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Ben, in a plane from Beijing to Amsterdam, Thursday 3rd May
I can’t figure out taxis in China. They seem to decide at random whether they will take you or not, and if they don’t want to they think of some really bad excuses.
There was this French electro rock band called Nasser on the bill at MIDI Festival who sounded interesting. We missed them in Shanghai and again in Beijing, but spotted a flyer in a café yesterday that said they were playing again at the Temple Bar last night.
Mike and I decided to go, so we looked it up on Google Maps. 28 minutes walk from the hotel and we were setting off just as the band were supposed to start playing. Better get a taxi. Neither of us speak Chinese, so we got the hotel staff to write the address out on a piece of paper and went outside to hail a cab.
The first taxi to stop drove off before we’d said a word. The second one looked at the address, shook his head and drove off. The third one mimed that the second half of the address didn’t make sense and drove off. We went back into the hotel and got the staff to check the address, which was fine. The bar was about 5 minutes drive away and shouldn’t be difficult to find. The hotel girl came outside with us to help. We hailed our fourth taxi and the driver had a heated conversation with the girl, who kept handing him my iPhone with the map and the directions on it. He insisted that he couldn’t find it. We offered to point the way for him. He said it was difficult to get to by car. We told him to drop us nearby. This went on for at least 5 minutes, by which time we could have been there. In the end he said it was too close and that we should walk.
By this time we had probably missed the band, so we went to another bar and watched a Latin Reggae band (who turned out to be almost entirely Flamenco) with a bunch of ex-pats.
Juju wrote the last blog on the way to Nanjing. That journey ended up being long and arduous. It was a bank holiday weekend here, so when we got to Nanjing station the queue for taxis was 90 minutes long. We got the subway instead, then had to walk for about 40 minutes with all the bags and gear before dragging it all up a long flight of steps to the hotel. The hotel had no lift and we were on the third floor. The humidity was pushing 95% and it was at least 26 Celcius. By the time we arrived we were exhausted.
The gig in Nanjing was fun, and we went to get noodles afterwards. There was only one place open, this sort of outside kitchen with all the ingredients laid out on a table and a chef with a huge knife. The old women laughed their heads off as we tried to order something by pointing at random ingredients and saying “mien, mien” (the only useful word I knew – “noodles”). I suppose it would be like a Chinese guy walking into a kebab shop in England, pointing at things and saying “chips, chips”. A bit weird. There was a fish tank at the side with half a dozen fish, each about 8 inches long. As we were waiting, one of the women put her hand in the tank, grabbed a fish and gave it to the chef, who chopped its head off with his big knife and chucked it on the grill.
Catching a taxi to the station the next day was another adventure. Apparently Nanjing taxi drivers are particularly difficult. We thought we would be ok because we were going a fair distance, but two taxis refused to take us because our bags might mess up the nice white seat covers.
If I seem slightly obsessed with taxis, it’s because we’ve spent a lot of the last three weeks in them and the experience has been unforgettable. For a start, we’ve been packing so much into them we look like an episode of the keystone cops. Two suitcases in the boot, Abe (our tour manager) in the front with at least three bags piled on him, Mike and I in the back with suitcases between our legs, Juju in between us and a guitar across all three of us. And then there’s the driving. It’s difficult to explain exactly why it’s terrifying, but try this: imagine a three-lane motorway where everybody changes lanes constantly without ever looking in the rear view mirror, and just honks their horn every time they’re about to zip past someone in the vague hope that they’ll let you past. It seems to work, but I have no idea how.
Monday in Beijing was maybe the best day of the tour. We had two gigs: one in the afternoon at MIDI Festival (in front of 2-3,000 people) and one in the evening at the Hot Cat Club (in front of 50 people). Both were great.
In a festival line-up full of Chinese metal bands I think we gave them something different. The set went down really well, and even though we had a few technical problems on stage (a broken string and a mic cutting out) the crowd were singing and clapping along and Juju gave a top notch performance. They had one of those big screens behind the stage and cameras on huge booms swinging over the audience and around the stage, which always makes it fun for us…
We were a bit dubious about the Hot Cat Club when we arrived – the sound wasn’t great and they didn’t have a keyboard for me to play. It seemed like the gig was going to be a bit crap. But with the help of an enthusiastic sound man and a very excitable audience, we had a great time. I ended up playing an old upright piano and Mike came to the front and played percussion instead of drums so we could hear Jules’s voice over the dodgy PA. There was a great improvised call and response thing in the middle of You Me & the TV (“People! People!”) and the Umbilical Chord was absolutely mental. It was a great ending to a great tour.
