According to little known Australian-China band tour history, The Fancy Boys were the first Australian underground punk band to perform a cross-country punk rock tour of China back in January 2008. Asterix Fancy kept a tour log which has recently been uncovered and we at MDM thought enough time has passed to share this journey.. for histories sake let it be known!
We arrive on different flights and take the barge to the big island, Jean-Pierre and Napoleon both get new axes, Jean-Pierre a golden flying-V and Napoleon's a Fender Bass, really cheap. I shell out for some sticks, it's all about half-price here. You can buy beer at 7-eleven.
Our first show of the tour at 'The Wanch', a small bar in the seedy red-light district of Wan Chai. The bar promotes itself as the number one live music venue in the city (it says so on the sign), the bands we played with were a total mix bag, opener an indie-rock light group, a Philippine jazz band followed by Shenzhen's favourite hardcore/emo band who had just supported Napalm Death!
|Jean-Pierre (right) mingling with locals in HK|
The next day we have fancy lunch at 'FLOWER TRUMP' which was sensational and also went on what apparently seemed to be the worlds largest escalator. We're on a train now, Nihao China and on the way to Guangzhou! A last hurdle through customs, then we eat, get hostel and play show at Bunker Bar. Napoleon has a few friends from GZ so looking forward to catching up. Keeping the fluids up. Asterix.
Napoleon: We stay in a youth hostel in a bar district near the banks of the Pearl River. Close enough to a bakery. Pulled Noodles for lunch. Asterix splits pants early, allowing an excuse for shopping. Subway into town. Incidental sight-seeing. Hot Pot for dinner. We arrive at Bunker Bar early. The tour poster is stuck to the wall outside. Downstairs and into the thick of a packed night club. Guangzhou isn’t known for its punk rock scene; Dead Flowers & Your Boyfriend Sucks being two exceptions. This place is a hip-hop club most of the time. Hometown show for Napoleon and quite a few friendly faces there to greet us. A couple of supports including a rad hardcore band with two singers called Smoke Town. Cantonese hardcore. What fun. We set up. Jean Pierre and I are on the floor and Asterix and his kit are set up a level above us near the DJ. It’s odd. Heaps of kids have stuck around. We play. Everyone dances. There is jumping and fist pumping; a pond of smiling faces. Les Fancy Boys play really well. After the show we stay and get drunk.
This is how I imagined the tour would go. A dream comes true
|Bunker Bar, why are the drums up here?|
|Street hoops, Asterix split pants.|
Asterix: We spent 2-3 days there and hung-out with Napoleons friends. Also picked up our potato sack of tour t-shirts! Gig at Bunker ruled, supports were "Desert" who apparently walked-in off the street and opened, The Mean Waves which had Napoleon's mate Liao Ming on drums, and Smoke Town a very enthusiastic hardcore band. After the show we went to secret barbeque which was behind a roller-door, that had a video camera at the front and some exotic caged animals, ate some weird parts of animals.
|Napoleon with entourage at secret barbeque.|
Asterix: After three days we are now on our way out to Changsha. Arrival on a 5-hour fast train on Monday night outta Guangzhou, we got another semi-legal taxi from railway and arrived at our new hotel. After being told our booking was stuffed up we were lucky to get the the last four-bed room. Got the freezing room (13th floor up), their was a small hole in the wall to constantly remind us, watched kung-fu and had a nap. Tuesday we tried to go sightseeing in Changsha, had no luck again w/ taxi's and only managed to go a few blocks for brunch (edit: a giant dirty open warehouse with bbq fires, terrifying but awesome). Went to Walmart bought gloves to get feeling in hands again. Icy Streets. Hung around hotel and everything was going pretty well, there was even the USA dream team v Croatia gold medal final from Barcelona'92 on TV!
|We thanked Patron Saint Phil Smyth for watching over us.|
After our previous unsuccessful taxi attempt we thought it'll be good and a novelty to get to our soundcheck early and have a bit of a play as we hadn't practised for quite a while. On the way there we learnt a couple of things, 1) Half the city had no power.. this was also the same half of the city were our venue was for the evening 2) Our contact guy didn't get our train tickets (edit: tour payment for the show was train tickets to next city).. ahhh.. yep.. so we ended up going for dinner instead of show. Dinner was like a backyard restaurant with a power generator going.. wasn't feeling it. Some phone calls were made to try salvage the night, everyone suddenly got excited and we we ended up jumping on bus with the local punks across city to a bar called 'Freedom House' (edit: sick bar in a building which resembled a tree house? with a venue at the top). Much relief but still had no idea how to get out of the city (edit: did I mention it was the coldest day in Changsha in 13 years and all the main roads were snowed under, plus the trains were all booked out 10 days in advance due to being peak student holiday season), we might die here. Show was fun, we played with this great young band called 'Shock Cats' at times ripping 60s garage pop which was bewildering in the middle of China Here's actual video !. We unwound with booze and copious amounts of western cigarettes and somehow made it back to the hotel.
