In the gossipy small town of Taipei’s live house scene, there are two big headlines this week. First, the Wall’s (這牆) three founders — Chthonic lead singer Freddy Lim (林昶佐), Spring Scream founder Jimi Moe and Chairmen guitarist A-chi (阿吉) — have quit the club. They have divested their holdings and handed over control to the person who has already been driving the bus for most of the last eight years anyway, Orbis Fu (傅鉛文), The Wall’s CEO. Yeah, he seriously calls himself a CEO. Of a live house. Back to that in a minute.
The second headline in this week’s Taipei Underground Sentinel, a.k.a. Live Wire, is that The Wall has a new potential competitor, at least if you look at things in terms of expanses of soundproofed floor space. The Roxy chain has opened a new live house called The Park (公園展演空間), which is just as big as The Wall but without the multimillion-NT-dollar sound and lights setup. It kicked off with a free band lineup last Saturday, and there is another free show tonight.
Roxy is also moving its flagship, the late-night disco Roxy 99, to the sub-basement directly underneath the new live house, making for a new multi-basement super-flagship located near the breakfast shops on Fuxing South Road. The grand opening of “the new 99” is next weekend.
Now the end of “the old 99” gives cause for reminiscence, as the club has in its own twisted way been such a pillar of Taipei’s late night club scene, that once it leaves its basement hole on Jinshan South Road, one half expects the building upstairs to collapse on top of it. The venue has been open for the last 15 years, famed and frequented mainly because it is the only nightclub in town open till 7am on weekends. One can only ponder the innumerable bad decisions that have been made in this seedy cavern, especially in the wee hours between 4am and 7am, after all the other clubs have rightfully ejected their slurring, bleary-eyed patrons.
It is an impossibly high standard. Will the new 99 measure up? In 2009, when Roxy’s owner Ling Wei (凌威) tried to move his late-night haunt, Roxy Vibe, from its Shida area digs to the upmarket Xinyi District, it did not work out so well. He ended up closing the new place after a few months and refocusing the late-night business at Roxy 99. Last weekend, Ling took me on a tour of the new 99. It will be spacious and fancy, a passable replacement. But what it will really need is the patina of cigarette smoke, spilled beer and embarrassing stories about “that night at 99.”
As for the new live house, The Park (named for Shida Park, from which the Roxy’s were chased out by witch-hunting neighbors last year), it can hold at least 400 and has potential as a live music venue. But to compete against The Wall or any of the DJ clubs will be a challenge. What it lacks is a die-hard scenester, either in rock or dance music, with an imagination for good events and the ability to bring a crowd. Ling has run clubs for 30 years in Taipei, but his regulars are aging and the kids prefer the bling-bling Xinyi dance clubs or, if they are rockers, The Wall or Legacy. The Park will work as a venue for indie parties — promoters take note! But the opening last weekend felt a bit generic. The new Roxy 99 will hold onto its spot as the only bar/dance club open till 7am, and that seems a surer market.