ate that night: brain (pig), blood (duck), and tendon (cow). The brain, however, was easily among the most bizarre things that I’ve ever eaten. I welome new foods – no, I insist on them, but I think my adventurous dinner-time spirit took me farther than I had wanted to go.
Brains are really disgusting, I don’t know how zombies do it. I took a photo of all the things that I ate, but make sure that this is something you want to see before you open it. These are very clearly brains. I had never seen anything like that before I saw Indiana Jones out brains out of a monkey skull in “Raiders..”. It was explained to me at the table that eating the pigs brain, while it is almost universally accepted as a stupid animal, will definitely make you smarter. In Leshan I heard that eating beetles made your penis stronger, so this was the first time I had heard something that seemed that ridiculous since then (about 7 months ago). I won’t be eating any more brains, but I still wouldn’t take back that experience.
Aside from being alone again on valentines day, the hotel had to twist the knife in the wound by preparing a heart in the shape of rose petals on both of the twin beds in my room.
Immediately after the gig we went back to the hotel to drop off my equipment and then they took me to some other clubs in the city. I met and hung out with the proprietor of a local bar, a girl named Nicole who spoke great English and also happened to watch 24 and Lost. She provided the narrative for most of the weird clubs that we saw after leaving Cotton Club. Around 4am when I was drunk and exhausted the promoters absolutely insisted on taking me out to get more hotpot. I resisted but couldn’t talk my way out of it in the end. I didn’t eat the brain this time.
The day after valentines day I woke up dehydrated and hungover. I’m recently finding that my tolerance to alcohol has been decreasing, maybe due to the fact that I’ve nearly stopped drinking since finishing the Coors tour. I went to one of the larger more famous streets in Chongqing, called jie fang bei, and had lunch at a restaurant there which had umbrellas hanging from the ceiling.
I think that wraps up the most recent trip to Chongqing. Here’s a final shot of me with David (friend, MC) and the promoter from Guangzhou named Evan.
And the entrance to an underground market, which I thought looked incredibly old and beautiful.