One of the first names I learned in the Beijing music scene was New Pants — mostly because it made me wonder whether all Chinese bands had such odd names, but also because of their impact on the scene in general. While New Pants started out as a clear rip-off of The Ramones, they gradually added sythesizers and disco balls to their bored punk sound, and they came out sounding completely unique. And though there was talk that they weren’t going to make it through releasing a remix album, they have very clearly shown that that was not the case. They’ve been quiet, and have been sitting on their newest album (released at the show, and came free with the more expensive tickets), but they’re coming back to the mainstream stronger than ever.
This show was not just an album launch, though. It was a show that took four months of preparation, a retrospective that took planning and time to put together, and it showed exactly what New Pants have been about since the beginning. From the moment they took the stage in their communist leader attire (from the aforementioned remix album Go East), they delved into each of their various personas with gusto, including backing videos, costume changes, and special guests. The list of highlights is long, but where else are you going to see a man hump a skeleton in a wedding dress across the stage, or sing a song while clad only in a towel, or a long-haired rocker ride across the stage in a scooter? Only at a New Pants show.
Love them or hate them, New Pants offers something that nobody else does. Their curious electronica-fused punk rock is maybe not accompanied by the most biaozhun of singing voices, but like every good punk group, their lyrics and passion more than make up for it. The whole crowd sang along with their most loved tracks — I Love You (我爱你) and I’m Ok were unsurprising particular crowd-pleasers, and I even saw some foreigners calling out for Bye Bye Disco. I’ve seen New Pants perform at festivals before, but with a crowd totally dedicated to enjoying their music, it was easy to see how many people really do love them.
Because this was an expensive show (180RMB was the cheapest ticket, 580RMB the priciest), it guaranteed that everyone there was there because they love New Pants. And for those up the front, it was worth the price to be close to the stage. Though the fact that the Beijing Exhibition Center is a seated venue didn’t make it the most rock and roll show ever, the security couldn’t be bothered keeping people from moving further down to the front. There was still crowd surfing, and sneaky alcoholic beverages, and the acoustics of the venue made calling out to the band much easier than at a festival. Everyone had a good time, and though the show felt occasionally scripted, there were plenty of spontaneous moments to remind everyone that New Pants is a genuine rock group.
The only thing that sucked about the evening was getting caught in the rain on the way home.
If you’re new to New Pants, check them out on Douban, but if you already love New Pants, but weren’t at the show, hit up this album signing at the indie music store on the south-eastern end of Jiugulou Road next Sunday afternoon at 3:30.