August is typically a quiet month in Shanghai, but this year there seems to be more stuff going on. Bands and DJs from overseas, all that. Here's the skinny.
Three or four big live shows this month. Mono at Mao Livehouse on August 17 is the pick of the bunch. The Japanese post rock act has played before in Shanghai, but they always bring the noise. They do a sort-of Godspeed! meets Mogwai thing, ambient, melodic soundscapes using glockenspiels that build through repetitive, caustic guitars through huge crescendos to cathartic resolves. The live shows are massive, strobe-drenched affairs. It’s music that’s meant to be heard live, fists balled, eyes clenched shut.
The band haven’t put out an album since 2009’s Hymn to the Immortal Wind, but they’ve just finished their sixth, For My Parents, which is due out later this year, so expect lots of new material. The one track from the album that’s already going around is Dream Odyssey, in which they seem at their powerful, repetitive, mournful best. Check it out here. They’ve got a big following in China, so the gigs usually pack out with a local crowd. Tickets are available here in advance for 180rmb, or it’s 220rmb if there are any left on the door.
And also... And So I Watch You From Afar play Yuyintang on the 10 as part of the UK Now thing. This trio from Northern Ireland also play instrumental rock, but in a much more noisy way than Mono. Despite the rather twee name, ASIWYFA produce metal-tinged math-rock, driving stuff that touches on Trans Am’s more guitar-heavy stuff but with much heavier, more chaotic drums. VPNs on for Set Guitars to Kill here on Youtube, or a live version of The Voiceless, with ads on Youku for the VPN-less here. Tickets are 80rmb, which is probably subsidized by the British Council, so lap that up while sticking it to the UK taxpayer.
And also, also... The second installment of promoter Abe Deyo’s Sweet Summer Sweat Fest sees North American indie-rock acts Other Lives and PS I Love You play a crowded bill on August 24 with multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hart, who’s performed with the Polyphonic Spree and St. Vincent. They’re joined by sound artist, musician and Shanghai long-termer Ben Houge, who used to live here but moved back to the States in 2010, where he’s been busy teaching video game music design at Berklee College of Music. While he’s here, he’s also down to play a mini festival of noise with Torturing Nurse and create a sound installation at OV Gallery. The Sweat Fest show is 100rmb in advance, 120rmb at the door.
This is a bit of a cheat, because Is Tropical are playing live (though they also have a DJ set on August 23 at Ibiza ), but they fit better into this clubbing bracket than into the live music bit above, so here they are: Is Tropical, a trio from the UK who make electro-tinged, bass-heavy pop music that’s been smashing it in Europe.
The band’s first record was produced by Jimmy Robertson, who works with Friendly Fires and Klaxons. Their second was mixed by LEXXX who works with Crystal Castles. Some of their stuff is almost straight indie, but at their most hectic they’re more electronic in a lush, feel-good sort way. It’s good summer music. It makes you feel happy.
Their extremely politically incorrect video for The Greeks, featuring kids slitting each other’s throats, blowing each other’s brains out and dealing drugs, is required viewing and can be seen right here. It’s already had more than three million views on that one channel. Tickets are 150rmb on the door, 100rmb in advance. Details of advance tickets are still being worked out.
And also... Boys Noize Records have a showcase at The Shelter on August 9. Housemeister and Das Glow DJ along with the STD kids. Housemeister is a long-standing German producer and DJ who makes excellent, unashamedly noisy and silly techno with stupid names like Music Is Awesome and Who Is that Noize. He’s had a long career that’s included four releases for BPitch Control, 10 releases on his own allyoucanbeat imprint, and album releases for Boys Noize. He’s a fan of old-school synths and crappy old drum machines. That and his maniacal sense of humor make him something of a German Aphex Twin. Modeselektor called him the best DJ on Earth. Decide for yourself next Thursday. 50rmb on the door. Support from fellow German Das Glow and STD boys R3 and Linfeng. More here.
And also, also... Dada turns three years old on August 25, and celebrates with a birthday party that sees Tzu Sing and Mia dropping techno, deep and dark, plus Alan Shanyinde and live techno from Adam Rahman. He’s from Dubai and runs some parties over there. He’s got two mixes on his Soundcloud here. Don’t know what his productions are like. Good to see a new face in town. Dada’s great. We all know this. They’ve got one up in Beijing, too, now.
As per usual in August, all is relatively quiet on the restaurant front. No long-awaited, much-hyped openings on the horizon. No celeb chef visits. So little is going on that we were almost reduced to recommending this. Instead, how about a quick run-down on some recent openings? For starters, Jack London, luxe lounge Horizen's foray into fine dining, opened its doors a couple of weeks ago. We ignore nightclub restaurants on general principle, but we're hearing enough good things about Jack London to reconsider.
