Bands Go Online to Keep the Music Alive as Gigs Are Canceled Across China
While many of us remain confined to our couch, there's a whole world out there reeling from the ongoing coronavirus saga. One of the biggest changes to the Beijing landscape in the coming months will be to events, and particularly, anything that would otherwise involve people gathering in cramped, sweaty spaces. Unsurprising then is the fact that China's live music industry is about to take a huge hit.
The effects of the virus on the country's music scene are already being felt. While many local bands remain cooped up, unable to find an open livehouse capable of hosting them, several high-profile international acts have announced cancelations of their upcoming China tours. Those include the much-anticipated inaugural China-side gig on Mar 1 of seminal indie-rock act The Pixies, which sold out in a matter of hours when first announced back in September of last year. Elsewhere, Minnesotan math rockers Tiny Moving Parts have also been forced to pull out of their Feb 18 show at Yue Space, while promoters New Noise announced that they have postponed the Beijing leg of Men I Trust's four-date China tour to Aug 29, originally set for Feb 22. Haze Sounds also pushed back Welsh singer-songwriter Novo Amor, originally billed for March, back to Aug 9 at Tango.
There's no word yet on whether Stereolab's Mar 21 show at Tango will go on as planned. We hold out hope but must admit it's not looking good.
In response to some of the negative missives coming out of Western media regarding the virus, London-based promoters of all things East and Southeast Asian music Eastern Margins posted a heartfelt message via Facebook (alongside a mixtape of Wuhan bands), stating, "It’s more important than ever to strengthen our communities, to showcase the depth of our cultures and to confront prejudice with beauty. Even in our world of music, people’s lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus. There are artists who can not perform to earn a living, clubs which are empty, and family and friends living in quarantine. Our support and compassion can make a difference."
Despite the cancelations, local bands and promoters are doing that message proud, finding ingenuitive ways to keep followers tuning in and giving back to the communities that have helped foster them. Many have taken to online platforms and streaming sites, organizing digital festivals to help fans pass the time while they're stuck at home.
Those online-only events include streaming from 卧室POGO (Bedroom Pogo) on Feb 4, compiling live shows from various mainland Chinese and Taiwanese acts (see full line-up above, stream here). Meanwhile, label Modern Sky has put together a heaving four-day (Feb 4-8, 4-10pm), 70-band-strong streaming extravaganza of past performances and MVs in honor of Wuhan, which has traditionally been the first stop of their annual Strawberry Festival (details here). On Feb 5 at 8pm, four Wild Records bands, including Chinese Football and Lonely Cookies, will head to Vox Xiamen to spin their favorite records out into the ether (details here). Finally, Nanjing's club Monohouse have delayed their reopening but organized three nights of DJs (Feb 5-8, 9pm-3am) who spin a selection of their favorite tracks (details here).
When we hit up long-time TBJ contributor and music nerd Will Griffith of Live Beijing Music for his two cents on the current outpouring of support coming from within China's music community, he says, "There's definitely been an uptick in bands gathering together amidst the chaos and confusion, from reaching out to fans to live streaming shows. It's a heartening reminder that we're not going to hell." While pottering around the house for the 10th day in a row may start to feel otherwise, luckily there's plenty online to keep us entertained.