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2014: The Year in Beijing Music
20+ music scene pundits insert their two cents on the highs and lows, mids and subs that made Beijing hum in 2014. Banner year everyone!
By Dec 19, 2014 Nightlife


Wow, a lot of good records came out in China this year! And there were many great live gigs. Really a banner year for the Beijing music scene. I have my own thoughts on the topic, but first let's hand the mic over to these 20+. The highs and lows from people who know, or at least went to a whole bunch of shows:

***

Shen Ye (manager, XP):


Best shows?
I liked the KID MILLIONS show at XP on Nov, 7, 2014, it blew my brain out. I was standing there for hours, couldn't get my soul back. It gave me an another way of thinking: Drum & Percussion looks very simple, but can reach a philosophy, a zen.‍

Another show that I enjoyed very much and surprised me was XP ZaoFang show series - psychedelic GuiYang, over ‍two days, I totally fell in love with the music, especially the band RUN RUN RUN. I'm glad that I dug them out and brought them to Beijing. I'm not too modest to say that th‍ey could be the best new band of 2014. The guitarist XiaoDou is amazing, he's a genius! ‍

Worst?
To me, there's no worst show. Some have the worst organization and unprofessional musicians. When I get chance to see this kind of show, the best thing to do is run away from it as soon as possible. Like some nosiy, over-commercialized music festival.‍‍‍

Best or most interesting music festival experience this year?
Best interesting music festival experience is climbing the fence and falling on the security guy. Of course, I got kicked out. Oh, yes, it also can be the worst. But I got a ticket finally.‍ Worst festival experience: some nasty bastards pissed in my beer can, I almost drank it. :(

Best albums?
I'm very much looking forward to Chui Wan's new album coming out, but that will be in 2015, as they just started recording.

I like Alpine Decline Go Big Shadow City very much. The Maybe Mars releases in 2014 are all quite good.‍



Anything else worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?‍
Though some people have said that making music can't make a living without selling CDs, I still believe that more and more people are willing to come see good live music and pay for it, so expect audience support and musicians, organizers, and venues to be more and more important in the music scene. Planning a show, promoting it, discovering good new bands, and hooking up the audience's heart, it all depends on them.

Yang Haisong (P.K.14 / Psychic Kong Studio):


Best show?
Tortoise's show at Yugong Yishan, this is the best show I went to. I can't tell you why, it just happened, just perfect.

Most interesting music festival experience?
I would say this May's Strawberry was very a special experience for P.K.14. After our show was cancelled because of heavy winds, we went to XP to do a free show, that was so much fun.

Favorite Chinese/Beijing album(s) of the year?
Dear Eloise's Farewell to The Summer.



Best new band?
Hiperson from Chengdu.

Yan Jun (Subjam):


I'm really inactive this year. I know nothing except the shows I was involved with.

In June and July I organized and performed 5 living room tour concerts with impro committee (Yan Yulong, Liu Xinyu, Li Qing, Li Weisi, John Wilton, Zhu Wenbo, Vavabond, A Ming...). those are the best concerts. Because I feel to have perfectly been in a group. Not just musicians, but also with audiences and the environment. All together. We played everything everywhere: wall, kitchen pipe, fan, telephone, plastic bag, audiences themselves; on roof, in door, in the yard...

This is only thing I have in my mind. haha.



Zhu Wenbo (Zoomin' Night / Douban "Behind the Billboard"):


Best shows?
April 18: Pairs at XP
August 12: Party is Over #1
May 4: Motorpsycho

What about the worst?
90% of concerts I've been to are concerts I organized myself. I don't want to say bad words to friends, right? Well, even if they don't play very well, or I don't have an interest in them, I could still find their brilliant point.

But the worst concert was March 12‘s Spot The Goth Pussies Device, cause this Russian noise Jazz duo didn't even show up! They never told me the reason, and didn't apologize. I'm afraid they drank too much vodka and died on the plane.

And Tortoise. I'm really not a Post Rock fan, Post Rock is boring, even for the Post Rock master.

Favorite albums?
Top 1 must be Kidney's Better Late Than Never (相见恨晚). And also Dear Eloise's Farewell To the Summer (跟夏天说再见), they are my favorite Beijing albums.

And I want to mention Colorful Z-bra's Youth, and Pairs' Maleika On Casley, both of them are the albums I heard most this year.



Best new band of 2014?
Old faces made some NEW projects. I mean, new ideas: Late Troubles, Rat ’The Spy‘ 51.

And Gao Jiafeng, a great saxophone musician (in fact he is a multi-instrumentalist); Wang Xu and Josh Feola's percussion solo performance gave me deep impression.

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
I feel that lots of bands began to write Chinese lyrics. Some of them are new bands, they start it from the beginning; others have some English lyrics background, they are trying to do some research for the mother tongue. 6 or 7 years ago, most indie rock bands in Beijing sang in English. Will we now have a 'Chinese Rock Revival'? I hope so. Most people said that English or Chinese is not the point, good is the important thing. But I think that if you could really write some good things and want an audience to understand, why don't you sing in your mother tongue? If P.K.14 can do it, you can do it, too.

And I want to mention Li Jianhong. In fact in the early days after he migrated to Beijing, I think his performance was not good as before. Maybe he wanted to make some change, still in the process of discovering. But this year, Li has been reborn. In fact it is very hard to describe the difference clearly, but you can feel it. He is close to becoming a real guitar master.



