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December 15, 2011

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Pairs takes exception to musicians with attitude

PAIRS is incisive. Shanghai hard-core punk duo Pairs - consisting of Chinese guitarist "F" and Australian drummer/vocalist Xiao Zhong - makes music that slashes through accepted musical norms with constant lines of cutting, screaming guitars and an explosive barrage of percussion lurching in the back.

That's a little verbose for a ruthlessly efficient band that produces songs that frequently run less than a minute.

I'm sure they would prefer this: Pairs is incisive.

That goes beyond the music, too. Xiao Zhong describes his approach to conversations as "a 'pace setter style,' which is keep up or get left behind."

Though somewhat abrupt, that can serve him and the band well, as when trying to solve the predominant problem in the Shanghai music scene: how to coalesce the expatriate and native-Chinese music community. Pairs is taking a no nonsense approach.

First, they booked a date at rock club Yuyintang (851 Kaixuan Road) for a 2pm to 7pm show on Sunday. They set a price (20 yuan) and booked themselves as part of the bill.

Then, they went on their Weibo (China's Twitter) page and made an open call for young Chinese bands to play the gig. No preferences for being trendy or saying "please." First come, first serve.

For a band to get on the bill they had to agree to certain conditions, and this is where their scheme shines.

Xiao Zhong believes there is a lack of development in the scene due to "rock star" behavior by local bands. They've set that out in their usual sardonic tone in a post on Weibo called "Things we've learned from hanging out with rockstars (sic)" that skewers any shred of haughtiness by bands that think they have no stake in anything but looking cool on stage.

The diatribe includes broad outlines that I'm sure the Pairs moms' would appreciate like "Being in a band doesn't give you a right to be rude to anyone" to more specific peeves like bands that take unearned encores.

So for the Sunday show Pairs is promoting, all bands must follow specific guidelines: "Chinese bands need to reply to their e-mails, show up on time, contact blogs themselves for interviews, upload pictures to Douban, and promote the show on Weibo."

The bands that took up the offer, and there are four so far, are also sticking to a strict schedule. And I wouldn't be counting on any of them getting off of it unless they have a very good reason.

"It's about creating opportunities and experiences," says Xiao Zhong. "All the bands seem really active and excited about playing."

Because despite the occasional harshness of their rhetoric (and music), Pairs has the best intentions. They see bands expecting too much from others as being behavior that "really detracts from a good time."

And that's all we really want: a good time.

See you Sunday.


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