Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Scenes and noise from the Chinese underground. HELP US RELEASE IT!

The World Underground : CHINA from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.

I'll try and keep this short.  The World Underground is a global idea, starting with China, Montana, and Chicago.  A new web series capturing moments in time from underground music scenes around the world.  To be released online, for donation only, free to all if you so choose.  I'll release all sound recordings with band permission.  Begin an ever-evolving archive of video and sound from across the globe.  Put up links to who books shows.  Local bands in each city to contact.  Local scene supporters.  Connect the global community.  Build bridges, and keep going, everywhere I can.  I have the next 5 in the works.
3 months ago you sent me to China to kick this series off.  Try and grab a moment in time.  I'm happy to say I did just that.  It went better than expected.  With proper polish, it will be excellent.  As a mostly inexperienced one man crew, it could not have gone any better.  I also learned that this idea is more important than I thought.  I filmed 47 bands.  Went to 7 cities.  Jumped on tour with the most one of the most seminal rock and roll bands in China.  I listened to the hope, frustration, and embedded my own excitement.

What We Need : 

Wait, didn't you include editing costs in your original fundraiser?  Yes.  However, I did not expect to go so far over budget.  WAY over budget.  Thousands of dollars.  I am fighting towards being back on my feet, financially.  I cannot sit on this footage.  Nobody wants to be that guy who gets you stoked and you don't see the result for 2 years.
Why did we go over budget?  You can chalk some of it up to inexperience, and tackling this by myself.  The first leap into the deep end is always the hardest.  I had never done an international shoot before.  I put too much into the perks.  Travel costs were more than I thought.  My computer stopped working, and I had to fix it in China to be able to keep filming.  A hard drive took a flying leap off a table and went into the garbage.  Luckily, I brought 2 backup systems.  Considering what could have happened, I actually consider this a huge success. 
I learned a lot from round one, in every regard.  I will continue to apply this knowledge.
This film will not come out soon if this fundraiser does not succeed.  I don't want to sit on this footage.  The footage and sound is amazing, and it deserves proper nurturing.  This is something I currently do not have the skills to do by myself.  Not to the level this footage deserves.  If it succeeds I hope to have the first episode up by MAY of 2014.  In the interim, I will finish Missoula, Montana, and prepare it for release.  While that happens, I will finish Chicago, and keep going.
$2,000 : Post production.   Nathan Christ of Echotone is editing the project.  I am excited to have him on board for this series.  His editing fee is $200 / day.  We expect the editing process to take around 45 days.  Nathan is taking this on at a discounted rate because he believes in this project.
$400 : Animation and Translation.  Jenna Caravello of Dikarya will be dong some short animations for the film.  I have a few translators on board.  They are all taking this on well under their normal rate to get this done.
$500 : Indiegogo and Paypal fees.  Perk fulfillment on the record packs.  

The Impact

Huge, and having dropped into foreign territory and done this, I know it's even more important than I had ever thought.  The excitement for this project in China was immense.  The excitement criss-crossing between scenes I already know is immense.  Connecting people has been my passion for years now.  Building bridges between communities.  Introducing new sounds on a global scale.  Helping connect touring networks and local bands.  Things change so fast, and the "music industry" itself is growing and changing rapidly as we speak.  I feel it's important to catalogue these moments in time.  Music has no boundary, and no language barrier.  


$5 : Thank you and shout out on all social media.  In the film.  On the website, forever.
$10 : A LIVE recording and photo set from the best punk band I saw in China.  They're called DIDERS.  Young, fierce, and spectacular.  They play Deadboys and Jet Boy covers.  I saw them three times, and filmed a practice.  They made me drink a whole glass of Jaegermeister and then licked my face.  Recommended.  (files will be e-mailed)
$30 : FIVE LIVE recordings from across China, including HEDGEHOG, DIDERS, Casino Demon.  Punk.  Noise.  Mind-melting rock.  A few heart breaking tracks from the amazing Skip Skip Ben Ben.  There are some surprises in this one.  HIGHLY recommended.  I only ask that you keep them your secret, or listen with friends, until the film is out. (files will be e-mailed)
$50 : TAPE AND VINYL RECORD PACK from artists across the globe.  ULTIMATELY recommended.  I did these last time and people enjoyed them.  This run includes even more global.  Trust me, you should consider this. 
The labels : 
China's MAYBE MARS : One of the main engines to China's independent scene, they have released seminal records from almost every Chinese rock band to date.  P.K.14, Hedgehog, Skip Skip Ben Ben, Chui Wan.  The list is endless.  You really need to hear this.
Australia's TENZENMEN : A scene supporter after my own heart, Sean Tenzenmen has been helping build bridges between Australia, China, and all over, releasing amazing sounds along the way.  From Australia's CRUX and DEAD, to China's CARSICK CARS and BIRDSTRIKING, we're excited to connect with him.
Chicago's CAPTCHA RECORDS : Releasing bombastic cuts from the likes of TY SEGALL, RUNNING, and THEE OH SEES, Captcha has been bringing you the good noise for a long time.
Missoula, Montana's AL HADID : Rashid Abdel Ghafur started a label years ago, wanting to chronicle his relationships with SRI LANKA and beyond.  He releases noise and black metal tapes and CD's from around the world.
Chicago / Asia's GARY RECORDS : Building bridges between Asia and Chicago, they've helped release international splits with acts from Taiwan, Chicago, China, and beyond.  Exciting.
Records and tapes from individual artists from Missoula, Montana, Chicago, California, and beyond.
$4,000 :  Any punk rock philanthropist's out there : Seeing something you think deserves coverage, and have some money to burn?  We will shoot an episode of The World Underground in a city of your choosing.  All inclusive, anywhere in the world.
International orders please add $10 to help offset extra shipping.