Darryl Pestilence (Bastards Of Imperialism / Beijing Drunk Fest):


Best shows?
BEIJING DRUNK FEST was my favorite show this year but I have to disqualify that answer because I was involved with the event on a personal level.

As simply a spectator, I'd have to say SCHOOL Bar's New Year's show. Yeah, technically it was partially 2013, but it bled into 2014 and it was a magical night. Everyone there was in a festive mood and the room radiated positive energy and kindness. Add to that the actual card: FREE SEX SHOP, THE SECRET CLUB, THE DIDERS, BEDSTARS (with a guest appearance by Ricky Sixx) and LONG all delivering solid sets resplendent with drunken joy. I even spotted Nevin Domer dancing at the end of the night. Not slam dancing either. That's like viewing Haley's Comet I think! Seriously though, the intimacy and energy level of that night was one of the most positive live event experiences I've had in China. Genuine "Good will to man," stuff, and a great way to start 2014.

THE SECRET CLUB @ SCHOOL Bar, Beijing 12-31-2013 from Shanzhai Laowai on Vimeo.



Second best show: D. O. A. at TEMPLE this past May. An undercard loaded with goodness (THE FLYX and GUMBLEED, plus Germany's SICK TIMES) and being able to see Joey Shithead do his thing one last time. It had been 22 years since I saw D. O. A., and Joey still has it. Watching young Beijing punks watch 58 year old Joey tear through a guitar solo with his teeth was awesome. Definitely a, "you guys can be doing this too at my age," moment that I sincerely hope resonated with some folks.

WORST SHOW: I don't want to offend any bands. We all have our off days. I'll just say worst venue for live music - OLD WHAT. Shit lighting. Shit sound. Overpriced drinks. Even the "best" show there is usually a mediocre experience. A 4* band with all of their shit together will still end up with a 2* show at best.

Most interesting music festival experience this year: PUNK-IT-SPRING 4 day music festival at SCHOOL Bar this past April. No zhuangbi bullshit. No fights. No bands getting shorted money. A diverse range of sub-genres and bands from outside the bubble (SUCKER, THE BRICKS, PUMPKINS, 3 KINGS, HANGOVER, etc.) were given a spotlight. it also brought together MISANDAO and DEMERIT under one festival banner (different nights) and I don't think that would happen under any other circumstance. It also had a balance of newer and more established bands, unlike the cronyism of BEIJING PUNK FEST. I hope Xu Cheng does it again in 2015.

Favorite Albums made in China this year: SMZB's A Letter From China. There isn't any I-Phone 6 carrying, Dr. Martens wearing fashion-punk bullshit postulating with bogus street punk "oi" there. Real deal, thought-provoking punk rock written and performed by people who practice what they preach. Also, THE DIDERS e.p. High-energy, ear-bleeding jet-punk sorely needed in China. No fashion bullshit. No generic street punk tropes that seems to be the de rigueur with many young Chinese punks. It was a breath of fresh air for Chinese punk.



BEST NEW BAND OF 2014: FREE SEX SHOP. They work hard and have improved a hell of a lot since 2013. Young ladies playing old school punk in an otherwise unfortunate "boys club." I always have fun when they perform. No pretense, just pure three chord fun. Definitely want to mention LUVPLASTIK too. What they have in common with FREE SEX SHOP: every performance is high-energy and fun. Dan's probably the best bass player in Beijing right now. The Beijing Mike Watt. They're chameleons, too. You can book these guys with punk bands, metal bands, prog rock and math rock shows, experimental shows... Real boundary breaking stuff in what they do and you're always guaranteed a great set.

Anything else?
I think 2014 was the year Beijing punk had a serious infusion of new, creative blood. DISEASED FRUIT, OWN UP, TINNIE WOLLIE, FOUND AMBER, the return of Jia Pei from Little Fast Hand, the return of Chinese Modern Guys with a new line up, three punk music festivals in one year, state-run China Radio International devoted an entire program to mainland punk music via THE SOUND STAGE - and I don't think that had ever happened before; plus the second years of THE DIDERS and FREE SEX SHOP going strong. All of that in addition to veteran bands like SHOCHU LEGION, OUCH, GUM BLEED, DEMERIT, THE FLYX, END OF THE WORLD and HUMAN CENTIPEDE playing consistently throughout the year really made this an incredibly strong, creative, vibrant renaissance for punk music in Beijing.



Blake Stone-Banks (87FEI87):


Best shows?
I went out on a weeknight to see THEESatisfaction at DDC not expecting too much, and it turned out to be one of the most stunning sets of the year. The Earth Eater album launch still haunts me in a good way as well. But the prize goes to Helsinki's Randy Barracuda, who ripped me a new ear canal when he landed at Dada with his 808 and proceeded to abuse the machine in every way imaginable. I'd never heard a live set as slinky as that. He was also one of the most fun partiers the capital has ever seen.

Best albums?
I was ecstatic over the Labareda compilation. I didn't know that American Booze in Shanghai was a producer as well as a DJ and his track on Labareda was solid. Meng Qi had stellar tracks on both Labareda and Taxeee Tapes 3 released at the beginning of the year. I cannot say enough great things about Meng Qi.



I don't think it's been released yet but the Mongolian singer Talin recorded an album of post-folk music that's field with transcendent vocal hooks floating atop a river of khoomei throat singing. Hands down the best locally produced record I heard this year.

