I just got back from Lanzhou, which was incredible. Before leaving, people told me that it was a pretty dreadful city, because it’s in a valley and very dry, and also has a lot of pollution. But I found it to be anything but dreadful. Like the rest of China, the people are fantastically kind. I made what I feel were some good friends, Lysand, who’s the manager of the club that I played at, called Focus Club, and King, who also works with the club. Both super cool guys; Lysand really extended himself and took me around the city, showed me cool stuff that he thought I should see, and took me to get Lanzhou naorow lamien (which are delicious hand-pulled thick noodles).
The gig itself was one of the best I’ve ever had. The club is enormous, and brand new. It’s made up of three separate areas; one is a lounge and restaurant which has a live band there every night, called Blues Man. A good blues band in China is an incredible rarity, and they were really fantastic. They had a saxaphonist, two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer, a guy on keys, and four singers (three of them women, who seemed to alternate). The atmosphere in there was awesome. And I just love the lounge atmosphere, more than the club atmosphere. One of the singers, Angel, was super beautiful and dressed really sexy, which I haven’t really seen yet in China until I got to Lanzhou. Reminded me of California. The restaurant in there was also unbelievable, especially for China. They served mostly American and French cuisine, but had a lot of pasta and Italian-themed dishes as well. All of my meals and drinks were free for three days, and I got a really proper introduction to the people and atmosphere of the place when I arrived and met Lysand. I got there at 10:30pm the night before my first night playing there, and he asked if I had eaten. I said no, he took me to the lounge, and asked if serloin steak was okay. Five minutes previously I was wondering where I was going to eat and if I’d have to wait until morning.
The two other parts are the club area with the DJ and the KTV area. The club section was pretty ordinary as far as Chinese clubs go. Hard to quickly describe to someone who’s unfamiliar with Chinese clubs, but they all have the same decor and general theme. It’s a pretty large room with the bar in the center and many tables and couches situated all around the room. The singers from the lounge area do live MC’ing to hip hop and some house music before the main DJ act at 11pm, and they’re actually pretty good, although I can’t understand what they’re saying. Another plus about Focus are the dancers. There’s a pole behind the bar on which there’s also a nearly-naked girl dancing, which I haven’t seen outside of strip clubs in America. I played there two nights in a row, both times there were dancers on platforms next to the DJ booth (and last night there was one right in front of me). I couldn’t believe how they could get away with wearing so little; hardly more than a bikini. Truly memorable. The first night I played my usual funky/disco house, a lot of Basement Jaxx, Daft Punk, DJ Dan, artists along those lines. They liked it, but they didn’t really go off like they did last night when I played techno all night. That undoubtedly goes up with the best gigs I’ve ever had. I was in the mode, totally comfortable and enjoying the music because I never play an entire set of just techno, and people were going off. In short; perfect.
The third and final part of the establishment is the KTV area. The KTV area consists of private rooms for karaoke. I’ve been highly suspicious of these rooms because in Long Quan I see people doing a lot of drugs in them, and there are always beautiful girls hanging around them. King told me the real deal – the club employs 200 women based on physical criteria who are more or less prostitutes who cater to the “under the table” desires of customers. It really surprising and interesting to me, because in America I don’t think there is a prostitution “scene” like there is in China, or at least I know nothing of it. But everything that I think I do know about it leads me to believe that it’s very seedy and dangerous.
China gives me anything but that impression. The women who assume this role look like very sane and normal, and usually really beautiful, women. It’s difficult for me to attempt to consciously evacuate the stigma that I’ve always associated with people who have money for sex, but maybe it’s better that I don’t do that. Anyway, the KTV area at Focus is extravagant like nothing I’ve seen anywhere in China. It’s reminiscent of Las Vegas, and carries a Greek mythology theme. Everything is deep red and gold, pillars and mythology figures are everywhere, and there are giant chandeliors. The number of KTV rooms total at 35, which is an absolutely enormous amount. Lysand took me inside one and it was real cozy. A large room with a giant projection TV hooked up to a computer and satellite tv, leather couches with glass coffee and end tables, and a great 10th floor view of Lanzhou.
I have much more to write but I think it’s a good idea that I add some money to my cell phone now so that I can have it working, since it’s been out of operation since I left Chengdu. In the Gansu province I can’t buy a SIM recharge card that works with my Sichuan phone.