I have lived in Taiwan for a long time and usually avoided live music like the plague. This was not because I hate live music but because most of the music I heard wasn't that great. Taiwanese-Chinese Pop music , like most popular music, doesn't do that much for me. I also was never very impressed with many of the foreign bands that play at foreign pubs and clubs scattered across Taiwan. These bands actually drove me to start listening to electronic music which I hated before coming to Taiwan. I also live out of the city and rarely make it to the city. As I mentioned before I managed to see a lot of bands this summer and the music scene has improved. Here is a recap of the best bands I saw.
One of the bands that stood out from the rest was Boogie Chillin. I had seen them a few times before but they now have a new lineup. I think the old lineup was better, they had a great singer and also played some funk. I am not a huge fan of the Blues but can appreciate great lead guitar. The new Boogie Chillin has a heavier sound and great guitar. They now remind me a lot of Canadian band Big Sugar without the great suits. They also played a great cover of Grange by ZZ Top at the SOGO Food Fest. They also seemed to have the biggest crowd at Peacefest and the most 'buzz.' Anyway here is a Youtube clip of Boogie Chillin from the now defunct 89K bar in Taichung. This is the old lineup.
One thing I learned this summer is that Folk Music is very popular amongst ex-pat bands in Taiwan. I managed to see and listen to a staggeringly large number of folk bands this summer. One of the highlights was at Peacefest, where a folk singer kept yelling between songs "We need bass player and bongo drums! Come on join the jam! We need bass and bongo drum!" Folk Music usually makes me want to stick ice picks in my ears while pouring peroxide into my eye sockets. So it is hard for me to judge what is good or bad. I just had the overwhelming urge to do this:
I did hear one very good band form Taichung called the Black Lung Inner City Choir. I heard this three piece band three times and they never disappointed. They didn't jam and actually played songs. Their songs had nice melodies, interesting lyrics and they seemed to be having a good time on stage. You knew they had done it before and this wasn't the first time they were on stage. Which must make them the exception and not the norm amongst Taiwan bands. Here is their Myspace site with some songs. I also saw some folk band called "three cat moan," or something like that, who sounded good but I was pretty drunk.
Point 22 is another talented trio from Taichung. I enjoyed them even more each time I saw them. They kind of remind me a little of Ween and Modest Mouse and are tighter than a nun's, well you know the rest. I was sure they had a song with a Deep Purple riff. So I asked the drummer Pete if it was indeed true. He looked at me like I was on crack, nope I was drunk. So I came back and listened to their few tracks on My Space and realize that yes I am an idiot. Although I still think the intro to Bang has some Highway Star style, if only for a few seconds.
I also caught a band that was probably the oldest ex-pat in Taiwan called David Chen and the Muddy Basin Ramblers. They are different from most of the other bands and not because of their age but because they are a jug band. I don't know anything about jug music. The only musician I've seen play a washboard was Skid Roper who played with Mojo Nixon. I implore people to check out this band as they are a ton of fun. They are from from Taipei and played a lively and entertaining set at Peacefest. Here is a clip from Youtube.
One of the highlights of the summer was getting to finally see Rocket Grrl. I have watched a few of their clips on Youtube but never managed to see the power of Rocket Grrl in person. I may have been drunk and sick to death of the onslaught of root/reggae and folk rock but their loud psychedelic jams had me cheering. They are probably the heaviest band in Taiwan apart from another band that sounded a bit like Isis. They also have a stage show, costumes and what appeared to be groupies. They also seemed to piss off all the hippies and ravers which made me very happy. They are worth checking out if they are playing near you.
Tags: Taiwan Taiwan Music Taiwan Indie Music