Live Wire: Return of the Deadly Vibes

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - Page 11

There is more music happening in Taipei this weekend than George R.R. Martin could shake a naked wiener at, including the return of the Deadly Vibes, a free experimental music festival in Banqiao and an expat tribute to British rock ‘n’ roll, not to mention the Wu-Tang Clan show (see the Vinyl Word). But before I dive into local events, it’s hard to ignore the musical singularity going on in Austin, Texas, where the SXSW music festival has been at full blast since on Tuesday.

Taiwan will again have its tiny corner at the world’s largest indie music festival. Tomorrow, the fourth annual SXSW Taiwan showcase will feature the bands Manic Sheep, Go Chic, Wonfu (旺福), Chocolate Tiger (猛虎巧克力) and Bugs of Phonon (聲子蟲). Unlike previous years when the showcase was organized with Taiwan government support, this year the bands have done it all themselves. They’ve bought their own flights, found a venue, rented equipment and are promoting the show. The showcase starts tomorrow at noon, and the groups will cram five 30-minute sets into the three-hour showcase, leaving only about 10 minutes for band changeovers. They need to finish by 3pm.

“This year, the government didn’t provide a budget, so originally there was not going to be a showcase, but then we decided to organize one ourselves,” said Hsieh Hong-yu (謝閎宥), guitarist for Manic Sheep.

His band, a two-piece playing dream pop, will perform two or three times as part of various SXSW showcases, including the Taiwan showcase, then play six shows in Japan.

“We have applied for government subsidy for the trip, but the way it works is that you apply for a grant. But you still have to buy your plane ticket and everything up front, then when you come back, there will be interviews with the government, and you see how much you will get back,” said Hsieh.

SXSW is an indie culture Mecca that is probably the world’s most inclusive music festival, but it is also sprawling and chaotic and easy for bands to get lost in the crowd. Last year more than 2,200 acts (including around 600 from outside the US) played on over 100 stages from late morning to late at night every day for six days of official events. There were also dozens of lead-up parties and non-official events.

Taiwanese bands have been attending SXSW since at least 2010, and the first Taiwan Night was held in 2011. That year the Taiwan showcase was heavily subsidized by the government, and the large visiting contingent included bands, organizers, technical staff and videographers. I was allowed along as an embedded journalist.

“Every year, the Japan and Korea showcases get a lot of attention,” says Hsieh. “For us, the impact is not as big, but it is still a really good place to meet people.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture has subsidized overseas touring since 2010, when it launched the Pop Music Industry Development Project. In 2013, the ministry approved grants to 18 different groups for international tours. There was support for indie bands touring North America (including NT$300,000 for Manic Sheep last year) as well as pop-oriented acts like To-la-ku (脫拉庫樂團), which received NT$870,000 to tour in China.

The project also granted NT$66 million in subsidies to music companies for recording costs and marketing last year, most of it going to pop projects. One of the largest grants last year went to the pop rock band Mayday, which received NT$3.5 million to tour Europe and North America.

■ The 2014 SXSW Taiwan Showcase takes place tomorrow from noon to 3pm at The Lost Well, 2421 Webberville Rd, Austin, Texas. Admission with SXSW wristband. For info, check: www.sxsw.com.

GOOD VIBES

What in the heck happened to the Deadly Vibes? The rockabilly trio of Jason Copps and twin brothers JD and JT Long have put on the most rollicking, rockin stage shows in Taiwan’s underground rock clubs for over a decade now. They wear cowboy shirts, stick their pelvises out towards the crowd, and howl expletives about rock ‘n’ roll almost continuously through their blistering, dance-happy sets. Copps’ crooning and yodeling harks back to honky-tonk singers and 50s rock ‘n’ roll. The band has always had a following and manages to turn nearly every gig into a juke joint rager. Tomorrow they’ll play their first show in over a year. Lately, I’ve heard rumors that this will be their last gig ever. Could that be true? And where on earth have they been?

“This is not going to be our last show,” says guitarist JD Long, speaking on the phone from his home in Ilan. “Jason had a baby last year, and we’ve had various things come up in our lives, but you can believe that we’ve still been playing music.”

Tomorrow’s show at Revolver was scheduled “just because we scheduled it,” and fixing a date on the calendar got the group “going back into the studio and practicing again.”

“Lately I’ve actually been playing more guitar than I ever played in my life,” said Long. That includes some new experiments. “I’ve been going back into the vault and getting into some old 1930s and 1940s blues and country.”

“That stuff might come out in the future, but not just yet. It’s been a while since we’ve played, so this is going to be all Deadly Vibes stuff,” says Long.

Well it’s about doggone time!

■ The Deadly Vibes play with My Skin Against Your Skin tomorrow night from 9:30pm at Revolver, 1-2 Roosevelt Rd, Taipei City (台北市羅斯福路一段1-2號). Tickets are NT$200 and includes one drink.

FREE EXPERMINTAL ELECTRONICA

Yannick Barman is a Swiss trumpet player who has split off from his roots in jazz to integrate digital beats and create a unique audio-visual show that uses both live trumpeting and computers. Now touring through Asia, he’ll be part of two weekends of free performances called Spring Chill (春季ㄎㄧㄤ游), with performers ranging from ambient instrumental groups to noise musicians and indie dance DJs.

■ Tomorrow at 435 Art Studio (435藝文特區), 435 Zhongzheng Rd, Banqiao District, New Taipei City (新北市板橋區中正路435號) performances go from 3pm to 10pm and include Yannick Barman, Tunnel of Light B Side, WWWW (落差草原), Utopia (世外桃源), KbN, Sonic Deadhorse, Wang Xin-ren (王新仁) and Ke Zhi-hao (柯智豪). On March 22, performances take place at Dulan Caotang in Taidong County (台東都蘭草堂), going from 4pm to 7am the next morning. The Taipei event artists will be joined by DJ Cotton Disco, Zephec and others. Admission to both events is free.