There’s been a lot of music happening lately, and more is coming up. On Nov. 21, Sigur Ros totally rocked, apparently. I didn’t go but heard multiple accounts of the moment when everyone stood up out of their NTU Sports Center seats, and suddenly it was a real concert. Then on Dec. 1, Sting, on his third visit to Taipei since 1994, played Taipei Arena, drawing 8,000 fans. The expensive seats were largely empty however, and this led the China Times to speculate that the gig lost money. Both concerts were produced by Very Aspect (有像). The Simple Life Music Festival (簡單生活節) was unfortunately caught in a weekend-long downpour, but still managed to pull a crowd of 13,000, most of them wearing cheap plastic raincoats for local pop stars and a US dance-punk act !!! (Chk Chk Chk).
New on the calendar, several acts are getting indie rockers excited. Japandroids, a very hot Canadian rock duo, will be at the Wall on Jan. 24 (NT$1,000 in advance). The Australian singer Goyte plays NeoStudio on Jan. 28 (NT$1,600 advance). If you’re jonesing for that old-school sonic carpet feel, 90s proto-post-rockers My Bloody Valentine will play NTU Sports Center on Feb. 13 (NT$2,800 in advance). Japanese psychedelic freakout rockers Acid Mothers Temple are at the Wall on Feb. 27 (NT$1,000). Grizzly Bear is scheduled to headline Megaport Festival, March 2 and March 3 in Kaohsiung (www.megaport.com.tw). And Canadian artrock songstress Grimes will be at the Wall on March 23 (tickets TBA).
Lastly, I got an e-mail from Feiwu (廢物樂隊) lead singer Ian Lamont, saying, “There’s a very good chance that Feiwu might be performing in Taipei in mid-February.” This will happen at Legacy as part of its throwback series of shows by early local underground and indie bands. This has in recent months included Sticky Rice (糯米團) and “the last ever” concert by Ladybug (瓢蟲) — that show was a heck of a lot of fun. Feiwu included both expats and locals and probably produced the catchiest underground rock tune of that era, “I Love Taiwan Beer” (我愛台灣啤酒). Lamont and two other former members, Bob Hsiung and Andrew Watson, are currently living in the US. Lamont writes, “Myself and Bob Hsiung already have tickets in hand.” Stay tuned.
This weekend, if you’re going to buy a ticket for anything, make it Spiritualized. When the UK spacerock group played Fuji Rock this summer, it was likened to “an inter-stellar church service,” meaning something like a hand-clapping black gospel choir on mushrooms, not a bunch of tea-totaling Southern Baptists in khakis and penny loafers. To push the metaphor further, the cosmic choirmaster is Jason Pierce, a founding member of the psych-rock band Spacemen 3, who later brought most of its members into Spiritualized following a rift in 1990. At 47, Pierce is however the last of the Spacemen. All the other original members have moved on. He comes to Taipei with 400kg of equipment, two female backup singers and at least six people on stage. Though Pierce was receiving chemotherapy at the beginning of this year while working on the latest album Sweet Heart Sweet Light, he’s toured extensively in recent months and reviews have been outstanding. Shows have been loud, mind-blowing and set lists are primed with favorites, including resurrected Spacemen 3 tunes. Fittingly, the gig is on Sunday.
■ Spiritualized plays Sunday at 8pm at NeoStudio, 5F, 22 Songshou Rd, Taipei (台北市松壽路22號5樓). Tickets are NT$2,500, NT$2,300 in advance.
Shida update: With the economy hovering around zero growth, one has to wonder at the stupidity of Taipei City government as it continues its regulatory strangulation of small businesses in the once-thriving Shida student district. It’s offering a precedent that any small shop in the city could be closed on a bureaucratic whim. Or is something even more nefarious happening?
In November, the city’s latest round of fines and warnings hit 28 businesses and included Da Han Men (大韓門), a Korean restaurant that’s been in operation at its current location for 20 years. Despite the Korean barbecues’ longstanding run, the city last month issued it a NT$100,000 fine, saying it is in violation of zoning laws. Presumably, it has been violating the same laws for the last two decades. Nevertheless, it will close. Da Han Men is on the west side of Shida Park and an immediate neighbor to Roxy Jr. Cafe, which was forced to close earlier this year (for excessive noise and other violations, not zoning laws) after 18 years in business.
Other businesses along the park, including Vino Vino and Evans Burger, have also been threatened by various regulations, according to reports. Zabu, a popular cafe, also closed in November based on general fears of what was happening in the neighborhood.
Generally speaking, many business owners in Shida feel that they are caught up in a Kafkaesque real estate scam. So far in 2012, the city has shut down around one third of 356 small shops and restaurants located outside the three blocks of the commercially zoned night market area. Real estate values for first floor lots throughout the neighborhood have dropped sharply, with one recent sale of a first and second floor space netting less than one third the value it would have sold for two years ago, says area business owner Andy Singh.
First floor residential properties are generally valued at one-third to one-fourth the price of commercial properties, and the city’s anti-business policies are quite clearly pushing property values down in a narrowly targeted area. Many business owners believe that property developers are already buying up the newly depressed properties and intend to redevelop.
As early as August, in Longchuan Ward (龍泉里), which contains the busiest parts of Shida Night Market, the warden chief Pang Wei-liang (龐維良) was sending letters to local residents urging them to participate in urban redevelopment schemes. A month earlier, I attended a meeting at Taipei City Council at which Pang assured more than 50 Shida business owners that he had their interests at heart. One wonders whose side he is really on. And one further wonders whom the city is helping, and why.