Other Ways You Can Help

Share this project.  Tell your friends.  If you are reading this from a foreign country where something is happening, e-mail me.  I will keep note.  Since launching this project I have started conversations with many different countries.  I will keep going with this project as long as I am physically able to hold up a camera.  I hope to grow it and eventually be able to bring a small crew with me.  Being a one-man crew had its shortcomings and benefits, but it would be nice to have a second person, especially when I trek to more dangerous countries.
This project will take a long time to come out if this fundraiser does not succeed.  I do not want to sit on this footage.  You don't want me to sit on this footage.  I want to put this out, get everything out there, and finish filming Montana and Chicago.  Keep going with this.  I've never believed in a project more in my entire life.  Regardless of the outcome of this, I will not stop.  I wrote quite a bit about my travels.  You can view more photos and words HERE.  Thank you for your continued time and support.  It means the world.  Let's do this.
Reach out : hotmetaldobermans at gmail dot com.  - JY

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A journey through China's underground music scene...

Well folks, you sent me to China to capture a moment in time in their underground scene, and I'm happy to say that I did just that.  I went way over budget, and am currently back in Missoula trying to scrape my life back together, but I'm grinning ear to ear.  As a one-man crew that mostly inexperienced, it couldn't have gone better.  Thank you.  Here's some words and photos to tide you over.  I'll have to launch another fundraiser for editing costs, but this thing needs to come out as soon as possible.  If we edit it right, it should melt your brain, break your heart, and hopefully blow some minds.  A perfect start.

I was to meet up with the seminal P.K.14 in Zhuhai, China. This was after a short stint in Hong Kong filming the excellent Noughts & Exes busk in “Times Square”, chatting with a few members of Hungry Ghosts. I was comfortable enough in Hong Kong, but it's not China, that much was clear. A short ferry ride, and I entered the mainland. Suddenly, nobody knew what I was talking about, but everybody was staring at me. The cameras surely made that worse. I exited the ferry terminal to shouts of “Hello! Taxi!”, and after waiving them off, I found the taxi queue to be gigantic. I started walking. Probably not the best idea, in hindsight, but I had the address to the venue in Chinese. How tough could it be? I showed the characters to a slew of people, all of which waved me off. I started to wonder if the person wrote them down wrong. A younger kid walked by. He looked curiously at the paper, and that's when I found out the “rock guitar” motion goes a long way with the youth of China. His eyes grew wide, he nodded and jumped on his phone, brought up the venue. We had found it. He called them. No answer. It's a 30 minute walk, but he'd take me there. I trusted him. No taxis, he said, as it's business hour. As soon as those words came out, I spotted a woman exiting our car. I ran over and jumped in. He excitedly did the same. “We got taxi!” he yelled gleefully. He told the driver where to go, and rode with me. Refusing to let me pay for the ride, he took my disgustingly heavy roller-bag out, and brought it up to the front door. We high-fived. He refused my offer of getting him into the show, as he had to go eat supper with his family. Besides, he said, he “couldn't drink the beer.” So began a 2 month excursion in mainland China.
Noughts and Exes

My first P.K.14 show was a bit of a religious experience. I had listened to them for a while, but it's a different beast live. Faster, louder, and more energetic. Frontman Yang Haisong commands the stage with no fake attitude, and little calculation. I jumped into the middle of a 31 show stint that stretched as far up at Harbin, and as low as Taiwan. The show was a bit sparsely attended, but two kids bopped around energetically in front of the small stage, windmill dancing to themselves. I was the only foreigner in attendance, but everyone was overly accommodating. It was a ludicrously good first meal in China proper. These meals, I'd find, would be commonplace from here on out. The food in China is immensely varied and spectacular. Don't trust any nerdy food bloggers, just go and dive in. The restaurant also sold mobile for numbers with a few lucky 8's in it for only $25,000! I slept on Haisong's hotel room floor for the first time.

We headed to Shenzhen. P.K.14 were touring in a van this time around, which they were quick to point out, is very rarely the mode of travel for most bands. Usually, you get back-line, and you load your gear onto the train. Someone has to watch it all while the other members mull around or sleep, so you take shifts. This particular band just so happens to be a Beijing staple who have been around for over a decade, so now they have the ability to not only tour in such a way, but pick their openers, also something most bands don't get to do. I rode with them for the shorter trips. I was a bit apprehensive, as I knew I'd be an odd man out, even with 2 members being well-versed in English. I felt comfortable due to how nice they were. It was a quick trip, and we headed into the jungle-like OCT Loft area. They converted a slew of old warehouses into art spaces, galleries, and performance areas. Tonight's venue, B10, a giant empty room with chairs lining the sides. Some of the nicest venue staff of the whole trip. I watched the soundcheck, and walked around a bit. A younger guy came up to me, and said hello. It took me back a bit to hear perfect English from a stranger after 48 hours of hearing no such thing. His name was Anran. We talked about rock and roll, what it's like in the states. I took him outside and had him talk to the camera. A nice kid, opinionated, excited about the future. He wants to come to America. “I love the weed there, LSD motherfucker, please don't put that in the documentary.” I asked his opinion on the rapid growth and construction, and he seemed a bit miffed. “One day we will have kids, and we will have to tell them about the past, and what if we have nothing to show them?” When I asked what foreigners outside of China, should know about China, his response was one echoed by many through these two months. “Come to China.” Step on the soil. See their position. Walk the streets. Don't trust the media. Everyone has their own version of what China is. In the end I asked if there's anything else he'd like to say. He looks deadpan into the camera. “Dog is tasty. There's nothing wrong to eat dog.” I must have made a face, as he said I disagreed. I said no, maybe I'd try it. “Great place to try it, Guangdong province.” We watched the show, drank beers, and were scolded for smoking inside for the first, and only time in China.

