First, if you haven't seen the flickr set from the MoCA, I highly encourage you to do so. To convince you, here are some of the better images from the set:
I'm not the world's biggest fan of "art" or even museums, but something about this collection really sparked my interest and caught my eye. I wonder if it's because the art is from Japanese artists. Or maybe it's just because this is the first museum I've been to in, oh, forever :-)
Well Sherman, it's raining and cold out, so it's the perfect time to update this blog. Let's set the Wayback Machine for Thursday and go from there:
On Wednesday night, Kenneth from Shanghaiist invited me to a contributors' dinner in Puxi. Funny; I haven't even contributed anything yet :-) So Thursday after work I caught the train to the Hengshan Lu station. I wandered up and down the street for like 30 minutes looking for the restaurant, Le Garcon Chinoise. It took me that long to find it, even though I knew the general area (Hengshan near Dongping). The reason was that the restaurant is set way back from the street down this really long driveway/alleyway and there's no sign on Hengshan. I get the feeling that's typical in Shanghai :-) But I found it by myself, which I was proud of.
Of course I was the first one there; I'd left work early because I still don't know how long it takes to get from work to that area in Puxi. Turns out it's about 45 minutes, which is not that bad given the distance. The cool thing about Shanghaiist (and, I gather, most web-based writing projects) is that many of the contributors have never met each other in person. Why should there? There's no real "office" for the site. Dan Washburn runs it out of his home, and people send in stories when they have something to say. I mean, that's how I wrote for JIVE since forever, even though they do have an office. I've never been to Atlanta, let alone met with my editor there. I'm not even sure I know her real name :-)
Anyway, people start trickling in, and every one of them has a different accent :-) It's great. There's a Singaporean girl, a French girl, three guys from England, one from Australia, etc. You know, I just have been assuming that, since someone here might be white, they might speak English or even be from the US. Oh how nationalistic that seems now, haha. I did meet a guy from DC though who has been in Shanghai almost a year to study the language. So we swapped stories since we grew up pretty close to one another.
There wasn't really any agenda for the meetup - just see who everyone is and meet and talk and drink free wine. Nice. I ended up staying for about three hours and meeting a wide variety of people. Near the end, when I was about to leave, people started handing out business cards. Jazz schools, tourism companies -- everyone had a card except for me! Since I have nothing to sell. Actually that's not true - I have my DJ self to "sell," and several people there seemed interested. I had brought along some CDs because I was going to Logo after the dinner, so I passed out a couple of those. But I think from now on I might bring along my stack of business cards. At least a couple. Since I still don't even remember my damn phone number ;-)
One interesting aspect was that, while these people are expats, they live and work for Chinese companies (or go to Chinese schools). So in that regard I felt like kind of an outcast, like, I am making American dollars and have many subsidized expenses. So one girl was talking about the cost of the taxi ride from Pudong to Puxi (just like at work in Austin, everyone I meet is flabbergasted by how far away I live) and I was thinking well, it doesn't cost me a dime, at least not directly. It's been budgeted for by my job, so personally it costs me time and that's about it. I mean yeah in a larger sense it comes out of the budget for the company that affects my salary and bonuses (along with everyone else's), but it's hard to feel that personally. It's a fantastic benefit that I don't even fully appreciate yet.
And before all of my co-workers get up in arms like "Stop taking taxis across town and decreasing my bonus!" it's not even that much money in American dollars ;-) It's like a $8 - $9 cab ride, and even less expensive for the subway, where it's less than $2 a trip. An $8 cab ride in Austin gets you squat, but here it gets you pretty damn far, haha.
So I felt a little weird. But, you know, that's how it is and I'm definitely not advocating for that to change ;-)
So the dinner was fun. I met a bunch of people and exchanged contact info with some of them. I'm sure I'll see many of them out and about also, since they mentioned places that I've heard of and had considered checking out. For example, one guy is a jazz trumpeter and plays at Club JZ regularly. I'm sure I'll end up there for a show sometime soon.
Anyhoo, after the dinner I took another cab down to Xingfu and Fahuazhen, which is where the Logo bar is. I'd been in contact with the Void techno DJs, and the contact Cameron (Cammy) had been really nice, and I'd been looking forward to checking out the "underground" music scene.
Logo reminded me of Plush in Austin. Small bar, kinda dingy, with poor lighting. Whereas Plush is the size of a walk-in closet, Logo is the size of maybe 2 - 3 bedrooms put together, haha. I walked in the door and through the lounge area into the bar/dancefloor space. The bar itself is a square in the middle of the room, which is an odd design choice because it leaves very little contiguous space for dancing or even standing around and talking. But the DJ on the decks, Nat Alexander, was rockin' it. I felt immediately at home. They were even using Pioneer CDJ-800s, which are the same kind I have :-) And while the techno was more on the minimal side, it was fast and enjoyable.
I stood around for a little bit and just watched the DJ, like I like to do at these kinds of things. A guy came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said "Ryan?" It was Cameron. He must have assumed that the tall white guy, standing there staring at the decks, was me. And he was right :-) So we shook hands and talked for a little bit. Cammy's from Scotland, so he has a great accent. Yes, I must admit that I was reminded of Groundskeeper Willie. So sue me -- I don't meet many Scottish people :-) We chatted for a bit about his crew, techno in Shanghai, what Void's all about, and stuff like that. So that was cool. I gave him a demo CD and also gave one to another DJ in his crew, Fish, to whom Cammy introduced me.
I started dancing and then taking pictures, then I sat down just to people-watch. The lounge area had mostly Chinese people, but the bar/dance area had mostly expats. Interesting. I sat around watching people (my favorite activity) and taking pictures. The place wasn't too crowded, but there was a decent crowd. It improved throughout the night, too. I think I got there around 11, so to many people that is not even "nighttime" :-)
After awhile, Cammy got on the decks. I really dug his set. He played some pretty hard bangin' stuff -- not D.A.V.E. the Drummer style, but some jackin' Detroit techno. There weren't a lot of bass rhythms, which contrasts with the style of music I like to play. But again, it was good times. I felt really comfortable, like I had to remind myself I was in freaking China of all places. I guess it's true what they say, music is universal.
After that I only interacted with really two people. One was this drunk French girl who seemed intent on making sure everybody was having a good time. Nothing wrong with that at all. It's very kind when bar patrons take responsibility for other peoples' well-being :-) And I'm like look, for me, right now, sitting here eating bar popcorn with a sore neck because I've been nodding my head so much to the music -- that counts as good times, at least as worked up as I'm willing to get on a Thursday night :-) She went on some spiel about the importance of luck -- at least that's what I thought she said, given the loudness and her accent. She might have been saying "love," but I don't think she was. And she was speaking so close to me (it was rather loud in there) that her nose was kinda in my ear, hahahaha. After so many years of talking to people in loud bars and clubs, I've developed strategies for speaking to people in those environments -- and that is not it, hahaha. But she was nice. The other encounter was a guy who noticed I had the same camera as him. I think he was French, too. Or Italian. I think my accent recognition capabilities need work :-) They are definitely put to the test in Shanghai, that's for sure.
I left at about 1 AM and cabbed it home. I had no trouble finding a cab because three of them were parked outside the bar. The drivers were snoozing and waiting for people like me. I got home by saying "Da mu zhi" and confirming I meant Pudong, and away we went.
I could definitely see my music working in with the Void crew's stuff. So hopefully I'll get a chance to prove that :-)