by Steven

Dynamic Yunnan 1.09

January 9, 2011 in Arts, Events by Steven

Yunnan native choreographer/dancer Yang Liping and company perform in Qingdao at the Qingdao Grand Theatre on January 9. Known as The Peacock Princess, Yang is a renowned dancer whose Dynamic Yunnan shows have been touring China for years. Watch a video of her dancing on Youku. Tickets and more information: 8066.5555.

When: January 9, 7.30 pm
Venue: Qingdao Grand Theatre / 青岛大剧院
Location: 5 Yunling Lu, Laoshan district / 云岭路5号
Tickets: 180-680 yuan (RMB) / 180-680 元
More Info: 8066.5555

Yunnan Dance Yang Liping Qingdao

Relevant Links:
The Peacock Princess on NY Times
Qingdao Grand Theatre Official Website (Chinese)
More Info on Qingdao Grand Theatre
Yan Liping Moon Dance Video

by Steven

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra 1.11

January 9, 2011 in Events, Music by Steven

Celebrate Yang Xiao Jun’s birthday in style as the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra (MSSO) performs at the Qingdao Grand Theatre on January 11. Buy tickets online at the Qingdao Grand Theatre official site (Chinese). Call 8066.5555 for more information.

When: January 11, 7.30 pm
Venue: Qingdao Grand Theatre / 青岛大剧院
Location: 5 Yunling Lu, Laoshan district / 云岭路5号
Tickets: 180-680 yuan (RMB) / 180-680 元
More Info: 8066.5555

Relevant Links:
Qingdao Grand Theatre Official Website (Chinese)
More Info on Qingdao Grand Theatre

by Hunter

Qingdao Double Star vs. Tianjin Rongcheng 1.07

January 7, 2011 in Events, Sports by Hunter

The 2010-11 CBA season is in full swing and the Qingdao Double Star Eagles are hoping to improve on last year’s less than stellar performance. Qingdao Double Star plays against Tianjin Rongcheng at Qingdao University Arena on January 7. Tickets range from 60 to 200 yuan (RMB) and are available at the venue (enter via south gate on Hong Kong East Road).

When: January 7 (7:30 pm Tip Off)
Venue: Qingdao University Arena
More Info: 8268-4351

Relevant Links:
CBA 2010-11 Schedule and Info (English)
Official CBA website (Chinese)
Official Qingdao Double Star website (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star 2010-11 Roster (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star 2010-11 Schedule (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star on Sina (Chinese)
NiuBBall (CBA news and more)

by Steven

Jiang Haibin 1.07

January 5, 2011 in Events, Music by Steven

Folk singer/guitarist Jiang Haibin performs at Sonospace Books in Creative 100 on January 7. Tickets are 10 yuan for members of the bookstore and 15 for the general public. The poster for this event says “No matter what problems we are facing, love is the only cure – Jiang Haibin sings stories about people around you”.

When: January 7, 7:00 pm
Venue: Sonospace Bookstore / 不是书店
Address: 100 Nanjing Lu (Creative 100) / 南京路100号创意园
Tickets: 10 yuan (RMB) members, 15 yuan (RMB) general / 10元会员15元
Info: 8080.9565

Relevant Links:
Sonospace on Douban
不是书店/Sonospace on Google Maps
Creative 100 Official Site

by Hunter

Qingdao Double Star vs. Shanxi Zhongyu 1.05

January 5, 2011 in Events, Sports by Hunter

The 2010-11 CBA season is in full swing and the Qingdao Double Star Eagles are hoping to improve on last year’s less than stellar performance. Coming off a big win over Shanghai in Round 10 action (Dee Brown got Player of the Week honors for his 44 point game against the Sharks), Qingdao Double Star’s next home game is against Shanxi Zhongyu at Qingdao University Arena on January 5. Tickets range from 60 to 200 yuan (RMB) and are available at the venue (enter via south gate on Hong Kong East Road). Come check out Marbury’s old team led this year by imports Leon Rodgers and Osama Daghlas as the Eagles try to rise out of the basement of the CBA standings.

