Fri, Jul 15, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Rewind ’n’ roll

Indie rock institution Underworld is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a concert series that aims to revive the past and lectures and discussion forums that look to the future

By David Chen  /  Staff Reporter

Sugar Plum Ferry, one of the country’s first post-rock bands, will perform as part of Underworld’s series of anniversary concerts.

Photo courtesy of Sugar Plum Ferry

As a bar in business for a decade and a half, Underworld (地下社會) has seen its fair share of cigarette smoke, drinking sessions that lasted until the next morning and obnoxious drunks that just wouldn’t go away. And then there was the occasional brawl.

But what keeps this tiny basement club on Shida Road (師大路) in Taipei going is a love for cutting-edge rock ’n’ roll.

Underworld has long been considered a favorite performance spot and hangout among those in Taipei’s underground music scene, and the venue is getting nostalgic for its 15th anniversary, which falls on Aug. 1.

From Tuesday until the end of the month, Underworld is holding a concert and lecture series that features a classic lineup of bands harkening back to the early days of Taiwan’s underground rock scene. During the next two weeks, there will also be several discussion forums on the current state and future of indie music.

Bands scheduled to play over the next few weeks include Sugar Plum Ferry (甜梅號), one of the country’s first post-rock bands, The Clippers (夾子電動大樂隊), a long-established group that mixes comedy and modern rock, and the indie-pop outfit 1976.

These bands, which formed in the mid- and late-1990s, made regular appearances at Underworld in their early years, and are getting into the spirit of the venue’s anniversary celebration. Founding members from all three groups will be returning for “reunion” shows.

The “blast to the past” theme ought to resonate with Underworld’s regulars, a mix of musicians, DJs and music fans, many of whom point to a sense of community and camaraderie as their reasons for frequenting the venue.

“The people that go there are like a family,” said Lee Chi-ming (李奇明), aka Ah-Chang (阿強), lead singer for 88 Balaz (88顆芭樂籽), one of the featured bands in Underworld’s concert series. “It’s like a living room. You can go there and find your friends and talk ... everybody that goes there knows each other.”

Event Notes

What: Underworld 15th Anniversary concerts and discussion forums

When: Tuesday until July 30

Where: B1, 45 Shida Rd, Taipei City (台北市師大路45號B1), tel: (02) 2369-0103

On the Net: www.upsaid.com/underworld

Tickets: Concerts are NT$300, DJ dance parties are NT$100 and discussion forums are free. Advance tickets available at the venue


When owner Lin Tsung-ming (林宗明) first opened Underworld in 1996, he hadn’t envisioned the place as the music venue it is today. Rather, it was meant as a cafe-space for a like-minded group of university students who were into art and social activism, according to Ho Tung-hung (何東洪), one of Underworld’s resident DJs and shareholders.

Ho and his friend Randy Lin (林志堅), also a current resident DJ at Underworld, originally approached Lin Tsung-ming about hosting live music shows in 1998.

At the time, Ho and Randy Lin were working at the now-defunct Crystal Records (水晶唱片), a label that distributed albums from prominent indie bands of the time, which included Ladybug, Loh Tsui Kweh Commune (濁水溪公社, commonly known as LTK) and Sugar Plum Ferry.

They became concerned over the closing of Roxy Vibe, one of the few remaining venues friendly to Taiwanese underground bands at the time.

“From my experience at Crystal Records, I saw a lot of independent rock bands that had no place to perform,” said Ho.

Lin Tsung-ming’s decision to host live bands resulted in the Underworld becoming an institution of sorts for Taipei’s underground music scene.

The venue has been the site of live shows several nights a week for over a decade, including countless memorable performances from a who’s who of Taiwanese indie rock, from LTK and 1976 to new generation bands like The White Eyes (白目樂團), Touming Magazine (透明雜誌) and Go Chic.

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