Tag Archives: Mao Livehouse

Favourite Shows 2015

What makes a ‘good show’? The artist? The venue? The crowd? Here is a list of ten shows in chronological order that left an impression on Kiwese this year.

“Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.” – Frank Zappa

To me, live music is a symbiotic relationship between performer and audience, they need each other to exist. There is an unfiltered bond between the artist and the crowd at every show, an unrepeatable experience in time and space. The shows I tend to enjoy most are the ones where the crowd is engaging somehow with the performers, whether through dancing or cheering or stage invading – letting the performers know they are not alone.

With the increase of computers in music production today, old expectations of live music have shifted to accommodate these new digital elements. While some critics believe computers detract from a live show, artists are creating and embracing interesting new ways to perform with digital technology. In China, going out to a gig in 2015 no longer means bass-drums-guitar, but rather something that echoes the digital world we live in.


South Acid MiMi Dance Team @
MAO Livehouse Kunming
南方酸性咪咪领舞队在昆明MAO Livehouse

I stumbled into a South Acid MiMi show in Kunming in January and never looked back. Officially indoctrinated into the girl cult of face masks, weird music, freaky dancing and lots of whiskey. Very stoked to have been able to collaborate with them and Lady Lazer Light in October. This early MiMi show was filled with lots of experimental instruments and props, which have since been refined into three keyboards, a laptop and percussion.

Noise Temple @ Little Bar Chengdu

Noise Temple is hypnotic, digital, dark – the syncing together of VJ Mian’s visual projections and Huang Jin’s razor sharp drumming abilities makes for a unique pulsating of the senses. This show featured contemporary dancers (thought I’d see pigs fly at Little Bar first) and vocal/instrumental cameos from various musicians. Unfortunately, Huang Jin has since moved to Beijing to join Re-TROS so Noise Temple no longer play with the blessed regularity we had gotten used to in Chengdu.

Video below is from another show at Morning Bar in April.

Aus-atmen @ Xiwo, Chengdu
Luna, Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang, Su

New techno/minimal/ambient music label Atmen had their debut party in an empty swimming pool in the leafy outskirts of Flower Town. Featuring Cvalda, Hiroshi, Xiang and Su, playing to the early morning. Enough said.

2015.06.26 – 2015.06.28
Neverland Electro Music Festival @ Wulong Fairy Mountain, Chongqing
山谷露营电子音乐节 仙女山 武隆 重庆

Two days, two nights, two stages – Neverland 2015 returned to the misty mountains outside of Chongqing, following their first festival in 2013. Neverland is a collaboration between NUTS and Morning Bar, attracting fans and friends from Chengdu, Chongqing and surrounding regions such as Guizhou. Camping festivals are few and far between in China, and Neverland beautifully fills the need.

The location is sublime – rolling green hills, white flowing mist and cloudless skies. The main stage saw DJs from around the region bring everything from swing to techno, while the psytrance community stayed entranced with their own 24/7 party at the stage on the flat. A very low key and awesome festival, with only a couple of hundred punters and no security. Amped for next year!

Neverland poster

Hiperson @ Little Bar Space Chengdu

When Hiperson set out to tour ‘No Need For Another History’ 《我不要别的历史》, they returned as a different band. Several hundred friends and fans turned up to the new big Little Bar (the new/old/big Little Bar thing is gonna get confusing) to welcome them home, and they sure as hell delivered. Kiwese became the first person to ever stage dive at a Hiperson show – life achievement unlocked.

Chen Sijiang, who’d shaved all her hair off in Shenzhen, completely commanded the stage with guitarists Ji Yinan and Liu Zetong thrashing about in the wings and Tao Ge bopping with conviction on bass. When the band went silent for Sijiang’s monologue and the spotlight lit her shaved head and wide-open eyes, you could hear a pin drop as the entire crowd sat in the palm of her hand. A mighty performance from one of Chengdu’s favourite bands.

Stolen ‘Loop’ Album Release Show @ U37
w/ Dead J and Noise Temple

Chengdu turned out in droves for Stolen’s album release show at an empty warehouse in U37. Perhaps some of us were a little TOO excited – I almost broke my ankle in the mosh pit and had to be carried husband-bride style to a taxi by my flatmate. Nevertheless, an epic show from a band that has become one of the most talked about acts in China this year. That synth-bass break in A Glossy Flirt has become my official pogo beer shower anthem.

