Congratulations to Revolver for becoming the best, friendliest and most scene-supportive live house in Taiwan. The bar celebrates its third anniversary on Saturday, and an excellent lineup of bands and DJs is free. Let me also congratulate GigGuide.tw for holding on a while longer and continuing to service Taiwan’s rock scene. The site will hold a fundraiser at Revolver tonight with four very good bands. It is a worthy cause.
Gig Guide was founded on Christmas Eve 2008 by New Zealand Web designer Steve Leggat, who is also a serious music enthusiast. The site, which is completely bilingual, has in the last five years listed 6,229 gigs and 208 reviews, articles, interviews and photo reports. Leggat almost shut it down a couple months ago, as the money and time put into updates, translation and site maintenance was more than he and a skeleton, volunteer staff could handle. The shutdown announcement brought offers of help from live houses, record stores, bands and others who had reaped the little Web site’s benefits. So call it a Christmas miracle. Gig Guide has relaunched, and tonight’s fundraiser could begin a string of shows promoted under its own banner. The site registers over 21,000 visits per month.
Call these a couple of bright spots in an otherwise bleak cultural landscape. Not long after Franz Ferdinand’s show two weeks ago, a long-time rock geek acquaintance told me he had purposely skipped the show, not just because it was expensive — advance tickets had cost NT$2,600 — but specifically because the Taipei ticket price was almost 30 percent more expensive than the Japanese ticket price. Even though Taiwan’s average income is about half that of Japan’s. Taiwan’s price was in fact the most expensive Franz Ferdinand ticket on the band’s recent Asian tour, which also included Tokyo, Osaka, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
High concert prices are the new norm in Taipei’s rock scene, and it is hard to go to a show without hearing some grumbling. Last week after Mac DeMarco played (at The Wall, 這牆), several Taiwanese kids asked me if I thought it had been worth the NT$1,000. It had surely been fun. DeMarco has a goofy, don’t give-a-fart attitude, his bass player filled song breaks with Mike Meyers style comedic banter, and for an encore the band played an ironic, Tenacious-D-esque medley of classic rock tunes from Bachman Turner Overdrive’s Takin Care of Business to the Beatles, Rammstein and Led Zeppelin. In an over-serious music scene, it was a breath of fresh air. But to answer the kid’s question, no, the price of admission was not worth it on my pathetic freelance wages. Mac DeMarco is the kind of band you see at a college party while waiting in a keg line and has few memorable original tunes. In North America or Europe it would cost half the price. (A recent Toronto gig cost C$15.50, or NT$434) Only in Asia would it cost this much.
Usually, touring bands have no idea what local tickets cost. While watching Mac DeMarco, a couple Canadians claimed to have spoken with members of Pains of Being Pure at Heart at that band’s Taipei show earlier this year and found that group members had been “bummed to find that their Taipei show cost 50 or 60 bucks [USD].” And of course who can forget the irony of Thurston Moore last year, playing for 1,000 Taiwanese paying NT$3,000 each, and flippantly making this offer: “I’ll go play in your basement.”