Fri, Nov 29, 2013 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: Pipe, another live house on the brink

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

Boredoms spin-off band Rovo plays at Legacy tonight.

Photo courtesy of Kotaro Mababe

At the beginning of this month, it looked as if Taipei would lose another live house. Pipe Live House (水管音樂展演空間), one of two low-cost venues for new bands in Taipei, was told that the city property it occupies had been rented to a major construction company. This new, commercially-minded landlord felt the rock club was basically a waste of space and decided to raise its rent from NT$45,000 a month to NT$80,000 a month. The goal was to push Pipe out to make way for a Western-style restaurant, according to a report in the Liberty Times (自由時報), sister newspaper of the Taipei Times.

As this news hit, the memory of Underworld (地下社會), a live house shut down by city regulators last year, was still fresh in the minds of Taipei’s music community.

Established two years ago, Pipe is a small live house that holds under 200 people and sits between a river and a water treatment plant. Almost impossibly for Taipei, it is in a location where you can play loud music and not bother any of the neighbors. The building it occupies is a historic, decommissioned pumping station that is part of the Taipei Water Park, a zone which includes the water treatment plant and several hectares of recreational land.

The Taipei Water Park was however recently rented to Chien Chung Construction Company (建中工程), whose primary business is spreading asphalt and pouring concrete. For NT$14 million a year in rent and an expected NT$25 million in renovations, Chien Chung gets to run the whole area for the next five years.

When this news came out earlier this month, the spirit of the Underworld rose up as a battle cry, something like “Remember the Alamo” did in Texas of the 1830s. Rockers filled the City Council gallery as Taipei City Councilor Yan Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) accused the mayor of “trampling on culture.”

Now the city has given Pipe priority as a preexisting tenant, and mediated a rent increase to NT$60,000 a month, effective Jan. 1. Pipe manager Tong Zhi-wei (童志偉) says that for the moment, the live house will stay. “It sucks, but there is nowhere else we can go,” said Tong.


The Boredoms are often seen as the band that pushed Western punk rock into the uncanny and wholly new realm of Japanese noise, but their legacy is just as much about intensely rhythmic and multi-layered drumming as it is about free-form improvisation and experimental cacophony. When the Boredoms still play, they put at least three drum kits at center stage, and band leader Yamataka Eye has famously helped produced Boadrum circles of up to 111 drum kits playing simultaneously, creating a kind of meta-rhythm. Former Boredoms member Yoshimi built her band OOIOO around two drum kits and various percussionists as well.

There are also two drum kits in Rovo, which is probably the most regular Boredoms spin-off band. It will appear at Legacy tonight, playing a continuous two-hour trance jam together with British space rockers System 7.

Formed in 1996 by Boredoms guitarist Seichi Yamamoto and electric violinist Katsui Yuji, Rovo channeled the Boredoms’ fascination with cosmic phenomena into the realm of electronic dance music, specifically trance, which was gaining huge popularity in Japan at the time. Somewhat unique to Japan, the wave of trance was not just driven by DJs, but also by musicians in ballooning pants and tie-dyed t-shirts, who were playing live trance on guitars with weird effects pedals, spacey keyboards and of course lots of drumming.

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