Mike loves his dumplings, and he has been learning all the words for the different types (they all sound something like “Chao-tse”, “Bao-tse”), so we ended up in a three-story, all-night dumpling emporium at 1am and had the best meal of the tour with some Italian girls and an Indian English guy.
Somehow we had got the date wrong for our flight back, so we had an extra day in Beijing to chill out, try the local hotpot and see a few sights. It’s quite an extraordinary city.
And that’s it. We’ll be home by the time I post this. Mike took a load of photos so we’ll post them soon too. As they say in China, “bye bye”!
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Juju, Saturday 28th April, on the train from Wuxi to Nanjing
There’s something that you learn as a singer that you can only learn the hard way. I’ve had to do it a few times and I absolutely hate doing it. It’s like committing some sort of suicide. What I am talking about is when you have to get up, stand on stage in front of thousands of people and sing when you know that your voice won’t hold out. It is the worst feeling in the world. I had to do it for the first time in Oxford the very first time that we supported Supergrass at the Town Hall. It was our first big show and I remember crying so much in the day before deciding to do the show. It felt horrid. Having to stand up in front of all these faces, staring, expecting, judging you, when all you really wanted to do was feel good and show them your best. This happened to me again in Shanghai, at MIDI festival. I knew that we couldn’t cancel the show as it was one of the best paying gigs here in China, it pretty much has paid for our airplane tickets here. It’s funny when you are ill also because I always feel like I can’t sing and wonder whether I ever could. Strange mind. Being ill really does play tricks on me.
The festival in Shanghai is part of the MIDI festival which takes place over two weekends, on consecutive weeks, a little like Reading and Leeds festival back in the UK I suppose. The festival seemed a little strange musically in the sense that there were bands playing all different styles of music on the same stage throughout the day. We enjoyed watching some sort of Chinese-American rock fusion band, which basically was a Chinese band playing American country rock, harmonica and all, combined with some sort of Chinese banjo. It was quite something. The rest of the bands seem to consist of post-rock-dark looking and sounding punks. One guy we saw had quite the hair cut, his head was dyed to form a leopard skin on his head. Hum.
Although I wasn’t at my best, I was happy to get through the show. The boys were very happy to play in front of a couple of thousand screaming people, our bodies projected onto a huge screen. For me however, the fact that we are playing Beijing MIDI this weekend means that I have the opportunity to redeem myself myself and really give the people some of the true Fish in performance. I look forward to this.
I am now sitting on a high speed train to Nanjing. We have played for three nights in a row and tonight will be our fourth show. Going back to the ‘learning’ part. Singing against adversity is when you learn the most. First you have to learn to get through a big show with a cold, chest infection, and vocals that you can’t control, and once you have got through this, you have to figure out how you are going to get through singing four nights in a row. Quite stressful, however, this is when you learn the most.
I figured that what I would do, is something that I, as LF singer, have never done. I have had to figure out how to sing smart. This means, I decided to start singing as softly as I can and let the soundman do the work on my voice. It seeemed possible in my mind as on all the new recordings that we are doing right now, I have been experimenting by singing as softly as I can, to see what it sounds like. It seems that it sounds good. Right. So, let me approach a show in this way. It seems to be working. I have managed to get through the last three shows and my voice doesn’t seem tired or sore in any way. This has never happened to me before. It makes me think of the time that we toured with Blondie. Debbie sings so softly on stage, you can barely hear her. She lets the amplification do all the work. Now, I understand. I’m on it. Makes life as a singer much easier, far less stressful and actually, probably far more musical, less strained and less shouty.