Guangzhou, round one. I was excited to go here, as Josh Feola had lined me up with a few kids running a collective called Full Label. They put out records, host shows, and generally try to raise up a very small scene of kids. I met Lee Howie and Yuen Song. We bounced around at another P.K.14 show, went out for food. PAIRS from Shanghai were supposed to play in a small club across town the next day, but their flight kept getting delayed. They pushed the show back to start at midnight, and ended up canceling it entirely. It was a shame, as I went ten-fold over budget and had to cut Shanghai out of my itinerary. There's a guy currently in Illinois, Benjamin Fawkes, who e-mailed me before I left. He runs a space in Rock Island, Illinois called ROZZ-TOX. It also turns out, he runs one in Guangzhou, China. Loft 345. A hidden mecca for artists and collaborators. The best way to describe it would be like the hideout in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You pass a loading dock, down a dark alleyway, and “follow the graffiti” to a tagged door. Up some dicey stairs, more hallways, and you're there. Almost like an upscale bar mixed with a kid from their early twenties' living room in the middle of nowhere, Guangzhou. Surrounding the bar, dozens of rooms, art spaces. It's been open more than a decade. I chat with Wu Wei, an artist and teacher. Having not translated that interview, I still don't know what he said. I'm told it's really good though. I'd return to Guangzhou on the tail end of the trip, but it was a good start.

Changsha. Hunan province. I was excited to keep rolling. Dig into the food. The weather. The show. I was starting to get addicted to seeing P.K.14 play live, each show seemingly growing intensity in the middle of a 31 date stint. The band had a day off, so I took the ridiculously clean and efficient fast train over to await their arrival the next day. It's difficult to describe the Changsha night market. Picture a main street, your nose and eyes burning as you walk through endless wok fire. Heaps of seafood, stinky tofu, and other good bits on sticks calling your name. Every offshoot alley clogged with the same. Oh, and hundreds of club kids running around, puking on the sidewalks, all the while club music pulsates from afar. Picture this sea of food-filled tables, with a stream of wasted people wading through. However, I saw not a single one even so much as graze a food station. A silent code of respect. One spot in particular caught my eye. Clearly a family affair, the mother furiously ran the wok, the father on grill, and a quiet and reserved daughter in a long dress came up to greet you. She kindly asked what you wanted, and found you a table in the midst of the madness. I sat down, and two girls immediately start peering my way, filling an empty cup with beer. A shrimp order comes, and the girls swap food with me. Not a single word was exchanged. Only smiles and beer. The next day, I headed to the 46 live house.

I found out the hard way it had changed locations. Upon getting dropped off at it's old address, the hotel it has been replaced with simply said yes, I was at the correct address. I went to a phone store next door, and a nice fellow kept trying to find the address for me. He kept insisting I had incorrect information, but I knew the place existed. After an hour, I finally found a recent article in English about it's relaunch. The name was slightly different before. The guy got excited, told me he could give me detailed directions for a taxi, and started scribbling. I thanked him profusely, now only having about 30 minutes to get to the show. Walking outside, I was met with deadlocked traffic and a slew of full taxis. I started walking with my arm up. Nothing for a good 10 minutes. I kept my cool, convinced it would all work itself out, when an older gentlemen in a hard hat pulled over on a motorbike. He donned a construction helmet, and had fittingly dirty clothes. “No taxi! Where?” I showed him the address. He pointed across the bridge and motioned for me to get on. Fuck it, I thought, and jumped onto the back seat. He pulled over, pointed, and denied my money. This sort of thing happened a lot. I wish I had the balls to pull my video camera out on that ride. Thanks, Changsha.

Chonqing, the notable NUTS CLUB. That city has an air of craziness about it I couldn't fully grasp only being there one day. The shows were still heating up even though it was the middle of the tour, and I took my first, and last sleeper train to the legendary Chengdu. Brutal, only due to my late sleeping schedule, but otherwise interesting and comfortable, considering. I got one hour of sleep and awoke haggard as hell to be fed fruit by an old man and his wife. I watched them play patty-cake and that game where you slap each others hands for a few hours. Everyone said I'd love it, and I was looking forward to sticking around for a few days. Jef Vrys, who helps run NEW NOISE, was hosting me. The idea behind said company is similar to Guangzhou's Full Label. Set up shows, help the community grow, any way you can. He had just gotten off a tour with EF, and was sick as a dog. A shame. It was then I hit my first hitch. My computer wouldn't turn on. Needing to dump my camera, I found myself stuck. I hung my head and went to the Apple store, which of course, told me the logic board was fried. 6,000 RMB, they told me. I left immediately, knowing that was their stock solution. They are the used car salesmen of computer repair. The extremely helpful girl at the hostel I stayed in the first night took me to her computer guy, the first trip to a Chinese electronics market. It messed with your senses, these giant highrise buildings, strewn with hundreds of little kiosks. “Hello! Computer!”, everyone yells, as if that would make you suddenly up and purchase one. We get to her guy, and in classic form, the goddamn thing turns on. We laugh, I dump everything I need before turning it off again, and I head to the legendary Little Bar.
Yang Haisong and his lovely wife.

