Laura and I went into the city yesterday for a day of musical entertainment. Our evening destination was Santos Party House in Chinatown, where the Chinese record label Maybe Mars was putting on a label showcase for three of their bands from Beijing who were on tour in the U.S. The band that I was most interested in seeing was the headliners, Carsick Cars. I don't remember where I first heard about them, but I found a copy of their first album and fell in love with it. About half of it is in English and half in Mandarin, but I've never let not understanding a language deter me from listening to interesting music. Their signature song is 中南海, or Zhong Nan Hai. The first time I heard it, I was gobsmacked; it sounded an awful lot like one of my favorite bands from New Zealand, The Clean, except sung in Chinese. I sent a link to the song to a bunch of friends of mine who were also Clean fans, and they were pretty amazed, too. If I had to list bands that I love that I never expected to see live, Carsick Cars would have been near the top of the list, so it was a real treat to have them come to New York.
Another band that played at last night's show was P.K. 14. I understand they've been around since the late 1990s and hold a position in the Chinese indie rock community of great esteem, roughly akin to, say, Television or Talking Heads in their impact as pioneers. They were fantastic. All of their songs were in Mandarin (I presume; not that I can tell the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese or any other Chinese dialect), but their lead singer was able to speak English. I found a very cool music video for their song Tamen:
The third member of the tour was avant-folk musician Xiao He, who made quite a racket with an acoustic guitar, a black box hanging off of it, and a Macbook Pro that was used to loop and repeat bits of the audio he was creating. This could really qualify as Difficult Listening Hour material, but I enjoyed it anyway.
There was a fourth band playing that night who weren't part of the tour, Antimagic. I thought they were good, but I would have preferred they didn't play. The show had to be over by 10pm because there was a separate show by Basement Jaxx and the doors for that were opening at that hour, and four bands just don't fit easily into 2.5 hours. Carsick Cars were limited to a 30 minute set because of that, and they were the headliners. I would have rather had a 50 or 60 minute set from Carsick Cars and no Antimagic. No reflection on them, I'm sure it wasn't their fault and they were good, but the club sucks for double booking that night.
Maybe Mars has a page on their blog about the tour and the bands, and one nice feature is that they're offering the most recent albums by Xiao He and P.K. 14 as free downloads, as well as both albums by Carsick Cars. I didn't even know they had a second album out. I'm listening to it now, and it sounds pretty damned good. The tour continues along the east coast of the U.S. for a couple more weeks, and there will even be three or four more opportunities to see them in New York City.
Posted at 10:03 PM
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