Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shanghai Potpurri

The world's largest Uniqlo outlet, on West Nanjing Road. Uniqlo is a Japanese clothing brand roughly equivalent to Gap, although here in China it's more or less a luxury brand and seems to command a 50% markup over domestic Japanese prices.

A new shopping center in Xintiandi (新天地), which insists that DRESSING IS A WAY OF LIFE. Shanghai is the nouveau riche writ large, in glass and concrete; it has yet to evolve any kind of high-brow tact vis-a-vis the obscene amount of money that flows into this city. Instead what you see is an unironic and unqualified celebration of wealth and consumption. Nearby, there is a community of high-rise apartments named "Richgate", and a little over the way, a brand-new development called Sinan Mansions promises such extravagances as 40,000RMB-per-night hotel villas (nearly US$6000 if you are keeping score).

Old Chinese etiquette prevails on the streets of Shanghai, where traffic lights and painted lane dividers are exposed as the impotent theoretical constructs that they are.

A routine tactic of the Shanghai urban cyclist is to ride willfully into an intersection as the light turns red, and then to renege slightly and stop, such that the full length of the cyclist's vehicle is encroached within the intersection. After a week of braving the mean streets of Shanghai, a grim survival instinct has largely supplanted my LA-bred commuter road rage, but the latter will still boil over on occasion. I sometimes think: why did you just stop in the middle of the intersection? why did you even enter the intersection? if you had to insist on entering the intersection, why did you not then simply proceed through the intersection, so as not to thoroughly impede the large wave of unrushing traffic? is it that you were completely unaware of the large wave of onrushing traffic? etc. etc. I then think: I am so going to blog about this unbelievable and absurd practice. That will show you, you assholes.

During my search for a rehearsal studio, I stumbled upon various internet articles about 0093, a rock collective that has supposedly incubated many of Shanghai's up-and-coming indie rock bands. Their online forum had advertised rentable practice space, so I decided to go there and investigate.

The listed address was 1228 Quxi Road, which brought me to a Sichuan hotpot restaurant. Upon inquiring within, I was scolded by the house matron and hastily waved off to the unmarked metal door next to the restaurant.

The sign above the door says nothing about a rehearsal studio or rock music. It is actually an advertisement for mooncake, the Chinese pastry traditionally eaten during the Midautumn Festival.

The metal doors led to a kitchen of suspect hygene. In the back was a large pile of discarded construction material. A kitchen boy holding what looked to be a large chunk of raw chicken meat assured me that I could continue over and past the junk pile.

This brought me to a stairwell and down into an old bomb shelter.

At the bottom of the stairwell, there was a dark room with an old couch that I probably would not sit on. Nobody seemed to be around. The ground was covered in soot and drain water. Down the hall, there were several locked doors, which I assumed were lockout studios that had been rented out long-term. I found one unlocked studio where a fellow was practicing a drum beat. He was wearing headphones plugged into a metronome, and didn't notice me when I poked my head in. I decided not to bother him and left.

In attendance at Yuyintang (育音堂), one of Shanghai's "oldest" indie rock venues. I employ scare-quotes because of the nascent and slightly colonial nature of the Shanghai music scene. Yuyintang has only been around since 2004, and despite the fact this show was advertised as a "local band" showcase, the majority of the band members and audience members alike were foreign-born. Suffice it to say the pedigree of progressive pop music in China isn't exactly sterling.

Case in point: the best band of the evening were The Beat Bandits, who are composed of a British drummer, a Japanese bass player who looks kind of like Elvis, a Japanese keyboard player who I sort of wished was a better dancer, and a really awesome guitar player who I coulda sworn was a dorky Chinese guy on account of his facial hair and coiffure and sartorial habits, but who I now actually suspect is Japanese as well. These guys could really wail.

The World Financial Center and the Jinmao Tower, twin phallic icons of the eastern Shanghai skyline.

The 100th-floor observation deck on the World Financial Center, still misleadingly advertised in the brochure as the "world's highest observation deck". I presume that the Burj Khalifa now has it beat pretty handily.

The view toward the Pearl Oriental Tower and northwestern Shanghai.

Century Avenue, and endless development extending eastward, over what was farmland and countryside just a decade or two ago.

1 comment:

  1. That's one creepy music studio. I don't think I would have ventured past the kitchen. It reminds me of a scene from the post apocalyptic fps, STALKER.