Last weekend had more good events than the entire rest of the month, and unfortunately many were going head to head. The weather was perfect. The Pride Parade was huge, drawing more than 60,000 spectators, according to various reports. Daniel Pearl Day had another big year with 2,000 plus, and this unfortunately left The Flaming Lips concert rather under-attended with only a few hundred fans. Perhaps chalk that up to the price difference. Tickets for the Flaming Lips — actually an all-day festival called Moonrise Kingdom at which they were headlining — cost NT$3,500. The Pride Parade and Daniel Pearl Day were free.
Taipei City had me very confused, putting out an Oct. 17 press release stating there has been huge consumer outrage over the “Burl” cancellation. Who the hell is “Burl”? Is there some hugely popular band of fuzzy gay men that I don’t know about? My apparent ignorance, coupled with a major uproar about a band I had never heard of, had me a bit concerned. What cultural typhoon had swept over this time, while I was wasting my time chatting on Facebook with my 1062 “friends”? But after a few reads, I realized it was a typo and that they actually meant “Blur,” which made much more sense.
Blur’s cancellation in May was much talked about at the time, but now it turns out that the promoter, Brokers Brothers Herald (BBH, 布洛克兄弟) has failed to refund much of the ticket money. Doh! The situation has gotten so bad that the Taipei City Consumer Protection Affairs Department is now issuing press releases. BBH is still not giving any money back, but they are offering to allow people to exchange their useless Blur tickets for one of two concerts next year, either Avril Lavigne on March 14 or K-pop idol Rain on May 17. Given a choice between “Sk8er Boi” and Korea’s male Jolin, Blur fans must be thrilled. Maybe the “Burl” fans will take it better.
Telepopmusik is one of those bands you have heard, even if you have never heard of them. Their music was ubiquitous during the 2000s as the soundtrack to television commercials, especially those of automobile brands like Mitsubishi, BMW and Peugeot, but also for IBM and Air France. This is all in fact featured prominently in the concert promotional materials, so one can expect a certain chunk of the crowd to be people who find music mainly through channel surfing or movie soundtracks. It is more than fitting that the show takes place at NeoStudio, which is in the heart of Taipei’s most concentrated shopping district, and handled by Tripper, a promoter that has done events for Ford, VW, Nike and SK-II.
But this is not to say that Telepopmusik’s commercial appeal makes their music wholly uninteresting. The French duo of 2Square (Stephan Haeri) and DJ Antipop (Christophe Hetier) started out in the early 2000s making downtempo electronic indie pop. Hits like Breath were pure trip-hop and, in their dreamy and icily retro vocal parts from singers like Angela McCluskey — who sings like a computer regenerated version of Billie Holiday — Telepopmusik found itself solidly in the company of other similar acts like Massive Attack, Portishead and Air. But in addition to their licensed-to-TV hits, they also fashioned a lot of tunes around chill-out house beats, often with some low-key hip hop vocal tracks laid over the top. From their earlier chillout, they have more recently continued on to deeper, eerier chillwave compositions and remixes. A third album is supposed to come out this fall, according to the band’s Web site.
In performance, the group will put three people on stage. Antipop and 2Square will handle the mix of instruments (bass, drums) and electronic beats, and they will be joined by female vocalist Betty Black, who is featured on their new album and has appeared in songs with Moby and the Black Eyed Peas, most notably the hit tune Meet Me Halfway, which she coauthored.
Telepopmusik plays next Thursday at 8pm at Neo Studio, 5F, 22 Songshou Rd, Taipei (台北市松壽路22號5樓). Tickets are NT$1500, or NT$1200 in advance through www.walkieticket.com.
Bad ass brass
In this era of the electronic backing track, it feels almost atavistic to care about actual musicianship anymore. But Taipei in fact has plenty of bands keeping alive the traditions of pre-electronic and even pre-electrified music, playing ska, funk, soul, blues, jazz and much more. These cats are musically gregarious, gigging wherever they can and starting new bands whenever it feels like a good enough idea. The latest to come out of this mix is Bad Ass Brass, a 10-piece outfit is modeled on James Brown’s early backing band and playing everything from 40s big band jazz to ’70s and ’80s funk and soul. The group was put together by actor/singer Brandon Thompson and DC Rapier, a long-time expat who also fronts the blues group BoPoMoFo (ㄅㄆㄇㄈ).
“The idea was to start with classic R&B stuff like James Brown and the Isley Brothers. Then we tossed in a bit of jazz, like some stuff by Bill Withers, and also some ’60s pop tunes, like Gimme Some Lovin by the Spencer Davis Group, with the idea that we can reach a broader audience and qualify for jazz festivals. Right now we’re also working on some later funk stuff, like Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground and Superstitious. We’ve also got some stuff by the Meters and some more demanding funk, like from Tower of Power,” says Rapier.
The band was conceived about a year ago and has been rehearsing for close to 10 months. This weekend is more or less a debut, and tomorrow’s gig at Sappho will be their third ever.
Nearly all of the members are in other bands, and there are several notables. Trumpet player Danny Deysher also performs with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra and Wu Bai (伍佰). Guitarist Fabio Aurelio Moreira regularly backs up Mandopop singers as a studio musician and is also part of the Musa Quintet. Trombone player Andy Francis plays with La Cumbia Balkanska, drummer Juba van Wyke with the dub reggae band Dread Rider, drummer John Ring was formerly with Sky Burial and female vocalist Cat Tsai (蔡佳慈) starred in the musical Title of Show.
“We are just kinda trying to show off our horniness,” says Francis, a statement perhaps worthy of a trombone player. Then following one bad pun with another, he adds, “We want to blow people away.”
Bad Ass Brass plays tomorrow night 10pm at Sappho, B1, 1, Ln 102, Anhe Rd Sec 1, (台北市安和路一段102巷1號B1). Admission is NT$200 at the door.