Gig Review: Frozen + Today is Autumn @ Dos Kolegas, 2010.10.22
Frozen is a 1997 film about a young, depressed performance artist who decides to commit suicide during one of his performances dealing with death — an “ice burial” during which he sat on blocks of ice over the course of a day. It was shot in 1994 and had to be smuggled out of the country, never to be shown in China. Until someone got it on a hard drive and decided to play it on a projector at Dos Kolegas.
This isn’t a movie blog, so I won’t go into the movie much. I’m sure you can imagine what it was like. The actor in the movie, Jia Hongsheng, was heavily into drugs at the time of filming, and was taken to a mental institution in 1996. In 2001, a movie was made about his life and struggles with drugs, and the soundtrack heavily featured some of the godfathers of Chinese rock and roll — Cui Jian, Tang Dynasty, Dou Wei. Earlier this year, he committed suicide.
While I didn’t know any of this backstory at the time I went to the gig, it was clear that it was a memorial show. I’m still not sure of the cultural significance of Jia Hongsheng and the story of his life — what sort of impact it has on today’s youth, or had on his contemporaries — but it’s clear that this movie and he was important to the organizers of this event.
After the movie (which had our teeth chattering, having to watch someone sit on blocks of ice), and a slideshow of photographs of Jia Hongsheng, the bands started and the mood changed entirely. The first act, Two-Faced Country, were quite a moody band. I enjoyed their set, which seemed mostly instrumental at times, and the deep, rich sound kept a bit of the somber mood surrounding the event. They don’t have a large web presence, but check out the video below to get a better idea of their sound.
The next band up was Surprise. They were a complete departure from Two-Faced Country: while TFC was a quiet, reflective sort of group who were still a little afraid of the audience (they often played to each other more than us), Surprise faced forward and chatted at length about their songs, themselves, and anything else that happened to come across their alcohol-fueled minds. Unfortunately, they came off as brash and overconfident, which made their brand of emo pop-punk arrogant and unbelievable. Thankfully, their emo pop-punk was being played acoustically, which cut a lot of the annoyance factor out of that particular genre for me. Still, their drunken ramblings were fun to listen to.
Then, the main act was up. I’ve seen the name Today is Autumn (First Day of Autumn? I’ve never been sure how to translate 今日立秋 properly) floating around the scene for a long time, but I’d never seen them live or bothered seeking out their music. More fool me, because they were amazing. Head over to their Douban to listen to their songs. Their music is upbeat and incredible danceable (or at least, bounce-around-able, and definitely mosh-worthy, even if there were only a few people shoving each other around), and they definitely have a great performative side to them. They came onto stage dressed in doctor’s coats, with red and white stickers with their band name pasted on as name tags. I’m not entirely sure why, but looking at photos it seems to be their thing. They were loads of fun and I am definitely going to try to see them again soon.
Check out a video of them performing their most singable song, 张杨的新生活 (Zhang Yang’s New Life; Zhang Yang is their drummer’s name), at Modern Sky Festival 2010: