China, the Holocaust, and sodagreen

Yom Hashoah begins at sundown today and continues through tomorrow. This seems to me like the right time to revive my long (long) dormant blog and talk about sodagreen’s recent foray into Holocaust remembrance. The song “He Raised His Right Hand to Testify” [1] is from the band’s 2015 album Winter Endless, which they recorded in Berlin. This song (and the fantastic live performance video) features not just the band, but the GermanPops Orchestra.

Like a lot of Qingfeng’s writing, this song is hard to understand and hard to translate. (I googled more than one line and found long discussions in Chinese debating what he meant by certain phrases, so at least I know I’m not alone!) However I love the song – I especially love the cognitive dissonance of such a toe tapping beat, catchy melody, and dark subject matter – that I decided to take a crack at it anyway. Here’s my first shot:

他舉起右手點名 He Raised His Right Hand to Testify
作詞曲:青峰 Words and Music by Wu Qingfeng

「這是眾人共謀的一個惡遊戲?」
“Did everyone conspire in this evil game?”
「那火車不應該載我們到這裡!」
“That train should not have brought us here!”
「個個幽靈像死了又死的魅影。」
“Every soul like a phantom that dies over and over.”
「我是一個編號還是擁有姓名?」
“Am I just a number or do I still have a name?”

「那毒蜘蛛懂得讓人手舞足蹈。」
“That poisonous spider knows how to make people dance for him.”
「看!它們正要奪走凱旋的指環。」
“Look! It’s about to snatch the victory ring.”
「這裡甚至不容許粗糙的渴望。」
“Here they don’t even allow the faintest hope.”
「時間是不存在的,讓惡夢餵養。」
“Time doesn’t exist so that nightmares can be fed.”

「被逼迫著走了岔路,還能活著再見嗎?」 “
The coerced reach a fork in the road, can they keep living to meet again?”
「移民」「俘虜」「同性戀」「吉普賽」「猶太」
“Migrants” “Captives” “Homosexuals” “Gypsies” “Jews”
「有沒有它這麼恨我們的八卦?」
“Are there rumors that it really hates us so much?”
「幾十年後,世界會不會還一樣……」
“Decades from now, will the world still be like this?”

「令人憤慨的不是受苦,而是受這苦沒理由!」
“I don’t resent suffering, but I do resent suffering for no reason.”
「看官們,若有選擇,你會當受害者或劊子手?」
“Dear listeners, if you had the choice, would you want to be the victim or the perpetrator?”

「它的綸音讓我們集中如螻蟻。」
“His silky tones caused us to be concentrated here like ants.”
「瘟疫的紅十字!」「痙攣的六角星……」
“Diseased Red Cross!” “Contorted Star of David!”
「被自己的夢吼驚醒多血淋淋。」
“Awoken, bloody and battered, by the cry of a dream.”
「給它一根指頭,它要我整隻手!」
“Give it a finger and it’ll want my whole hand!”

「所有生靈加起來,也不值它一個慾望!」
“Add up every soul and together they cannot satisfy its craving!”
「寧可站著死去,也不跪著苟活。」
“It’d be better to die standing than keep on living kneeling.”
「在愛仇敵之前,卻先恨了朋友。」
“Before loving your enemies, you must first hate your friends.”
「住進一朵火焰,就成為螢火蟲。」
“When you live in the flames you become a firefly.”

「因為他的不公才有了第一個殺人犯。」
“Because of his injustice the first murderer was created.”
「智慧帶來原罪!」「別用契約馴服我。」
“From knowledge came original sin!” “Don’t use a covenant to control me.”
「命運瞎了眼,誰能抓一綹頭髮?」
“Fate is blind, who can grasp a lock of hair?”
「天!毒氣已四溢,我逐漸失去我……」
“Lord! The poisonous gas surrounds me, I gradually lose myself…”

「我……我的手!」「我的臉!」「我的瘋狂!」
“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
「脫下你的衣和帽!」「打開你的齒和嘴!」
“Take off your clothes and hat!” “Open your teeth and mouth!”
「檢查你的心和腎!」「剝離你的靈和魂!」
“Examine your heart and kidneys!” “Peel away your soul and spirit!”

