University Night: A revival of college rock

11:15, November 25, 2009      

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College rock is dead in the US. In many university towns, all that remains is a jaded, worn-out corpse on display in its glass mausoleum, otherwise known as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It had a good run.

But here in the Chinese capital, university students have pulled a rock resurrection. Beijing's college scene is alive and wailing, resisting the mando-pop monopoly en force, and Haidian's D-22 weekly "University Night" is providing the venue for this collegiate power chord cage match.

Unlike other small "livehouses" in the city, such as the west side's "What Bar" and "Jianghu" off of Nanluoluxiang, University Night is tailored to Beijing's college scene, showcasing four to six acts of different genres every Wednesday starting between 8 and 9 pm.

And just like the scene itself, University Night is a surprise smorgasbord of rock, embracing new bands and attracting raw talent, all without the cliché territorial jadedness.

"This is to give everyone a chance around here to perform, to have a shot at a stage and an audience," explains Bei Bei, University Night booker, recent landscaping grad from Beijing Forestry University and drummer for Nan Wu, one of the college scene's most stylistically innovative bands.

And that open-door policy capitalizes on the scene's strong points; diversity. After all, where else can you get a helping of pop-punk, macbook-fueled emo tronica, rockabilly, trudging death metal thumpery and the Chinese fusion of Nan Wu all in one sitting?

D-22 was already at three-quarters capacity when the first band took the stage; fans hung over the upstairs balcony railing taking the obligatory cell phone photos while the crowd below warmed up to Finger Family (Zhi Ren'r), a punk quintet, University Night regular and finalist in the national Pepsi Battle of the Bands last year.

"Beijing is the best for rock," said Qiao Yina after the show, the unassuming pint-sized female lead of Finger Family and senior at China Foreign Affairs University.
"It not only has its own talent, but the scene attracts the best musicians and bands from all over the country," she added.

But this anything goes attitude is a mark of the times, a mixing of cultures in Beijing which young musicians are well aware of and perhaps, more able to tap into.
"Rock saw three waves of popularity in China; metal in the 1980s, punk in the late 1990s and now, experimental. Genres are disappearing, or people are just becoming less interested in them," Bei explained.

Although University Night only started in March 2008, the eclectic line-up packs them in despite its mid-week slot, a sign of the scene's potential.

"People are taking this scene seriously, that's why it has grown so fast," said Liu Xiangsong, Central Conservatory trained guitarist and lead singer of Nan Wu.
But what makes Beijing's scene so refreshing is not only its craving for creativity, but also the pure enthusiasm buzzing around this budding uni-rock culture.

"There's an audience for rock in the US, but here, we're lucky to have this," said Lanzhou native Yan Jun, a freshman Italian major at Beijing Language and Culture University and D-22 first timer.

"This city is open. If you have something to say, there is a place to say it," Yan added as he reluctantly put on his coat and headed out the door, just before Nan Wu's set.

"It's already 11 pm. if I don't hurry, I'll miss dorm curfew."

Source: Global Times
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