The last three shows have been in Kunshan, Suzhou and last night in Wuxi. All very different. In Kunshan we played in some sort of gambling den. The bar was something from a movie/ Western. People sat around barrels, playing cards, throwing dice, drinking beer, whisky and basically getting hammered gambling. I suppose we were an added bonus to the night. People, on the whole weren’t that interested in us, and to be quite honest, I wasn’t really interested in them. It wasn’t really a venue, it was more of a joint where people came to get hammered, not listen to music. I just played the show and got out of there. Out on the street, there were a few fans that were lovely to talk to. I got bought roses, which was lovely. I ended up giving them to the lady who was making a BBQ outside the venue. She seeemed very hard working. It is amazing here, you see many people who carry their lives, work and homes, on their bicycles.
The following night, we played Suzhou. This so far has to be my favourite city. It could have been to do with the fact that we were actually staying in a more vibrant part of town. It seemed a lot more cultured. There were many little rivers running through the city, it felt like some sort of Chinese version of Venice. Ben and I were quite happy to find a little coffee house where we both enjoyed a cup of English breakfast tea, a game of connect four and some popcorn (They do enjoy their popcorn here, it is about as Western as it gets).
The small venue we played could maybe have been my favourite also. It reminded me a little of The Wheatsheaf in Oxford, except that this venue was in the cellar of some sorts of board-game/youth club. The sound probably wasn’t the best, but we got some real cool kids down to the show, who really got involved. I invited some young kid on the stage to sing with me during The Umbilical Chord, wow, his voice was astounding. He said that he was going to come and see us play in Beiijing, so I am hoping to see him again and get him to sing with us.
One of the most beautiful things about this tour so far is the kindness and willingness of the people to be kind, involved and welcoming. Did I tell you about falling asleep on one of the train journeys and waking up only to find that the lady sitting next to me had put her coat over me so that I would keep warm - how often does that happen in England?
Here, we have found that people are dying to participate and wish you well for a show (in general, obviously except if you play in gambling bars with half-cut gamblers as your audience!). Whenever we give them a sing-a-long bit, whether they can speak English or not, they go for it, they sing, they clap, they jump. This really does make the shows fun for all of us. I know that it isn’t cool or anything, but I really couldn’t care less, I just want people to have a great night, go home happy. We have taken to handing out instruments to the audience during The Umblical Chord and well, we just improvise all sorts of sections for them to join us on, and it’s so much fun, they love it, as do we. Music is even better when you can give someone a new experience, take them out of their box. Last night, I got a non-English-speaking Chinese boy to sing with me. We sang one word at a time, he repeated the word after me, and after a minute or so, he was singing in English without my help. I love moments like these.
Last night, we played in Wuxi. Wuxi, again, is a pretty cool city. It seems quite cultured and has quite a few cool cats walking the streets. We played in an art gallery, a little like The Tate. Some amazing works and quite an honour to play there. The audience, again, were awesome. We made a few friends.
Just a few words, before I go, about the China I have seen. Try the dumplings, they are great. Go for a BBQ with some Chinese people who know what to order and try some grilled fish, octopus and rice cubes. Ladies, you will have to strengthen your legs as all the toilets are holes in the ground, so get your squat thrusting up to speed. Don’t expect any good coffee and fresh salads etc are kinda out of the question. Expect noodles or fried rice for breakfast and don’t expect your drinks to be cold - although they keep the drinks in fridges, they generally aren’t turned on. If you are going to travel, catch a high-speed train, they are amazingly comfortable and will make you feel like you are traveling from a space station. Also, if you don’t have anyone who can speak Chinese with you, get a pen and paper and learn how to draw, I didn’t even manage to order myself a portion of fries in KFC (failure on all levels). And lastly, don’t expect to use your Facebook or Twitter here to keep you entertained as you won’t have any access, make sure you pack yourself a good book.
Right. Only a few days left of the tour, three shows to go and then home. It’s been quite a few weeks. I’ll probably be able to write one more blog before we leave, so see you shortly. Bisous.
I’m listening to The Kills right now, Blood Pressures, great record. Juju X
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MIDI Festival 2012, Shanghai on Flickr.