It's been a venue for 15 years, the longest standing venue in the region. No easy feat for anywhere in the world, let alone China. After soundcheck, I ate with the band and the opener, two gigantic pots of deep red Hunanese greatness. Meat, veggies, the ever present lotus root. The flavors were outstanding. I watched silently as Haisong chatted with this young, local opener, they sat puppy-eyed with their chins in their hands, eating up every word. I'll never know what was said. Jumping back into the venue before the show, I try to load up my computer for the final checks, and no dice. It's dead again. Visibly frustrated, the only other person in the balcony area comes up to me and asks me what's wrong. I explain the ordeal, and he tells me not to worry, he's got me covered. He must have paid a bunch, as he and his girl, along with Haisong's wife and I, were the only ones up there. I head over to his table, and we share an entire bottle of Bailey's on ice. The girl wanted it, he said. It was then I discover the absolutely excellent Hi Person. They have no online presence, but you'll be introduced soon enough through the film. I was floored by simple poppy rock music. They remind me of Chicago's Tyler Jon Tyler, an old favorite. Catchy as hell, serious hooks, female fronted excellence. Simple, but I knew I'd be humming those for days. As we chat, I'm still worrying about my computer. I have to be, as it's the only way I can comfortably keep filming without losing my mind. I have 2 backup systems for good measure, but no way to get anything on them without serious headaches. Bailey's guy, he reminds me we're about to watch P.K.14's first Chengdu show in years, takes my number, and tells me he'll take care of it with me in the morning. Drink up, he says, we cheers, and the band rips the place apart.

In the morning, I get a phone call. “Where are you?” I give him the address. I go outside, and he's in a black Audi. I get in, and he takes me to yet another shit-show electronics market. Only this time, we go through a side door, to a back-room where 5 kids are pulling apart computers, soldering wires with maniacal speed. I film nothing. I give the computer to who I'm told, and the guy takes it apart in 14 seconds and starts testing wires. “You need this chip”, he points. 710 RMB. I agree, and he says it will be ready in the morning. While listening to Chinese death metal, I talk about the city with this random angel, who proceeds to bring me to Proximity Butterfly's practice space, almost clipping a pedestrian in the process. That guy has some good vibes coming his way. I filmed two other local bands rehearse. The excellent STOLEN, another young band, really surprised me. I'd meet with them again later in Beijing. I was so taken with Hi Person, I had them play another set for me in their practice space. They led me to a watery island near a park for their interview. I can't wait to show you this band. They have nothing recorded yet. This was Chengdu. The taxis seemingly drove 20 miles per hour. You cross the street normally. It felt like every other Chinese city I'd been in, slowed to 50%. Sijiang from Hi Person says there's a saying. “When you're young, don't come to Chengdu. When you're old, don't leave Chengdu.”
Hi Person

I bid farewell to P.K.14 until we'd meet again weeks later, and was off to Beijing for one month. This had me giddy. A chance to stay put for a while and really sink my teeth in. Josh Feola helps push the scene forward. He runs Pangbianr, a news outlet, championing what's good in the city. He also helped found Sinotronics, books shows, plays improv noise, and runs events at a space called “The Other Place”, tucked away in the Beijing Hutong alleyways. He was a catalyst to this whole thing happening. Josh threw the contact out to Nevin of Maybe Mars, who made tagging along on the P.K.14 tour possible. Those two threw every contact I wanted at me, and I ran with all of them by myself. I'm grateful for that. So, I went to work.

The very first night, I went and got my mind blown by WHITE+ and Residence A, two Beijing staples. The next night, an intense chat with Helen Feng and a performance by the excellent Nova Heart. Beijing is where I really dug into everything. What had people excited? What's happening now, five years after the Olympics and the hey-day of the seminal D-22. Where would everything go from here? Every band I contacted to do something said yes. Almost every show I saw was great. New, young blood like the snarling punk rock of DIDERS, to established vets like Carsick Cars and Bedstars. The surf-inspired hooks of The Dyne. One of Beijing's indisputable best, Hedgehog, played one show this year, and I missed it by mere days. Recording a new record while I was in town, they invited me to join them. I was grateful, but I had to see this band play in their natural element. I pushed for a practice space session, and they agreed. I met frontman Zo, and we headed down to an underground parking garage to their space. I heard familiar noise. “Oh, Carsick Cars are practicing too, want to go in?” Too perfect. I caught a few songs, thanked them, and went next door. Hedgehog's new material is slower than past endeavors. The 3 foot tall powerhouse drummer Atom, who can barely hold the sticks, cooing out harmonies. She sings a few by herself, too. It's excellent. I filmed and recorded it as well as I could. I've been listening to it for weeks now. This record, though a departure from the fast rock of their old records, should be something great. Free from their commitment to Beijing's Modern Sky record label, they're releasing this one on their own. Be stoked.
Nova Heart

