How does twenty-first-century indie music sound when it’s only been around for twenty years? Where do alt-leaning kids hang out in a place that didn’t have access to international cultural context until the ’80s? We went to Beijing’s leading independent music label’s fifth anniversary concert to find out.
The Chinese music scene exploded in the early 2000s. Maybe Mars, a record label founded in 2007 by Michael Pettis (who also owns the new XP and now defunct D22 venues), rode the current, releasing several dozen albums to date. The venture continued to grow, leading to international liaisons with events like USA’s SXSW festival and UK’s ATP festival, as well as key producers, including Martin Atkins (Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke) and Manny Nieto (Health, Female Demand, Tobacco).
Today, the Maybe Mars artist roster includes every from post-rock to neofolk to experimental electronica. The fifth anniversary concert’s lineup featured Yang Haisong (PK 14) DJing, Xiao He, Liu Kun (Low Wormwood), Zhan Pan (The Gar) and Yang Fan (Ourselves Beside Me), Mr. Graceless, AV Okubo, Chui Wan and Carsick Cars, whom you may have seen touring with Sonic Youth in 2007.
Yu Gong Yi Shan, one of Beijing’s popular concert venues, was all smoke and noise and snazzy scenesters as we squeezed our way to the upstairs lounge to snag interviews and ogle outfits. It seemed the whole city came out to play that night – we ran into at least half of our contacts, including designer Vega Wang, and Eddie Tso from avant-garde fashion emporium, Medium Rare (footage coming soon).
Snagging a cozy booth for the night, we spent a long while talking to Josh Feola – one of the most tuned-in folks in town. After discovering his bilingual culture blog, Pangbianr, while researching the Chinese music scene, we had to meet him. A music and zine aficionado (also archeologist!) from Texas, Josh has lived in China for four years. He writes about the local underground scene, juggles various XP club endeavors, and plays drums in Chui Wan. He’s also doing his part to curate China’s emerging musicians internationally and helping cultivate a more cohesive alternative culture in Beijing*. In this segment, Josh, along with other musicians and fans, sheds some light on what’s happening in China’s unique cultural environment, talks about whether “the Beijing sound” has emerged, and tells us where the cool kids go for fun.
For dessert, a supplementary list of bands and venues from this segment:
- Josh Feola’s up-to-date Chinese music and culture site, pangbianr.com and its Facebook page
- Maybe Mars record label
- Rock in China - online knowledge base about various Chinese music
Art Events and Districts
Yanji Leng Mian or Yanji Cold Noodle restaurant (Korean-style noodles) can be found here: Hua Tian Yan Ji Leng Mian 181 Xisi Bei Dajie, Xicheng District. 6615 3293. 华天延吉冷面, 西城区西四北大街181号
*One part of the interview didn’t make it into the video’s final cut, but bears mention here: when asked whether he felt that Chinese emerging music is being curated primarily by foreigners, Josh said that unlike in Shanghai and Hong Kong, an expat music curator like him is the minority in Beijing.
Words by Zoetica Ebb.