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Rock gets down and dirty

LOCAL rock bands Hard Queen and Attic Circus march to a different beat in the thriving music scene. Yao Minji gets their numbers. China's rock music scene always heats up in summer with all kinds of music festivals. The most influential has been the Beijing Midi Music Festival, the first step for many bands that are now well-established in the Chinese rock scene.

And Shanghai, often considered too hip and fast-paced for alternative music, has been catching up in the past few years. The city has witnessed the start of many new music festivals that attract local bands from everywhere to scream out their style.

While many well-established Chinese alternative music festivals work hard to get sponsors, venues and money, a lot of similar events in Shanghai are launched by commercial enterprises.

"Summer Rock @ Channel 1" concert series and "Daning Music Season" are ready to heat it up even more in Shanghai's summer, with a line-up of a variety of different styles and sounds.

Channel 1 is a new fashion, dining and entertainment center catering to local hip and trendy demographic. It has invited eight bands to rock the venue every weekend for a full month until August 16. Most of the bands are rather young and fresh, formed after 2007 with members born after 1980.

They are up and coming, with a hip and naughty style appealing mostly to their own generation born after 1980 or even 1990. Local Shanghai band Hard Queen, which released an EP this April, was voted as most popular band in Shanghai in a few surveys held by various magazines and Websites.

Daning International Commercial Plaza has already built its reputation and connection with Chinese alternative music in the past three years, with concert series featuring veteran and nostalgic names in Chinese rock music such as Cui Jian, "father of Chinese rock music," and Tang Dynasty. This summer, it has invited three groups of musicians, including Ruins for two performances on August 8-9.

Many fans have high expectations for Attic Circus, a veteran local band known for its ironic lyrics using some Shanghai dialects and impressively intriguing costumes and performances that might make some people feel a little strange.

Hard Queen

The band, formed in 2007 in Shanghai, has already won a considerable following with their original, naughty and melodic sound. Considered a White Stripes tribute, they released their first EP called "Holiday" this April, containing the hit song "I Don't Wanna Sleep at Night" that attracted many teenage rock enthusiasts.

The band, with female vocalist Daxi, female drummer Damen and the only male member Zero on the bass, has been known by a few other names before eventually settling on the current Hard Queen. It is a signature stroke of the band to have both a female vocalist and drummer in China's male-dominated music world.

Their melody style is naughty and cheerful while the lyrics are often humorous about daily life and specific events, appealing to the young generation.

Although only two years old, Hard Queen has done numerous performances and already has a documentary film to their credit, "Up from the Underground," looking at their experience from a starting band to becoming wildly popular among young fans.

Attic Circus

One of the most influential and unique Shanghai rock bands, Attic Circus took their name from a circus motif of Franz Kafka. But they are not the soft young musicians stereotypical of rock bands from the south often considered much softer and less straightforward than their northern peers.

Attic Circus, although using a lot of Shanghai dialects and local slangs, is often called "the dirty underpants of Shanghai," peeling back the materialistic and low side of the metropolis in contrast to the widely known fashionable and luxurious image.

Apart from the self-irony and black humor in their lyrics, they are also known for exciting performances considered crazy or strange by some audiences.

To some people, it's not even music and the performances seem rather silly, but followers and fans are thrilled by their efforts at digging out the "real" side of the city and their associated self-irony.

In one performance last October, band members all turned into joyful circus artists with exaggerated make-up and circus-like costumes. The band even held karaoke contests for other local bands and fans to sing their songs and the contests were packed.

"Summer Rock @ Channel 1" concert series

Date: through August 16 (no performances on August 1-2), Saturdays-Sundays, 1:30pm, 6pm

Venue: Channel 1, 155 Changshou Rd

Admission: Free

Daning Music Season

Date: August 8-9, 7pm

Venue: Daning International Commercial Plaza, 1868-2008 Gonghexin Rd

Admission: Free


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