I finally met back up with Yang Haisong, in his practice space and studio near Tongzhou. Haisong now records and produces bands in Psychic Kong Studios. He also co-runs a label called “Share The Obstacles” with a small, fiery drummer named Za Za. She loves Shellac, and all the good American underground shit. They have another band called After Argument. I went to talk, and to film the practice. After Argument is Haisong on guitar and vocals, and Za Za busts out some of the fiercest drumming I've seen in quite a while. After having a tough time getting that man to say more than a few sentences on camera the whole tour, we talked for nearly two hours that night. I'd catch After Argument on my next stop, Wuhan, and when I returned to Guangzhou, the perfect continuity making me laugh after so long of everything working out so perfectly. Though minimal, the music rips. You'll love it. I witnessed one more P.K.14 show at YugongYishan in Beijing. Beforehand, I walked with drummer Jonathon, listening to a story about how their sound guy ate a whole lamb's head in the week before. Jonathon had some great stories you'll hear in the film, and was completely kind and generous the whole time. They all were. They didn't have to be, but they were. Glad to have made such wonderful new allies across the globe.
DIDERS (our favorite)

So, what about China itself? What's happening? Well, I don't want this thing to be 30 pages, and I'm also aware that my view on the whole thing is skewed. I'm not a local. I don't live there. One thing that surprised me, was hearing stories about the government. The mafia in China? The police. They do as they please, and if you don't like it, well, things will be quite difficult for you. The police can wander into your bar, and close it down because they're tired and “want to go home”. Sonic Youth had to do a switcheroo with Carsick Cars, stating they were the “local band” to even be able to play. They can cancel your show or festival entirely at any point, including while it's happening, and you have no recourse but to nod and gulp it down. They can, and do, walk in and demand money, at which point you have to give it to them. I realize this isn't a new concept. The venue in Wuhan said they no longer have shows for expats on Christmas because the government would cap it at 100 capacity, saying they want to go home. It's not worth the trouble, they said. One night, walking back toward where I was staying in the hutongs, my host was telling me about this arcade near Ghost Street, a shitty, overpriced eating area where you go to show off to clients and girlfriends. He was excited for it to open, saw its progress, but it never came to fruition. As we walked by, we noticed the doors open, and a purple light on. It was about midnight. We went down to see what we could. We saw dozens of arcade machines, all unplugged and scattered around a main room. Two tables of guys all glared at us. We cartoon-walked the fuck out of there. That's no arcade, and it never will be. What were they doing? The rent is surely astronomical. People with something to hide don't take up a gigantic space next to one of the busiest areas of Beijing.
Atom (Hedgehog)

That said, I'm happy to say that there's an air of optimism amongst the endless cranes, construction, shitty air, and endless noise. The youth of China is rebuilding a culture of their own. They're exicted about the future. It's easier to get a VISA out. Stick to the “normal topics of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll” and you'll have little issue getting your records out. Expats help fuel the scene. Nevin Domer started a new vinyl only label called Genjing. DIY culture barely exists, and it'll be a while before it catches on like anywhere else, but this is what most hope will be the new wave. “Come to China.” I heard it over and over again. One of my final questions to everyone was, “what do you think foreign people outside of China, should know about China.” Almost every answer was the same. You need to come to China and see. Step into the soil. Don't trust me media. Everyone has their own version of China, and it's probably not what you think. “Rock and Roll saved us”, said Zo of Hedgehog.

Off to Wuhan, I caught After Argument in a natural setting, and met up with Wu Wei of the legendary punk band SMZB. They've been together 17 years. Wuhan is gnarly. Endless construction and dirt, killer food, and VOX livehouse, which is nestled in a downtown area indistinguishable to any of the others. I got smashed with locals in the nearby Wuhan Prison bar, filmed local weirdos AV Okubo in an art-riddled parking garage on Halloween. When I went back to Guangzhou, After Argument were even more potent. I had so much fun, and nothing to do the next day, so I jumped a train with them back to Shenzhen's B10 for one more show. They remembered everything about my first visit. As I said, some of the best staff of any venue I went to. I said a final goodbye, honored to work with Haisong for so long, grateful for what I'd done, and sad to see them go.
Wang Xu (White+)

I filmed a total of 47 bands in 7 cities on the whole trip. Took up the first 4 pages of a re-launched Jingweir zine. Spent an awful amount of time hammered at the excellent School Bar. Caught a few of the legendary “Zoomin' Night's”. As a one man crew with little proper training, it couldn't have gone any better than it did. Being surprised over and over again never got old. Beijing has a lot going for it. Other scenes, some being microcosms, pushing forward in every way they can. Women are ruling China. Acts like Hi Person, Wild At Heart, Skip Skip Ben Ben, Girl Kill Girls, SUBS. You'll be introduced to them all soon enough. Ah...SUBS, a local favorite. In China, when you buy a shitty phone number, you get all sorts of spam phone calls and texts. One morning, I awoke to my phone buzzing. I just so happened to pick this one up just to see what it was like, and it was Kang, their frontwoman, inviting me to their practice. Good timing and a little luck ruled this trip. They also have a new sound, and it's as excellent as anything they've ever done. It used to be, D-22 was packed every show, now shows are spread throughout a dozen or so venues. The scene is growing. People hope some new bands come to light that do their own thing.
AV Okubo