Next morning reality hit, thanks to intense negotiation work at checkout by Napoleon the concierge lady found us a guy to drive us to Wuhan (her uncle?), due to weather and traffic a 5 hour ride ended up taking close to 11hrs.. of which the driver had the Crazy Frog album on repeat. We paid him all our cash money once we arrived at Wuhan, which wasn't enough, but just enough to get some beer at the venue.
(edit: It is also on this trip that we heard of Heath Ledger passing. Brutal.)
|Ring a din-ding, road to Wuhan|
Asterix: Last few days like a rollercoaster. After a few fuck-ups in Changsha we arrived at Vox Bar in Wuhan which was a great venue, met Wu Wei our dude (vocalist of SMZB), got those train tickets, had a quick snack then played within half-n-hour of arriving. We played a good set, good crazy frog tempo.
Napoleon (published in Tripper magazine):
We stayed with a Canadian girl from Nova Scotia who offered us board after our show. We were broke. She reminded Asterix of Hank from Turbonegro, and talked very loudly.
After arriving at her house it was almost immediately apparent that we had made a bad decision. She rolled several joints and evil began coming from her mouth. A reformed meth head who was moonlighting as Wuhan's number 1 ketamine dealer, we worried that we were kidnapped. Watched endless episodes of House until our captor passed out. Left with great stealth.
Asterix: I can never watch House again. The next day it started snowing and we trooped off to some shops with gear in hand, stopped off at Vox Bar on the way then headed to the train station. Upon arrival we discovered we were sent to the WRONG TRAIN STATION and had one hour to get across the city to make it (edit: Wuhan is huge, essentially three cities that had outgrown and merged into one giant metropolis). Stressin' but found taxi immediately who displayed new excellence in experimental driving and we made it with 20 minutes to spare! A miracle.
Going through the rush of the security bag check, picture an airport x-ray check (without anyone actually watching the baggage screen) Jean-Pierre had his carry-on/backpack stolen (items: passport, phone, books) which fuckin' sucks! It's gonna be a real pain in the arse to get that back. Feeling a bit shitty we rode in a hard sleeper cabin (six beds 2x 3 high) and I got the top ultra-cramped slot. Ate, beer, rocked to sleep on train.
|Jean-Pierre, Napoleon, Asterix in Nanjing.|
Arrived in Nanjing in the morning, snowing, everyone optimistic and keen to put the dramas behind. Arrived at friendly Jasmine International YH . We watched a dog play in the snow in the backyard.
Jean-Pierre and translator Napoleon went off to sort out passport shit so I took the opportunity to wander around Nanjing which is easily most beautiful thus far. Bought some pirated DVDs and saw a Fancy Boys poster at a music shop. Made it back to the hostel and prepared for the show.
Played with July 16th, who had a French drummer, a Les Claypool style bassist and a Karen O style guitarist/vocalist, confusing but kind of catchy. Also played with Angry Jerks whom had recently transformed from a punk/hardcore band to a psychobilly one. Great people, their bassist played stand-up style and had only been playing for under a year but she nailed it.
|Angry Jerks at Castle Bar, Nanjing|
We had a good soundcheck and in great spirits and ended up playing our best show to date. There was a good turnout at Castle Bar, some unique moshing and even a rare encore. Afterwards drinking games with the supports and ended up going for Hot Pot.. again! Drunk , delicious food, and by this time it started snowing again, awesome. A good sleep now we are on the train, a short trip to Shanghai. Everything out the window has snow on it, all white, and I feel like rolling around in it.
We all really smell by now.
|Fancy Boys, Angry Jerks, July 16th post show.|
Napoleon: Someone asked us to do 'We Come from a Land Down Under' at our show at Yuyin Tang in Shanghai but we didn't know it. Jean-Pierre and Asterix really kicked it tonight, they know how to put on a show when things lull a bit. It really worked. I love stage. We are a band. After the show we all went to a cool drum and bass club in a nice old air raid shelter. I saw Jean-Pierre dance a little to drum and bass It was for love. It worked.