「我……我的手!」「我的臉!」「我的瘋狂!」
“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
「為什麼要相信你!」「你哪裡會是真理!」
“Why did I believe you!” “Since when are you truthful!”
「誰管是不是經典!」「誰管有沒有頁數!」
“Who cares whether it’s scriptural!” “Who cares if there’s a reference!”

「我……我的手!」「我的臉!」「我的瘋狂!」
“Me… my hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
「蘇菲濕婆請解救!」「聖哲神佛都入墮!」
“Sufi, Shiva, rescue me!” “All the gods and sages have fallen!”
「輪迴涅槃誰操縱!」「如你一般怎麼做!」
“Who can control reincarnation into Nirvana!” “Do what you always do!”
「我!我的手!」「我的臉!」「我的瘋狂!」
“Me! My hand!” “My face!” “My insanity!”
「出草火大風大中!」「曉星早已經墜落!」
“Consumed by the fire and wind of the headhunters!” “The stars have already fallen!”
「גאולה… סליחה… תשובה…」「ॐ मणि पद्मे हूँ 」
“Repentance… forgiveness…redemption” “Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ

「噓!別吵!想安穩睡個覺就等著進墳場!」
“Shh! Be quiet! I want to slip easily from sleep into the cemetery!”
「喂!使者…有橄欖枝…我看到人帶來…」
“Hey! An envoy… bearing an olive branch… I see someone bringing it….”
「我很想…想到家…臉覺得快…快樂…」
“I really miss… Miss home.. Face filled with joy, joy…”
「滿口譫語…數到七……或許我有…罪!」
“A mouthful of nonsense… count to seven… maybe I’m guilty!”
「為何我有罪!」
“Why am I guilty!”
「若我說祂也…………。」
“If I am God is too…”

Quite aside from the fact that it’s an amazing song, this one speaks to me right now. I’m finishing up an eight month fellowship at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where I’ve been doing research for a book on refugees from the Holocaust in China during and especially after World War Two. Here’s just one example of the kinds of stories there are to tell about escaping to Shanghai, then escaping Shanghai after the war. I hereby declare this sodagreen song the official theme song of this book project. [2]

Of course, this song is also a reminder of how much I still love Mandopop, even if I haven’t blogged about it in almost five (!) years.[3]

And as strange as it is to listen to a song that makes you want to get up and dance and think about lives – families – whole communities cruelly and brazenly destroyed, finding new ways to remember the Holocaust – even in Mandarin, with jazzy tempos – is an important part of the worldwide commitment to “Never Again.”

Notes:
[1] The “official” translation of the song title is apparently “He raised his hand to make a roll call,” though I suspect that the clear reference to it being his right hand, and the subject matter in which “testimony” plays such a powerful role, makes me think my slightly altered title is a better fit (in addition to scanning much better in English).

[2] My first book also had an official theme song, though I failed to acknowledge it in the preface.

[3] I am absurdly proud I could still figure out how to log in to this blog.

Posted in Sodagreen | 1 Comment

The Grammys theory of the GMAs

Okay, it’s pretty fun to see Mayday in the Wall Street Journal. It’s only fair, you know, since Mayday has name-checked Wall Street twice in their songs (“Noah’s Ark” and “Good night, Earthlings”). Nothing in the post-GMA news has surprised me, including the fact that the boys had broken two of their Golden Melody Awards while horsing around backstage before the ceremony was even over, or the the fact that the big question on everyone’s minds immediately after the program was “where were they keeping the bananas?” (Masa’s answer: Once you have a boyfriend, you’ll figure that out. Ashin’s: Men’s pockets are larger than women’s. So yes, it really was a banana in his pocket….)