Mike took this with his phone just after the sun set and we walked off stage…
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Juju, 15.30 on the train from Shaoxin to Shanghai, Saturday 21st April 2012
We arrived in Hong Kong. The golden buildings that I thought we would see, we saw. Fool’s gold. We got off the hovercraft and piled all of our suitcases into the cab. I am certain that in the UK the cabs that we take would not accept all the cases that we seem to pile into one car. It is quite impressive. The cabs tend to tie the boot of the car closed with an elastic band. They’re obviously prepared.
Anyhow, our hotel wasn’t part of this shiny façade. It was located in some sort of back street, where the road stunk of piss and orange peel. We were greeted by boxes of tied up crabs, still alive, waiting to be eaten.
Turns out everything in Hong Kong is piled up high. No width. Our room was on the 28th floor. As we went up in the elevator our ears popped - adjusting to the change in altitude. The room was actually really nice compared with my scary cockroached room that we later had in Shanghai. (A very unpleasant moment, in the night, when I came face to face with a cockroach that was easily the size of my hand and probably one of the scariest things I have ever seen. I couldn’t even kill it, because I knew that it would beat me, it looked rather invincible, I just watched it run… sleeping after this was pretty hard.)
Erm. On our way to the venue, we entered yet another derelict estate. There seemed to be nobody around, a rather strange choice of location for a venue. We later found out that the reason why these venues are so out of the way is because the rents for rooms are extortionate. We are talking about thousands of pounds hire just for one night. And why? Because much to my surprise, HK doesn’t really support these ‘smaller’ venues or acts. I would have expected this of China, but not of HK. I was expecting HK to be more English because of its history. It seems the music scene isn’t heralded in HK. Makes sense. It seems the only things HK has imported from the West are the bankers and sports bars. Sad really.
In fact creativity as a whole doesn’t seem to be championed or supported. We were told that one of the reasons for this is that the cost of living is so high that people have to work six days a week, and the last thing people want to do on their day off is be creative. They want to go drinking or gambling. If they go to a show, it is simply to see bands that are already famous because going to a show is not about the music, it is more about being seen at the ‘right’ show. The people we met who ran the venue were volunteers. They were all very enthusiastic. Although there were only eleven people at the show, they were very happy with the turn out. They said that they never put on a show having any expectation, because if they had expectations they were only letting themselves in for disappointment. They don’t put the shows on for money, they do it so they can make friends. We were also told that musicians who did form bands did it with no other aspiration than to play music. There was no hope of taking the music out of the country or becoming professional, because this was simply impossible. Interesting. I really didn’t think that HK would be so backward in the music scene.
Unfortunately for me, I have been ill with a terrible flu for the past five days. Instead of going to China the following day, I ended up in hospital getting checked out. Turns out I have a bad chest infection which makes it quite hard to sing…
From HK we took an eighteen-hour train journey to Shanghai. Not the best method for healing a chest infection, but hey ho, when you are on the road you have to keep moving no matter what. I can’t say that it was the best journey of my life, trapped in a tiny cabin, with two passengers sleeping above and below me, but it was an experience. I can now say that I have done it. It reminded me a little of ‘A Passage To India’. One interesting thing that I have noted about the Chinese people is that they pay no attention to personal space, it simply doesn’t exist in the same way that it does in Europe. Not only physically, but vocally. They talk very loudly and quite abruptly. I seem to always think that they are arguing because they speak with more of a shout. I’m starting to get used to shutting the sound of their talking out. As for the train ride, going back to the cabins, it was four in the morning and we had pretty much only just managed to fall asleep when the couple below us started to have a very normal conversation, very loudly, laughing and happily started to cook themselves some noodles. Quite astounding. I wanted to ask them to be quiet, but I just couldn’t. This is just the way. They weren’t being rude purposely, it is just the way that they live and are. The couple were old and actually very sweet. It was just weird.
I was happy to finally arrive in Shanghai. By the end of the train journey I was starting to feel seriously claustrophobic and my chest infection was getting the better of me. As soon as we got to the hotel, I slept for forty-eight hours. I am starting to feel better.
Yesterday we played in Shaoxin. From what we saw of it, it’s a new city built on an old city, rather spacious and we are told, cultural. We are the first ever Western band to play the city. They were very happy to have us there. We felt honoured.