Joshua Frank (VICE China / Hot & Cold):


Best gigs?
Man Forever at XP: Kid Millions' super-minimal percussion-psych ensemble with Wang Xu just killing it on the bongos

Chui Wan and Forests at XP: The first time I saw Chui Wan use their 100RMB domestic imitation Farfisa. Also the first time I saw Yan Yulong seriously trying to channel Omar Souleyman (headscarf, hand gestures and all).

Earth Eater at 4Corners: I don't know how to adequately describe this except that the show involved mandatory champagne-tequila cocktails, Jordan Thomas Mitchell on- and off-stage attacking unsuspecting audience members, serpentine stage dancers and a Mongolian throat-singing coda. I was filming it and got hit by a flying glass bottle.

Best or most interesting music festival experience?
The BEME set at Dada with JFI, iimmune, FM3, FAR/∞, Menghan and Hashback Hashish.

Best album?
[By no means claiming it's the best, but I gotta say I'm so happy and excited about the Hot & Cold/Tonstartssbandht split on Genjing. Thanks Nevin.]



Best new bands?
Spy Rat 51 and Charm. Both have been playing frequently, doing something new+different+weird every time, and breaking out of the XP-only zone too. Two of the most inspiring projects in Beijing right now for me.

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
My dad played Zoomin' Night and it ruled.

Dann Gaymer (Guiguisuisui / Aweh.tv):


Best shows?
-CAT AIDS. Because.

- Carsick Cars at Yugong Yishan in February. Because I was standing next to SmartBeijing's editor in chief when Carsick Cars began their first song and he said "Fuck this shit, I'm going to Four Corners." Volkgeist? Zeitgeist? Bit of both. Long story short, Morgan Awesome is a time traveller.

- Earth Eater release show at Four Corners. Curated anarchy, scripted mundanity contrasted with meta-peasant misbehaviour. Genius.

Worst?
CAT AIDS. Because.

Best or most interesting music festival experience?
Sound of the Xity's poster for his year. Never fails to amuse. But no, I didn't go because I really don't like festivals very much. I could ride the subway at rush hour listening to SUBS on my mp3 player for the same experience.

Favorite Chinese/Beijing album(s) of the year?
Yeah, the last Alpine Decline [Go Big Shadow City]. Might as well join the circle jerk on that one. It's pretty sick.

LUVPLASTIK's split with Nice Legs. And not just because it's on my label.

'Finish Splits' through 87fei87. Yeah it's not a Chinese artist but fuck you, I got it in Beijing and it's my favourite thing to listen to in the subway when I'm not listening to SUBS and pretending I'm at a music festival.

And Gumbleed City of Heroes. Other bands rock themselves to sleep at night wishing they were Gumbleed. Gumbleed are like wanking -- they're that good.



Best new bands?
Luvplastik. Chinese Modern Guys. Bastards of Imperialism, purely because I'm gay for Long Long.

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
I've been busy and I've decided I really like the bizarre universe I've crafted for myself. Every so often I escape into the Beijing universe of live music, maybe once or twice a week. Sometimes I go "Urgh, that fucking sucks",sometimes I go "Meh, seen that before", but the really nice times I go "Damn, that's genius." Whatever I always return to my little world with ideas and inspiration, scribbles to add to the graffiti wall of my soul. Thanks for that Beijing.

Outside of Beijing, China, touring, best thing ever. So much radness in one geopolitical boundary. That's when my universe unfolds.

Michael Ohlsson (DADA):


Dong Dong was my favorite "festival" again this year. Such good variety of music, including styles we never otherwise hear in Beijing. Also a great showcase opportunity for local talents. Such a good good thing.

Can't think of anything that I'd call the worst, but these obnoxious EDM festivals and the oddly timed return of the "Top 100 DJ" promo thing are super annoying and trite.

I haven't heard the new Nova Heart album that comes out this week, but I'm sure that'll be great as always. Carsick Cars album [3] is great. Also liking FAR/∞'s CD and FM3's new stuff.





I just saw Residence A the other night and regardless if people think their sound is derivative, they're fantastic live -- tight, energetic, and refreshingly melodic, when everyone else in town is just so angry or depressed.

Lubomyr Melnyk was my favorite live show of the year. For DJ nights, my faves were Pixelord/813/Saburov, Total Freedom, Randy Barracuda, and Kode 9 / DJ Spinn.

Howie Lee stole the show in 2014, his album will be out next year but he's really raised the bar here since returning from abroad. One to watch!

Jonathan Zeitlin (Alpine Decline):


Best shows?
The last Pairs show was really special. They took over the rehearsal space from their first practice and basically turned it into a mini-festival, putting together a cool lineup of bands for each practice room. I was too scared to go into the “Hardcore” room - I heard there were some broken mirrors and one guy got his ear plug irretrievably jammed in his head - but the actual final Pairs set was pretty moving.

Best fest?
We’re in love with the “mini-fest” thing that seems to be picking up in China. Smaller festivals in smaller/non-traditional markets - it seems to free up promoters to go for quality instead of just trying to blow the thing out. Really great bands, broader options for a venue, small DIY touches. The Dan Sheng Festival in Dalian in particular was fantastic. The venue was right on the beach, with these big glass windows to see the heavy gray Dalian clouds and rain over the ocean. Every band was great, everything got super heavy, everyone was 100% into it… it was great.