While basking in the glow of the big Mayday victory at the GMAs – which somehow feels like a victory for all of us – I thought I’d take the opportunity to offer my theory of the awards. Like the American Grammy awards, the GMAs often come under fire for what they do and do not recognize. In both cases, the awards are completely unimportant, even ridiculous – until you win one. (Just ask Cowboy Jay, who has gone back and forth between declaring them all dilettantes when he wasn’t nominated to geniuses when he won.) In the United States, there’s always some added controversy about whether certain styles of music are being recognized, or whether a really popular artist whose impact has been great but whose musicality might not appeal to the judges should be given an award. For the former, think rap music, which has dominated top 40 radio, gets loads of nominations, but rarely wins; for the latter, think Justin Bieber losing “best new artist.”

Taiwan’s GMAs have their own controversies, the greatest of which I think is still the decision that starting in 2005, there would be separate categories for Album of the Year for Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and Aboriginal languages. The rationale was that a Hakka-language album rarely stands a chance against the likes of Cowboy Jay (though as we’ll see, few people stand a chance against him). At the same time, though, the language division segregates non-Mandarin albums to their own, far less competitive categories, which neither get the attention nor seem to merit the honor of winning by competing with the mainstream. It also meant the end of things like Mayday’s old format of half Taiwanese, half Mandarin albums, though that change might have come anyway as they made inroads with the mainland Chinese audience.

Although the GMAs have kept pace with a lot of changes in music – certainly, they’ve had no trouble accepting Cowboy Jay’s hip hop/R&B/dodgy country contributions – but I think there has been a tendency to overlook the contributions that bands have made to Taiwan’s changing music scene. In 2009, the Association of Music Workers of Taiwan published a book outlining the 200 most outstanding popular music albums in Taiwan from 1975 to 2005. It included three selections from Mayday: their first album, for being the avant garde of a new era of “rock and roll,” the second album, for showing that the first was not a fluke, and Time Machine, which celebrated the band’s return after two years of separation and showed its range and musicality for the first time. I think this assessment is about right; it’s easy to forget, all these years later with sodagreen or the Superband, not to mention Tizzy Bac, the years of rivalry with the Shin Band, the rise of the Chairmen, Totem, Monkey Pilots, or even (*sigh*) Champion, just how new Mayday was in 1999. They didn’t invent rock music, they weren’t the first to play it in Taiwan (for that, you’d have to go back to the origins of campus folk in the 1970s), but they brought it to a mainstream, youth audience in a way that influenced future acts. There has always been a “best male singer” and “best female singer” category at the GMAs; the “best band” category was only added in 2001. That year, there were three nominations, and Mayday won.

It’s hard to be a pioneer. The Association of Music Workers of Taiwan book acknowledged that Mayday’s early albums were not technically proficient, and their live performances were more energy than polish (case in point, what two things do we look for at a Mayday concert? For Ashin to slide off key, and to forget his lyrics). Their first album wasn’t important because it was objectively good, but because it was objectively different. With that kind of history behind them, it is not at all surprising that as they’ve grown, polished their style, improved their technique, and honed their craft, they’d still be remembered as the revolutionary band that wasn’t really GMA caliber. This is, of course, just a theory, but I’d suggest that Mayday paved the way for other bands to get much faster recognition despite being bands (and not individual artists, which still dominate the awards), but that it meant the GMAs were too slow to recognize the change in Mayday. This theory is why I think it was important for Mayday to finally come due and sweep the awards, as they did, and why it didn’t really bother me that sodagreen’s excellent album was somewhat overlooked.

To see how true this is, let’s look at a little GMA history. On the award for best composer, Qingfeng has been nominated four times and won once (for “Little Love Song”) – one nomination was his writing for A-mei. Jay has seven nominations and two wins. Masa’s win was the only nomination Mayday had ever received in this category, and it is otherwise dominated by songs for individual artists. Lyrics has been Mayday’s best category (other than Best Band) for nominations – Ashin has had three, though two of those were in the same year (from Poetry of the Day After ), but no wins. Qingfeng has had two nominations, the Superband one. Jay has been nominated once, but his lyricist, Vincent Fong, has had a record seven nominations and two wins. Again, few bands in this category.

