Formed in 2006 in the dirty industrial megalopolis of Wuhan, AV Okubo has captured the eyes and ears of China as the members express through music their reactions to the conflicts of a changing society. Frontman Lu Yan (vocals/keyboard) is an aspiring film director while Tan Chao (guitar) works a day job as a train engineer in a major steel factory. Filling out the band are Zuo Yi (bass) and Hu Juan (percussion), both highly active in the Wuhan music community, the traditional home of Chinas hardest and wildest punk scene. [Source: Maybe Mars website]
We met the AV Okubo frontman, Lu Di on a brisk, wet afternoon outside Wuhan's second-hand clothing market. Draped in the bounty of previous vintage clothing expeditions, Lu lead us through a maze of increasingly narrow laneways, flanked with walk-in wardrobes of other peoples' clothes, going cheap. Dig deep enough and you could find almost anything, from old suits, to (not-so-old) lingerie. As we walked, we chatted about the (predictable) absurdity of the scene deleted from the 3D cinema release of China's favourite western film, Titanic. We agreed the absurdity was that the film warranted a re-release at all.
Later that afternoon, Lu drove us out past the city limits to meet Mai Dian, a close friend who looks after a unique, artistic compound (which began as a squat), known as "The Youth Autonomous Center". We recorded a short but interesting conversation with Mai Dian, which for now, will remain in our growing archive of material, documenting the work of young, independent artists around Asia. The building occupied by the Youth Autonomous Center is owned by an old teacher in Wuhan and continues (in part) thanks to the protection of the teacher's son, who worked for the Government's Foreign Affairs department. "He's really interested in what we're doing...I think because he's travelled a lot and he's an open-minded person," explains Mai Dian.
Mai Dian also described his frustration at the commodification of rock music in China. "For me," he says, "rock and roll is a way to liberate or emancipate yourself from the controls imposed by society, family and the state (of capitalism)". While AV Okubo have enjoyed the benefits of capitalist interest at various points in their career, the philosophy and temperament of the band and their music remains true to their roots: the best post-punk act in the country, still based in China's original "punk city", Wuhan. They performed a special version of their track, "Everlasting Regret" for us, in the Youth Autonomous Center. Thanks to Mai Dian and the residents of the Youth Autonomous Center for welcoming us in their space. AV Okubo recently finished a tour of China with Gang of Four guitarist, Andy Gill. As indie music watchers in China will already know, Gill produced AV Okubo's imminent full-length release, Dynasty.
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Accidental Collision is a four-piece, street punk outfit from Chongqing, formed in 2005. They combine obvious style cues from influential North-China punks, Brain Failure and Demerit, with an infectiously positive perspective on the day-to-day grind. Music, and in particular the punks guide to life’s priorities is what gets these boys out of bed in the morning (mid-afternoon).
Our basecamp for our four-day expedition through the Chongqing music scene was a small livehouse called Nuts Club, and Lao Gui (the bar owner) our fixer and guide. Back in 2009, long-term Chongqing resident and music promoter, Mike Weed summarized the bar’s appeal, “Packed house, good music, cheap drinks. Can't ask for much more, especially in the CQ.” We met Mike and many of the local musicians we sought on our first night in CQ, under similar circumstances.
Our chance meeting with Accidental Collision didn’t materialize until our last night in Chongqing. Lao Gui had passed them our number and we arranged to meet them at the bar late on the eve of our final day. Down at the bar, Susu jacked his phone into the venue’s PA and cued a handful of the band’s recent tunes. And in much the same time it took us to fill three bar tables with empty, green bottles of Chongqing beer, we settled on the city’s famous cable car as the location for the following morning’s performance.
A few hours later we were back outside Nuts Club, bleary-eyed and loading equipment into Susu’s hatchback. Twenty minutes driving and another thirty minutes searching for a place to park and we were ready to shoot. Dangling high above China’s iconic Yangtze River, band ripped through an acoustic version of their feel good punk anthem, “We Are The Future”. It turns out the 740 meter long cable, installed in 1982, is a near perfect match for the length of a punk track.
The car’s captive audience, were undoubtedly caught off-guard by the performance. But amongst the 15-odd bemused commuters, a couple of enthusiastic young fans emerged, showing their appreciation as we docked on the other side.
Please enjoy the film and follow the band’s journey via their Weibo stream.
Andy & Charles
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