If you are a good rock ‘n roll cadet, tonight you will head to The Wall for Grimes, the Canadian indie electronic songstress, where you will see all the girls with hair dyed more than two colors. Tomorrow, you will go back again for Polysics, a retro new wave band from Tokyo. If Devo had died at the end of the 1980s (which it did) and been reincarnated in Japan (which I am pretty sure did happen, memetically speaking), it would have produced Polysics, a quartet in orange jumpsuits and geometric sun visors. Those two shows will cost you NT$3,000, if you bought tickets in advance. And if you are going to see Polysics, you will definitely be picking up advance tickets to see Kraftwerk on April 30, at NTU Sports Center — another NT$2,500.
A few days ago, after someone how much tickets for a certain concert cost, I heard another remark: “That’s such a The Wall price.” In saying this, he meant a price that is expensive, but will still draw enough of a crowd. In other words, it is the maximum the market can bear, and The Wall has been able to find this tipping point with almost scientific accuracy. The three shows mentioned above, in fact, are all being put on by The Wall.
In the last few months, the live house has put itself forward as one of the main driving forces in a profusion-inflation of the live market that is bringing an unprecedented consistency in top live acts, and at consistently high prices. Bands that play for US$15 in Brooklyn or 10 quid in London can play for US$50 or more in Taipei. Does anyone else remember three years ago, when NT$2,200 for Broken Social Scene in Taipei — whose shows in North America that year cost about US$25 — seemed an outrageously high watermark for a single band show. It then packed around 1,000 people into Legacy.
It seems that Taipei’s live music market is going the way of Japan, where expensive is normal. But are the Taiwanese as wealthy as the Japanese? Do kids who survive on NT$65 lunch boxes and 7-Eleven instant noodles really spend several thousand a month on concert tickets? I continue to wonder.
Of course the upside is that there are more shows than ever. The same rocker to be credited with “The Wall price” coinage also went on to gush that the best shows he has seen in the last year were all last month: Fucked Up, Acid Mothers Temple and Boris, all of them at The Wall (though Acid Mothers Temples was produced by White Wabbit Records), and needless to say also at a “The Wall price.”
If one thing is certain, it is that the live music market continues to get bigger and more professional, and the barriers for entry continue to rise higher. Maybe this is why there is also room for a new underground scene, which has lately been occupied by Revolver and Pipe. And this brings me to my weekly recommendations.
Punk is not dead! It has just been lazy. A noisy, screaming punk band from Tokyo called V/acation will play two shows in Taipei this weekend, including a day-long showcase at Pipe on Saturday afternoon. Organizer Ahblue Su (蘇育鋆) describes the lead vocalist, Koji Hatano, as the “CEO of the Tokyo hardcore scene.” It is an interesting moniker.
“In Japan, he is really involved and has a lot of influence and makes things happen,” claims Su, especially citing the new scene errupting in the Tokyo suburb of Koenji. V/acation is signed to the label Less Than TV (excellent name!), and through it Hatano organizes and promotes. He has been to Taipei before, three years ago at the invitation of local skater punk band Touming Magazine (透明雜誌), which has toured Japan, sold a few thousand CDs there, and has a hand in the current invitation.
With V/acation, expect flailing, distortion and general anarchy, both from the concert speakers and in the crowd. For the Saturday show, V/acation will also play with another Japanese group, Office Voids. Their sound harks back to early 1980s punk, like Minor Threat or Black Flag, and they also provide tunes you might be able to hum in the midst of the pure energy. Vocals are punchy and shouted, rather than screamed, and there are driving bass lines and appreciable guitar riffs.
Tomorrow’s show, which goes under the title “Volt in Taipei,” also has a great lineup of local acts including Inhuman Species (非人物種), Sleaze (湯湯水水), Touming Magazine, Children Sucker (表兒), Until Seeing Whales Eyes (直到看見鯨魚的眼睛) and Wayne’s So Sad (傷心欲絕). There will be two stages, one on the, um, stage, and one on the floor, so there will be no changeover time between sets.
■ Tomorrow at 3pm till evening. Pipe, 1 Siyuan Rd, Taipei City (台北市思源街一號). Tickets are NT$600 or NT$500 in advance.
■ V/acation and Office Voids also play tonight with Wayne’s So Sad and Video Girl (Japan), 7pm at Wolong29, 29 Wolong St, Taipei City (台北市臥龍街29號). Admission is NT$100 at the door.