Managed to catch Stolen on tour in Guangzhou and Beijing as well, but the energy at this album release home show was unparalleled.

Shocking Pinks @ School Bar Beijing

Kiwese caught an overnight train from Chengdu to catch Shocking Pinks first show in China at the notorious School Bar in Beijing. The formula of Ash Smith (bass) and Cory Champion (drums) that was concocted last year at Puppies is still solid, as Nick Harte led them through a selection of songs from his previous albums to a responsive and dance-ready crowd. Check out the interview at live performance of ‘Smoke Screen’ in the video below.

Shocking Pinks, School Bar Beijing. Photo by Kiwese


2015.09.29 – 2015.10.11
Orchestra of Spheres + Lady Lazer Light China Tour

Dreams do come true! This year Orchestra of Spheres (Xīngjī Yuètuán) came to China, YEAH HARD! In a twist of seriously awesome timing, their hometown partner-in-crime Lady Lazer Light was in Beijing on an art residency and brought her cosmic visions on tour! Crowds in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming, Dali, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Wuhan were given their first taste of OOS magic.

In addition to OOS, special side-shows included Cave Circles + Globular Synthesis at Brothers BBQ in Feijiacun, The Niubis in Chongqing and a Cave Circles + Su live techno set at Morning Bar Chengdu.

Big love to Baba Rossa, Mos Ioccos, EtonalE, Woild Boin and Lady Lazer Light putting their faith in Kiwese and being incredibly rad people.

múm @ Little Bar Space Chengdu

A band that uses cello and melodica – I was prepared to hate this. Pronounced miooyyuujm, Icelandic atmospheric-music-to-have-sex-to band múm gave us a spiritual show of delicate vocal harmonies and careful layering of instruments, alongside slow panning lights and dramatic hisses of fog – the singer’s pixie sigh of ‘xie xie‘ the only thing that would break the audience out of their sonic incantations. At times I felt like I was sinking into the ground, no one was moving. My favourite part was when the singer started to theatrically rip her own head off – see video below.

2015.12.18 – 2015.12.19
Ein-atmen @ Chengdu Air Raid Shelter

And finally, to round off the year, the crew from Atmen and Morning Bar hosted a two-night techno party in an air raid bunker in downtown Chengdu. Music wise – the first night featured Tanzman, Su, Ewan and Haozi and the second night continued with Xiaolong, Xiang and Hiroshi. Visual artists projected their works throughout the shelter all weekend. The air raid shelter is like nothing I’ve seen before – long corridors of old concrete rooms and rusty steel fittings.

With Chengdu undergoing so much construction and change, it was beautiful to be part of something so fresh and innovative in the underground chasms of the city. This is what it is all about – people coming together to build events in new spaces.

Read the Zaomengshe interview with Su and Xiang here.


Want to find out about events before they happen? Many of these events sold pre-sale tickets on Zaomengshe, download the app to keep in the loop! www.zaomengshe.com

Happy new year to all! See you next year!


Kiwese Presents… Orchestra of Spheres China Tour 2015

Wellington’s favourite intergalactic dance freaks Orchestra of Spheres are coming for a nine-date tour of China. Aotearoa’s Queen of buzzy visuals Lady Lazer Light is coming, too.

This is not a drill!  I repeat, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!



adjective -pier, -piest

(informal) suggestive of or resembling the effect produced by hallucinogenic drug

Poster by Hannah Salmon.
Poster by Hannah Salmon.
Orchestra of Spheres are one of the most exciting and unpredictable live acts in New Zealand. With DIY homemade instruments and wide-ranging worldwide influences, the group have spellbound and tripped out audiences from Wainuiomata to Reykjavík, and developed an international cult-like following. 
Like celestial sponges, they draw on influences far and wide: the hypnotic beats of Angolan kuduro, the chimes of gamelan music, free jazz and dance music. Their sound has been described as psychedelic disco and ancient future funk and the band have been compared to artists as diverse as Fela Kuti, Sun Ra, Can and Drexiciya.

Orchestra of Spheres are coming to tour China for the first time, with very special guest Lady Lazer Light. They only come out this way once every 2,000,000 years, so don’t miss out your chance to see them live!

Kiwese proudly presents...