When: January 5 (7:30 pm Tip Off)
Venue: Qingdao University Arena
More Info: 8268-4351

Relevant Links:
CBA 2010-11 Schedule and Info (English)
Official CBA website (Chinese)
Official Qingdao Double Star website (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star 2010-11 Roster (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star 2010-11 Schedule (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star on Sina (Chinese)
NiuBBall (CBA news and more)

by Steven

Qingdao Suburbs: Jimo, Laixi, Pingdu

January 4, 2011 in About Qingdao by Steven

Just outside of Qingdao the satellite cities of Jimo, Laixi, and Pingdu are shaping up to be comfy suburbs of an increasingly urban metropolis. These three cities plus Jiaozhou and Jiaonan (west of the Huangdao Kaifaqu) are designated as county level cities of Qingdao. Are American style suburbs coming to Qingdao as the city fans out and more people buy cars? Here’s some more information on the outlying areas of Qingdao.

Jimo
A lot of people from Qingdao are originally from Jimo. Called “Ji Mi” in Qingdaohua, Jimo is a well known name in Qingdao – one of the largest markets in the city takes its name from Jimo Lu in old town. Also called 901, Jimo Lu market is a place to buy souvenirs, clothes, pearls, watches and more. The actual city of Jimo is about 45 minutes drive from Qingdao. Jimo is famous for Jimo Lao Jiu, a kind of rice wine that is best served heated like Japanese sake. Jimo is home to the Red Collar clothes company headquarters, hot springs (and upscale real estate developments built around the springs such as Baden Village) and skiiing.

Laixi
Laixi is about a 90 minute drive from Qingdao and is home to the production base for UHT milk and ice cream made by Nestle in Niuxibu village. China Daily says Laixi itself has a population of over 7 million, though that most like includes a lot of the countryside around the city. It might be an interesting place to take a trip as the people are said to be friendlier in Laixi than in Qingdao. Small town – big town dichotomy perhaps.

Pingdu
Pingdu is famous for agricultural output including fruits such as grapes from Da Ze Shan, as well as crafts such as straw products like bags and decorative items made in the Shandong countryside. Pingdu has been called the China Straw Town. The city was also the site of an important battle between the Communists and Nationalists in the Chinese civil war following the close of WW2. Pingdu is about an hour north on the highway from Jimo.

Relevant Links:
Map of Qingdao and outlying areas on Google Maps

Photo Credit @ The Infrastructurist

by Redstar

Interview: Helen Feng

January 1, 2011 in Music by Redstar

The following interview with Helen Feng of Free the Birds (performing January 15 at Redstar in Creative 100) will appear in part in the January issue of Redstar. Check out what the singer/songwriter has to say about the band’s name change, personnel shuffle, the Beijing music scene, sex and love, leaving Pet Conspiracy, and more. For more info on Redstar and the upcoming concert: 135.8320.6332 or 8388.2269

I guess, first, what’s with the name change? Polish band with same name? And why Free The Birds?
Yeah, we just wanted a new start.  Almost like starting from scratch.  I used to watch an old man from my six floor apartment who raised pigeons fly his pigeons three times a day, no matter winter snow or summer heat.  The Birds used to sing when they flew past my window.  I thought it was really beautiful.  A lot of people don’t like the name, and it was a difficult decision, but everyone in the band thinks that it’s important that we do something like this so I guess we stuck to it. 

I feel like China is still a good place to work for a musician because despite all the problems, there’s still a lot of creative space to work.