Best arrangement has seen sodagreen nominated four times without winning, the Superband once, the Chairmen once, and Natural Q once – that might possibly be the strongest representation bands have had outside of the Best Band category. The Best Producer category has few nominations for bands (one for sodagreen and one for Natural Q; no others I recognize, though I could be wrong) but one big win: Tizzy Bac won for It’s All Your Fault.

The big categories, Song of the Year and Album of the Year, have likewise not seen many bands make the grade. Before this year, the Superband, sodagreen, and Mayday all had a single nomination for Song of the Year. (I’m not counting last year’s “Jonathan’s Song” for the Superband, because he was awarded Song of the Year as an individual, playing with the Superband as backup.) Beyond that, you have to go back to the early 1990s to find a single nomination for each The Little Tigers and East Train. Album of the year is similar, though Cowboy Jay has had four wins and another four nominations, sodagreen has been nominated twice, Natural Q once, and Mayday was nominated once before: for People Life, Ocean Wild (note to Mayday: if you want to be nominated in this category, your album must have “人生“ in the title).

Beyond the ridiculous domination of Cowboy Jay against all reason, what do these numbers tell us? Well for one thing, sodagreen has not had trouble being nominated in music and production categories. This is for two reasons: one, they are very, very good, and two, the GMAs had time to get used to bands before they appeared. As a result, I wasn’t that worried about them this year. Mayday has, by contrast, very rarely gotten attention outside of Best Band (they have four wins in Best Band with two additional nominations; sodagreen has two wins with four additional nominations, though two of those nominations were in the same year for different albums). Moreover, most of the nominees for Best Band are not nominated in any of the other categories. I think the Superband was easy to understand, because the artists in it were all so well known; it’s easy to see how four talented people could be more talented together. People like Wu Bai, who plays rock music with a band, are nominated as individuals, so he does not challenge the domination of individuals in the awards.

As the number and variety of bands making inroads into the Taipei music scene increases, I expect there to be more nominations recognizing them when it’s warranted. But none of this changes the fact that for Mayday’s contribution to the shift in the music scene that made the rise of the band era possible, it was hugely important for them finally to get some GMA recognition. In the coming days, there will be the usual editorials that argue that Mayday swept the awards either because of the band’s popularity (or even its promise to attend) or because there wasn’t anything good last year, so Mayday was the best they could do. That’s all subjective, of course, and certainly I’ve dismissed Cowboy Jay wins in similar terms. But I do think that whether or not Second Round was the best Mandarin album last year, the awards were a way to recognize the longstanding contributions the band has made to the industry, and that’s a fair reason for giving them so many.

Posted in Cowboy Jay, Mandopop, Mayday, Sodagreen | 4 Comments

Why Ashin really is “Ok-la”

Wow. We’ve come a long way, baby. Today the 23rd Annual Golden Melody Awards held their award ceremony. And Mayday won six of seven awards for which it was nominated. Six of seven. They won: Best Arrangement, Best Band, Best Composer, Best Producing, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year.

Before today, Mayday has been on the Mandopop scene for 13 years, but has never gotten a GMA award for anything other than best band. Basically, their popularity, but not their musicality, is all that has ever been honored. Now, if Cowboy Jay has taught us absolutely nothing else over the years, he has taught us that getting a GMA award for a particular song or project isn’t exactly confirmation that what you’ve put out there was the absolute best bit of music you’ve ever produced or that was available in the last year. I still think Mayday’s best album EVER was Time Machine. And I love “Noah’s Ark,” but… I have songs of theirs that I like better. Sometimes, it seems like the awards hold out on you for a long time, then finally step up and say, “Yeah. We recognize you. And you’re good.” That’s what this was, I think – it was like 13 years of awards all granted in a single night, and in that sense these awards were very, very well earned. (Plus Cowboy Jay was shut out. Always a good night when that happens.)

The one dark spot was that Ashin didn’t win best lyrics. And, kind of, that Masa did win best composer. You know, I’m thrilled for Masa, really, but I think he got incredibly lucky. After writing only a handful of deeply mediocre songs, he got nominated on his one contribution the one year the band came due in the eyes of the GMA judges. For Ashin, having composed the first four albums solo, being still solely responsible for lyrics, and writing at least half the songs on every album thereafter, this has got to hurt a little bit. Twice during the ceremony he laughingly told the audience to stop trying to comfort him – he’s great. I’m not quite buying it. I know I would have preferred that Ashin win and Masa not, but… who am I to question the wisdom of the GMA judges? Oh wait – I do that every year. Never mind, Ashin was robbed!

