The problem is, it is precisely the basements of Taipei’s rock scene that are dying. Taipei’s most firmly established basement club of the last two decades, Underworld, was shut down by the city last year for no good reason. Now another underground club, Pipe, is in danger of getting gentrified out of business because the city sublet its building to a gigantic cement company. If Pipe cannot afford its new, higher rent, Revolver will remain as the city’s last home for underground rock. It will also be the only Taipei live music venue where people actually hang out, socialize, talk, drink and generally enjoy themselves.
Compare this to Taipei’s two larger live houses, The Wall and Legacy, where patrons are generally required to pay NT$1,000 to NT$3,000 for two hours of music before they are shooed out the door and sent home. It is no wonder that rock comes off as an elitist, nerdy niche market and has failed to steal fans away from the mainstream of Mandopop. By comparison, even dance clubs and electronic music parties present much better value. For NT$600, you can spend an entire night in a blinged-up, all-you-can-drink dance club, and even if the music is top-40 hip hop, you will at least probably talk to a member of the opposite sex. Or you could pay NT$2,600 to stand like a robot for 80 minutes and watch Franz Ferdinand so you can post photos of it on Facebook later that night. Up to you.
Not so incidentally, The Wall celebrated its tenth anniversary last month, though not with a party or musical performance. It celebrated with a press release. The Wall runs four venues throughout Taiwan and annually hosts 600 performances, including 100 by international artists. Total attendance at all the events is around 50,000.
“The dream of The Wall’s team has gradually come to reality. We have grown year-by-year together with the scene,” said the statement. “Next year, we will join with a Japanese partner in a strategic alliance to create a more solid and robust networked platform, and rise together with Taiwanese music lovers up to a new level.”
So after a decade of hard fought organic growth, The Wall has now entered into the realm of corporate doublespeak.
Or in government terms, The Wall has become a “commercial and creative industry.” I do not blame The Wall exclusively for its unfortunate transformation. It is only trying to survive in a business environment that demands that it be just that, a business with enough scale and political clout to protect itself from city councilors, cement companies and other unforeseen threats. Other culture sectors are changing in the same way. If you don’t believe me, drive by the Huashan 1914 Cultural and Creative Park this weekend, where you can admire the two-meter-tall MaCallan logo that stretches across the entire front lawn of what used to be an artists’ squat.
■ Tonight at 9pm, GigGuide.tw Benefit Gig, with Hang in the Air (盪在空中), Sleaze (湯湯水水), BHD and Midnight Ping Pong (午夜乒乓) at Revolver, 1-2, Roosevelt Rd Sec 1, Taipei (台北市羅斯福路一段1-2號). Admission is NT$300.
■ Tomorrow at 10pm, Revolver Three Year Anniversary with bands Dronetonics, Forests (森林), Macbeth (馬克白) and DJs Sorry Buttons, Geometer, Translation and Marcus Aurelius & Dopplerr. Admission is free.