The indie rock/rockabilly showdown

Banana Monkey (Photos by Meredith Cox)

Banana Monkey (the indie rockers) and Rolling Bowling (the rockers-abilly) played a double bill at Yuyintang.


Banana Monkey

First up: Banana Monkey. I actually feel like maybe I talk about Banana Monkey a little bit too much, because I really like them. A lot. I mean, I really, really like them. A whole bunch. They’re not only incredibly talented, but their performances are really tight and engaging, their music is fun, and it’s really cool to watch them play live. They put on a good show. But they’re not just show, because they’ve really got the songs to back it up.

Banana Monkey is a Shanghai band that has been around for several years, but they took a break and only last year started playing together again. They sing in both English and Chinese and are accessible to pretty much everyone here, and their sound is upbeat, like punk-tinged dance rock or garage rock but not as messy. A lot like The Strokes or Franz Ferdinand when Franz Ferdinand was cool, but way better.


Banana Monkey

When they’re on stage, they’re entertaining and fun and don’t spend all their time faffling about. I’ve never seen them do a bad show, and I’ve seen a lot of their shows. Also, they mentioned that there will be an album happening soon. Oh yes, let it be true. This is one of those bands that absolutely keeps the Shanghai music scene relevant and interesting. Along with Duck Fight Goose, they’re my favorite thing happening in this city right now. Check them out here:

But I was also really psyched to see Rolling Bowling out of Beijing (and not just because I get really excited for any band with a double bass. Although I do actually get really excited for any band with a double bass). Rolling Bowling was the rockabilly portion of the bill, and I don’t think I’d ever seen a Chinese rockabilly band before, so to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. But they were exactly that: a Chinese rockabilly band.


Rolling Bowling

I’ve always really liked rockabilly because of its roots in both rock and country, but with all that cool old R&B stuff. But I also like it because like so many other genres, it’s not just a musical style, but a whole image and attitude as well and I like people who commit. Like, if you’re gonna do something, fucking do it, and do it all out. And they were totally there with it. It was a bit strange, at first, hearing these really great, 1950s /boogie woogie/bop/rock songs, but in Chinese. I mean, it probably wasn’t weird to the Chinese people, but it was a bit strange to me. And I’m always curious as to how young Chinese bands with such a specific sound got into it. Were they listening to bootlegged copies of Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley when everyone else in China was listening to Wham and Faye Wong? What was it about American rockabilly that spoke to them?


Rolling Bowling

However they got to where they are was worth it. They had a good set, lots of energy, very polished and really smooth song transitions. And they finished with an awesome rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” I liked them so much I bought a copy of their album afterwards called, quite entertainingly, Marriage is Not my Favorite Thing. Hahaa.


Rolling Bowling

You can check out Rolling Bowling’s sound here.

Also, it was one of those nights at Yuyintang where just everything seemed to be working well. Just a good vibe. Not that I’m often there and like, “Ugh, this place is the worst,” but you know how it is when you go to a certain place fairly often: some nights have a particularly good feel and some nights you can’t get out of there fast enough. This night was a good night. The rain had let up, the weather was good, the bands were both amazing, there were bangin’ tunes (yeah, I just said “bangin’ tunes,” that’s right) in between, the crowd was good, people were dancing to fucking Chuck Berry, there was good stuff coming from The Clampdown. Yeah, everything was just feeling right, and that makes a difference.

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