29 Sept – Beijing, School, w/ Baxian Fandian
30 Sept – Beijing, Temple 坛酒吧
3 Oct – Chengdu, Shao Cheng Fest 少城有明堂艺术节
4 Oct – Chongqing, Nuts 坚果 Livehouse
5 Oct – Kunming, MAO Livehouse, w/ South Acid MiMi Dance Team
7 Oct – Dali, Jielu Music Space 结庐音乐空间
9 Oct – Shenzhen, OCT-LOFT Jazz Fest 国际爵士音乐节
10 Oct – Guangzhou, 191 Space, w/ Full Label
11 Oct – Wuhan, VOX Hankou 汉口

More support acts TBA.

“Part Sun Ra otherworldliness, part Sublime Frequencies and part ESG… Orchestra of Spheres blew us away…” – Dan Snaith, Caribou

“Orchestra of Spheres must be the most out-of-this-world band in music today… sounds like they came from another planet, where nonstop dance and remarkable melodies are the norm” – Brian Shimkovitz, Awesome Tapes from Africa

“Futuristic and unsettlingly primal” – Uncut


One night at MAO Livehouse Kunming

Kunming. The south-western provincial capital of Yunnan, China’s very own Shangri-La of tourism. Images that spring to mind are probably not whiskey-swigging, tattoo-covered electro-pop divas.

Having far exceeded one’s tolerance levels for crap pop music and ‘Xiao Ping Guo,’ Kiwese was excited to check out local bands Strange Days and South Acid MiMi Dance Team at the latest addition to the MAO Livehouse empire.

MAO Kunming
MAO Kunming, formerly Pro Livehouse

Generally considered as a stopover for travellers roaming through the backpackers’ paradise of Yunnan, Kunming is often overlooked for the more colourful, natural beauty of surrounding areas. However, at this bizarre double-bill at MAO Livehouse on a Friday night, I found there to be a community of music lovers and locals who are building a new scene for themselves to play in, away from the tourism developments that permeate much of the province.

MAO Livehouse is a household name on the Chinese live music circuit, with venues in Beijing and Shanghai hosting local and international acts of big and small. The Shanghai branch has begun taking the name out west, with MAO Kunming opening just last month and MAO Chongqing set to open early this year. MAO Kunming has replaced the previous tenants Pro Livehouse 坡现场 and according to the bar, are the only dedicated livehouse in town.

Image from Laowai Comics.
Image from Laowai Comics.

Wisps of Radiohead and cigarette smoke hung in the air, above punters who all appeared to be provisioned with a lit cigarette in one hand and a photo-ready cellphone in the other.

Local Kunminger, Yuan Luo, 25yo, who introduced herself as Eva, works behind the drinks token booth as a volunteer whenever there are gigs on. “Other bars just invite bands to play as background music every night, people come to buy drinks and chat with friends. But here, it is all about music.”

“Young people are smarter than before, now they know what they want and they know how to avoid what they don’t like,” she continues, “five or ten years ago, young people just followed popular culture, but they didn’t know whether they actually liked it or not.”


“At MAO we welcome all types of music, as long as the musicians are passionate about it,” she says, while dishing out drink tickets to a trio of pierced and tattooed patrons, “but we do notice that not everyone likes all styles, like country or mín yáo 民谣 (folk)… so maybe we lose numbers for those events. They can have beautiful lyrics, but people might not give it a chance.”

Kunming is a travelling city and we have many guests coming through every year. So I think it is much easier for Kunming people to open their minds and learn about new things.”

I mention interviewing the local folk-rock band Shanren 山人, who moved from Kunming to Beijing several years ago. For many Chinese bands, Beijing and Shanghai seem to be considered the L.A. and New York of China, where bigger audiences and more established scenes can be found. “Yeah, [Beijing and Shanghai] are more developed and we are developing,” she says, “ten years ago almost all the local bands went there to try make it big. But now it is different, and a lot of bands are coming back.”


First up on the ‘Lets Rock with Different Ways’ bill was a popular local band called Strange Days 奇怪的日子who take their name from the Doors’ 1967 album. The band played an hour of plodding instrumental riffs, including one or two songs with vocals that got the crowd moving and singing along.


The set ended with the frontman shoving his guitar through the lighting rig and letting it loose in the crowd.


