Music Monday is a weekly SmartBeijing column, serving up fresh audio/video streams from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever).
Li Fan of The Bedstars at XP (photo by kinokoTONG)
In his excellent 2013 book How Music Works, David Byrne opines on the subject — also a chapter title — of "How to Make a Scene":
I'm referring to that special moment when a creative flowering seems to issue forth from a social nexus — a clump of galleries, a neighborhood, or a bar that doubles as a music club. I've often asked myself why such efflorescence happens when and where it does, rather than at some other time, in some other place. The bar and music club CBGB that was located on the Bowery in New York was one such place.
Of course, Byrne and his band Talking Heads were at the epicenter of the famed Bowery club's creative explosion in the late 1970s. Byrne goes on to list the factors necessary for a given place to engender such efflorescence:
1. There must be a venue that is of appropriate size and location in which to present new material.
2. The artists should be allowed to play their own material.
3. Performing musicians must get in for free on their off nights (and maybe get free beer too).
4. There must be a sense of alienation from the prevailing music scene.
5. Rent must be low — and it must stay low.
Deadly Cradle Death at XP's official opening party, May 1, 2012
This reads point-for-point like a page ripped from the playbook of Michael Pettis, whose history of creating spaces and places for free radicals within the Beijing creative underground to interbreed extends over a decade. His first club, D-22, was called "the CBGB of Beijing" so often that it quickly became a cliche. Indeed, Pettis was active in the late-'70s Lower East Side scene, attending gigs at CB's and booking early shows for bands like Sonic Youth and Swans at even more bombed-out after-hours dives.
Byrne's rule about rent — pretty much impossible to follow in Beijing — led in 2012 to D-22's closure and quick reincarnation as XP, a club even more resolutely focused on hosting the city's most alienating noisemakers.
I've been eulogizing XP ever since it was announced at the beginning of the month that it, too, would imminently close. The end is now nigh. XP's going out with style this weekend, hosting a three-day farewell party that's got a little something for everyone. Most crucially, it will provide a sense of closure for the many artists and bands that would not have a career without the sense of place created by XP, and by D-22 before it.
First up, on Friday: Cold Neo, the best new booking outfit on the block, has assembled a hefty showcase of some of Beijing's freshest rock'n'roll talent. Live sets that night from The Eat, Solaris, Elenore, Lonely Leary, Luv Plastik, and She Never Sings Our Songs — all bands that underwent significant trial and error on XP's stage while developing their sounds.
Saturday night is devoted to Maybe Mars affiliates. The Maybe Mars office — also helmed by Pettis — is located above XP, and the venue's history is intricately intertwined with the label and its artists. Will be a good one, featuring rare appearances from out-of-towners The Yours (Hong Kong) and The Fuzz (Xi'an), along with local stalwarts White+ and Streets Kill Strange Animals.
Sunday is being put on by Zhu Wenbo, organizer of the soon-to-conclude weekly series Zoomin' Night. Zoomin' was born at D-22, and proceeded to define the sound and mission statement of XP. I already said my goodbyes to it in this very column a few weeks back.
Wenbo and friends will close XP in the same spirit with which it was christened at the first event to take place between its walls: the 2012 Sally Can't Dance avant-garde music festival. To ease the pain of losing its place, the Maybe Mars camp has promised that Sally Can't Dance will be rebooted in the near future, and will proceed annually to foster the more challenging sounds coming out of the Beijing (and Greater China) underground. XP's final, final show will do the same, featuring live sets from A Ming, Deng Chenglong, Ding Chenchen, Liu Lu, Vavabond, and about a half dozen more, from 4pm 'til whenever they get kicked out I suppose.
Silver lining time! As we roll into July, we can look forward to not one, but two of Beijing's most vital small-scale live music clubs celebrating anniversaries. For its part, newcomer DDC is going all out to celebrate hitting the one-year mark, with a full week's-worth of festivities. Lots of heavy hitters on this bill, including a SUBS special performance on July 21, a Maybe Mars showcase on July 22, and a packed lineup on their anniversary proper (July 25) featuring The Harridans, Djang San, Dawei, and more. Find the full schedule here.
Temple will present a more modest — but, assuredly, no less loud or inebriated — program, including a punk showcase on July 22 entitled DON'T BE A BASTARD, a metal night featuring Temple regulars Scare the Children on July 23, a post-punk showcase on July 24, and more TBA for the rest of the weekend. Keep an eye on SmBJ for the full program when it's ready.
That's it for now. Get out and support your favorite live music holes while you can, rents are rising...