Meditations in an Anniversary

Anniversaries come around once a year for everything and everyone, but some anniversaries and some places are just more special than others. Cases in point: YuYinTang’s and the Shelter’s fifth and second respective anniversaries.

How fitting is it that these two Shanghai music power spots celebrated simultaneous birthdays during the weekend? As Mike touched on in this week’s Editor’s Picks, YuYinTang and Shelter are Layabozi Darlings. It seems like every week I do Editor’s Picks I always come back to these two spots. Why is that? Because they consistently have the best taste in music and the best atmosphere in the Shanghai music scene, that’s why.

As Gareth related in his interview in Shanghai Talk magazine this week (he was not talking about YuYinTang, but I think his sentiments about his own place also apply), they strive to strike a balance between being some overblown, overpriced place to be seen, and a seedy dive bar. Both are definitely not either. They are community centers where like-minded individuals can collectively share the best music and fairest prices around. I can’t imagine the scene without them. There would be no such thing.

It was a special feeling for me to play on YuYinTang’s stage for the first time this past Thursday with my band, Break for Borneo. It was made even more special by the fact that it was the night before the Fifth Anniversary bash, but also because I got to see Haisheng in action up close. He is a truly affable, lovable guy, and the fact that he treated us relative unknowns (except for our famous member, Beijia) with as much care as he would any of the countless bigger acts tells you all you need to know about his dedication to live, local music in his city.

It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so.                                                                                 -Frank O’Hara in Meditations in an Emergency

I am using this quote to connect with my supposedly witty title, but also to turn it on its head. In Shanghai, the opposite is true; it is easy to appear beautiful, but difficult to be as such. I make a lot of snarky comments about the sarcophagus-ness of the Shelter and the smallness of YuYinTang (too many links to link to), but there are truly no other places I would rather be on Friday or Saturday nights, rubbing shoulders (literally) with adopted family and friends.

MAO Livehouse, I hope you have been taking notes.

Notes from the YuYinTang Anniversary show:

To echo Andy Best, this is getting ridiculous. Does YuYinTang need a photo policy now, too? The big cameras and even bigger flashes were in full effect at the show, most egregiously by a certain woman in a red hat (yes you) who stood in the doorway by the stage and repeatedly (and I mean REPEATEDLY) flashed directly into the crowd, blinding everyone in attendance during Cold Fairyland’s set. I can’t express how maddening it was. These people don’t care about the music or other people. They just want to get their snaps in so they can say they were there or fulfill contractual obligations for some superfluous magazine or website. Well, to put it as eloquently as I can: FUCK YOU.

The Mushrooms are the best band in Shanghai. There, I said it. They have so many dimensions to their sound and Pu Pu has the energy of a manic cat in heat. Yes, that is a compliment in my eyes. Every time I see them it seems even more criminal how SOMA has caged them, as reported by Shanghai Avengers Dan Shapiro, Andy Best, and Jake Newby (in no particular order). Free the Mushrooms! I demand an album and bigger, better headlining gigs from them in 2010. Do we need to pass the hat or something?

I had never seen Cold Fairyland before, but wanted to. They did not disappoint me at all, although sound problems marred their set from the start, effectively rendering the pipa useless. I suspect I will have more to say about them at a later date.

If I make it to the Shelter after a busy music night on Saturday, I will also have something to say about that. To be continued, maybe…(?)

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  1. Jake

    Welcome to the cult of the Mushroom, glad to have you on board

  2. mache

    What, no shadowy initiation rites?


  3. Jake

    There will be at the next Mushrooms show. There were too many people to do anything this time


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