“It’s not just about selling beers and tickets. It is our mission to introduce people to new music.”

[gigya src=”http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XODc4MjMzOTA0/v.swf” allowFullScreen=”true” quality=”high” width=”480″ height=”400″ align=”middle” allowScriptAccess=”always”]

South Acid MiMi Dance Team 南方酸性咪咪领舞队 took the stage next, in what was possibly the most bizarre live show I’ve seen in China so far (Chengdu’s Chao Ren Tian Tian 超人田田 as a close contender).

CSS/Grimes styled beats emerged from the stage, the crowd moved in and the smuggled Soju came out…


The group is formed of three members Weilin, Jin and Zzuiii, identifiable by their lunar/aquatic themed homemade masks and childlike vocals, which teamed with preset electronic beats and K-Pop style sychronised dance moves saw them careen through songs such as ‘ARE U FEELING SICK?’ and ‘NUNUDUGU.’ The stage was ultimately invaded by a throng of local dance fiends and members of Strange Days. A very drunk Finnish man proclaimed his love for the group at the end of the set, but an encore was not granted.


So there are some pretty unique and original things going down in the Kunming music scene, with a growing community of people who are supporting it. But what of the MAO brand’s expansion mission out west? Are all venues in the region destined to be stock standard copies of the successful prototypes on the East Coast?

Greater professionalism appears to be a key goal of MAO Kunming. I couldn’t help but think MAO Kunming could do with some ground rules for photographers – the entire stage was teeming with them and they impeded the bands and the audience from viewing the stage. In saying that, I guess the venue provides a platform for everyone to practice their stuff. “We are still learning and are going to study at MAO Shanghai,” Yuan Luo says, “they have the same model and they want to make it better, like a more professional chain store.”

“It’s the same brand. Now they are getting more fēndiàn 分店 (branches)…” she offers, struggling for the word in English, thinking for a moment, “it’s like WalMart,” she concluded.

Short of the independent music scene being quashed in a South Park WalMart type scenario, it seems MAO Kunming’s revitalisation of a dirty old venue will pave the way for more livehouses to open in the city.

“We are only one venue and we cannot hold down that many bands,” Yuan Luo says with genuine enthusiasm, “big market, more competition, better concerts and better bands!”

Image from South Acid MiMi Dance Team's Douban.
Image from South Acid MiMi Dance Team’s Douban.

Thanks Yuan Luo aka Eva for her insight! And to Strange Days and South Acid MiMi Dance Team for putting on a great show.

Carb on Carb, Rice on Rice

Got munchies? Aucklanders (奥克兰人 Àokèlán rén) Carb on Carb completed an epic eleven date tour of the Middle Kingdom back in November with good buddies God Bows to Math. Kiwese followed them from Beijing to Suzhou and recently we reminisced about their first foray into Asia and how Chinese cabbage and eggplant dishes are exponentially more delicious than in New Zealand.

carb heart

I first met the duo behind Carb on Carb, epic diva (天后, tiānhòu, lit. ‘Heavenly Queen’) Nicole Gaffney and handsome guy (帅哥, shuài gē) James Stuteley in the grungy merch area at MAO Livehouse in Gulou, Beijing. I quickly scrawled the phonetic pronunciation of “da jar how” [大家好, Hello everyone!] on Nicole’s hand before they took the stage for the first show of the tour when it struck me: these guys, fresh outta the Auckland underground, are here playing their music around China. That’s gotta mean something. It is awesome.

Carb on Carb are the kind of people you wanna be mates with. Their outlook is fresh, fun and friendly, they are really nice, keen to chat and down for whatev. Their music is like Crunchy Peanut Butter machine-gun fire that makes you wanna thrash about like a voodoo doll, yet its stripped back in a way equally suited to lying on your bed with headphones, dreaming about your crush.

Self described as post-punk/noise pop/pop-gaze, Carb on Carb do most of their shit themselves, from the recording, mastering, poster design, album art and photos. They embody a genuine DIY spirit, not in a Mitre 10 Dream Home sense, but in a similarly inspiring way that shows what can be done if you put your mind to it, work hard and do it for the luv of it. From seeing them sell their CDs for a criminally low price, to the “All content is free for you to enjoy and distribute as you please” message on the Papaiti Records website, it is clear these guys are playing music just cos they wanna play music. Word.

