I have always been into music. Back home I frequently did gigs on my own with my acoustic guitar as well as wrote my own songs. When I first came to Beijing I was able to continue this in a lot of the local bars and venues. It is great that in Beijing, there are not only venues open all week with live music, but people who enjoy watching different kinds of music. This gives many of the bars a vibrant atmosphere and a great place to play or just watch and listen.
What really stands out for me in the Beijing music scene is Punk music. Punk was really in its heyday in the 90’s in Beijing but there is still a really exciting scene full of angry fans and angrier bands. After going to one of the local shows three of us were inspired to form our own DIY band.
We were all working for Aihua English Academy so it was easy to find time to practice together and we were lucky enough to find a great little jam studio where a lot of the top locals bands practice. We managed to write several horrible little songs in a small period of time. We practiced several times a week after we had finished evening classes at the school.
We got our first gig by chance in a local noodle bar dedicated to Punk. The bar is run by a big Chinese chap named Lei Jun. He is actually a singer in one of the popular local Punk bands. The walls of his noodle bar are covered in old Punk memorabilia and the noodles are great!
We mentioned to Lei that we had just formed a band and we played him one of our songs which we had recorded on my phone. He instantly went out of his way to find us a gig. He got on his phone, and by the time we left his shop we were booked in to play at one of the local venues along with many Chinese punk bands!
We realized that our set so far, was only about 6 minutes long and we would need quite a few more songs to be taken seriously. We went back to the jam studio with the deadline over our heads, the desire to play a good show and not be torn apart by some of Beijing’s angriest citizens.
A week before our Punk show, we decided to play a local open mic night. This open mic is usually dedicated to Jazz and Blues, a great place to go if you want to relax and hear some mellow sounds.
Being a hardcore punk band, we were totally out of place there, and I think we ruined the evening for delicate looking Chinese girls sitting in the front row!
Finally the day came for our Punk show. The room was filled by people with Mohawks and leather jackets, drinking beers and waiting for the first band to come on. Us! We played through our short but angry set fast. The crowd seemed to like us and our friends from Aihua all came down to show us support and jump around to our tunes.
I got a chance to meet some of the Punks after the show and everyone was really friendly and interesting. The greatest part of the night however was the offer to play at an even bigger venue later in the month!
Our second and final gig was at the famous Mao Live House. This was a huge music venue and we had the honour of supporting the guy from the noodle bars band “Misandao”.
They stuck us on last so we ended up going on when everyone was really drunk and crazy. The band that went on before us were getting beer cans thrown at them (in a nice way) and everybody had decided to stick around to see the English band at the end.
We played as hard as we could as we knew this would be the last time we would play together as our singer was leaving China. The crowd seemed really excited to hear our tunes and they all jumped around like drunken maniacs. God bless alcohol!
It was an amazing experience and yet another cool thing I have had the opportunity to do since I started my time teaching English in Beijing. I would advise anyone coming to Beijing to check out the Music scene. In many ways it is better than the scene back at home, and it feels great that that we were a part of it for a while.