Clockwise from left: Rowling Bowling, Mademoiselle et Son Orchestre,
DH & The Chinese Hellcats, The Beijing Beatles, Skarving.
Beijing's live music scene has jumped leaps and bounds in the last few years, with a whole new generation of talented bands exploding onto the scene. While this article is in no way a ‘Top 5' of the best bands in Beijing, it is a rough guide to a few of the city's main dance igniters. From rockabilly to ska and chansons to the Beatles, these bands prove that Beijing's got the groove.
1) DH & The Chinese Hellcats (地狱猫)
DH made rockabilly cool in Beijing. Although their songs are covers, their lively blend of rockabilly, swing, ska, punk, jazz and rock music never fails to get audiences moving. Their feel-good rhythm together with their eye-catching 1950's getup, especially lead singer Fufu's, has been the band's recipe of success. And the fact that some of the members come from established bands like Brain Failure, has no doubt also helped. DH cites Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Wanda Jackson as some of their favourite musicians.
In 2011, the band won Cityweekend's readers' choice "Local Band of the Year" award, after just three short years of being – another testimony of their massive local following. With the boom in popularity also came a busier schedule, playing at major music festivals across China, which unfortunately for the fans, has meant a few less shows in Beijing. They do however play at 2Kolegas and Yugong Yishan about once every month.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about, you can catch them at 2Kolegas's 7 year anniversary party on May 26 or at Yugong Yishan on June 1. Check out their douban page for music samples, pics and show info: http://site.douban.com/dh/
There's been something of a ska uprising in Beijing in recent years and Skarving are one of the forerunners of the movement. Their ensemble includes a saxophone, trumpet, keyboard, drums, base and a charismatic lead singer called Zhang Qi who knows how to work his audiences. There has not been one live show during which audiences didn't dance so remember to put on your dancing shoes when you see this band. Skarving are a regular fixture at Old What Bar and 2Kolegas, especially in the summer when 2K turns into a tropical, reggae/ska party paradise. Check out their douban page for samples, pics and updates on upcoming gigs: http://site.douban.com/skarving/.
3) Rowling Bowling (旋转保龄)
They've got the look and they've got the sound – Rolling Bowling are a fairly new band in Beijing's music scene, who like DH & The Chinese Hellcats, are working hard to keep the 1950's rockabilly revival alive and kicking. The trio, which is made up members of Defy band, have regular shows at Temple and Hot Cat Club among others. See videos of their live shows and band info on their douban page: http://site.douban.com/ROLLINGBOWLING/.
4) Mademoiselle et Son Orchestre
Fronted by long-term Beijing resident and Quebecois Marie-Claude, this six-piece is Beijing's only band playing French songs. Their sound embraces gypsy folk elements and offers a fresh take on French classics sung by the likes of Gainsbourg, Piaf and Brassens. Marie-Claude is without doubt a highly talented singer and accordion player, but it's not her voice alone that captivates audiences: the band's cohesiveness together with her seductive charm and playful humour also add to their appeal. If you have a VPN you can follow them on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mademoiselle-et-son-Orchestre/133796490023217) or check out their myspace page for more info: www.myspace.com/mademoisellemali.
5) The Beijing Beatles
This foursome has really exploded onto the scene in last 18 months or so, winning over large chunks of the expat community in Beijing. Their music? Well you've probably guessed it by now, these guys not only cover Beatles songs but they dress the part too. Beijing's best Beatles impersonators, these guys always get audiences hopping. They regularly do the rounds in Beijing's music venue circuit so keep your eyes peeled for future Beijing gigs on their official website: http://thebeijingbeatles.com/.
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