With a scene that's mostly optimistic, anything is possible, and it'll be interesting to watch what happens from here. I'm endlessly glad to have gotten a chance to grab a moment in time. That's what this was all about. Could a one-man crew dive into foreign territory and capture this, and do it well? I'm happy to report that the answer is yes. Sure, there are some misses due to the limitations, but it went as well as it possibly could, and way better than I expected it do. If we edit this right, it's going to melt your brain. A few times, I found myself a bit overwhelmed and blown away at all that had been done, genuinely curious as to why it had all gone so smoothly. A couple people took me aside and told me this went so well because of the way I went about it. My demeanor. It was then that I knew I was on the right track. It was a whirlwind trip with enough staying put to get a good sense of what was real. Enough time to capture the moment I was looking for. You're going to love this. Stay tuned.
Speak Chinese or Die

The World Underground is a global idea. China was entirely funded by communities that have supported what I do in the past. The goal is to capture moments in time in underground communities around the world, make hour long documentaries, release them on The World Underground for a suggested donation online. Pay what you want. Release all the sound files, free to all. Compile it on a website, with contact information for each band, label, and scene supporters. Begin an ever-growing archive of sound from around the world, and open up the global network. Open up more communication between the world's communities. Underground music has a smaller network than you might think. It's a work in progress, and I'm not going to stop. Hopefully donations will further this, to visit other countries, but after the release of China, I'll push harder. Apply for grants. Bother everyone, and do anything I can do further this. I went so dreadfully over budget, I'll have to run another fundraiser for editing costs to wrap this thing up quickly. Already being in debt, there is no other way to keep this rolling than what I'm doing. The footage looks fantastic. It sounds great. Sure, there were some misses due to lack of experience and being a one-man crew, but it's going to be spectacular. I am confident in this. Some truly heart-wrenching, hilarious, and eye opening moments. It needs a polish, and it needs to come out as soon as possible. I'm hoping for a 5 month turnaround time. Missoula, Montana and Chicago, Illinois are almost done filming, and will be the next two. If I have my way, future episodes will be filmed around the world. If you want to donate to this project, you can send a Paypal donation to, or contact me for a mailing address or further options.
Wu Wei (SMZB)

After Argument

Thursday, September 5, 2013


At this very moment, I'm sitting in Spokane International Airport, way too goddamn early.  I'm not taking any chances with anything.  It's 3:15 A.M.  After 2 layovers, and a 14 hour flight, I will land in Hong Kong, thanks to the donors who supported The World Underground.  I gotta say, that wasn't an easy thing to launch.  I must have hovered my finger over that button for a good two hours.  Thanks for confirming that it was indeed a good idea.

Your support brings us to China, where we'll meet up with Josh Feola, the legendary P.K.14, and much, much more.  China, from the north to the south, is on board.  We'll be hitting many regions, speaking with many different people.  It begins now.  Follow the social media.  Facebook, Twitter, and the like.  We'll try to update it as much as we can.  Hoping once every few days at the very least.

I really wanted to get up some live recordings of Total Fest, Bob Log III video from Farmageddon Fest, but planning this whole damn thing by myself has proven to be quite consuming.  Be stoked on those things, and much more to come in the very near future.  

We'll be gone for two months.  Aside from the shows Josh Feola books, and the ones I catch naturally, a few bands have agreed to play a set in their practice space, and we hope that works out.  The Dyne, HEDGEHOG, Noughts and Exes.  We're excited.  It's coming together.  It will all shift and change, surely, but the base is there.  Here we go.  Here's out rough schedule if you want to follow along : 

9/6 - 9/9 : Hong Kong.
Following PK14 on tour : 
9/10 - Zhuhai
9/11 - Shenzen
9/12 - 9/16 Guangzhou
9/16 - Changsha
9/18 - Chongqing
9/19 - 9/25 Chengdu
9-25 - 10-26 - Beijing
10-27 - 11/4 - Shanghai 
11/6 - 11/11 - back to Guangzhou.

Thank you for the support, now, and in the past.  It means the world (no pun intended). 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Announcing THE WORLD UNDERGROUND : A new series of films highlighting underground scenes of the world.

The World Underground - Episode 1 : CHINA from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.

WE DID IT!  THANK YOU doesn't really do it justice.  

People are asking if they can still donate.  OF COURSE!  Paypal :

If you want to donate in another way, just send us an e-mail, and we'll accomodate you.
The support was insane. It happened, because of you. You all stepped up HARD. What's next? All the perks will ship out in August. I leave in early September, and will be circling the country for 2 months, with a long stint in Beijing. I might just be dropping into the middle of China, and following a band on tour. I really hope it happens. I will return, finish Missoula, and Chicago, get them out as soon as we can in 2014, and keep going. You made a total pipe-dream become a reality.  Follow the social media.  Things are still coming together.  Thank you.  

A short summary :

The World Underground.  A new series documenting hour long moments in time of the ever-changing underground scenes around the world.  An ever-evolving, community driven video history.  The first 3 episodes to focus on China, Montana, and Chicago, IL.  The bands, labels, people, and what's happening now.  Future locations to be announced.  To be edited by Echotone director Nathan Christ, with animation by Jenna Caravello.