I’m realising that people aren’t really into music the way that we are back at home. As much as I came with an intention to show and play our style of music to people who might never have heard it, I am now starting to ask myself why this should be important? People here seem very happy, getting on with their lives, doing their thing, why did I ever think that we could bring something new that was worth anything?
I ask people at venues who are into music and new music what young people do to express themselves and amongst many different things that have been said, I have been told that a lot of people simply don’t have the luxury to spend time exploring this. They have to work to live, they have to make sure they can eat and there is no time for the extras. And I realise this now, in the West we are so obsessed with being creative (which I still think is of vital importance) but the way that we build our media around it is unnecessary and self-involved. Here, there doesn’t seem to be the culture that we have that is obsessed with fame and celebrity and actually, I am appreciative of this. It is really nice to get away from it all. Anyhow, there’s lots to think about and we still have another couple of weeks left to go, so I have time to talk to more people and figure out my thoughts on the matter. Tomorrow we are playing a big rock festival in Shanghai, so this should be interesting. I think they are only really used to Linkin Park and Justin Timberlake here (and only some Madonna albums as not all of her albums have been allowed to be released here).
Interesting times. China has exploded my mind (metaphorically!).
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Juju, 13.07 on the ‘Foilcat’ between Macau and Hong Kong, Sunday 15th 2012
The Foilcat, for those of you who don’t know, is a high speed hovercraft. When we were told that we were leaving from Macau to Hong Kong on the ferry, it never occurred to me that we would be catching a hovercraft. My mind automatically went into ‘Channel Ferry’ crossing mode. I was expecting some slow slumber across waters. Instead, we are all strapped into our seats as if on an aeroplane and literally hovering across the water. Kinda cool.
So, after our train journey the other day, we had another two hours sat on the bus towards Zhuhai. Zhuhai is situated on the border of Macau. Macau is an old Portugese colony and is a seperate country to China. It is considerably more expensive there and so staying the night in Zhuhai was the cost effective decision.
The hotel that we stayed in seemed a little suspect with its transparent glass walls between the shower, the toilet and the bedroom. The packets of condoms and shavers scattered around the room kind of gave it a ‘business’ vibe. We did arrive late and although I felt quite safe, I was a little disconcerted by seeing a pair of beautiful white high heeled shoes left outside our door step, on the pavement. I am used to seeing one shoe left out in the road which has more of a lost feel to it, but seeing a pair of shoes like that made me feel a little strange.
We left Zhuhai the following morning. Macau is literally a hop and a skip from Zhuhai. You walk across the border. We queued for quite a while at customs. I assume that it being a Saturday morning maybe more people were on the move weekend-ing than usual.
I didn’t know what to expect the other side of the border. However, as soon as we stepped through customs Macau did seem different. Tall buildings, small windows with clothes hanging outside to dry on the balconies. The streets half reminding me of the smaller streets in San Francisco, although obviously, Macau is no San Francisco. In fact, if anything, Macau is the Las Vegas of China. Since the death of Mao Zedong, gambling and prostitution have become prevalent (facing the death penalty for such activities was threatening enough for people to be turned off).
Whilst on the subject of gambling, it was quite interesting talking to people after the show about the culture of music and the music scene in Macau in relation to gambling. People were telling us that because people can earn easy money working at casinos and get free drinks and live a good lifestyle this way, that there was no need to strive for more. That this killed the desire to be creative or want more, and may well be one of the reasons that Macau lacks an interesting music scene. Interesting. One might wonder if this is all part of a grander scheme to keep control of people…
Before heading to the venue we went to eat some Macanese food. It’s a cross between Portugese and Chinese. It was very flavoursome and it was quite refreshing to eat some food that resembled a little more of the food we are used to back home. It isn’t that I am adverse to trying new foods, it’s just that right now, I am still getting my head around eating Dim Sum for breakfast.
The venue that we played in was top notch. The entrance was, like in Wuhun, something you would never quite expect or see back at home. More like our version of an industrial estate, but here, you find the room/venue on the tenth floor of a building.
The room was kitted out to the nines. Sound proofed just like in a recording studio. The sound engineer was a lovely feller who seemed to know his onions. He walked around the venue and our stage controlling the sound desk and our monitors through his iPad. I found this approach very contempory. I asked our tour manager if this was normal, and he replied that it was. He seemed not so impressed by this, but myself, personally, I have never seen any sound man in Europe do this. I like the fact that here, they are not scared to embrace and adapt to technology.
