I go on and on about Rainbow Danger Club, but that will soon be coming to an end. They released their second (and last) LP Saturday night at Yuyintang. Best show I’ve seen of theirs yet.
The crowd was big and enthusiastic. I think they’ve garnered such a following over the past couple of years in Shanghai because they’re legitimately good. I know, right?! Craaaaazy. There are many bands in Shanghai that you will go to see because your friend plays in it, or your co-worker, or you saw an interview in TimeOut and the guitarist is kind of hot, or because you can always just show up to YYT and see some stuff. But Rainbow Danger Club actually has the musical talent to back up the shows they do and publicity they get. And what I find remarkable about the band is that they could hold their own anywhere in the world. Despite its massive size, Shanghai is a small pond, musically speaking, and musicians with just a smidgen of talent and passion can go a long way (which, by the way, I think is great. I wish more places were as musically inviting as Shanghai because most should at least have an opportunity, whether they suck or not) and certainly you see a lot of musicians and bands who are just giving it a go and having some fun. But RDC always struck me as a group who took it a little more seriously. That was definitely evident from the Saturday show and the release of Souvenirs.
They did this wonderful half-acoustic/half-electric mix, and it’s like two different (and equally good) bands. Jesse Munson, the lead guitarist/singer of RDC, played an acoustic guitar in the first half of the show, and the flexibility of acoustic over electric really allowed for the other instruments (in particular the work of cellist Todd St. Amand and some of the additional percussion) to have a larger part. The new songs from Souvenirs seem particularly adept to acoustic because there’s a lot of instrumentation going on. These guys are so far past the two-guitars-and-a-drummer setup they started with years ago.
What I also think is great about Rainbow Danger Club is that they’re unusually good at adapting songs from their albums to their live performances. Again, I think, this comes from the fact that they’re far more advanced musically than a lot of other live acts in Shanghai. They understand that there’s a difference between what works on stage and what works on an album and when they’re playing live, they play the stuff that works on stage. It seems so simple, right? But as someone who goes to a lot of live shows, you’d be amazed at musicians who don’t get this.
After RDC’s acoustic set — where they played several songs from the new album — Duck Fight Goose played an entirely new set. I’m so desperate for a new album from these guys. The way they mix their live guitars and percussion with a sampler and keyboards and looping and all sorts of stuff always leads to an interesting show. And like RDC, Duck Fight Goose gets that making live music is different from playing an album. Seeing them in person is an entirely different musical experience than listening to their recordings. They kill at both, though.
After Duck Fight Goose, RDC came back for their electric part of the show. They played some selections from their first LP Where Maps End, and frankly, these songs have become like anthems in Shanghai at this point. I imagine there’s something particularly thrilling in being a musician and hearing your music sung with you by an audience.
This show was a special one, not just because it was their album release. First, it was drummer Michael Ford‘s last show with the band. You know, people moving on and all that. Ford took on a pretty significant drum solo in the second part in which everyone else left the stage, then kind of tried to come back on but Ford kept going so they sort of wandered off again. Eventually the rest of the band rejoined him and overall it was a very nice touch, to give Ford that recognition at his last show.
Plus, we were promised a “mystery guest” which could have been anyone from the SH music scene, but most delightfully turned out to be bassist Dennis Ming Nichols‘ dad, who came on stage to sing a rendition of Hoochie Coochie Man with the guys from RDC backing him. Really fun and I now have an idea where Nichols gets some of his swagger from. It’s also nice to know that the members of RDC could have a second life as blues artists if this whole indie rock thing doesn’t work out.
Then at the very end of the night, RDC got back on stage and played a little Neutral Milk Hotel, because why the fuck not? You’ve got Mike Corayer there on trumpet. Why waste that opportunity? At this point people were really drunk and really happy and everyone likes Neutral Milk Hotel so basically it was the perfect ending.
I don’t want to go on about their new album too much, mostly because Shanghai 24/7 already has a fantastic breakdown on it which gives it the accolades it deserves. But when I say that Rainbow Danger Club could hold their own anywhere in the world, I legitimately mean it. I hear albums from musicians and bands in the West all the time, released by big-name or indie labels, produced at home or mastered in expensive studios, and the music that RDC produces could trump it. I feel lucky in a strange way that Shanghai is where they started and developed and that I’ve gotten to witness that in the last few years.
Plus, there’s a great interview and review by Jake Newby for TimeOut that is far more eloquent than I could be, so just read that for a better insight.
They have one more show on June 22nd at Yuyintang. Then that’s it.
You can also get the entire album on BandCamp now. It’s worth it.