Live Wire: Spazz out with So So Modern

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

Fri, May 10, 2013 - Page 11

New Zealand web designer Steve Leggat started the site Gigguide.tw in 2009, and it has filled a gaping information void for Taiwan’s scene ever since, becoming a major source for information on live music in both Chinese and English. Now he is taking the next step and advancing from social media platform to gig promoter. Perhaps we should call it a baby step. What is coming is not his own version of the Pitchfork Music Festival — at least for the moment. He is starting off with a four-stop tour of a noisy New Zealand indie band called So So Modern, with shows in Tainan, Kaohsiung and Taipei from May 15 to May 18.

If there is ever a sci-fi remake of The Island of Doctor Moreau, the filmmakers would do well to cast So So Modern as the house band. They have been known to wear white lab coats or hoodies in conjunction with rubber animal masks — a tiger, a zebra, a humanoid crow and so on. One could easily imagine them in 1960s-styled laboratory serenading a mosh pit of the half human children of a mad geneticist. Their retro-futurist look and the synth sound give nods to Devo and Kraftwerk, but the musical attitude is closer to post-punk. The group likes to be noisy in the way of teenagers who insist on turning the volume all the way up in their bedroom or garage or basement, no matter what their parents say. The tunes however are not without polish, and Grayson Gilmours synthesizer offers a few dancy things that feed back into the mad energy of guitar and drums.

So So Modern has toured aggressively through its decade-long career, logging as many as 200 shows in a year. In 2008, they were named Band of the Day in The Guardian, and they have opened for the likes of C.S.S. and Deerhoof — Deerhoof is probably a good bellwether for musical tastes. Another would be Battles. The group has a definite following among the math-rock crowd, and has found weird niche audiences among aficionados of indie, no wave, synth rock and any other genre you can spazz out to. Gilmour also has also toured Japan as a solo artist and composed at least two film soundtracks. Outside of New Zealand, So So Modern has released music on labels in the UK (Transgressive), Germany (Unterschaffen) and Japan (Disc Union). So far, they have two full length albums and at least half a dozen EPs.

The current tour comes after a two-year hiatus and is intended as a bit of an adventure, including dates in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Singer and guitarist Mark Leong recently quipped to New Zealand media that the tour was “commercially suicidal” but that an underlying goals is to “discover real music communities” and “see where that leads us.” Gig info is as follows.

■ Wednesday at 9pm with Through the Prism at TCRC (獨立音樂聯盟), B1, 314 Simen Rd Sec 2, Greater Tainan (台南市西門路二段314號B1). Admission is NT$250 with a drink. Thursday at 10pm at Rocks, B1, 219 Juguang St, Greater Kaohsuing (高雄市莒光街219號B1). Admission is NT$250. May 17 at 9:45pm at Revolver, 1-2 Roosevelt Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路一段1-2號). Admission is NT$400. May 18 in Taipei. This gig is currently scheduled for 8pm at Roxy Rocker, B1, 177 Heping E Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市和平東路一段177號B1), but the venue is likely to change. This set will be completely different from the Revolver show. The band will jam out one tune for 45 minutes. Support comes from Forests and Dronetronics. Check gigguide.tw for updated venue and ticket info.

Plenty of other shows continue to pop up on the calendar, especially around what is becoming the Asia summer music festival season of late July and early August. The pillars of the season are Japanese summer festivals Fuji Rock (July 26 to July 28) and Summer Sonic (Aug. 10 and Aug. 11). Festivals in Taiwan, South Korea and now China are now able to cherry pick headliners from those fests for their home audiences. Formoz Festival (Aug. 3 and Aug. 4), returning after a hiatus of four years, has already announced The XX, Mercury Rev, Yeasayer and Japanese bands Envy and the Okamotos. For info check www.formoz.com. There will also be a one-off show by Bjork on Aug. 10 at Taipei World Trade Center Nangang Exhibition Hall. Tickets are NT$2,500 to NT$4,000 and available through walkieticket.com.tw. There are plenty more big names announced for Japan, and one wonders if Taiwan will get more of he bounty. Fuji Rock headliners include Bjork, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and Skrillex, while Summer Sonic has Metallica, Linkin Park, Muse and the Stone Roses. Ahh, does the grass only seem to be greener? No, for the time being it really is. As in recent years, expect many Taiwanese to head to Japan on their annual rock n roll pilgrimage. It is becoming a summer tradition.