I was relieved to receive a text saying that smoking inside had become illegal in Macau (only recently I assume). This was a comforting thought for the obvious reasons. At the start of the show, we were a little anxious about there being nobody there. We were to start playing at 9pm and nobody was to be seen. We were then told that people were waiting outside. In the UK people come into the venue as soon as they pay for their entrance. Here, they are asked to wait and come into the venue only minutes before the show starts. Phew. Also, interestingly enough, the promoter said that it was hard to ever know what time to put a show on, as the Chinese like to come out early, after their dinner at 7pm, whereas the Portuguese don’t have their dinner until around 10.30pm and so like to come out later.
The audience was awesome. Lovely people again. They sang along with us and well, in all, we had another great night. We have pretty much sold all the CDs we brought along with us. Not sure what we are going to do once we sell them all. Merch money is coming very much in handy, especially as I managed to lose my wallet on the journey here, somewhere between Heathrow and China.
Right. See you later people. I am enjoying listening to Radiohead on my headphones right now. I am not even listening to their trendy records, I love Pablo Honey, the first record they ever did. Thom’s voice makes me want to cry sometimes, so beautiful. I haven’t listened to them in a long while. What a great band.
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Internet access to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr is blocked in China so we can only post intermittently. We arrived in Macau today, where nothing’s blocked, so here are a couple of tour diary blogs we wrote between London and Xhuhai.
We’re somewhere over Mongolia. As we boarded the plane we were greeted by a cavalcade of smiling Air France staff holding signs explaining that this was the first European commercial flight to Wuhan, an inland Chinese city that nobody seems to have heard of.
We’re staying in Wuhan for the day then flying straight off to Hong Kong before hopping over to Macau for our first gig of the tour.
We’ve been talking about this trip since last summer, but in the end it’s all happened quite quickly. We still don’t know exactly where we’re playing. We got our visas yesterday after a mad rush of paperwork and miscommunication. We’re going to land in Wuhan without the slightest idea of what to expect. We know where we’re going but we don’t know where we’ll be when we get there.
I think that’s what makes it an adventure rather than a tour. It’s open-ended. We haven’t planned the details because we want to be able to follow the interesting paths as they appear.
I’m excited to find out what happens. It’s not just that our music might be foreign to the Chinese audiences. It’s that our entire way of thinking about music might be foreign to them, and theirs to us. What sort of music industry is there in China? What do Chinese rock bands aspire to, and how do they see their music as part of their local, national and international culture? The answers vary as you move from Oxford to London and from England to France, so there’s no question China will be different.
We’re meeting an American guy called Abe at the airport. How does he fit into all this? He takes bands on obscure tours of Chinese cities. That’s interesting. Why does he do it? Is it difficult? Is it getting easier?
How are people going to react to a pregnant singer, an extremely tall organist, a cheeky drummer and a slightly nutty French photographer turning up in their town?
I’m sat on the train that has just left from Wuhan. I don’t quite know where we are headed for the night but I do know that tomorrow we will be playing in Macau which is situated one big bay away from Hong Kong. The train journey will be about 4 hours before we have to change again.
I’m sat by the window, the afternoon sun warming my mind. I feel extremely tired and have a huge urge to sleep, but the landscape that passes is keeping my attention, keeping me awake. China is everything that I had no idea it would be. I suppose I didn’t quite know what to expect and I admit there was a large part of me that wasn’t really looking forward to coming. Maybe it was fear that I felt holding me back.
I needn’t have been fearful. I had an idea of a very regimented way, strict, harsh and strong when in fact the welcome, even from the guards on entering the country was not at all hostile (not like America). The voice of the people is soft and soothing - none of the gutteral harshness of some languages that I find quite aggressive. The people have been very friendly and welcoming.
