Last Wednesday Anar began their Jam Sessions featuring John Nguidjol and Magnetic, the resident band. Anar has been a place of intermittent success and continuous change until it became Anar (before was Pirates, and before that Shuffle); now, with these Jam Sessions and Magnetic as the house band, maybe Anar will become more prominent in the Shanghai scene. Possibly the Jam Sessions will capture the energy of change that seems to live in that spot.
MC and singer John Nguidjol has been organizing the Jam Sessions at LOgO for the last two years. Every Sunday LOgO receives a group of regulars with a certain taste for risk, and the people who go for the fun, the music and the crowd, of course. The Jam Sessions at LOgO have a “Russian roulette” style; you can either die of pain – musically speaking, of course – or you can end up looking around to the people with a face of “have you realized how awesome this music is”? Frequently you’ll find yourself beside someone with that face, when you are wondering what time that metaphorical bullet is coming to kill you, and how is possibly legal to play those horrible sounds!? And then the person on your side is banging, smiling and looking back at you with this look of “don’t you just love it?”. Taste, music taste, is as vast as human kind. And there is John in the middle, like the MC of the bar on the road that connects heaven and hell. I believe he has so much fun himself doing this job, that I can’t imagine he will ever feel like crying when one of those scary performances is happening on that difficult stage at LOgO. John Nguidjol just goes around encouraging people to go and sing or play the spoons or the tambourine or the drums or “hey! Give the bass to this guy, he can play!” With an absolutely confidence in the skills of people to make music; John is one of the most faithful people I’ve seen around. When things turn to the dark side of the musical force, John is there jumping and cheering on; mediating between musicians and audience, musicians and equipment and (very importantly) musicians and musicians. What a job! John loves music, passionately. You may not love it as much as he does, especially when things are getting too messy and loud, but you have to respect him for his continuous support, especially to the doubtful amateur musicians going to give it a try on such a moody stage as LOgO’s.
Anar was smart when they called John to organize their Jam Sessions. Anar and LOgO have a nice relationship, not only they are neighbors but they share their audience and some Djs and musicians too. Now they also share John Nguidjol. But Anar Jam Sessions with Magnetic and John are totally different from those at LOgO: different stage, different music, different atmosphere. Last Wednesday when we arrived at Anar, it was a totally “Jim Jarmush” style entrance; a few people in the front cafe and music coming from the back mixed with that of the one in the front, the door to the back opening, the purple stage in center view and the sound of something like Tom Waits ending a tired song. It was a good entrance. Then, John and very few people around, the black Xinjian beers, a short break, and then the music began again.
Magnetic’s line up counts on Wang Wenwei on guitar, Dai Zhe on Bass, Chen Song on drums, Feng Yucheng on trumpet and Zhang Du aka Zooma on guitar and vocals. Zooma, ex-partner of TangHui Bar (already a legend in the history of Rock’n’Roll in Shanghai), is also one of the managers of Anar. Feng Yucheng, trumpet player, is a regular among the jazz stages of Shanghai. And Magnetic is very possible the only active psychedelic rock band in Shanghai.
The first song they played was a trip on a purple velvet carpet. Then, when John came on the stage, for a second, I fear it was all a terrible mistake, what will they do together? John, a fully charged human battery strongly influenced by gospel and Caribbean sounds and Magnetic, these modern Shanghainese hippies enjoying the ride of making every distorted riff last as long as the strings could resist. Surprisingly, it worked. The psychedelic trip became, let’s say, more shiny and playful when John joined the band. As a Jam Session, many things don’t work, so when I say ‘it worked’ I don’t mean it sounded like heaven, I mean the mix of the two elements worked well. Magnetic musicians keeping the spirit of the style of music for these sessions (Rock, Trip-hop, Dub they call it), and John opening the space among the distorted effects and the sticky psy-sounds for the new musicians to jam in purple with them.
Jam Sessions are full of mistakes, that’s part of the fun, like the fun in a roller coaster or a haunted house, it can get scary at times, but as I said before, Jam Sessions are for those who like risk and love surprises. The proposal is interesting. Jam Sessions like this one or the one in LOgO are spaces for new bands and musicians to do their first try and test themselves. Jam Sessions are good soil for new material and they are needed in order to promote, inspire and motivate more musicians to do their thing. Anar’s Jam Session may turn into a great ground for those into heavier and experimental rock sounds. The creation of this space is very important for the diversity in the sounds of Shanghai. The people behind the project are experienced and creative. The place is cool and the stage has the perfect spirit for this gig. The strange connection of such opposites as John and Magnetic, just beginning, can turn into something even more interesting in the future if the rehearsals are often and the melting of ideas flows into a purple agreement. This is certainly a gig to check and an experience to trip. A great place for those doubtful music souls longing for a place to express their heavy feelings transformed in music.
Magnetic plays in Anar from Wednesday to Saturday.
John is on Anar on Wednesdays, on Muse on Fridays and Saturdays and on LogO on Sundays.