Chinese rock band Second Hand Rose (二手玫瑰), who performed last weekend as part of the Modern Sky Festival in Central Park (Photos at Brooklyn Vegan 1, 2), may be in the middle of a tour that takes them to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., but they aren’t done with New York.
On Thursday, October 9, China Institute hosts singer Liang Long (梁龙 / 梁龍) and percussionist and Chinese Studies scholar Dr. Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau, for Useless Rock: Youth Culture in the PRC, a lecture and discussion that explores the changing significance and potential of rock music in China. The debate will be moderated by Eric de Fontenay, founder of MusicDish and MusicDish*China.
As this Village Voice article and comments like “bored Asian tourists” in the Brooklyn Vegan posts suggest, there’s a lot to learn about Chinese rock and youth culture. There’s much more to China’s development than what most English-media talks about. This is a great chance to catch up with what’s happening. Beyond Chinatown readers can purchase tickets to the talk at the member rate of $10.
On Sunday, October 12, the band heads out to Brooklyn for an evening of fashion and film at Ran Tea House in Williamsburg. Noticing how you’ve been eyeing the band’s fly shíshàng threads, Liang Long unveils and launches the Second Hand Rose Red & Green fashion line which are based on classic floral prints of his home province Heilongjiang in northeastern China. Hip Hop USA will present personalized red/green themed sneakers created for Second Hand Rose band members to be presented as a fashion accessory to their clothing line. 3-4 local New York artists will also create live canvas and apparel art at the event. Ticket information can be found at the event’s Facebook page.
Following the fashion segment will be premiere of Second Hand Rose’s concert film of their performance at Beijing’s prestigious state-owned Worker’s Gymnasium (北京工人体育馆 / 北京工人體育館), a first for a Chinese rock band, where they brought pig statues on stage to reference the line “a group of pigs fly to heaven” in their song “Allow Some Artists to Get Rich First,” an allusion to Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping’s slogan, “let some people get rich first” as China began its embrace of capitalism.
The following Sunday, October 19, the band brings their act — part cabaret, part Chinese theater, and part rock n’ roll dance party — to Webster Hall’s Marlin Room with Taiwan’s garage rock 88 Balaz (八十八顆芭樂籽 / 八十八颗芭乐籽) opening. Tickets are available through Pledge Music or Ticketweb.
Useless Rock: Youth Culture in the PRC
Thursday, October 9, 6:30 – 8 PM
China Institute, 125 E. 65th Street
$10/members and Beyond Chinatown readers
Sunday, October 12, 7 PM
Ran Tea House, 269 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn
$15 or free with purchase of ticket to Webster Hall show
Sunday, October 19, 8 PM
Marlin Room, Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th Street
Second Hand Rose – “Drop By” (串门 / 串門)
88 Balaz – “Jimi & Mary”
Formed in 2000, Second Hand Rose (二手玫瑰) jolted the Chinese rock scene with their flamboyance reminiscent of glam rock and their introduction of folk traditions into their sound and performance. Countering the counterculture of underground rock music, they quickly became one of the most popular rock bands in China.
The name Second Hand Rose derives from the notion that rock in China is a secondhand and imported endeavor—as such the band’s song “Leading a Dabbling Life” devolves into a Chinese sing-along version of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” The musicians cite godfather of Chinese rock Cui Jian, Pink Floyd, and Hong Kong and Taiwanese pop acts like Beyond and Luo Dayou as influences.
Sometimes dressed in their signature eye-popping red and green floral patterned outfits that pay tribute to singer Liang Long’s (梁龙 / 梁龍) home province of Heilongjiang, the band draws from elements of Peking Opera, folk songs, and a stage tradition from China’s northeast called Two Taking Turns (二人转), in which a male jester and female beauty trade flirtatious barbs—though in the band’s case Liang plays both parts. The song “Clingy” adapts a traditional Two Taking Turns tune, “Lovers Infatuation,” and infuses it with Second Hand Rose’s trademark sound: power guitars mingle with braying suona (a Chinese horn) while Liang takes on a role that’s part rock ‘n’ roll troubadour, part Peking opera warbler. “‘Clingy” recounts the story of a passionate young couple that sneaks out of their homes for a secret affair,” says Liang. “The chorus portrays this in poetic images that are simultaneously romantic and terrifying: the nightly meetings, the ‘picking of the flower’ (i.e. sex), and difficult departures.”
Liang was drawn to Two Taking Turns because it’s a folksy and somewhat vulgar tradition—much like rock music. And by combining the two, the band creates a truly Chinese expression of rock ‘n’ roll, embracing all of the contradictions and competing influences that come with being an artist in modern China.
In an interview with China Daily, Liang said, “So-called Chinese rock isn’t just adding traditional Chinese music but more importantly paying special attention to how to express our emotions”. Appreciating the improvisation and resulting imperfection of Two Taking Turns, Liang “The reason the art form is popular is that it is so close to ordinary people’s lives and the lyrics are humorous. But sometimes it’s too humorous, which is considered vulgar and even dirty…Because I grew up with it, I feel it’s a great form to talk about life and express emotions. It comes to our music naturally.”
Second Hand Rose – “Clingy”
Profile by The Sound Stage
Images courtesy of Second Hand Rose