Except that he wasn’t, really. The lion’s share of all six of these prizes – yes, including Masa’s – belongs to Ashin. There wouldn’t be a Mayday without the breakthrough albums, and that’s all Ashin. And I do suspect that I’m not the only person who is a Mayday fan first and foremost for Ashin’s lyrics – hey, I even have a website devoted to them! I gladly pay my annual hosting fees each and every year for the sheer pleasure I get out of playing with his language, trying to move it back and forth between Chinese and English. Without Ashin’s “rock poetry,” Masa’s “Noah’s Ark” would never have been noticed.

Like just about everyone else I’ve “met” online or in person along the course of my own decade as a Mayday fangirl, my enthusiasm for the band ebbs and flows with the tides. I listen to a lot more sodagreen these days, or Tizzy bac; I’m obsessed with Carrie Elkin’s gorgeous last album, and in the car I pretty much only listen to NPR news. The time I once had for Mayday – for translating, for listening, or giggling over a Youtube video – gets taken up by more and more complicated things as I age alongside the band. I am, of course, still translating Second Round (even if it feels like I’ve abandoned it), I just have to squeeze it into increasingly busy days, and it’s slow going. But I spent a morning following along with the awards while I worked on other things – a paper under a tight deadline, emails to answer, housework to do, commitments to fulfill – and I knew that no matter how much attention I’m paying from day to day, month to month, I’m always going to be a Mayday fan.

So they can bask in this victory tonight, eat their bananas, and feel pretty good about the world. Then tomorrow, start planning that tour to the U.S., okay?

Posted in Mayday | 25 Comments

Mayday at Wembley, according to the BBC

Okay campers, the boys have already made the Washington Post, and now they’re on the BBC! (Okay, the Chinese version, but still.) Here’s a quick and dirty translation:

On March 27, famous Taiwanese band Mayday held their first concert in England, called “Just Rock It, at London’s Wembley Stadium and received the welcome of thousands of Chinese fans.

At a press conference after the concert, Mayday’s lead singer Chen Hsin Hung Ashin said how happy they were to come to play in London, and because it was Mayday’s first real concert in Europe, they were deeply surprised to see the eight thousand fans in attendance.

“The first time we’re in London, we’re quite unfamiliar, but we suddenly had eight thousand friends waiting for us, so as soon as we hit the stage we were very moved,” he marveled.

Chen Hsin Hung remembered that although they still didn’t know what rock and roll music actually is, but “when we were teenagers, English rock band The Beatles changed our lives; I think this is the power of music, maybe that’s the meaning of rock and roll.”

“So this time, if we have a chance to come here and change the life of a friend here who likes Mayday, we’ll be so happy. Because we hope that tonight after they attend our concert they find that tomorrow they’re a little different than they were before,” he said.

Ten years ago Mayday Guitarist Shih Chin-hang (“Stone”) pursued advanced studies of music in Liverpool, so in the concert he specially used English to express his gratitude. He expressed his love of London, saying, “The architecture is really historical, and the modernization of the city hasn’t damaged that.”

“Stone” also recalled that the first day he landed in London, he specially headed into the city center to Hyde Park to bask in the sun, spending a very happy afternoon there.

At the press conference, “Stone” explained that Mayday has a great love of British music groups, including the Rolling Stones, Queen, Led Zeppelin, and other older groups, and also the more recently internationally popular Coldplay. Mayday listened to all this music growing up.

“For Chinese to hold concerts in Europe or even other western countries is very difficult; when I was in Liverpool studying music and I was the only Chinese or even East Asian person in the whole school, that was also pretty difficult business,” he admitted.

Mayday noted that when they learned that many famous English bands have played in Wembley Arena, the venue for their “Just Rock It” concert, they felt very honored, but it also made it a very important concert for them.

