Review: Hiperson – Live at Zhenghuo, Chengdu

Review: Hiperson – Live at Zhenghuo Art Space, Chengdu
Saturday 25 October 2020


There’s something special about seeing a local band play a packed out show on home turf, and in Chengdu, few are more beloved than five-piece rock band Hiperson 海朋森.

The atmosphere surrounding Hiperson’s homecoming show in Chengdu last Saturday was suitably electric — not only was it the final show of their 15-date ‘Bildungsroman’ 《成长小说》 release tour, but the first public show they’d played in Chengdu in over two years.

Originally booked for iconic venue Little Bar (成都小酒馆), the show was reluctantly relocated to the cavernous Zhenghuo Art Space (正火艺术空间) in the far-out Fanmu Art Zone, as Little Bar continues to weather a long-term closure since last year — first closed for mandatory fire safety revamp, then for Covid-19 lockdown and now for renovations of the surrounding shopping mall. Nevertheless, having sold out the allocation of 999 tickets (nearly 800 more than the ‘She Returned from the Square’ album release show at NU SPACE in 2018) it was an absolutely whopping turnout and the excitement was palpable.

At the strike of 8:30pm, the lights dimmed and guitarist Liu Zetong teased out an extended intro of ‘You Don’t Sacrifice Your Innocence Here’《乐园》 as the band emerged one-by-one in their navy blue Zhongshan suits, welcomed to the stage with rapturous applause. Arms stretched out wide to the adoring crowd, singer Chen Sijiang leapt centerstage and Ji Yinan let the amplifier feedback rip, backed by the propulsive rhythms of Wang Boqiang on drums and Ming Ming on bass. Spurred by Sijiang’s graceful dancing, partly inspired by experimental choreographer Yvonne Rainer, they launched into a confident, commanding groove that had us rapt in the palm of their hand from the get-go.

Photo by Aymen

Photo by Aymen

Striking in uniform, the band appeared more focused and unified than ever as they launched into visceral material from the new album — the militant chorus refrains of ‘Daily March’《每天的行军》 “forward, forward!” (“向前走、向前走!”) and “fight! fight! fight!” (“战斗!战斗!战斗!”) screamed out loud on home turf for the first time, urging the pit into an upward pogo, before diving into the searing guitar onslaught of ‘From Birth to Present’《从出生到现在》, the lyrical narrative yelled back word for word by the band’s devout.

Pressure released with the twinkling melodies of ‘Found It’ 《找到了》, chased with the triumphant single ‘Our Ballad’《我们的歌谣》. Bodies surged forward as Sijiang shed her suit jacket to reveal a t-shirt covered in lyrics — stickers she peeled away and handed to pulverised fans in the front row. Nobody rocks a grey crop tee better than Chen Sijiang. “I can’t say things as confidently as you do,” (“我根本说不出像你一样肯定的话,”) she sang, “I cut off my head and hold it against my chest,” (“我削掉了自己的头把它放在胸口”), the crowd yelled back in response, ripples of warm bodies and exalted voices. Emotions ran high.

Sweat dripping, breath caught and exhaled, the set then dipped into a mix of favourites from previous albums, dishing out plenty of jump-alongs and shout-out-louds, including the joyful highlight ‘Blocks in Red’ 《红色街区》 from the first record and the throttling rock and roll boogie ‘Football Game’《足球赛》from the second. Ji Yinan harnessed the energy of the room by leading the bone-chilling chant of “I don’t want another history,” (“我不要别的历史”) bringing the night to a climactic peak before rolling out their most well-known single ‘The Curtain’ 《幕布》, turning the pit into a glorious sea of bobbing heads and flailing limbs.

The rapt crowd hungry for more, the encore excavated an unexpected gem with acerbic, Fugazi-tinged ‘Betrayal when you were thirteen, what do you expect now?’《你在十三四岁的时候背叛了正确,现在你还想怎样》, then alleviated by the sweet, indie-pop flavoured ‘Strawberries’ 《草莓》.

Layers stripped, flesh laid bare — everyone was safe to be vulnerable. I thought back to when I first heard the band as a student in Beijing seven years ago, biking around Wudaokou through plumes of grey smog, listening to their demos on repeat and shouting along to the few lyrics I could grasp onto. Everyone I saw had a Hiperson story to share that night, tapping into a collective pool of memories where their music joined the dots in our lives like constellations in the sky. Ending with the anthem “I Don’t Want Another Life”《我不愿再有来生》, leaving barely a dry eye in the house, as we reflected on what had come to pass, the throng of a thousand voices chorused together as one.

While it would have been great to see them share the stage with a local support band, the night undoubtedly belonged to Hiperson — a standout show from one of the city’s most important bands that will continue to empower and inspire for years to come.

Bildungsroman by Hiperson is out now via Maybe Mars.

Header photo by buzhu