non-fiction rock from Aotearoa New Zealand

Fly through Wuhan

The morning after Nuts. A 6 hour bullet train ride is the method of momentum to assist our arrival in Wuhan. Wuhan, we are told, is the most punk of the Chinese cities in terms of music and venue. This message has been reiterated several times, along with the impression that it’s a brilliant fun place to play.

The train ride to Wuhan is beautiful, moving through the haze and the low cloud. Those impressions from old Chinese landscape painting in the flesh, in Terra and timber. Mountainous regions are cast with garden plots. Every portion of the land is used to produce food. On steep inclines and in the deep valleys, single or double story dwellings scatter through the landscape making up the villages and small cities free from skyscrapers.

And there are so many tunnels. Blackouts then flashes of beauty, then back to the black. A deep valley to the left holds major roads and homes, we must be high up. The core of many mountains have been drilled to make way for this transit network. When travelling at 140+ kph, the precision needed to ensure confidence and safety is mind bending.

We arrive in Wuhan, take the Metro into the city then take time to hail a cab to take us to the venue Coastlines. The city is built around rivers and long roads which are difficult to turn round on. We are meant to be at the venue at 5.30 and at 6.30 we are still stuck in traffic.

We find the venue located down a small side lane. Scratty in a cute way, it’s small and well equipped. Out in the back room we dump our gear between four 8 x 10 bass speaker cabinets and amps. We wonder if they hire stuff out or just got a bulk deal?

We get food in a tiny restaurant in the same lane. The owners are intrigued and quiz Kristen about us, what are we doing and how do we make a band work? It’s possible not many foreigners visit this eatery at all. We talk of inviting them to the show but they will still be working when we finish.

Even though the club is only a couple of hundred meters away from the restaurant the owners have never been in. They comment that they frequently see drunken foreigners late at night coming from there but have never felt like it was a venue for them.

There were to be three bands on the bill but one has cancelled due to injury. The first band is called Panic Worm. Their sound is great. Five guys playing post-punk sounds and the singer has studied the intonation of Mark E Smith of the Fall. We get the sense they are quite popular and they deserve to be.

The audience is really responsive to our set. There’s a lovely energy in the room to play with and we have a blast. Probably the most dancing since Guangzhou. There are more foreigners at this show than others as well, all young men in Wuhan teaching English.

One conversation sticks from a talk with a local. He says he’s a trained musician, works as a bass player, and comments on the ‘fun’ of our performance. He says how ‘fun’ is impossible for him. Making music has always been work,  and a sense of necessity was instilled from early on in life to work hard. ‘Playing’, or playfulness never led to success. He can see what he’s missing and not sure how to access it, even doubts it may be possible to relearn. He says he thinks this is something foreigners are better at. His denim jacket is covered in band patches, Slipknot and the like. You can see his interests, and also feel his resignation. We’re conscious to not be dismissive, or overly optimistic. His assessment may be correct for him? Hearing him out feels important.

We pack with a sense of urgency, we need to get back to the train station to catch the 01:40 sleeper to Beijing. And we don’t want to run.

We saw tiny bits of Wuhan, at night. Had a great time.

Depart on a train full of sleeping bodies.


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