Up the street at Three on the Bund, Mercato, Jean Georges Vongerichten's first ever Italian concept, is now open for business. Also, downstairs neighbor Unico & Colagreco, which you can learn more about here is set to open its doors to the public tomorrow (August 2). We've got Radars in the works for all of the above, so stay tuned.
Further westward, Scarpetta has opened softly on Mengzi Lu, a bit of an odd location for an Italian restaurant. That doesn't seem to be a problem for them, though. The place is getting some positive user reviews and when we tried to visit last week it was at least a 20-minute wait. Sounds promising. Then over in the Xintiandi neighborhood there is new Spanish cuisine by Casa 700.
Finally, a bit of booze news. Yongkang Lu is one more watering hole richer with a new bar called The Rooster. It's another small storefront operation devoted to life's simple pleasures: frozen cocktails, buckets of beer, and pulled pork sandwiches made with homemade Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce. Wuding Lu also looks primed to become a little nightlife hub in its own right. In the past two months alone we've seen three wine bars -- Enoterra, Burdigala, and UVA a couple of blocks north -- open in the area. August sees another addition: Kaiba. Keep an eye peeled for that mid-month.
And also... Coffee. It doesn't just have to be fuel. Good coffee can be just as much an expression of its provenance as a fine wine or cheese. It really can be the stuff of connoisseurs. If you want to learn more about it, recently opened specialty coffee roaster Sumerian has started conducting weekly coffee appreciation classes. For 98 kuai they'll teach you about the flavor profiles of different coffee origins as well as various blending theories and techniques. And when the class is over you get to take home your own personal coffee blend. Classes are small (only six people), and reservations are required. To learn more, click here.
And also, also... You haven't hit up Stiller's in a while, have you? Well, maybe you should head back. For the entire month of August they're doing a specially priced summer set menu. For 388rmb+10% you get an amuse bouche and you can choose from starters like goat cheese terrine, mains like pesto sea bass cooked in parchment with gnocchi artichoke and tomatoes, as well as desserts like coconut tiramisu. The cost includes a glass of wine. For more details, click here.
Beijing-based jewelry brand Belita will be setting up shop at XinleLu.com Showroom for one weekend only this August. Designed by California native Elizabeth Genetti, collections feature gold, platinum and rhodium plated sterling silver, encrusted with gemstones and pearls. Very pretty, very feminine, the collection's well worth a look, particularly with a 15% discount all weekend.
And also... Back to XinleLu.com's Wuyuan space, where fellow retro-chicsters William the Beekeeper are hosting a charity book sale. It's free to come browse, with a portion of the afternoon's takings going towards Bean's Reading Buddies Program, helping educate migrant children in Minhang district. The Bookworm Suzhou will be there, as will Koryo Tours, Blue Fountain and more secondhand books than you could ever read.
And also, also... Shaoxing Lu health nuts The Wellness Works have started selling a dietary and body-care range from their Grasslands events space. Organic whole grains, quinoa, coconut water and the like – it's all there, as well as personal care products, cleaning stuff and so on. For the taobao savvy, an online emporium is in the works – watch this space for more on that.
If round-the-clock TV coverage isn't enough to satiate Olympic appetites, there's a small exhibition of London 2012 posters over at Xintiandi Style. Part of the ongoing UK Now festival and marking China and the UK's back-to-back hosting of the sporting spectacle, specially commissioned works by 12 of Britain's top artists are currently on show in Shanghai – think Martin Creed, Howard Hodgkin, Tracey Emin, et al.
And also... Continuing on a theme, Foster + Partners: the Art of Architecture is another UK-born show that has just opened at Shanghai Oil Painting and Sculpture Institute. It comprises around 100 architectural models, sketches and photographs of the award-winning British architects' sizable body of work from the past 40 years. In China, that includes Beijing International Airport's Terminal 3 building and the iconic HSBC Tower in Hong Kong. A must for architecture buffs, that's until August 25.
And also, also... Photographer James H. Bollen takes inspiration from one of Shanghai's best-loved literary legends, J.G. Ballard, in his new series Jim's Terrible City, currently showing at James Cohan Gallery on Yueyang Lu. Think cinematic streetscapes, subversive surrealism and unsettling incongruities. Good stuff, but more interesting still is Li Wen Guang's Fallacy, presented alongside the photographic works and tapping into boundaries of knowledge, pseudoscience and dreams. Penned, painted and inked onto silk-mounted rice paper, the works incorporate fragments of abstract equations, unearthed memories and map-like imagery to intriguing effect. Go see.
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