Musically what has changed since your last visit? I understand the set has been cut down to a few oldies, new material has new influences? Such as who? Are your lyrics these days more English or Chinese? How is the new music being received?
New music is more atmospheric and we want to concentrate on harmonies and melodies delivered in an interesting way.  I think we want to do something more cinematic, influenced from the 70′s rock which built beautiful soundscapes with really nice melodies.  Or a bit of shoegazing 90′s stuff but with more interesting rhythms, through not straight shoe-gazer.  The new direction hasn’t been firmed down yet, I’m not sure how much new material you’ll hear this time because we changed our drummer recently.  This is a transitional period for us, but I think we’re taking steps in some interesting musical directions. 

Helen Feng Free The Birds Live Music

Thoughts on the development of the Chinese music scene? Spoke with a Swedish indie musician relocated to Beijing recently whose major gripes with Beijing scene were: 

a. Lack of decent songwriters
Songwriting has been put aside in recent years because of trend chasing.  Everyone is more concerned with building a sound that follows the trends, as opposed to creating a song that stands on its own.  As a result, the songs are often incomplete and lacking in melodic elements and hooks.  

b. Little heed paid to recordings, too much heed to live show
Records don’t make money and shows do.   One band was willing to spend more money on the show production for just three shows than on the recording process for an entire album.  When I argued that it was silly, the response given to me was “but records don’t make money”.  (Hmmm, does that mean the only judge of musical quality these days is cash income?)  In China, there’s too many opportunities to play for just average bands.  So they play, and they make money, but with a fashionable look and bad music instead of strong songwriting and hot album.  That just encourages more young bands to not care about songwriting and music production and concentrate on dressing cool and having an “attitude”.  

The record companies also invest too little money. . . for instance an unnamed already very successful band only got 30,000 RMB to producer from studio to master their entire album.  This was lower than their performance fee for one show.  That’s a stupidly small amount considering a good master will cost them likely more than a quarter of that, and the standard studio fee is something like 1500 per/ day without counting producer fees.  That means they only have just 10 days to do ten songs. . . thus the quality is already limited by the investment.  

On top of that,  there are just not enough good recording engineers and producers in China that know how to tweak a band’s sound to make it good enough for a world audiences.  A lot of bands are thus self-produced without knowing anything about the complex technical stuff behind recording.  It’s easier to get a fuzzy lo-fi indie sound than a strong radio friendly sound.  Lo-fi also helps cover up the skills of the musicians as well, but it’s hard to make that sound really stand out from the other tens of thousands of fuzzy lo-fi indie bands around the world. Especially without great song writing.  (For instance, the Moldy Peaches were all over the Juno soundtrack because they were lo-fi but had great songs).  

c. not enough fun poppy indie bands.
I thought, he should see Ziyo/Free the Birds because they are proficient in all of what he says is lacking. The Beatles were pop, so were the Stones.  Guns and Roses, Chuck Berry, Depeche Mode, and even on some level the Clash all had a healthy healthy dose of pop if pop means to have a memorable hook.  There is a deep aversion to musical hooks in China, which means that we have endless songs of unmemorable soundscapes without hooks.  If you can remember the song, it doesn’t make it uncool!

For Free the Birds, it’s a new era, of rethinking and rewriting music but from a more mature perspective and a more collaborative perspective. I’m excited for everything that’s going to happen.

Are you frustrated to be back in it? Or buoyed with a renewed sense of homecoming enthusiasm? Did you ever leave?
I left for Europe for a month and half on tour, and I am enthusiastic to come back.  I feel like China is still a good place to work for a musician because despite all the problems, there’s still a lot of creative space to work.  The kids are confused but not hopeless.  There’s a lot of people searching for music and I think the past trends like over-commercialization, hipsterism, pure copying of western styles, stealing music, and greed that infiltrated the music scene are being questioned and slowly rejected by the bands and the audiences.  It’s a good point, a possible turning point for music in China.  Hopefully this will spark a creative and confident new generation. . . I already see hope in bands like Omnipotent Youth Hotel, and Nan Wu.  They’re uniquely Chinese yet modern with good songwriting and with something to say.  The Chinese bloggers’ rejection of certain over-hyped over-commercialized music festivals are also a welcoming sign.  The energy here makes me want to keep doing music.  