Given the importance of the London show, Mayday really hopes that not long from now they’ll be able to return once more and play in an even larger place, bringing their “Noah’s Ark” World Tour to even more English and European fans.

****
Now, on a side note, here’s another fun bit about the concert (in English):

Kim, who was recently named Songwriter of the Week on BBC Radio Scotland, was given the rare chance to showcase her material – and Scatterbox’s video – when an old friend, who also happens to be a hugely successful pop star, got in touch.

A former fellow student at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Shih Chin-hang, better known as Stone, a member of Taiwanese alternative rock band Mayday, asked Kim if she wanted to screen the video before their sell-out gig at Wembley.

Okay, that’s pretty cool. I wonder what the London crowd thought of the song?

Posted in Mayday | 7 Comments

For what it’s worth

I’ve finally started updating the main site with translations from the new album. Well, I’ve put up the index pages, at least; I have translations done, but it’s been so long since I’ve updated my site I have to remember how to do the formatting. (Yes, sad, I know. I’m a bad superfan.)

Anyway, at the very least, I should get Noah’s Ark, Cang Jie, and Cheers up this weekend. We’re coming up on spring break, so I’m hoping to get a few more up then.

Posted in One Day in May | 7 Comments

I know I have complained a lot about Ashin’s fashion sense…

… but in this appearance at Richie Jen’s concert, his choice of ensemble is clearly the best.

(Is that suit painted on?)

Posted in Mandopop, Mayday | 5 Comments

Ashin’s brand and Monster’s daughter

On March 3, Mayday will hold a concert – “Just Love It! I’m not willing to leave you all alone” – in Taichung. In honor of the occasion, the band donated NT$10 million to a charity for aiding children in need. Nine years earlier, each member of the band contributed to the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families, “adopting” a child a piece. At a presser yesterday, Guaishou’s “daughter” was present to meet him for the first time; he said he found it very touching. Stone added that he was proud to hear Monster called “Dad,” which suggests there might be some peer pressure in the band from the married guys to the bachelors to consider settling down (meh, you’re young yet, boys. No rush). Anyway, the rest of the guys have “sons.” Guanyou talked about how he’s watched his “son’s” letters transform from illegible to neat, even including English – even using words Guanyou didn’t know. The band’s new donation will go to a new educational fund.

In response to his cousin’s recent arrest, Ashin admitted that he only learned about it on the news himself, but he’s not worried that his family’s legal issues will turn into his problem – he’s just busy with his own work. And that’s probably as much as he needs to say.

Meanwhile, Ashin’s having his own issues with the law – no, he’s not on the wrong side of it. His design brand. Stay Real, is so wildly successful (grosses around NT$100 million last year, with fans in Taiwan, Japan and Korea) that police in Kaohsiung have arrested two people for selling pirated versions of Stay Real products. The inferior quality products were largely trafficked via mainland online shopping portal TaoBao, and thousands of fans of the brand (and the band) have discovered they were cheated. (Though come on, people – Stay Real has dedicated storefronts. What made you think the cheap t-shirts at the local night market were the real deal? I mean, did *anyone* actually believe that?) So lesson to fans out there: no shortcuts. Find an authorized vendor.

Posted in Mayday | 6 Comments

Little inanities in the news

Mayday’s latest video, “Cheers (乾杯),” explores one life from start to finish. (Rather not unlike “Like Smoke,” as one’s own mortality has been quite a theme for the band in recent years. Are they feeling their age? They’re not exactly old!)

This amusing little article notes that actually, they did some of the filming at Wanfang Hospital in Taipei, and that all the doctors in the video – the one telling the patient he’s sick, the one delivering the baby, etc. – are all real doctors from the hospital. In fact, they’re all very high ranking and playing in their respective positions (i.e. the obstetrician is delivering the baby, etc.). One of the doctors has two daughters that are big Mayday fans, and laughingly reported that their classmates left messages on Facebook that they spotted him in the video. See? It’s the band that brings families together.

