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Xi’an Underground Notes E-mail
City Life - Nightlife
Written by Daemon Borek
Sometimes we like to think of the past in a deluded nostalgic way that just takes the good and conveniently leaves out the bad. My memories of my 7+ years in Xi’an are inevitably littered with omissions and thought of in the way an American sees a Norman Rockwell Christmas poster. But I do have one glaring exception to this rule and that is in the music scene that once thrived here and threatens to have a stunning re-birth.

After living in Xi’an for about 4 months in the spring of 2004 my friends and I stumbled across some concert posters on the top floor of the Bai Hui market in Xiaozhai. Being an avid music fan, due mostly to having no musical talent, I convinced the others to start attending these shows with me. They jumped at the idea and whether we were went to a show on Bar Street (DeFuChang) or one in a condemned roller skating rink in an alley outside XiGongDa, the concerts never disappointed.

Xi’an was a veritable eternal spring of Indie music ranging from Mellow Rock to Death Metal and we went to every show we could. Some of the most fortunate weekends found us jumping across the city hitting 2-3 shows a night from Thursday-Saturday. It was the glory days of the scene in Xi’an; we met all the bands, got smashed silly in all the mosh pits, and never once sat in an apartment on a weekend for lack of something to do. We saw Rotterdam Punk bands, Swedish Hardcore, Beijing Metal, Xi’an Emo, and even went to Hip Hop MC battles in Gaoxin. But out of the multitudes of bands we saw and met, two Xi’an bands remain my favorites to the day. “XXX” (Xi’an Metal Band) and “No Name” (Xi’an Punk Band) were the embodiment of the underground scene that we had grown to love in this ancient city and I am a bit sheepish to say that we never missed any of their shows.

It was a marvelous time and it became the second reason that I fell in love with this wonderful and enigmatic city. We became regulars at the shows and started to realize that there was a serious core group of show goers. They like us were there for the atmosphere and the music, to experience and taste something different. Due to that mutual desire we all found in those shows it seemed everyone found a sense of camaraderie. People would fall in the mosh pits and the seas would part and ten hands would pick you up before you were stomped, rounds of beers were bought for others and chugged with no names or handshakes being exchanged, it was family, tribal, or clan-like in the that way. Because you were here, you were ok, someone to be trusted and respected, a kindred spirit of sorts, a feeling that would follow you throughout the week.

One Monday I was walking down South Street and spotted one of the guys from the shows, both of us were in our work clothes and to quote Fight Club:

“Even if I could tell someone they had a good fight, I wouldn’t be talking to the same man. Who you were in Fight Club was not who you were in the rest of the World”

And that’s the way it was and why it was so special. There we were; the normal guys in our neat and clean clothes, bustling down the street to some meeting, office, classroom, or company. But we caught each other’s eye and small smiles crept across our faces simultaneously; we nodded and passed by, knowing we’d see each other again at the next show. There would always be a next show...

Then it all changed. Something happened and the concerts disappeared. “No Name” signed a contract with a European record label and moved their base to Beijing, Bar Street shut down all shows, and I can only imagine that roller-skating rink finally just fell over. It fast became that the closest thing you could get to live music in the city was in the Real Love KTV’s scattered throughout the city. It was over.

We all rolled with the times and parted ways, end of an era so to speak, I stopped growing silly moustaches and traded my t-shirts for polo’s, others also went off to focus on careers and family. We got married, had kids, and closed the book (however unwilling) on the Underground scene in Xi’an. My buddy even called me one day to tell me that his wife made him throw out his black leather studded jacket. The man sounded like his favorite dog had just been hit by a car and passed away, it was a sad time. We moved on and forgot about those days, grew up a bit and watched Xi’an grow and expand.

But it seems that it may be coming back...seems like maybe Xi’an could have a resurgence. This New Year’s I attended a spectacular muti-band metal show and it seems that “Moonkey Bar” has decided to pick up the mantel and start hosting shows again!

On August 22nd 2010, they are hosting the Summer Parade 2010 and it seems my old friends, now called “The No Name”, are returning to Xi’an. I can’t stress enough what a day this promises to be! I am ecstatic to see my favorite Xi’an punk band again but to also see the new guys that Xi’an has to offer. And while I am older and married, I’ll be there with bells on! I’ve warned the wife and cleared the calendar, dusted off the old “No Name” t-shirt and set aside a whack of cash for the booze, tickets, CD’s, Stickers, and new T-shirts I am inevitably going to impulsively and drunkenly purchase. I’m going for a touch of nostalgia but I urge all in Xi’an to go to get a glimpse of the other things this city has to offer. The things you don’t read about in Lonely Planet and on travel websites.

The Terracotta warriors are spectacular but they have been around for 2000 thousand years and they will be here still for thousands more, but the music scene...I don’t know. This could be it, I hope not, but I saw it go once before.

The NoName Punks from Xi'an in Action

Our valuable Editor Daemon Borek has been with us since Saturday, 24 July 2010.

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+3 #3 ND 2010-08-06 22:53
Thanks guys, please say thank you explicitly to Daemon Borek for contributing this article.
+3 #2 dohnestlechoco 2010-08-05 02:30
gooooood stuff mates
+3 #1 Siggi 2010-08-02 11:08
Excellent review!!! Merci Damon,New Dynasty. We looove you guys! Keep up the good work!

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