Interview Helen Feng Free the Birds

You’ve been working with several different musicians/groups in the interim, such as Pet Conspiracy, and it seems everytime I’ve spoken to you or your Free the Birds band mates in the last year, you were either on, going to or coming back from a European tour with this group. What is your situation now with other bands? Are Free The Birds the priority (again)? 
I’ve completely left Pet Conspiracy because of strong creative and personal differences, and will be focusing on Free the Birds and my own project.  I’m starting a company that wants to help build infrastructure that’s hopefully healthier than the twisted workings of the old music industry here, and a solo project for all the creative stuff that doesn’t work within a band context.  For Free the Birds, it’s a new era, of rethinking and rewriting music but from a more mature perspective and a more collaborative perspective.  I’m excited for everything that’s going to happen.  

You’re a sexually charged band, one can certainly tell from the on stage antics and press photos. Pet Conspiracy were occasionally found naked in the woods too. Is that your fault? 
No, it was the idea of a friend of ours and I didn’t participate in the photo shoot.  I love sex. . . and I think there’s nothing wrong with sexual expression if its used to liberate oneself and to forward interesting ideas.  I’m also a feminist and I think that sexuality can be either empowering or degrading depending on context.  I think more often than not in younger generations in China, sexuality is either rejected or embraced in a degrading unhealthy manner because it is made a taboo or turned too much into a prize.  I think kids should stop watching Japanese porn and start dating people they respect.  And learn that sex is natural, sex is healthy, sex ultimately is the reason for 80% of what humanity does, and that sex is better with the person you love.

There is a deep aversion to musical hooks in China, which means that we have endless songs of unmemorable soundscapes without hooks. If you can remember the song, it doesn’t make it uncool!

You’ve a new drummer. Who’s the new guy? What happened to Mao Mao? Last we saw he was an Amazing Insurance Salesman. 
Mao Mao is moving on with his creative choices and life choices.  We’re sad to see him go as he’s very talented and an important contributor to the band, and we will go in a different direction without him.  He’s in several other bands right now, top of the list, the Amazing Insurance Salesmen.  Every member was important to who we were, so now we are something new.  With Wubuli, he’s one of the most talented hand percussionist that we knew for years. He’s also friends with Mao Mao.  He’s Uygar and has a very different sense of rhythm, not based on 4/4 but 5/8 and with more middle eastern beat structures.  We want to incorporate more of that into our music but I think it will take some time.  His sense for music is so different from ours. . . and I can’t help but think that he has a lot to contribute to our future sound.  I’m excited to see what that will be.  Give us a few months.  

How are you affiliated these days? You have a label? Are you recording now? Can we have a few sneaky demos?
No label, but I am seriously thinking about starting my own for my projects and coming projects of friends and family.  And as a way to introduce some really strong foreign artists into circulation in China.  Maybe I’m old school but I both believe strongly in the power of the internet and in physical CDs and Vinyl still.  It’s something about holding a Vinyl of your own music in your hand and smelling it.  I want to do that, and I think maybe others will want to do that too.  Just smell it.  I think right now, I can’t think of a domestic label that would be a good fit for us. . . maybe that will change.  Starting a label is a painful experience I’m sure, but I guess I’m masochistic that way.  

Helen Feng Free the Birds Live in Qingdao January 15, 2011

What else do you guys do besides Free The Birds? How’s the promotion company? You are no longer on the radio right? 
No more radio, sadly.  I actually loved that program and my co-workers, but I’m going to revive that program on the internet.  We are launching a website January 2011, and it will have pod casts of the Rock Show along with blogs, photos, music, etc.  We doing a party for it at School Bar on the 27th so it’s a lot of work leading up to that date.  