Um, sorta. The other big headline on Google News is that Ashin’s cousin has been arrested for drug trafficking. Now, take everything that follows with a grain of salt. He’s involved in gang activity and was actually shot years ago, leaving him in a wheelchair and frequently getting him off on bail when arrested for drug possession. (The family’s supposed ties to organized crime originally came out at Ashin’s grandmother’s funeral years ago, when everyone was surprised to learn this guy and Ashin were cousins.) Not this time, apparently. Incidentally, his defense is that he uses opiates to control the pain after his injury, but is not involved in trafficking. I pass no judgements, except to say what a bizarre story. Mayday’s spokesman of course has no comment, noting the obvious: Ashin’s cousin’s actions have nothing whatsoever to do with the band or Ashin. Amen. I’m sure we all have a few relatives for whom we don’t want to be held responsible!

Posted in Mayday | 5 Comments

Taking the World by Storm

It occurs to me now, in re-reading that last post, that I forgot to mention that yes, I’d be back in the new year, but that I’d also be traveling with limited internet access most of January. Hmm.

Well, anyway, I’m back from my trip, which took me to Europe but – naturally – not at the same time as Mayday.

Mayday, in Europe. Who would have thought it all those years ago?

On the 29th – so right in the middle of the New Year’s festivities – Mayday played for “Taiwan Night” at an international music festival in Paris, France. Originally, they were scheduled to do only eight songs, but the audience was so enthusiastic with its calls for encores that they played an extra three. On February 1, the band will hold an additional small show for only 500 people; it sold out in an instant, with scalpers getting up to 400 euro for a resold ticket. (Okay, wow. That’s freakish but also quite impressive.) Mayday, of course, found it a bit out there too.

Ashin’s “rain man” persona followed the band to France (just in case you, like me, had forgotten all about this – back in the years with the annual summer shows, Ashin was supposedly cursed into being able to always make it rain the day the band played. There’s certainly a lot of footage out there of Mayday playing through downpours). France got four consecutive days of rain, which was supposedly unusual for this time of year. Guishou was forced to treat the roadies to a big fish dinner to cure their melancholy. (I love these articles – they just jump all over the place.)

Attending the performance there were, of course, a number of Chinese study abroad students, but also European fans. There were people who’ve followed Mayday’s music, but also some German fans who amazingly showed up and presented the band with French pink champagne (I dunno, is pink champagne really all that rock and roll?) – giving the band a taste of another kind of fan culture.

‘Kay, I think that means that the next time they’re in the U.S., we need to invent some sort of wacky American “fan culture” to present to them, and see if we can make the news wires. Who’s with me?

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Entering the New Year with a Bang

So I only just figured out why Mayday was opening the New Year’s show this year, rather than bringing the house down at the end: they were playing a few opening numbers by Taipei City Hall, then racing off to Taipei Arena for the sixth in the string of seven concerts kicking off this new tour.

I missed it all, but it might not be the end of the world: there are now a string of reports about the toll that the string of consecutive concerts has taken on Ashin’s poor, overworked voice. Last week he was apparently suffering from a violent cold, which had him sliding a bit off key on occasion (more than usual, I think. Ashin is notoriously – some would say “lovably” – prone to these little mishaps). He spent the break in between concerts more or less sleeping (which also doesn’t sound like that much of a departure from his usual habits), and was coming back ready to go. Part of the problem, apparently, is Ashin’s stubborn refusal to lower the key of any of the more tricky songs (because “lowering the key is not rock and roll!”, which means the high notes can get a bit crackly.

So now, with this evening’s double performance, there are already reports of him sounding a bit off on “You’re Not Truly Happy.” Still, the fans didn’t seem to mind, and not even the slightly higher New Year’s ticket prices kept them away. Also in the audience this evening was some family members of the band, including, I believe, the 90-year-old grandfather of Ashin. That’s not half bad – 90 and going to rock concerts. My 94-year-old grandmother is still a pretty formidable Scrabble opponent, but I can’t quite see her willingly heading to a huge concert. Though she has surprised me before….

Anyway, happy new year! See ya on the other side… (no, really. I promise this time….)

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