Leaving Aotearoa NZ at midnight we get the typical sleep you get on long haul flights, broken and restless. But as far as they go this was one of the better ones, slightly more comfy, slightly better rest. The planning for this tour has been going on for months, the build-up intense – navigating tour planning with every-day to day life. That’s all over now, well and truly behind us.
We entered Shanghai airport at 7 am Friday morning. Friday for us was 29 hours long, most of those awake.
Our first mission was to make our way via Metro train and foot to the accommodation we’d arranged. It was just booked and confirmed the day of departure, after last minute changes were made to the schedule.
The contact in Shanghai who was organising the first show had encountered several challenges. The venue had recently relocated and our show was to be the first in this new space. Some equipment was difficult to get, and less than 48 hours before departure we heard there would be no drum kit, only 1 microphone and no PA! Slightly problematic for a rock band.
Funnily enough, we had just done an interview for our Beijing show for AWEH. We discussed in one question about the last album’s process, a self imposed provocation of how can we make the most with the least equipment/instrumentation/collaboration. It seemed that this Shanghai show would really put the theory to the test. The show organiser is known for experimental music/noise so there was plenty of sonic latitude to play with.
We had also been in communication with another bloke from the Shanghai band Round Eye. On the night before we left he messaged saying we might be able to get a spot at a show his band was playing on the other side of town on the same night. The first shows starting time was 7, the second at 9. It was a logistical mission to figure travel times while still at home. To us it seemed there could be a real risk we might not pull it off.
We accepted the second show and hoped like hell we could actually make it work.
We entered Shanghai on the Maglev, the only magnetic levitating train on the globe. Top speed 430kph. Then onto the Shanghai Metro train lines which are brilliantly intuitive to navigate. Exiting the Metro on West Yunan Road station we sited the 2nd venue, Yuyintang. The accommodation was another 15 minute walk from venue to the backpackers situated down a narrow lane. We checked in, had rice and beer and half slept for hour.
It was interesting to notice how quiet the back streets were, and even the main thoroughfares. There’s a remarkable number of electric scooters to contend with. They come up behind you swiftly like sparrows, the only alert a honk or chime of a bell. The scooters are a marvel of physics, modified in many ways to accommodate additional passengers or loaded to the gunnels with produce, bales of cardboard, or a myriad of other industrial supplies.
We passed the Shanghai museum of modern art and snapped a couple of quick pic of some of the wall art.
After rest we prepared for the first leg of the evening. Having gained some familiarity with the Metro we found it straightforward to meet our contact for the first show. The new residence of Space 631 was used as a photographic studio during the day.
The show was a noise show with four performers on the bill. We were billed first after discussions with the organiser as this was going to be the only way to logistically get across town in time was to play. We would play then go via taxi immediately.
The show was billed to start 7, it started 7.30. This ramped the anxiety a tad, but we figured one way to manage this pressure was to get into costume at this venue and then taxi while kitted up. This idea was met with surprise, maybe seen as as crazy thing to do. The organiser thought we might find it hard to get a cab as we looked like devils … us?
Our performance was as free-form exploration of one of our songs, using a lot of text, freeform bass guitar and rolling round the floor with one snare drum and a few cymbals. It seemed to work. We also invited one of the other performers to play guitar with us. A noisy affair of clatter and tone ending to the solo utterance of single words.
Then pack-up and split. Not a style we were that happy to use but it was the only way to meet this other commitment. Usually we think it respectful to remain till the end.
It took a few goes for him to hail a taxi. So we tried to turn make ourselves less conspicuous standing in the shadows!!! Eventually a driver wanted the fair and pulled over. We rolled into the cab then roared off across Shanghai to Yuyintang.
It was our first real view of the city from the street as mostly the Metro was underground. It blew our heads away. The city is gargantuan! Skyscraper after skyscraper after skyscraper. Light shows of epic proportions. Everything of epic proportions.
It was as if we had fallen asleep in sleepy Wellington and woke to find ourselves on the set of Blade Runner.
Arriving at the second venue with 10 minutes to spare, creating a little stir walking the 200 meters to Yuyintang, we entered, set up and played…boom…made it!
Yuyintang is reported to be one of the longest standing venues for alt. music in Shanghai, running for about 10 years. It was so worth the effort to make this work, we met some really wonderful people and played to a lively full house. A cranking start to the tour.
Knackered and content we headed to the hostel, absolutely exhausted, through the back streets of Shanghai. A long haul flight from NZ, navigated an entirely new city, two shows and several beers later we dragged our gear up the four flights of stairs and collapsed satisfied. A enormous first one, like three days in one. Not bad.
A Massive shout out to Junky & Chachy for being exceptionally good humans! thx