The company I have (Fake Music Media) is not really a promotions company.  We call ourselves an artists services company because we want to work more closely with the bands than just promote one or two shows for them in China.  We want to leave them a strong internet presence in China, perhaps get them a record release, make videos, basically do everything they need to affect audiences in China.  It’s also an engine for managing my own career and these two projects I’m working on, along with hopefully interesting bands we find along the way.  Like an A&R/Manager/Bookings Agent/Promotions company all rolled into one.  It’s like DIY but with a bigger and more effective team.  All we need now is investment . . . know any?  = )

Are you (Free The Brids/Ziyo) leaving China regularly for gigs? To where? How are you received abroad?
We’ve only been to Hong Kong once which went really well.  We didn’t travel so much the last two years partly because I spent too much time on the other band.   Now we want to go overseas. . . so who knows.  We will be honing our sound and looking for opportunities.  The other guys in the band haven’t left the country before.  Everyone except for me comes from working class families and were living off of performance fees, so unlike Pet Conspiracy who could pay out of pocket themselves for their first 2 European tours overseas and had few visa issues, Free the Birds needs to find sponsorship and visas can be difficult because they mostly come from the provinces.  It might be difficult but we are determined to do it hopefully in 2011, because it would be so much fun to travel together.  It would be like going on the road with my brothers.

Helen Feng Live Free the Birds

Relevant Links:
Free the Birds on Douban
Free the Birds (formerly Ziyo) on Myspace
Free the Birds on Rock in China Wiki
Interview with Helen Feng on Beijing Daze
Interview with Helen Feng on Layabozi

by Steven

Qingdao To Do: Bowling

December 31, 2010 in About Qingdao by Steven

Going bowling in Qingdao was a fad in the 90′s that spread through China after sweeping Taiwan in the 80′s. Bowling in Qingdao seems to have lost its luster and is now on offer at just a few outlets around town.

It all started with the Haitian Hotel (now closed), passed through the now absent Kitami on Yanji Lu (the site is now the Xinxing Sports Center), and now the sport of kings and working men can be enjoyed at these hotels in Qingdao. Please let us know of any other places in the comments below.

Crowne Plaza Hotel

The bowling center at Crowne Plaza is mostly deserted during the day when rates are cheaper, as most of the places to bowl in Qingdao offer special deals during their down times. The space at Crowne Plaza is posh and elite, chances are you would be the only bowlers there most of the time. It’s rumored that they don’t have much in the way of beer down there and folks have been known to byob. Check with the fuwuyuan first. For more info call 8571.8888.

Grand Regency Hotel

Back in the day when bowling was more popular than bars in Qingdao, the Grand Regency ruled the roost with a huge area on the 3F near the squash courts. Then the bowling center was moved to the space in the parking garage connected to the hotel and kept on rolling as Qingdao’s most popular destination to knock down some pins. Presently it’s still probably the one place in town popular with regular bowlers. For more info call 8588.1818.

Kylin Best Western Hotel

The Kylin towers above Surf Plaza near the Old Stone Man. For people out in the eastern part of Qingdao (in Laoshan district), this is the best choice for bowling. The Kylin is next to the Qingdao International Beer City, site of the yearly Beer Fest. Beer and bowling, a natural combination. For more info call 8889.1888

Gold Marina/Blue Horizon Hotel

This is Huangdao Kaifaqu’s best hotel and the lanes here are fairly new and well maintained. Gold Marina is just west of Jusco next to the Petroleum University on Changjiang Lu in the Development Zone. For those of you on the other side of the bay who wish to go bowling, this is probably your only choice. For more info call 8698.6666

Relevant Links:
Bowling in China Photo on Flickr
Lebowski Fest

by Steven

Qingdao Double Star vs. Shanghai 1.02

December 29, 2010 in Events, Sports by Steven

The 2010-11 CBA season has started and the Qingdao Double Star Eagles are hoping to improve on last year’s less than stellar performance. The next home game is against the Shanghai Sharks at Qingdao University Arena on January 2. Tickets range from 60 to 200 yuan (RMB) and are available at the venue (enter via south gate on Hong Kong East Road). More Info: 8268-4351. Come check out Yao’s team coached by Bob Donewald, Jr.

