For the first time since it started in 2007, China’s Modern Sky Music Festival is heading out of the country and coming to the US. Managed by the indie label Modern Sky Entertainment, which includes artists such as Carsick Cars and PK14 under its name, it is the largest music festival in China.
International and Chinese artists will be playing on Oct 4th and 5th at New York’s Central Park.
The lineup looks fantastic, with many of the legends and pioneers of the Chinese indie music scene gathered together. I urge all who are around the area to check it out. It’ll definitely be a great experience (at a decent price), even for those not familiar with Chinese music.
Tickets are available through the festival website, and are going for $48 (1 day pass) and $85 (2 day pass). For more information, visit their official site here: http://modernskyfestivalnyc.com/
Below, I’ll provide a brief intro to the Chinese artists, with one song to sample so you get a feel of what to expect (in order of performance schedule):
Rebuilding The Rights of Statues 重塑雕像的权利 (China)
Theatrical icons of China’s rebellious undercurrent, Re-TROS shot to critical acclaim with just one EP and one album under their belts. Signed to Modern Sky since 2005, their debut EP “CUT OFF!” received the help of famous producer Brian Eno. Their musical influences include Bauhaus, Joy Division and Gang of Four.
Deserts Zhang 张悬
Genre: Folk/alternative rock
Taiwanese alternative folk singer-songwriter Deserts is beloved across the straits for her catchy, moody tunes that you can never get sick of. Everyone knows her most famous song, “宝贝 Baobei”, one of the karaoke classics that has become a household name since it’s release in 2006. Though her style has grown much from the simple acoustic arrangements of her first album, taking on more rock influences, she remains one of the most popular female singer-songwriters in the scene.
Second Hand Rose 二手玫瑰
Second Hand Rose have been making waves in China ever since they crashed onto the scene in 2002, bringing a never-before-seen brand of experimental rock that blends in traditional Chinese folk musical elements, as well as a traditional story-telling singing style. The best part of their music are the hilarious lyrics that derive much from traditional stand-up comedy. They’re also known to be wild live, with their lead singer who has a larger-than-life personality and loves to dress up in crazy, androgynous traditional costumes.
Hailing from Urumqi, Xinjiang, Tongue blends hard-driving angry rhythms with folk instruments and biting lyrics. Vocalist Wu Tun often alternates between his raw deep voice and high-pitched screeches to channel the band’s frustration with our rapidly changing times.
Queen Sea Big Shark 后海大鲨鱼
On the other end of the spectrum, Queen Sea Big Shark are a female-fronted, iconic fashion-forward band, who’ve amassed a huge international fanbase for their brand of dance rock that blends head-bobbing beats with a shoegaze-like retro feel. I’d say they’re sound is one of a kind.
Omnipotent Youth Society 万能青年旅店
Formed in the 1990s, this band from from Shijiazhuang came together because of two best friends who grew up together, who shared that weariness with the world and that desire to live with music. Originally under another name, the band became Omnipotent Youth Society in 2002, and released their debut EP in 2006 with little fanfare. Nevertheless, their sincere sound connected with many young people around the country and catapulted them to fame.
I’m totally tempted to go to this even though they didn’t bring any of my favorite bands. Queen Sea Big Shark sounds awesome, and I really like the sound of Omnipotent Youth Society too.
You should def go! No matter what, music festivals are always great fun, and discovering artists is a large part of it. Bands always sound 10x better live :D
I just listened to a bunch of Omnipotent Youth Society, and they are amazing. I love their lyrics, especially in 秦皇岛 and 杀死一个石家庄人. I heard the latter is based off a real story in Shi Jia Zhuang (Rock Home Village, haha), where a man blasted off his apartment building along with himself after killing his girlfriend.
wow…thanks for mentioning the song…你这么说，真的听了会起鸡皮疙瘩… I haven’t seriously gone into their music yet, I really should.
Just curious, who are your other favorite Chinese bands?
Among the popular artists, my favorite is still David Tao for the diversity in his lyrics and strong vocals. On that note, I also liked Jay and Leehom. I used to love Sodagreen, but their recent works have been disappointing. I also love Tanya Chua, one of the best female C-musicians in my opinion.
Now, I like Escape Plan and Gala for their hopeful lyrics and strong melodies, as well as Mr. Graceless. I have only recently gotten into the indie scene in China though, since it was so underdeveloped and under-publicized previously.
Amazing. Thank you for the heads up. I’m definitely going to this even though I’m not a huge fan of any of the Chinese bands they brought except Queen Sea Big Shark. I hope this continues in the future though, and they’ll have some of the bands I like more.
It seems like indie bands tend to be more exportable to the West than pop, not just for Chinese artists but also Japanese and Korean artists.
I saw Queen Sea Big Shark last weekend at the Tudou Music Festival in Shanghai and they were an absolute blast. Fu Han is a QUEEN alright.
Reminds me of this NPR broadcast I ran into a couple days ago about the government sponsoring their version of what should be a Chinese global star vs. indie bands like Carsick Cars.
Sounds great. I looked at the line up and Sunday is golden. So much better than Saturday. I know which day I am going.
Indie movies are far more exportable to the west as well – the west will care more about a serious quirky indie foreign film than any mainstream rom com that’s successful in China (unless it has action/kung fu).
That’s so true. There’s definitely two levels to this – the impression that indie films/music tend to be “better/deeper” and thus more “worthy”, and the stereotypical caricatured Chinese culture of kung fu and pandas in Western pop culture that has flattened out any room for nuance.
I hope you have a great time!
Hey Cfensi, I was wondering if it’s possible that I can tag along with you to the music festival. I want to go on the second day, but none of my friends are into rock music, especially not Chinese indie rock. Thanks!
Sure. Haha, I’ve never met up with anyone online before but sounds fun – I love making new friends! My friend is also supposed to go if that’s alright. I’ll check to see if she’s still up for it
Yea. The more the merrier. I’m trying to convince my friends to go, but these bands have a relatively small audience, and the tickets are quite pricey. =(
I’m from the Boston area, so I will be taking a weekend trip to NY. Thankfully, the bands I’m interested in will be done playing by 5:30, so I should get home in time on Sunday.
Do you live in the New York area?
Linking my NY friends so they can bring me things…