The underground (not for long?) Chinese rock scene

Wu Wenjie, bassist for GAR. Behind him, Wang Xu on the drums. And behind him ... anonymous Chinese peasant on the pickaxe?

I didn’t make it as far up front as the mosh pit at the gig pictured above. This was disappointing to the inner mosh pitter who lurks deep – deep – inside every public school Brit, but one benefit was a dry and cigarette-ash free camera to take the video clips below with.

The gig was part of the ‘Plastered Rock Weekend’ at Yugongyishan, on the 19th. I would love to claim that the mother of all rock and roll hangovers is why I’m posting ten days later (one day for each pint of baijiu!), but with a sigh I’ll admit that homework was a bigger reason. To further crush the image, the ‘plastered’ bit in the event’s title is down to it’s having been sponsored by Plastered T-Shirts and is not a reference to the British slang word for drunk (see: pissed, blattered, blasted, wasted, wankered, off your face).

Playing on the night were GAR, Carsick Cars and P.K.14. Those are three top names in an ever-growing roster of bands to watch in the emerging Chinese underground rock scene. The  mosh pit and otherwise packed venue – expats far outnumbered by locals – was a testament to the growing numbers of young Chinese listening to this music. Indeed, it was a relief to chat with Chinese students about music other than Britney Spears, as I did so often with Marie.

The week before the gig, I heard Michael Pettis, owner of D22, give a talk on Beijing’s rock scene. As little as five or six years ago, he said, bands like this were getting their first gigs in a scene which was only beginning to attract notice. But his guess is that in thirty years time, the world will be as familiar with Chinese contemporary music as they are with US culture now. The first well known Chinese rocker was Cui Jian, in the mid 1980s: this was the so called ‘generation one’. We are now – conveniently, given the title of this blog – at ‘generation six’. And Pettis compares the Chinese scene now to America in the early 60s – right about to explode. Of course, he would say that, he runs the rock club.

But the music itself is certainly explosive. I’ve had the Carsick Cars’ self titled album on repeat all week – other names to myspace are Joyside and Hedgehog. So without further ado, here are three clips from the night, one from each band. Stay with it until 2.47, and you will be rewarded with a crowd surfer!


PS – as an addendum, here is an interesting interview Michael Pettis did for Danwei with Zhang Shouwang, lead singer of the Carsick Cars and – according to Pettis – the closest thing my generation in China has for a spokesman. Here’s a quote:

Michael Pettis: Can you say a few words to sum up this generation of Chinese youth?

Zhang Shouwang: I think one thing we all have in common is that there is such a huge gap in our experiences and understanding compared to Chinese who are in their mid-thirties or older. It seems that we live in very different worlds. More and more of us are exploring new ways of thinking and living, and I see this even more for young people who are four or five years younger than me.

I think many of us feel that much of what we learned in school and in the media was not really true, or perhaps didn’t really fit our lives, and so we are reading books, listening to music, and sharing ideas that are very different from what we had been given. I think very few of our generation have beliefs the way older Chinese do. We believe in real things, and we find it hard to take seriously all the big, empty ideas that we were given.


  1. I’m wondering if you know the fact that “Plastered 8″‘s boss is British. A graphic designer or something.

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