Asterix made friends with every stranger he wanted to talk to. We were all into it. Two good shows in a row, two beautiful cities in a row, these wonderful nights. Our coats all heaped up on a couch, past midnight, drunk with money in your pocket, music music music, all these friends, strangers, cigarettes and nothing on earth is wrong here.
|Australia Day show @ Yuyin Tang, Shanghai|
|Shanghai underground rail.|
Asterix: Shanghai was a blast and would have been great to spend a few more days there. Arrived on Australia Day met our contact Abe and discovered the venue to be a couple of blocks from our accom.. sweet deal! Walked to gig & quick soundcheck, quite a few heads turning up already so looking like a fun night. Set was good and the ex-pats seemingly enjoyed it. Met up with my cousin and his girlfriend incidentally over at the same time, after we went to a club built in an underground bunker accessed by long tunnels.
Next day was a day off after a hectic week, went to a huge underground market and ended up drinking at a bar in a hostel overlooking The Bund. With not much sleep the next day was spent all-day on the fast train to Beijing. Napoleon just won a last minute do or die game of cards. Upon arrival it will be in the negatives and we have an apartment to stay at.
Asterix: Time off, sleep-ins for me, while Napoleon and Jean-Pierre are dealing with the either the police, Chinese government, visa office and/or Australian Embassy. Jean-Pierre got his emergency passport yesterday so he is halfway home but the visa is much more complicated and a lot of bullshit to go through to get it back. He's contemplating deportation to solve that problem. Since the passport was stolen we've lost 4 solid days (and counting) to follow it up with a 100% replacement so Jean-Pierre can get home. It looks like 98% likely at this stage he will miss his flight and have to stay another week?! The Beijing Olympics is in 6 months time. I've been enjoying coffee and wandering, found a shopping mall that was like Toowong Village on steroids. Last night Napoleon and I went for drinks at Lush/Pyro and in a freak coincidence, Napoleon called up our promoter and after talking to each other realised they were standing next to each other in the street, wtf. 21 million in Beijing.
|Asterix outside the Beijing Opera House|
D-22 our second last show and drinking early, the night didn't kick off 'til after 10:30pm & we were headlining. Was shaping up to be a real great Fancy Boys show. Opener was a L.A.B.F. which is the new project of Joyside's frontman Bian Yuan. They played a pretty much acoustic set with some Velvet Underground covers and went for nearly an hour! Good enough to drink to.. and next was Joyside's bass players new band, 13 dogs.. a hardcore band! They played a short set, spirited, and a complete 180 from L.A.B.F. Feeling a little more rambunctious we found out there were only 3 bands now on the bill and so we were up next! Unsurprisingly a hard slog, sloppy, but had pretty good response. Car Sick Cars frontman Wang Shou came along and said we reminded him of the Clean (will take it). More drinks, post show hangs and much love for D-22 run by enthusiastic and good people. Later in the night a few people got up and jammed inc. our new best friends Nevin (tour booker and member of seminal Chinese hardcore band Fanzui Xiangfa , translation 'Criminal Intent') and his buddy Adam (dressed in a kangaroo suit!) playing some punko Johnny Cash covers. The drummer and D-22 soundguy Justin retired early and so I jumped up to fill-in.
|Joyside also got up and played?|
|D-22 post show shenanigans|
After the second song Adam hatched out of the kangaroo suit and bared all to Beijing. Loose. Did a roaring Folsom Prison Blues, stuck around for a while longer then we partied on back at their place introducing them to some Australian music, good times!
Saturday, last show, and woke up fresh at 3:30pm. Drongo'ed our way to the Chaoyang district where our final show at Yugong Yishan. After a bit of confusion (ie. no idea) we recognised the entrance from an internet photo and upon entering the decadent palace of a venue we all fell that we will have to not get too drunk and play a solid final show. Opening band 'The Gar' were probably the best band of the tour. Reminiscent of 90s indie/fuzz alterno Dinosaur Jr, but you know, a fresh Chinese version playing their instruments like maestros and put on a great show. We're screwed. Next was 'Ourselves Besides Me', 3 piece grrl who jammed out catchy/nowave/artschool/pop that left us mesmerised (edit: video footage here!). We were in trouble.
Our show ended up being super tight, fun and sounded bitchin' through the soundsystem, sold a bunch of t-shirts. Validation. Went out with Kangaroo Adam and our Norwegian friends post show but our cab driver got completely lost and we ended up a club called White Rabbit only to discover it was a techno bar. aahahaha.. the last couple of days spent shopping, drinking, reminiscing of the ups and downs, letting off fireworks from a 28th story apartment building, and making use of the street stalls were you could buy two Tsingtao tallies for 50cents.
Jean-Pierre made his flight home.
The Fancy Boys "We Love You" video, footage from China shows.
|Jean-Pierre takes up smoking.|
|Guangzhou fitness centre|
|The Things That Dreams Are Made Of|
|Jean-Pierre Chaos Theory|