Favorite albums?
Yang Fan’s new album What Happened After 1,001 Nights? blew us away. I’m not sure that’s officially out as a 2014 release though. So absorbing, so unique and cinematic.

Dear Eloise’s Farewell to the Summer is also the sleeper hit of all human existence. They can put a record out like this and no one really notices, but it is literally 10,000 feet above anything else they’ve ever done. Really singular vibe on this album - kinda pretty and strung out sad at the same time.

Best new bands?
They’re not “new” and I wouldn’t exactly say they “rose up” this year, but we were super psyched to see the newest incarnation of Little Punk bubble up. Coupla shows last April… maybe a couple since then, but when we saw them at XP it was f+++in’ great. Man-Giant Morgan head down, going at his acoustic guitar on one side, and Little Punk owning the room on the other side - it was kind of inspirational. Hope there’s more of that in 2015.



Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
Seems like lot of cities outside of Beijing and Shanghai are really growing their own music scenes. It made touring China in 2014 for our last album so much more fun… it felt like we were seeing great bands all over the place - new live houses, even some small DIY communities. It also makes it more interesting in Beijing - having more artists coming in from out of town and killing it. 加油!

Aurelien Foucault (Foukographer):


Best show this year: French rap band IAM. Just because I've been a fan since I was 15, so this was just a dream come true. I love how some people can stay in the game for so long and still remain true and powerful. Awesome.

Then, I think AM444 really went up a notch with Chacha being completely inhabited by her music. They did a great demonstration of that at the last Dong Dong.

Best rock'n roll vibe I've been hit by: LuvPlastik. Super raw energy. Great feel.

Worst gig? Nah...I'm a nice guy. Can I trade this question with Worst thing that happened to the Beijing scene this year? Dos Kolegas being shut down. THAT HURTS.

Best festival experience... Bonaparte & SUBS at MIDI, under a sandstorm. Turtle Island at Hanggai Festival (2K), under a thunderstorm. Not that any of these bands are any good, but I like storms.

Favorite Chinese album this year: Hedgehog, Phantom Pop Star

Best new band... Argh, sadly I don't go out enough. Maybe Luvplastik? I was glad to see Metoo getting it up again, too. And Rustic's comeback!

Oh...and thank god I remembered these guys: STOLEN from Chengdu. New, personal and relevant. These guys are strong. May the wind carry them to fame!



Also, they had very little written about them but the show I saw was very good and they're very new: "Jess Meider Featuring Chinatown". It's a bit like spoken word meets Trip Hop, reminding me of the queen of all motherhood: Ursula Rucker.

Also, all hail the modest king 69 for bringing Dusk Dawn Club to Beijing. Very nice place with great bands.

Graeme Nicol (independent filmmaker / music buff):


Best shows?
Tortoise at Yugong Yishan has to be a highlight. Yugong Yishan struggles to cope with so many people, and I was standing way up the back, but despite that it's rare to see a band of that calibre come through town. Just great musicians playing a bunch of foot-tapping material, and each song leaving you wanting more, and then them giving you more.

Guiguisuisui vs Noise Arcade at School bar in July was a fractured, chaotic mess of a performance, and yet an epic one. Dann Gaymer and Michael Cupoli also collaborated on their Cat Aids project, with the live energy of intravenous wasabi.

What about the worst?
I made the trip out to DMC club in Tongzhou, but I'd underestimated the time needed to get out there and overestimated my route-finding ability, so I missed the first two bands, the ones I'd gone to see. The evening was saved with many cold beers in DMC's yard.

Did a bunch of filming live shows in the first half of the year with Will from Live Beijing Music, so saw a lot of good stuff: Re-TROS, Whai, Ajinai, Alpine Decline, Duck Fight Goose, Pet Conspiracy, Subs, Glow Curve, The Dyne, Hiperson, Proximity Butterfly, Doc Talk Shock, Luvplastik, Guiguisuisui... but when you're filming, the experiences tend to blend into one another, you remember the lens you used as much the music.

Best or most interesting music festival experience?
Cycling out to Strawberry Music Festival, getting wasted, then cycling home.

Favorite Chinese/Beijing album(s) of the year?
Been a fan of Wangwen for a while now, and their 8th album 8 Horses is perhaps their best, most diverse in terms of structures and textures.



Alpine Decline's Go Big Shadow City is also a fine album, their 4th I think. Seems I'm finding the music of mid-career artists more satisfying these days than the energy or charm of the breakthrough act. There's not many multiple-album bands in the Beijing scene though, and the ones I did hear from Carsick Cars and Hedgehog were a bit disappointing.

Best new band?
Math-metal band Mammals are pretty good, so far only released one e.p, but I've spent a few hours listening to it on repeat. I also saw reformed psychedelic noise-blues-drone band Dice play live again recently. Heard they have an album coming soon.

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
Seems to be more and more foreign musicians coming to Beijing and forming solid bands, many with distorted guitars in them, many with a DIY aesthetic and xeroxed Jingweir article to their name. "Heavy TEFL" was the phrase I used on Facebook, but haven't heard it being sold on t-shirts around Gulou quite yet, so I'll give it another plug. Another trend seems to be the continued emergence of good Chinese bands from outside Beijing & Shanghai.