You really need the full story :

How do you sum up a decade in a few paragraphs?  After spending years enveloped in the Green Bay punk rock scene, I moved to Chicago in 2007.  I started filming all of these phenomenal bands blowing away 50 kids in dirty warehouses or dark basements.  Paper Mice.  Lechuguillas.  Tiger Hatchery.  I did this for years on a mediocre point-and-shoot.  I wanted to try and capture how good this all really was.  I started a website called Gonzo Chicago.  It originally included just one sentence.  What this turned into, I didn't expect.  The community took hold of it.  After some push from people I trusted in Chicago, I hesitantly ran a crowdsourced fundraiser on this very site for new gear.  I didn't think it would work.  It was successful, and I raised $3,600 in 30 days, kept going, harder than ever.  What I captured was a tightly knit group of kids doing things exactly the way they wanted to.  Uncompromising, they released tapes, vinyl, toured through the traditional means.  Chicago was exploding with great things when I left.  Toupee, Heavy Times (RIP), RUNNING, Mayor Daley.  I've kept a keen eye on it.  The ever-changing landscape of this is a main reason I do what I do.

Things are changing.  Independent bands are playing stadiums, have songs in car commercials, winning artist of the year Grammy awards.  Ultra-famous comedians are self-releasing their own DVD's.  Even the good bands are releasing music via Adult Swim.   The wide swathe of the internet has made music and information immediately accessible.  Never before has music been so easy to find.  Police are pretending to be punk rock kids to bust house shows.  Many bands prefer the anonimity of underground shows, preferring to make a handful of kids go wild in a basement than to have a half filled room of people arms folded.  These shows will continue, because they have to.  I realize this is not a new concept, both what's happening, and me documenting it.  Many documentaries have and will continue to be done.
Gonzo Chicago grew, I started writing more, for both myself, and other sites like Brooklyn Vegan, and NYC's Impose Magazine.

Missoula took me by surprise when I moved here last September.  As much heart as Chicago, on a smaller scale.  Different tape and record labels.  Different locals, and a different stream of touring bands.  But the ideals are the same.  Do good work, treat people well, support the community.  I moved here as 2 seemingly legendary spaces, The Lab, and The BSMT, had recently closed.  Zoo City Apparel was just heating up as I strolled into town, hosting White Mystery, Thee Oh Sees.  It has since closed.  Ever since, the Ole Beck VFW, which was already doing a great job, was left to pick up the slack.  Bands like Magpies and King Elephant are blowing me away consistently.  Recently we re-launched the "BSMT" into what is now Missoula's only option for all-ages shows.  I am honored to be this deeply involved with these communities.
As it all grew, scene reports came in from around the world.  People letting me know what I knew existed.  This is happening everywhere.  Michale Coleman wrote me from Missouri and said he started filming DIY shows because of what he'd seen.  China, Montana, all over Europe, Japan, Australia.  Boise.  Myanmar.  China came on my radar after I interviewed Handsome Furs, fresh off a long tour in the PRC.  For over a year, I wondered how I could get there.  I dug around, eventually cleared my throat and e-mailed Josh Feola of China's Pangbianr.  He agreed to book shows in Beijing, and line me up with other regions such as Guangzhou.  For as massive as China and its underlying music scene is, it's understandably pocketed, yet growing rapidly.  It's constantly evolving, and I think grabbing this moment, any moment, is important.
I will spend September and October in the PRC, filming shows both naturally, and ones we set up, different regions, interviewing labels and bands.  China being the first episode, Missoula and Chicago are well on their way to being finished.  I will finish filming those by my own means upon my return.  I hope to release all three episodes in 2014, and continue on.  
I can no longer deny or downplay the potency of what I do.  I only move forward when communities deliver an undeniable push.  After Nathan Christ jumped on board to edit, and Josh Feola agreed to book shows in Beijing, I received funding a new camera free and clear.  I know that this is the right path.  This is extremely important to me, and many others, so I hope you'll join me.

What We Need

What are you going to use my $6,000 for?
Indiegogo's take-away estimate : $5,600
Travel will take a good bite out of this.  Between plane, train, VISA, and other assistance : $1,600
Post processing, video and sound editing.  Translation support.  Supporting the communities I'll be attending shows in for 2 months.  I'm honored to have Nathan Christ editing this project.  I have commissioned the wondrous Jenna Caravello to do animation.  $2,000.
Partial expenses.  This would be considered a no-budget documentary by proper standards.  With an upgraded camera, I believe even with limited resources, I can still tell a good story.  However, while I can live and eat cheaply in China for 2 months, this is only covering a partial amount of the full cost.  Hard drives.  Sound.  The costs are immense.  Already being in debt, I must defray some of the costs of this.  $1,500.
Perk fulfillment and printing costs : $500
I'm not a huge fan of Paypal, outside of the extra fees they take.  It's on as an option, but if you'd like to send me payment in a different method, feel free to contact me.
I doubt everyone will be into this idea.  Will I have fun doing this?  Absolutely.  This is not a vacation, and I take what I do seriously.  After working 60 hours a week to stay afloat, I realize I am simply unable to fund this myself, and it must be done.

Local goods you get for donating!

Vintage hand-scribed smarmy postcards from Montana.
Delicious local tea from Montana Tea and Spice Trading coupled with honey from the amazing Arlee Apiaries.

DVD copies of the spectacular Austin documentary ECHOTONE :

A hand-picked tape and record collection from some of the best labels in Chicago and Montana : TEEN RIVER, Caffeinated Recordings, Lillerne Tapes, Solid Melts, Moniker Records, Missoula's AL HADID, and more...

