Celebrate the Capital’s Indie Music Scene This Friday at MusicDish*China’s 12th Birthday Bash
Beijing’s music scene, and especially that of rock ‘n’ roll, is the stuff of legend, as evidenced by the articles upon articles that have been penned over the decades as well as numerous books, including Jonathan Campbell's seminal Red Rock.
And a special member of the city’s music scene as well as China’s music scene at large – Music Dish*China, is celebrating 12 years in the business this Friday with a show at the recently opened 24D Livehouse near Guomao.
The wider MusicDish brand was born in New York in 1997 as a promotional platform for international music and the indie music industry, right at the onset of the digital era. MusicDish*China, an offshoot of this original venture set up in 2010 following founder Eric de Fontenay's first adventure to Beijing a year earlier, takes the mission further, connecting not only Chinese bands to listeners at home and abroad but also international scenes around the globe.
This birthday bash will have some special treats as well. Along with five bands and a DJ, there will be a live cassette recording done by nugget records, which will allow ticket purchasers to bring home a special memory of the event.
What's more, de Fontenay will be serving up a little baijiu concoction during the event he’s dubbed Beijing Berry Baijiu – BBB for short – which guests can imbibe throughout the show.
To find out more about the bands, the significance of the live cassette recording, and the show, we spoke with the founder himself.
Tell us more about the bands who will be playing at the event. Is there any significance to their involvement and have you worked with them before?
It’s really a great lineup that reflects Beijing’s music aesthetic and the more hardcore side of Chinese indie music. It was actually in China that I developed a deep love for the more punk side (I was more a metal head in the 80s), so this seemed fitting to celebrating 12 years in the city. And the bands really go across a wide range of styles from ‘70s garage punk (The Diders) and ‘60s proto punk (Ravages) to OG classic punk (Hangnail) and grunge punk (Hindbrain) with a splash of kawaii core (Xiaowang). Of those bands, Xiaowang performed a Harley Quinn-inspired show we held last year at School Bar that coincided with my birthday, and I’ve been working with Ravages since the summer of last year.
12 years sounds like quite the milestone. What changes in the Beijing music scene have had the biggest impression on you and your work over this period?
The most obvious change is the shift from a market dominated by piracy to one with several licensed (legal) music streaming apps. It’s been such a game-changer that Tencent has investment stakes in Spotify, Universal, and Warner. And now that the government has banned exclusive licensing agreements, it will make it more attractive for new entrants as well as level the playing field a little for artists.
The growth of the indie music scene and greater awareness amongst a more mainstream audience, particularly with iQiyi’s Summer of Bands, has also been a significant development.
What was it that drew you to Beijing and how did you get into the capital’s music scene?
MusicDish is actually 25 years old this year and at the time, we were a media partner of a lot of major music conferences around the world, including Music Matters which was held in Hong Kong at the time (now Singapore). I took the opportunity to check Beijing off my bucket list (one of my lifelong dreams) with a mission of finding underground culture… and I was very pleasantly surprised after visiting venues such as D22, Yugong Yishan and White Rabbit. The scene really inspired me to want to play a role in it and I launched MusicDish*China in January 2010 (thus our 12th anniversary). I took a patient and deliberative approach to the market, but eventually ended up like Alice in Wonderland discovering that the rabbit hole goes far deeper than I could have ever imagined… and here I am 12 years later!
So one of the big things about this show is the live cassette recording, and we understand you were into live cassette recordings at shows when you were back in New York. What was live recording like for you in New York in the ‘80s? Did you record at any big shows or trade-up for tapes from those shows?
I grew up on cassettes (I’m obviously dating myself), making mixtapes off of songs playing on the radio and duplicating my friends cassettes. It’s actually fascinated me the role dǎkǒu cassettes played for early rockers who would trade and duplicate them as their means of discovering Western music. It reminded me of when we’d trade bootleg cassettes from live shows of the same band playing at different venues. So to see the cassette make a comeback is quite strange and yet delightful for me. In this case, it is a perfect vehicle to capture a memory of what’s sure to be a unique night, all while watching the process onsite with some very analog machines.
Besides the tapes, you’ll also be offering some baijiu drink of sorts. What’s the story behind that?
Ah baijiu… Again, I learned to drink and appreciate baijiu from old-school rockers. It is really a unique alcohol that fits Beijing like a glove. But the younger generation doesn’t seem to share my appreciation, preferring craft beer, whisky, or cocktails. So I decided I would make a baijiu that would be appealing to them while keeping it very local. I started making infusions with erguotou and mulberries which are very seasonal to Beijing during the spring (April-May), and after a couple of years of sharing and perfecting my concoction in a flask with both rockers and young music fans, I knew I had a hit. The idea of collaborating with BuF2 came after they tasted my Berry Beijing Baijiu and immediately started mixing it with their Whisky Lemon RTD… and thus a marriage in heaven was born. Since it is MusicDish*China 12th anniversary, it just seems like the perfect occasion for a coming-out party of sorts.
MusicDish*China’s 12th Anniversary show will take place this Friday, Jan 14 from 8pm at 24D Livehouse. Tickets are RMB 120 presale and RMB 150 at the door, and can be booked by scanning the QR code below.
Images courtesy of MusicDish*China, nugget records