After we drunk a bottle of báijiǔ chased with beers, I made the executive decision to follow the bands to Zibo, a small town out in the wops of Shandong. Waking up on a friend’s couch the following morning with no information about Zibo (ie. where da fk da venue??), I decided to push ahead and catch them down in the river town of Suzhou instead, known as the ‘Venice of China.’ Despite the small, sedentary nature of the audience at Wave (New Zea-land hip hop / stand the fuck up!), Carbs were well-received, scored some free booze and made some choice mates after the show, which is the point after all right? 

You can/should download and emo out to Carb on Carb’s EPs no body perfect (2012), Ladies Mile (2013) and their single Eden Terrors, which was released just before coming to China. All their songs are free to take but koha where you can aye! Also the new video for Eden Terrors features some exxxclusive China footage and is the best thing on YouTube right now.

James and Nicole aka Carb on Carb
James and Nicole aka Carb on Carb

Hey guys! You’ve just spent quite a lot of time in China and South-East Asia, any weird reverse culture shock back in Nu Zilland?

J: It was strange to not have such overloaded senses all the time, no bike bells and horns, people and noise. To come back and feel like your senses are deprived cos its not loud and it doesn’t smell [laughs]

N: After being in Asia for so long we’d gotten used to not understanding the language around us. I found myself getting really annoyed when I heard the way people were talking about others, like “hey don’t be so mean!”

How did you guys get involved in the China tour? GBTM says they had a connection with Pairs. 

N: During the Pairs tour of NZ, Rhys talked about China as a really achievable kind of goal after doing Australia. We thought that instead of doing America or Europe we may as well do China, because it’s closer, cheaper, we can get by with contacts and play to a hungrier audience.

J: I guess also once Die! Die! Die! and So So Modern had done it, the idea became more realistic.

So how was it? Did you have any expectations going into it?

N: Having the time to go sightseeing was incredible, but obviously I loved the shows too.

J: I had some sort of expectation but actually being in China made me realize how little we know about it. Coming from a Western culture and not knowing much about the history of the hugest country in the world, then seeing all these crazy castle complex things like the Forbidden City which have immense histories, but we just think of them as sights. I studied the Manchurian invasion in high school but that was it. I really didn’t know about the Nanjing Massacre.

N: Yeah, the Nanjing Massacre Museum was pretty intense.

Carb on Carb rocking a symmetrical pose at the Forbidden City
Carb on Carb rocking a wonderfully coordinated pose at the Forbidden City

Is there a community of local NZ bands that are looking towards China? 

J: I don’t really think there’s a ‘community,’ but there’s certainly bands interested in doing it.

N: It seems like mostly Wellington bands have done it in the past, as well as Die! Die! Die! from Dunedin. But for a small band like us to tour China, we can talk to other bands in Auckland about our experiences and help them to see China as a doable thing. We are telling people they should do it! Why not!

The ~*Internet*~ seems to be an important tool for getting your material out there. How’s your online presence in China?

J: We made a Weibo page which Nicole has recently updated. We also got Rhys and Tom [This Town Touring] to make us a Douban because working out the Chinese was just way too confusing. Thankfully Bandcamp isn’t blocked in China.

N: We have a Youku as well! We tried to research a bit about it just to put our stuff out there. Even if it was in terrible translated Chinese, at least people would get the general idea: that we were a band and we were coming.

Carb on Carb discovered that this is how Shenzhen perceives New Zealand
Carb on Carb discovered that this is how Shenzhen perceives New Zealand

I know I’ve said it before but I love the tour poster! Got a signed copy from all you guys from the Beijing show.

N: Thanks! I drew it when I was at work [laughs]. My boss was pretty excited though, she’s from China.

The tour poster. Art by Nicole.
The tour poster. Art by Nicole.

I saw some pretty impressive use of dramatic hand gesturing and sign language from you guys in China. How did you find the language barrier?

N: The language was really hard. But having our tour manager Vivian with us made it a lot easier. I wish we learned a bit more, it would have been really cool to communicate with the people who liked us at shows, even just to be able to thank them properly and understand what they have to say. I used the ‘Da Jar How’ at every show!

J: It was interesting to experience what its like to not be able to speak the dominant language, it helped us understand how other people might feel. In New Zealand we just expect everyone to speak English. Very educational to be on the outside.