Also, the trend for more of these little DIY one or two day festivals is a really positive development in the Chinese music scene. The final Dazefeast may have come and gone, but other promoters have taken notice. One particular festival I went to was the Dansheng Festival in Dalian. Despite not having enough local bands to fill a festival bill, they do have a great seaside venue, plus the guanxi of one of China's bigger bands to organise it, and managed to fly in bands from Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, and Taiwan to come play. If China's answer to the All Tomorrows Parties music festivals is to emerge, the likes of Dalian's Dansheng festival is a good bet.

Will Griffith (Live Beijing Music):


Best Shows: Bit of a cop-out, but LiveBeijingMusic’s first outing in June that I organized at School - awesome bands, the friendliest venue, good friends, and having the sound guy look at me in disbelief whilst Cat AIDS jumped around on stage in jumpsuits singing about Kevin Bacon - a Molotov cocktail of fun that night

Almost hurts to write this – Dos Kolegas’s last anniversary bash! Going to miss the place so much, because when they were on, it was the place to be. A completely different sector of Beijing where you could relish in debauchery and dance like a maniac. And where the hell else am I going to see a bunch of drunken kids have a chair hurdling contest? RIP 2K!!!



Festivals: Dansheng Music Festival in Dalian – just the best curated lineup of bands from all over the country organized by people who love and care for music. Was in awe of Hiperson and Proximity Butterfly, shot some amazing footage with good friends, and got to take in, even if it was all too brief, one of the chilliest cities in China. Must go back.

Album: Love Hedgehog’s latest which a lot of people found was too ‘poppy’. But really, that’s what Hedgehog does best and Phantom Pop Star might just be their finest hour.

Alpine Decline’s Go Big Shadow City. An album that feels like a part of Beijing now. Abrasive, beautiful, and bold – one of the most confident pieces of work this year.

Where the hell did folk artist Moxizishi come from? The Beijing-based Yi musician floored me with Open Country - just a gorgeously delicate debut that’s full of life and a much-welcomed counterpart to the increasingly mundane folk scene here.



Ghost Bath – Funeral: I’m not a metal guy but as soon as I heard this album from the Chongqing-based band I had to put everything down and just listen. Beautifully disturbing stuff that packs a hell of a wallop.



Other Faves: Summer Can’t Wait – zzz; Wang Wen – Eight Horses; The Bricks – Juncture Fugue; SPICE – Force Analysis; Pairs – Brief Lesbian

Bands: Best two Beijing bands I’ve gone gaga for are Gate to Otherside and Luv Plastik – soooo much fuzzzzzz and just too damn good to resist.

Though have to give credit to Maybe Mars – while their old guard disappointed this year, I’ve seen some exceptional growth in White+, Chui Wan, and Birdstriking – these three bands are going to blow minds in the next year.

Comment: Beijing isn’t the hotbed for talent that it once looked to be. The sheer amount of creative work I’ve come across from Xi’an, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Zhanzong, Chengdu, Chongqing, and elsewhere proves that music is alive and well outside of China’s capital. Expect the next big thing to come from the unlikeliest of places.

Jonathan Alpart (The Sound Stage):


Best show I went to this year was The Hormones from Chengdu. They had a very energetic performance that always seemed like it was going off the rails but was still held together by their strong musicianship and professionalism. Since my only exposure to them was a video interview a few weeks previous (which always are a bit canned compared to the real thing) I was in for a very pleasant surprise.

Fav album is Dio Cane by Goushen from Shanghai. It doesn't sound like anything else coming out of China right now, it's fronted by a Chinese girl who on the surface looks like a "Rainy" type but actually totally fucking wails and, if it is her writing the lyrics, is probably the best English-language lyricist in China right now. Very few records in China actually achieve the level of sincere rebelliousness and "fuck everyone and everything" individualistic mentality than this one. Best line is a run-off between "Putting them on/Abandon my disguise/Abandon all fear and became myself" and "Just shut up and fuck me/Fuck me you fucking pussy". The instrumentation and arrangements are totally on fire from the very start and do not let up once. Sounds like a mix of stoner rock and thrash but sounds completely fresh, vital and original.



Best new band of 2014, maybe Stolen because it really seems they are all over the place now.

I think we are reaching the tipping point. With great bands coming up from all different cities now, being connected on a quickly developing national tour route, and China's top level bands gaining more international exposure, I actually think the thing about 2014 is that it will be the year just before Chinese music breaks internationally.

Nevin Domer (Genjing Records / Maybe Mars):


Best shows?
I saw a lot of great shows this year but it's a handful of foreign bands that stand out; Motorpsycho playing a mind bending show at XP despite the government's ban on Norwegian bands, Man Forever hypnotizing crowds in Beijing and Shanghai and Trash Talk swinging from the rafters in Chengdu over one of the youngest and craziest audiences I've seen in China for years! For China based acts Alpine Decline, Duck Fight Goose and Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes playing at YuYinTang, Shanghai as part of JUE Festival was definitely a highlight. Overall I think I've seen more memorable shows outside of Beijing this year than I have in the city!

Worst?
One rainy miserable day at MIDI Shanghai where the festival was not prepared for the weather and the shitty sound for the Casualties and Demerit at One Club.

Best or most interesting music festival experience?
I've never enjoyed massive corporate festivals and China's outdoor festival scene just seems to keep getting worse. Fortunately there are good small boutique festivals popping up around the country with diverse and interesting line-ups. My two favorites being the inaugural edition of Dan Sheng Festival in Dalian which was super professional with every detail well thought out and the Wooozy Weekender in Guangzhou which maintained a warm homemade feel while offering up a great line-up and good times.