Designer t-shirts from Josh Scholl's SKIM MILK :

Beautiful art prints.  Your choice on if you'd like landscape, or live music.

...and more.  All donors will be thanked on the website.  That list should be intense to look back on as we go along.

The Impact

The impact?   In a perfect world, the global community will get involved in this, and in 10 years, maybe I will have 50 episodes done that we can all look back on.  All those closed spaces, broken up bands.  From an archival standpoint, it's already there.  Terabytes from Chicago.  Montana.  Boise.  I can no longer deny the potency of what I do.  I only move forward when communities push me forward.   Since the beginning, it has all grown ten-fold.  After receiving an e-mail from someone telling me I was the cause of them having "the best shared musical experiences of their lives", I knew I must continue, and grow this.  That's exactly what I'm after.  The point was always, and will remain to get what I think is good to people who may not have found it otherwise. 
I understand not everyone will be into this.   I'd like to think been entrusted to do what I do for a reason.  My number one concern is uncompromising discretion and tact, as I take these communities as seriously as you do.
This is not to shine a light on a dark corner of what's happening.  Those who come for the spectacle of it all never stick around.  This is not an authoratative stance on the matter, quite the opposite.  What you see is what you get, what's happening now, and I guarantee you it'll be something exciting.  I'm extremely excited at what's been filmed even before the recent camera got funded.  You'll love it. 
I hope you'll join me in this.  All I can picture is Matthew Lillard in "Hackers" right now.  I can't do it without you. 
Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Listen to Acid Mothers Temple play a surprise set in Missoula, Montana.

Spontaneity still exists, and sometimes Acid Mothers Temple play a random show at the Ole Beck VFW in Missoula, Montana.  They jumped onto an already great bill of Stacian, Samantha Glass, J. Sherri, and Skin Flowers.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Watch the first annual Chicago Sonic Coalition.

Chicago Sonic Coalition : 2012 from GONZO CHICAGO on Vimeo.

It wasn't my idea.  Friends in Milwaukee have hosted multiple versions of their "All Messed Up".  They told me to "contact the scribes" from Cleveland's "Lottery League".  The idea seemed simple enough : Rally together a shitload of local musicians, throw a party and put all of their names in a hat.  Draw random bands.  Further rules vary by province.  No trading members.  Play a cover.  If you drew a bunch of drummers, well, you'll have to deal with that.  You are in no way obligated to play the instrument you normally play.

In the end, nearly 100 said they were in.  A few weeks later, we had 72 names to draw.  17 bands were formed. I knew they weren't all going to make it.  Life happens.  Bands crumbled, understandably.  Some painful dropouts, like Dave Reminick from Paper Mice and Kevin from Mannequin Men.  Kyle from Cacaw.  Al Scorch was drawn with Magic Ian, and sadly, it didn't happen.  I expected this.

Those who wrote music were invited to play a multistage show at my favorite basement in the city.  9 bands performed.  The energy and vibe in the room was something I haven't seen in a long time, and something I have not seen since. It brought the community together.  Though logistically a mess, it ran extremely smooth.  Some of the footage is so shitty because I was running around trying to make sure everything was taken care of, all the while being fed shots of whiskey.

The spectacular Whitney Allen made one of my favorite flyers in existence.  Knowing all of these musicians and what they've done, I had an idea of what they may be capable of, and the challenges faced in doing this project.  It's what got me so excited.  Would it be a disaster?  Surely, it could have been, but I'm happy to report it wasn't.  The high point, for me, was watching Bill Satek (Mines), John Carroll (Paper Mice), and Andrew Martinec (Bad Drugs).  They were called "Alien Shit", and are 2nd to last in this video.  There were many who could and did pull off something different.  However, sounded exactly how I'd hoped it would sound.  Bill laughed after they were done and yelled "It's our first show!"  You wouldn't have known.

The whole night was a testament to the burgeoning Chicago underground scene.  The talent and people. Treasure Town couldn't host it, which saddened me.  How could we cram so many people, so much gear, into a basement?  I reached out to my favorite place, and begged them to take it on.  They agreed, and it actually made the damn thing even better.  An upstairs and downstairs stage.  At the height of it all, I'd turn my camera off.  Looking around seeing everyone in the room packed together, smiling.  It was one of the best nights I can remember.  Missoula just hosted one, and shared the exact same experience.  You can do it, too, and you should.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tonight : Our first show in Missoula. White Mystery, Magpies, and more...

Tonight in Missoula, Montana, we begin what will hopefully end up being a decently lengthy series of shows.  Chicago's White Mystery, Organs from NYC, and Missoula's excellent Magpies, BOYS.  Thanks to Hana Mt. for the flyer!

April also will see us hosting two shows by another Chicago favorite, THE FUNS.  Info below.  With the closing of Zoo City Apparel, and the options for all-ages dwindling, we're honored to help the Z.A.C.C. "bsmt" take off once again, and to host 3 all-ages shows.  The others will be hosted at our favorite, seemingly unstoppable bar, the VFW post 209.  If you watched the Treefort video below, it's true, the folks at the VFW209 in Montana have made a spectacular resurgence effort, and are killing it!  If you're around, or have friends in the area, let 'em know!

April 21st @ THE Z.A.C.C. "BSMT"! :

April 22nd @ Ole Beck VFW!

If you're around, hope to see you there.  All the best.