|Venue:||Nuts Livehouse, Chongqing, China|
Two years later, I am back to China and looking for live shows. The Chongqing megacity provided this unexpected Thursday evening treat: 打玩艺儿 (Dawanyier) were the perfect occasion for visiting Nuts Livehouse for the first time, a cosy sanctuary for live music right below the business center of the so-called "Mountain City". It was initially opened back in 2007 and, after a couple of moves through the years, it reached its current position in the Yuzhong District in 2014.
If you have followed us for a long time, you would probably remember that I have worked in Shanghai for about three years, trying to take advantage of the dozens of international and domestic bands coming to town to perform in the meantime, which happened pretty much every month in the huge city (almost) by the sea (here's an overview). Getting back to China for work — about two years since my return to Italy — is great, also because this time I am based in Chongqing, a fast-growing city I had never visited before. Among other things, I even had the chance to reunite with some friends from university, one of which joined me on this unlikely Thursday evening.
Needless to say, I had begun looking for shows and livehouses as soon as I set foot in Chongqing and, weighing interest and spare time, our choice for my first show here in the Southwest fell on 打玩艺儿 (more or less "play with toys" or "have fun"), a trio hailing from Inner Mongolia (a vast Chinese province bordering Mongolia) that set on a very long national tour for promoting their debut album (this is the Douban page of the band). So I also got back to the amazing custom of buying tickets in advance paying less than the ones taken at the door (in this case, 60 yuan instead of 80), reaching the venue at half past eight. The place wasn't exactly full: there were about twenty or thirty people in total. Nevertheless, after having some beer, the trio hopped on stage and began their performance with a very warm welcome.
Have fun, we were saying, and this is exactly what the band does with remarkable flair, mixing a wide range of different genres, somehow tainting the sacredness of post-rock with elements of funk, blues, reggae, punk (as in "霞"), up to a few almost metal passages (as in the Alice In Chains inspired refrain of "寻"). There is quite a strong connection with the audience, interacting in between songs and singing along vocalist-guitarist Zhou Feng. As underlined by him as well, the lyrics are not a fundamental part of their songs — also, every title consists of a single character — but they might still help you recreate a scene or atmosphere.
Another interesting aspect of 打玩艺儿 is that they were the first Inner Mongolian band — among the ones I had the pleasure to see live — to not use any traditional Mongolian instruments, or their local language, preferring standard Chinese instead (with a strong Northern accent) and a folk-less style (much different from what Nine Treasures and other bands do). The three musicians know the numerous genres extremely well, also switching from serious passages to more upbeat ones with no effort, proving their utter self-confidence.
It was a great performance overall, as bassist Qin Feng and drummer Zhan Yi even entertained the audience for a few minutes while Zhou replaced a broken string on his guitar. After having finished all the songs from the album, the trio concluded with a curious cover of the popular 1958 folk song "听妈妈讲那过去的事情" ("Listening To Mum Tell Stories Of The Past"), which was of course sung along by the entire audience.
At the end of the show, there were the usual handshakes, group photos, and exchange of Wechat contacts, but unfortunately there were no CDs left (which went sold out over the first part of the tour). I am glad to have had another chance for experiencing the Chinese live music scene, discovering an interesting venue and a new band (founded in 2014); I sure hope I'll manage to find some time on this business trip, and grab another chance to introduce some new bands to you over the next few weeks.
Let me also add one last comment about something I enjoy about concerts in China, which is that they usually finish at decent times, making them easier to attend for people coming from out of town, or for those who have to work on the following day.