Favorite albums?
While I haven't kept up with releases as much this year as I have in the past I was blown away by Phantom Pop Star, Hedgehog stepped up their game yet again producing an album that can hold it's own in New York and Berlin as much as in Beijing. Yang Haisong's Modern Sky imprint House Party also continued to pump out great releases from China's hinterlands with new records from Xinxiang's The Fallacy and Xi'an's The Fuzz.



To promote my own stuff (which, based on last year, seems to be how people utilize this space), Maybe Mars has been pretty quiet but did manage to get out great releases from Carsick Cars and The Yours while Genjing on the other hand has pumped 15 vinyl releases over the past twelve months.

Best new bands?
Following a trend that started last year, almost all the new bands that have gotten me excited this year come from outside Beijing; Hiperson and Stolen from Chengdu, Dice and Run Run Run from Guiyang, and The Yours from Hong Kong are standouts. I'm also super excited about the reformation of Yourboyfriendsucks! in Guangzhou and hope that they'll be able to make it up north soon. In Beijing it's been a year of side-projects, from Ourself Beside Me's front woman Yang Fan's solo shows to Carsick Cars' drummer Houzi's psych project Gate to Otherside and Snapline's vocalist Chenxi's experimental-electronica Late Troubles, it's still some of Beijing's staple talent finding different outlets for their creativity.



What else?
This year for me, more than any before, the real exciting stuff has been happening outside the city, whether that's in venues across the country or just past the suburbs at DMC. While Beijing has been pulling in more and better international acts the real homegrown talent now seems to be bubbling up in the second and third tier cities.

Ami Li (City Weekend):


Best show: Explosions in the Sky at Strawberry Festival, shit sound, huge crowds waiting for the next Chinese pop idol and all.

Dan Deacon at MAO Live House was pretty spectacular, too. That man's charisma is something else.

Worst show: Whichever one I smelled the worst at after. Smoke-in-hair is a force to be reckoned with.

Best/worst festival experience: I think I've grown out of them. Which is a scary thought. But like, so far, the same every year, so goddamn dusty. I think I went to more craft beer festivals than music festivals in 2014.

Best album: Alpine Decline, Go Big Shadow City

Best band: Hua Lun are touring again! So them.

Observations: Clearly, the best music in China is coming out of Chengdu.



Jordan Mitchell (Dirge King Earth Eater):


Best shows?
Metro Einar & Friends was my favourite. Verktyget, Vurado Bokoda, Michael Einar Engstrom is a dear friend of mine, but moreover, he is a unique brand of fanatic. His final showdown in Beijing was highly dedicated, straight to the core of the latent homoeroticism Skweee music does best.

Then the following night… The RBMA show at Lantern was fantastic if only for the fact that Hudson Mohawke became so inebriated that he lit his arm on fire.

And that DDR 2.0 tap dancer dude at XP was mind boggling. [Ed.'s note: Steve Buchanan]

Worst?
The Unknown Mortal Orchestra show was a terrible experience. I drank 3 bottles of champagne before entering Mao at like 9pm and I can’t recollect the majority of it. I’m sure the music was great though.

Best albums?
The record I produced for Talin Tuya, the Mongolian throat singer, 石头哥哥. And Taxeee Tapes III.

Best new band?
Snakecharm

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
Mengqi is building incredible sound machines.





Zhao Yue (publicity director, Douban):


Best shows?
The most unforgettable show had to be Motorpsycho's show at XP in May. Motorpsycho is one of the coolest Norwegian bands and among the best progressive rock bands in existence. And for visa reasons their originally planned festival tour got cancelled and ended up in a tiny venue the weekend right after everyone's exhausted from Strawberry festival. The hundred people crowd was probably much less than what the band deserves but to fans that was probably a stroke of luck that couldn't possibly come that often! They just oozed with mastery, everything was at the same time extremely hard, delicate, emotive and powerful. Their collaboration with Chinese artists was cool and interesting too. Oh and their manager had the coolest dreadlocks ever.

Man Forever's performance last month was really mind-blowing as well. No one really knew what to make of an all-drums show before it started, and then just lost themselves in the intricacy and power of it. Especially the final piece where he collaborated with the best drummers in Beijing. It was most exhilarating and, in a profound way, enlightening.

What about the worst?
I feel bad saying it but the D.O.G. show in August almost made me regret going if Snapline wasn't on the bill. The others were Bian Yuan, Casino Demon, who had devoted fans but truly to me had nothing interesting whatsoever. The crowd was smokey and drunk and annoying. I wanted to see Da Bang too but their new sound just didn't cut it. It was very disappointing. Luckily Snapline went on last and performed tons of crazy new songs and sort of made it up for me but by that time most of the crowd had already left.



Best or most interesting music festival experience?
Well Strawberry was definitely interesting. Most of us now have this kind of Stockholm Syndrome relationship with Strawberry: you know there will be some kind of disaster, but you go anyway. The first night ended up in the plugs being literally pulled off Justice's console, and the third night or actually entire day wrapped in a Beijing spring sand storm. I learned my lesson on Day One, so by the last day I was wearing my pm2.5 mask all the time at the dance stage. The unattended matts all got blown away because the storm was so strong and at times you just couldn't see, but they kept music playing till the festival got shut down (when somewhere the stage tents were pulled off the ground) and it was really pretty apocalyptically fun.