How was it coming from the NZ scene where you are quite familiar with the crowds to China where no one knows you?

J: It was pretty bizarre being presented as ‘Kiwi Rock Night’ in Suzhou.

N: That’s what I love about touring, just getting to meet new people and not playing to the same crowds over and over again. So it was really exciting to see fresh faces and have people react freshly to our music when they haven’t even heard it before.

Mao Mao billz yo
Mao Mao billz yo

So you guys hit up some pretty niche places, tiny towns in Shandong that no ones ever heard of. What’s the scene like down there?

J: At the show in Zaozhuang there was a big group of about fifteen friends and they were real keen to talk to us – they’d try out their English with a few words, then we’d say a few words, and all of were just cracking up. These guys were crowdsurfing and moshing with no one else in the bar. The people were really cool, they just had less barriers. They would spend more time talking with us and taking photos with us, generally way more excited to see some bands.

N: Yeah, they kept buying us loads of beers, being almost forceful with it! Hanging with them was really fun and different from other crowds we’ve met. The bar owner in Zaozhuang also took us out for an amazingly delicious dinner before the show and shouted us the meal! He even drove us to the train station in the morning! People at all of the shows were so generous – it was pretty overwhelming.

Stage antics with the fans in Zaozhuang
Stage antics with the fans in Zaozhuang

Were they actually into your music?

N: We were selling our EPs for 20RMB and they literally bought all our merch! The people we met were having a good time and having the experience of meeting us and talking to us. The same was with Randy who gave us the wine in Suzhou! He was just as keen to meet us as we were to have free wine [laughs]

Red wine/watermelon/assorted mixed nut platter after party with Randy in Suzhou
Red wine/watermelon/assorted mixed nut platter after party with Randy [far left] in Suzhou
As far as touring and performing goes, did you guys have any issues?

N: At our first show in Beijing I found the indoor smoking quite intense from a singing perspective. Before coming to China, we pretty much knew there were gonna be loads of bikes on the roads, but with the smoking in bars I wasn’t quite prepared!

J: It was quite hard not playing with support bands at every show, though we did play with a few locals like Illness Sickness. Next time we would definitely try have a local band play at every show.

Sound checking at Wave Livehouse in Suzhou on a v. high stage
Sound checking at Wave Livehouse in Suzhou on a ridiculously high stage

Any little things in China you found yourselves appreciating?

J: It was really cool to be able to take food and drinks anywhere, I was surprised how much I enjoyed that, in NZ if you walk in to a place you cant take your food in. Hot water was available everywhere too… we just used it to make noodles and drink tea.

N: Ohh I miss it so much! Buying a beer at a bar here and your like “WHAT? $8?!” You feel like a king in China.

Cheesy question – what kind of advice would you provide to other NZ bands hoping to come to China.

J: Talking to you probably [all laugh].

N: Learning a bit of the language would be good. Mentally prepare yourself. Eat as much as you can. Drink as much as you can. Yep, those are my tips.

Next time? Is there a next time in China on the cards?

N: We definitely wanna come back. I know God Bows are planning another tour for 2015!

J: I’d like to visit Xinjiang, the Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Three Gorges Dam. It would be great if bands started coming to New Zealand as well, it’s only an extra hop more. If anyone asks to play in NZ just tell them to email me: carboncarbband@gmail.com

You’ve just gotten back from a mean beach holiday up north, but what’s the plan for Carb on Carb this year?

N: We’re hoping to put an album out in the next year or so and just wanna keep touring where ever we can.

J: We’re doing a tour around New Zealand with Bare Grillz from Australia in a few weeks, just around the time of Camp.

[Excited Camp discussion]

"Prolly won't make no money of dis - oh well." - Beyonce/Carb on Carb
Let’s tour China! “Prolly won’t make no money off dis – oh well.” – Beyonce/Carb on Carb

What do you think of Beyonce’s new album?

N: Ugh amazing. Love it.

Fave track?

N: Jealous. Love Jealous. Oh and ***Flawless.

I fucking LOVE, ***Flawless.

N: It’s so good, I cried when I listened to it.


Now check out the interview with Martin from God Bows to Math.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra set to play China and NZ in January

Tài hǎo le! [太好了! Awesome!] Split Works are bringing Unknown Mortal Orchestra to China next month as they kick off the Asian leg of their colossal ‘II’ tour.

