On Friday afternon I took a 4 hour bus trip to Chongqing for a pair of shows in Jie Fang Bei, which is easily among my favorite places to play in Western China. Not only that, but I had also planned to meet with a photographer of Ma Ming’s and get some new photos taken.
The show on Friday was really a blast. It was across the way from Falling, which in my opinion is the most superior club in Chongqing. The place where I had the show is called Midnight (english translation) and it’s an old club which had been around a long time but doesn’t have quite as much of a following as Falling does. Still, when I went into the club around 10pm it was filled with people, and better still, filled with people dancing and having fun. The gig was fantastic – an hour before I started when I was sitting at a table drinking the MC announced me on the microphone and, to my surprise, everyone cheered loudly. That’s a nice feeling. Something as simple as that probably wouldn’t happen in Chengdu – and it’s exactly what makes Chongqing an unusually prime place to perform. Although I played a relatively short set, the entire thing was sweaty and crazy. A crowd of people were 2 feet in front of me watching me DJ and sweat all over the place (it was hot in there). I laid down some echo effects over breakdowns and had some Donald Glaude-like theatrics which I’ve been trying to experiment for a while. For anyone who doesn’t know, Donald Glaude is a well known American house DJ who’s known for his on stage gestures – it’s as if he’s a member of the throbbing crowd – he goes crazy while DJ’ing at the same time. Fists pumping, hair flying, teeth gritting, and so on. I tried to act like a maniac on stage recently before but the crowd wasn’t wild enough for the crowd or myself to get really into it. Last night was probably the craziest I’ve ever acted on stage. Everyone loved it; it was a smashing success not only for the crowd and myself, but also the sponsors who were present. After the show I went to check out two nearby clubs with some friends but they were both boring compared to Midnight – lots of people, but no one dancing; everyone sitting around. I went to sleep early knowing that I’d get up the next day and meet Ma Ming before going to meet the photographer. As I got back to my hotel room I immediately peeled off my sweaty black thermal long sleeve shirt that I was wearing, hanging it on the coat rack. I didn’t realize the door was still open until a Chinese girl was standing outside my door shocked and excited to see a sweaty shirtless foreigner standing there. I laughed and closed the door. Half an hour later there’s a knock and it’s an old lady asking if I want a massage. I don’t want a massage. “But the girl is here, look!” cues a young girl to sheepishly peek around the corner at me. She haggles and insists as I tell her repeatedly that I don’t want a massage. I’m actually glad she paraded only one instead of a full line up of massage girls to my door.
I woke up the next morning and got a call from my manager telling me that the show that night had been cancelled. Well, that’s really bad news. I was bummed about the cancelled show as I sat in the hotel room watching “Bend It Like Beckham” in Chinese, waiting for Ma Ming to tell me he was ready to meet. I waited for a few hours and then he showed up, looking pretty sick. He had a cold so he had just been to the hospital (this is standard procedure in China). We drove a short way to his friends studio, a 41 year old artist-type named Xia Ke. The bottom floor of the studio looks like a sales office – the walls are adorned with photos he’s taken, mostly fashion photos. There are several clerk-types scurrying around and several people who I assumed to be clients sitting around. I get introduced and we go upstairs into an loft-like area. At one end is a photo studio with an elaborate lighting setup and at the other is a massive collection of womens clothing, both modern and traditional Chinese. After arriving he insists that we sit down and rest, drink tea, and chat. Turns out that Xia Ke is an enormous music fan. I mean enormous in the most dramatic way possible. He asks if I like rock music, I say I do, and then a large suitcase comes out of nowhere. It’s clearly heavy. It’s laid on the ground, opened, and hundreds of CD’s are neatly stacked inside – nothing else. All of the CD’s look like store bought CD’s, still wrapped in plastic. This is his CD collection. He picks up the CD’s and starts proudly showing them to me, and I’m shocked by his collection. Things like:
– Every Pink Floyd album (there are dozens)
– Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton
– Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soul Collective, Soundgarden, Def Leppard
I could go on listing for a long time, but you get the idea. A comprehensive collection of the best rock music to come out of America over the last 40 years. He’s eagerly showing almost every disc to me as I sip tea – almost each one is accompanied by “this one is great!”. I actually agree with him in every instance. His collection goes about as far as Shpongle, which I was surprised and impressed to see there (and I am listening to now, on the bus back to Chengdu). The most memorable part about meeting Xia Ke was his feverish passion for music.
Eventually we got to taking photos, and that lasted for about ten minutes. I didn’t have any specific ideas as far as the photos, so I went along with his recommendation along with the guideline that the photos are for promotional and commercial use. I trust that they turned out great, and I guess I’ll find out in a few days when I see the shots.
Another hour or so and I’ll be back in Chengdu. I don’t think I’ve ever been on such an empty bus before – of the 50 or so seats on this bus, maybe 8 are occupied. An empty bus driving down the highway. I’m on the far back where I can lie down over 4 seats. All the cool kids sit in the back.