Favorite albums?
Better Later Than Never ( 《相见恨晚》) by Kidney (腰乐队). They are from Yunnan, and this is officially their last album as a band. Different from their earlier works, this one is simply beautiful. All the younger angst and superfluous energy were gone (which were also charming), what's left is a kind of balanced, gentle, refined beauty that only mature artists/people could make.

Best new band?
There aren't that many it seems... Hiperson from Chengdu if they count as new! They've been tagged as the "little P.K.14" quite a lot and they do have that kind of darker post-punk energy, and their female vocalist has a jerky powerful voice that kind of reminds one of Yang Haisong. But they are interesting in their own rights. Their lead guitarist is already quite accomplished. And with the awesome voice of their lead singer they actually could explore a wider spectrum of emotion than P.K.14 (as much as I love Yang Haisong).

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
On the industry side of things, I think it's crazy that suddenly all the streaming services have gone legal in China. They've paid so much money to rights holders this year. On one hand this is definitely a positive sign for a country who is notorious for its negligence of copyright protection. Yet on the other hand you wonder, what would happen if you inject all this money to cultivating young, active artists in the field instead of paying for what's already there... But one step at a time.

Emma Sun (marketing manager, Dada):


Best show I went to: Steve Buchanan. I saw him at XP and Dada during that week (Zoomin’ Night on 11th Nov; post-Pangbianr night on 13th Nov). With that magic carpet ("mic’d tap-dancing surface"), he takes you on a tour from mystical, ceremonial drone-y sounds all the way to a dark-humored theatrical dialogue, while DANCING. I’m a dancer myself and it absolutely blew my mind to see someone bringing such beautiful fusion of tap-dancing and creating sounds right in front of you, not to mention how conceptually diverse the whole performance was. Man is my hero. Hands down, best show I went to this year.

Most interesting music festival experience: Modern Sky Festival, 31st August. Sky Stage (one of the two main stages). I performed with MC Dawei (aka 大卫, David) as his dancer/back up vocalist. He opened with this historical/political track where I did my standard promiscuous dance in the Red Guard outfit, representing "the temptation of totalitarianism”. And no, the big brother did NOT like it. During the first 20 minutes of the set, our stage director got at least 10 phone calls from censorship peeps asking him to shut it down because of “extreme filthy content”. I would assume they were referring to me. He did finish his one-hour set, but most definitely banned from all big music fests, for life. And I’m just happy with the official recognition of being “extremely filthy”. Good times.



Lolly Fan (media executive, Maybe Mars):


Best shows?
Carsick Cars' album release show at Yugong Yishan is the best. It's not just like a show but like a real party. Everyone there was so happy and we all met many old friends. That show reminds some people — including me — of the old rock n roll days.



Peter Hook's Beijing show is the second best. It is just because I like Joy Division a lot and I watched Joy Division's original bass player play many Joy Division songs. No need to say more.

Third best is Marco Cappelli's Beijing show at XP. Those old men are amazing. They are so skillful and interesting.

Best or most interesting music festival experience?
Clockenflap is the best. The line-up of this year's Clockenflap is very cool to me. I'm a big fan of the Flaming Lips. They played a great show with many different stage sets. it was satisfying. Birdstriking played at the festival too and I had very good experience from working with the organizers. Everything wasd cool.

Best album?
Carsick Cars 3

Best new band?
Bedstars. I like them as always. This year, they finished recording their debut album. Playing with Trash Talk in five cities made Bedstars known by more people now. They are cool and real. They play real rock n roll music.

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
I feel the big change is so many famous bands/musicians came to China this year. Before, we were just jealous. The bands we love are in the sky, too far from us. We felt we have no chance to watch them in China. But this year, more and more good bands came. Even Television played in Shanghai! Beijing and Shanghai are becoming many bands' tour stops. I'm really excited about that.

Liz Tung (Time Out BJ / freelance writer):


Best gigs?
Hedgehog's album release sticks in my head because I remember how much energy the crowd had - their new album was solid, but even more than that, their fans love them to a cultish degree, and almost every single person in the audience was singing their heart out. The AV Okubo/Alpine Decline double release show in April was another favorite, just because I love both those bands and it was an unusual pairing that was probably due to some weird fuck-up on somebody's part. The January show by Japanese free jazz drummer Yoshisaburo Toyozumi was amazing for the pure creative energy and collaborative effort that went into it. Last but not least, I saw Dan Deacon last week, and that has to rank among my top gigs, just because it was so much fun.

Worst?
The first one that comes to mind is the Shirin gig in June, because she didn't fucking play. Shirin is this young British singer who came to tour China, but then when she saw Old What Bar decided she was too good for it and peaced. I'm struggling to remember any truly bad shows that I saw, only ones that were canceled like Heems and Kawabata Makoto. [Ed.'s note: the latter refers to Acid Mothers Temple getting shut down in March]

Best or most interesting music festival experience?
I'm pretty festival-ed out so I didn't make it out to many of them this past year. I had fun at the last Dazefeast, and I also think Mogu Festival, BEME, Beijing Drunk Festival, and Fake Fuzz Fest all deserve shout-outs as fairly DIY events.