When: January 2 (7:30 pm Tip Off)
Venue: Qingdao University Arena
More Info: 8268-4351

Relevant Links:
CBA 2010-11 Schedule and Info (English)
Official CBA website (Chinese)
Official Qingdao Double Star website (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star 2010-11 Roster (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star 2010-11 Schedule (Chinese)
Qingdao Double Star on Sina (Chinese)
NiuBBall (CBA news and more)
Shanghai Sharks Official Site

New Year’s Eve Qingdao 12.31.10

December 29, 2010 in Events by Qingdao Expat Group

The “other” new year is celebrated in Qingdao at clubs and bars around town on the evening of December 31. New Year’s Eve parties in Qingdao will be happening privately and publicly throughout the city. There will also be public fireworks at May 4th Square in Fushan Bay – just like last year.

Cheers Qingdao ~ Happy New Year! Happy 2011!

Here is a very brief list of some of the places where resident and visiting foreigners are likely to be partying with their Chinese compatriots of the night. Please let us know of some of your favorites in the comments below.

Night Trend (aka Ye Chao), Vivi, Angel Bar

All in the Zhonglian Guangchang complex at the corner of Ningxia and Nanjing Lu. Modern clubs with modern sound systems and packed with people dressed to impress on a night on the town.

Q Bar

Upscale bar on the 1F of Shangri-La Hotel. Live band and dancing, sometimes of the pole variety.

Old Jack’s Bar

Across Yanerdao Lu from the Book City, just north of Jusco and Crowne Plaza. Quiet, European pub atmosphere.

La Villa

Quiet option with food, across from the Qingdao World Trade Center.

Club New York

Long standing bar with large live (and loud) band. Should be quite crowded with wine and song.

Lennon

Live band and Beatles/rock and roll theme, also have some nice Chinese dishes and noodles from Steven Gao.

Room Lounge

Small place (name says it all) with a cosy vibe next to May 4th Square. Might be a good place before/after the fireworks there.

Feeling & Bund No. 1

Just 2 of the many disco style clubs in Qingdao; both promised to be packed at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Relevant Links:
Qingdao Bars and Clubs

by Steven

Rockin’ New Year’s Eve 12.31

December 29, 2010 in Events, Music by Steven

Rock out New Year’s Eve with Qingdao musicans at Creative 100 on December 31. Bands include Fancy World, Mr. Cat, Firehouse, Lazy 1st and many more.

When: December 31, 9 pm
Venue: Creative 100, 100 Nanjing Lu / 创意100南京路100号401
Tickets: Advance 20 yuan (RMB), Door 30 / 门票: 30元, 预售20元
Info: 138.5421.8850

Relevant Links:
Creative 100 Official Website
Event on Douban (Chinese)

by Steven

The Nutcracker 1.06

December 29, 2010 in Arts, Events by Steven

The ballet The Nutcracker will be performed at the Qingdao Grand Theatre by the Russian National Ballet Theater on January 6. Tickets are available from the theatre and online (Chinese) with business and family package discounts. The Russian National Ballet Theater was founded in 1878 and now features dancers from the upper ranks of ballet companies and academies of Russia, including those in Riga, Kiev and Warsaw. The company will be performing 3 Tchaikovsky ballets in Qingdao from January 3 to 6 including Swan Lake on January 3 and 4 and Sleeping Beauty on January 5.

When: January 6, 7.30 pm
Venue: Qingdao Grand Theatre / 青岛大剧院
Location: 5 Yunling Lu, Laoshan district / 云岭路5号
Tickets: 180-680 yuan (RMB) / 180-680 元
More Info: 8066.5555

The Nutcracker Qingdao Grand Theatre Russian Ballet

Relevant Links:
Qingdao Grand Theatre Official Website (Chinese)
More Info on Qingdao Grand Theatre