Seems like just yesterday they were playing at good ol’ Bodega, but January has long since past for this hardworking, hard touring three-piece psychedelic-pop powerhouse, who have played packed out shows back in NZ and Australia, as well as in the UK, Europe and the US this year. Feeling lazy yet?


New Zealand frontman Ruban Nielson, who now calls Portland home, started the band in 2010 by anonymously uploading a track on Bandcamp, later claiming responsibility and promptly touring the shit out of it, a story which has been told and retold around the digital campfire ever since, destined to be part of DIY rock folklore for generations of bloggers, bands and music fans to come. Three years on, UMO have released a self-titled EP (2010) and album (2011), the crunchy psychedelic pop record ‘II‘ (2013), the nifty little acoustic EP ‘Blue Record’ (2013), cranked out a bunch of bootlegs and ceaselessly toured around the globe, forging an adoring fan base from Lisbon to LA; and of course, back in Aotearoa.

The first time I saw Ruban play was with his former band the Mint Chicks back in 2006, using my sister’s +18 card to sneak into San Fran and mosh with the big kids. It was an absolutely unforgettable gig, a violent assault on the senses; a spastic, demonic, schizophrenic display of chaos. The band opened by tear gassing the audience, lead singer Kody Nielson kicked a dude in the teeth and hung upside-down screaming with the microphone shoved in his mouth. It was like they smacked us in the face, put us in a jar which they’d shat in and shook it till our brains had turned to porridge. It was amazing.

However in 2013, it is safe to say Ruban has established a new identity, breaking away from being ‘that dude from the Mint Chicks,’ honing his songwriting and vocal talent alongside bassist Jake Portrait and drummer Riley Geare. UMO have made waves with critics and fans throughout their short existence, with the band winning Independent Music New Zealand’s Taite Music Prize last year and ‘II‘ taking home the Best Alternative Album award at the New Zealand Music Awards in November.

The boys played alongside Portland-natives the Dandy Warhols for their final show of the year last week and will recharge the batteries and tinker with the pedalboards before jetting over to play Yuyintang in Shanghai on Wednesday 15th January and MAO Livehouse in Beijing on Thursday 16th January. UMO will then grace the stage at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Auckland on Monday 27th January, before heading across the ditch and back to the US.

“Isolation can put a gun your hand,” sings Nielson on the track ‘From the Sun,’ and when some of our favourite international acts don’t quite make it the extra few hours down to NZ on their world tours, this is when our geographical isolation down in the Pacific truly sucks. Next month, it seems touring China’s east coast cities before flying down to NZ is a neat circuit for others too, with British electronic headliner James Blake also set to play in Shanghai before heading to Auckland for Laneway. We like it!

So get your Ffunny Ffriends together and feel the warm fuzzy Fender vibes, spidery guitar riffs and lonely vocal filters in Shanghai, Beijing and/or Auckland.

Wednesday 15th January @ Yuyintang | Shanghai                                  851 Kaixuan Lu, near Yan’an Xi Lu, Chang Ning District, Shanghai    Starts at 9pm                                                                                                                               Tickets: 100RMB / 60RMB (students)

Thursday 16th January @ MAO Livehouse | Beijing               111 Gulou Dong Dajie, Gulou, Dongcheng District, Beijing                      东城区鼓楼东大街111号                                                                        Doors: 20:30                                                                                                                            The Big Wave: 20:40-21:05                                                                      UMO: 21:35                                                                                                                Tickets: 100RMB / 60RMB (students)

Both China shows are tagged with #UMOCN.

Monday 27th January @ Laneway Festival | Auckland                         Silo Park, Auckland                                                                         Tickets: NZ$139.50 including booking fee

Image from Split Works
Image from Split Works

Get around the firewall and check UMO out on Facebook and Twitter.

If sad puppet wanking is your thing, check out the video for Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark) on YouTube.

Follow Ruban’s Instagram here @unknownmortalorchestra

Turn your brain inside-out with this spacey Arabian sound cluster like an alien slowly marching away into a cosmic abyss; UMO’s Christmas Bandcamp release titled ‘SB-01.’

Nice to see they have sussed a Douban.

UMO tweets about L&P chocolate and Beyoncé dance moves.
UMO tweets about L&P chocolate and Beyoncé dance moves.