Best albums?
I've got a few - I really enjoyed Xiban's new album 太平有象, which blends traditional folk with this lean, almost industrial-sounding percussion that gives it a powerful, primitivistic kind of feel. It's dissonant and kind of raw-sounding while at the same time displaying really economical, consummate musicianship. For younger bands, I really liked The Yours - Teenagarten, which is just busting with hooks and energy and this kind of tuneful, '90s-style noise rock aesthetic that's totally addictive. Probably my biggest favorite was Subs' yoU aRe yoU, it's just as dark and hard-hitting as any of their previous work, while exploring new sonic territory and emotional vulnerability. Plus they did it all on their own, without the help of a record company, so you gotta respect that.



Best new bands? Or some that hit their stride this year?
Big Wave and Heat Mark are two bands who were exciting to watch rise up this year, and who represent a new generation for Beijing post punk. I've also really enjoyed Gate to Otherside, Late Troubles and Mammals.

Maya Rudolph (filmmaker / LOOP Beijing):


Best shows?
I've only been back in Beijing for four months of this year, so my picks are somewhat biased towards late summer/fall:

Night of 1000* Drummers at XP was excellent, especially that night's and subsequent collaborations between Wang Xu and Li Nan -- two drummers stirring up some amazing energy. In fact, any and all collabs between the White+ dudes with Li Nan and Yan Shuai of Da Bang have been exciting to witness.

Was so happy to recently see Xiao Hong Yu Xiao Xiao Hong perform for the first time since D-22 days. Straight No Wave and better than ever.

Sid Frank at a Zoomin' Night for the ages.

*well, three

Worst?
The Ravonettes played a pretty uninspired show at Tango. But I probably should have seen that one coming, no?

Best fest?
Fake Fuzz Fest=Feral, Friendly, Fuzzy.

Beijing Punk Festival=Basically Pretty Fun

That's all I got. I didn't really go to any musical festivals.

Best albums?
Hot & Cold did some great 7'' splits this year...with Skip Skip Ben Ben on Gary Records and, spearheading the Bro Wave movement, with Tonstartssbandht on Genjing.



Dear Eloise's "Farewell to the Summer"

Best new bands?
Since I am an old-new Beijing resident, lots of acts that are new to my world (but not necessarily to the scene) I'm seriously digging: Da Bang, Alpine Decline (noise division, have yet to see their rock show), Late Troubles, Luvplastik, and Noise Arcade.

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?
Really into some of the music/art/installation collabs going on, for example Liu Xi

Alex Taggart (Syndicate):


Best shows?
Gotta big up Howie Lee’s Borderless Shadows release party audiovisual thingy at Dada; not only did he fully go in on the “show” element (drum machine, keyboard, large bedsheet across the DJ booth), this year Howie went from “good for China” to people back home asking me if I know him, which I do because I’m pretty fucking scene.



The For Love party at Lantern to raise money for Eric Lee’s neurosurgery felt like a big moment too. It’s been a big year for open communication in Beijing’s electronic scene, which I think has needed to happen for a long time – obviously there are still too many crews competing for a tiny market, but everyone coming together for one big party with a different style of music in each room felt a bit like a mature club scene. Unfortunately it wouldn’t work every weekend, but it was nice to see everyone pulling together, like ants.

My crew Syndicate turned 10 this year, and like any good 10th birthday party, everyone was drunk. It was much better than my own tenth birthday party at Summerland indoor football centre when that arsehole Martin Cooper slide-tackled me in the shin when I was almost through on goal. Whatever Martin, you always came to school with baked-bean stains on your shirt and now I’m getting interviewed on the internet.

Also as I write this I’ve just got back from the Kode9 and DJ Spinn show and musically it wins party of the year no question. Big up Sub-Culture, Dada and everyone else involved.

What about the worst?
That party at Lantern called “Arousing China” or something, which is kind of a weird name for an event to raise money for an animal charity. It had the worst poster ever (see pic), and when I walked past Lantern that night, the organiser was standing alone outside on a red carpet against a big stupid signboard clutching a microphone recording an interview with a big camera on a tripod with no cameraman, presumably before going home and dressing some dogs up in lingerie.



Best or most interesting music festival experience?
The lack of INTRO this year makes me weep every time I think about it. I didn’t make it to any of the other ten billion outdoor electronic music festivals this summer, and it seems from the reports that I didn’t miss much.

For originality and usefulness to the scene, Dong Dong conference-forwardslash-festival and Beijing Electronic Music Encounter both really hit their stride this year.

Best albums?
In terms of actual full-length albums, Beijing MC J-Fever’s 一定是爆炸吗? is a stand-out for me. Dude’s had a pretty eventful year…not sure if it’s a result of something that may or may not have happened at 2 Kolegas a few months back, but he’s gone all psychedelic, and Soulspeak’s production is next-level. The Beijing hip-hop scene basically disappeared up its own bumhole a long, long time ago, but guys like J-Fever and Dawei have gone from strength to strength. Maybe because there’s no party scene? I dunno.

If we’re talking singles, I’ve been rinsing Howie Lee’s remix of “Aberdeen” by Mincha X Ghost Town this year. Howie Lee has had the biggest year of any Chinese producer ever, and he’s only just getting started.



Also the Taxeee Tapes 3 compilation on 87FEI87 basically showcased where this country’s at right now in terms of electronic producers.

Any other things worth mentioning about Beijing or Chinese music in 2014?

Nah I’m done man! Big up to Smart BJ for saying a big FUCK YOU to the bullshit corporate mainstream internet.

***
Hey, no sweat bud. It's very satisfying! Now that our memories have been jogged, we'll close out the year with our own 2014 playback. See you Monday...

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