There’s always something different about going to see a foreign act in Beijing. It’s not just that the crowd is filled with foreigners, or that the music is somehow more familiar than anything you hear from a good Chinese band, but there’s always something else, something that makes the night memorable. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as Yugong Yishan’s power cutting out in the middle of Andrew Bird’s set, but sometimes you have performers like Die! Die! Die! that leave you speaking about it for days afterwards.
I hadn’t heard of Die! Die! Die!‘s performance style before I got to the gig, where a friend of mine told me that they went absolutely nuts on stage, and brought their act off stage and into the crowd. We’ve all seen that before — crowdsurfing while playing a guitar or singing — but this is something completely different. There wasn’t a part of D-22 within mic cord range that wasn’t climbed and performed on, and most likely broken. The lead singer — while off-stage, just an unassuming blonde guy with Buddy Holly glasses — climbed up the amps to the second floor of the venue, breaking the smoking angel on the way down, performed countless times in amongst the mosh pit, moshing along with his guitar, he climbed up onto the bar and broke some of the fairy lights and smashed his face into the Matt Neiderhauser portrait of Ourself Beside Me. He lay on the ground in spilt beer and cigarette ash and got up for hugs and more moshing. It was, in a word, insane. And I loved every moment of it.
The music probably wasn’t really my style — noisy and deranged and anger-inducing — but the performance mixed with the unpredictability of the crowd made for a hell of a show. One thing I will say about the crowd is that they enjoyed themselves. A bunch of foreign guys started moshing right at the beginning and didn’t stop. And this isn’t a bunch of skinny 60kg Chinese boys throwing themselves at each other, these are six-foot 90kg New Zealanders pushing and shoving and falling to the floor. It was all in good fun, as any mosh pit is, but you could see the tiny Chinese spectators around them looking pretty scared. A few brave souls joined in, but if it weren’t for the smiles on everyone’s faces, I would have been more scared of getting trampled.
After the highlight of insane lead singers and fevered moshers, it’s hard to remember the Chinese acts of the night. The B-Side Lovers have given up resembling Hedgehog and put on an electronic-infused acoustic set that nearly bored me to tears without Atom beating the shit out of her drums. Birdstriking were okay, but the singing (or lack thereof) really brings down the feel of the songs. They probably had the most energy of the night, though, as Wanderlust really just felt like two kids on synths playing in their dorm room — which is probably what they are.