Having said that, it certainly helps to be relaxed here. The two taxi rides we have taken so far have been terrifying, and crossing the roads is no better. One would have to put it down to ‘oragnised chaos’ I suppose. It makes me think of an energy that has a constant flow and must keep moving, similar to that of Tai Chi. The cars, lorries, vans, pedestrians, motorcycles, cycles and carts all weave in and out of each other. Nobody ever seems to be looking. I don’t understand the system and force myself to look anywhere but ahead, but somehow it must work as the cars, to my surprise, don’t have any scratches or bumps (like in Paris).
We went to a street food market in the early afternoon. It was basically an alley with nothing but food stands, selling all kinds of unrecogniseable food. I did recognise the snails as well as the skinned frogs. There were a lot of people eating the food so again, I assume that it must be good. I haven’t got quite that far in tasting foods yet as I am a little more nervous than usual about trying something that won’t agree with me, being pregnant.
Last night’s show in Wuhan was a bit of a surprise. I didn’t realise that we were to play a show on the same day that we arrived - after a total of 13 hours flight. We had to wake early as well as we had to be at the airport 4 hours before the flight. It was probably for the best that I didn’t know we had a show either as it might have kept me stressed.
The good thing about this new set and new songs for me is that there is less pressure on my voice, the songs require far less of my physicality. This comes very handy as being pregnant, the stomach muscles that I usually rely on to sing have been destroyed. I can’t grip the notes the way that I can when I don’t have a little nipper growing inside of me. So I’m less tense and stressed about the singing - not to say, that as the baby grows, it isn’t getting harder for me to sing and perform. Actually, it is. The baby is growing at quite a pace and yesterday, I did wonder what they hell I was doing here in China for a three week tour at such a late stage in my pregancy. Part of me does feel crazy but then another side knows that it isn’t me to sit and do nothing. I am one of those people that finds it hard not to keep busy. I don’t regret coming. So far, being in China feels so exhilirating, the trip of a lifetime. I love the fact that we aren’t on the typical tourist trail. So far, everything feels rather real.
The Vox House where we played last night was an awesome venue. Kind of reminded me of a venue you might see on the television in some half western, half Chinese action movie. It had the balcony, the bar, I don’t know, just the general vibe. The one thing that worries me and that surprised me the most was the fact that people here smoke everywhere. A group of young men came into the club when we were soundchecking, ordered some beers and then started to smoke. This completely shocked me. I worried for the baby. This is something that I am not proud of - putting myself and the baby in this situation. Turns out, it was okay. When we played, nobody was smoking and with the high ceilings, I didn’t really feel it. Let’s hope the smoking stays to a minimum.
The show went really well. The audience were completely charming. Any excuse for a sing-along or a clap-along, they were in. We were lucky that there were people there at all really. Nobody would know us (although astonishingly enough, we did actually have some real Little Fish fans there..) and it was raining very badly outside (it had been raining all day). I missed having Elise there to complete the new line up, but the boys did really well in singing in the right places, Ben was doing some awesome backing vocals (I didn’t know he could pitch so high!), and Mike is brilliant at adapting and making new things work.
The show was a success. We sold quite a few CDs after the show and made some friends in Wuhan.
Interestingly enough, Ben learned a Chinese saying afterwards: “The greatest gratitude is silent”. It was funny, after every song there would be a silence. You have to say ‘Thank you’ and then they seemed to have learned that is when they are expeccted to clap. This is where the true mix of of our cultures meet. They also enjoyed talking to us in whatever English they knew - one guy insisted on shouting that he ‘loved’ me all the way through the show - flattering at first, but then a little tiresome. We also learned how to say Thank You and Hello. Apparently they speak Cantonese in Macau, so unfortunately, my little Mandarin will not be very handy.
Ben also got told that punk and metal were for stupid people and that our music would go down really well with the students of Wuhan, being more intellectual and all. I suppose it is true, the music that we are playing isn’t so instant as classic rock or punk may be. This is the reason that I like what we are doing right now. I find it interesting. I like the composition aspect to it and the way that we are orchestrating the songs - old Fish was foot to the floor and go. This isn’t. This is far more restrained and composed. Admittedly I performed the music more than I would usually, as I was aware that all of the people not understanding English might be a little tough. In these cases, a little animation goes a long way - helps us get a response and helps them know when to respond.
Happy days. Blocked nose and a cold I can’t shift, but still, happy days.