Tue, Jul 10, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Rock fans stage protest over ‘live house’ closure

LIFE IN THE ‘UNDERWORLD’:Music fans have complained that ambiguous laws governing music venues leave them vulnerable to police harassment

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

More than 100 musicians stage a protest in the legislature in Taipei yesterday, calling on the government not to force live house Underworld to close down due to safety concerns.

Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times

Hundreds of rock fans and band members protested on Sunday ambiguous laws on “live houses,” which, they said, have led to the closure of a well-known “live house” in Taipei.

“What do live houses want?” “We want our own law.” “When do we want it?” “We want it now,” protesters shouted as they rallied in the courtyard of the Legislative Yuan.

Taipei’s rock fans and bands are upset because a well-known live house in Taipei, Underworld (地下社會), is due to close next week.

“There have been no problems in the operation of Underworld since its opening 16 years ago, but we’re fed up with constant police harassments because there are no clear laws governing the operation of ‘live houses’,” Ho said. “It’s Underworld this time, but any other live house could be under threat at any given moment. This is not good for the originality of Taiwanese rock music.”

Ho said that the police have inspected Underworld several times last month, interrupting performances and handing out warning tickets over “safety concerns” and for “violations of business permits” since the venue sells alcohol.

“Live houses have been popular for more than a decade, but so far, the law does not allow live houses to exist without problems,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) said.

“Before 2005, live houses had to be registered as bars and thus they could get permits for organizing live performances. Although the government added a new business permit category of ‘small-scale performance venue,’ live houses could still be penalized for selling alcoholic drinks,” he added

“We need a complete law that covers all the needs of a live house,” Cheng said.

Ouyang Ching (歐陽靖), a writer and a rock fan, said that live houses are important to the development of Taiwanese independent music.

“I’m proud to be Taiwanese, because we have such great independent music that expresses the vitality of Taiwanese society,” Ouyang said. “The government always says that it supports the development of cultural creativity, but I think a government that does not support independent music has no right to talk about cultural creativity.”

Many bands and singers — such as Mayday (五月天), Chthonic, Kou Chou Ching (拷秋勤), Tizzy Bac, Clippers (夾子電動大樂隊) and Desserts Chang (張懸) for example — first started their careers in live houses, including Underworld, and many of these bands took part in Sunday’s press conference and rally.

“We’re not here to ask for money or protection from the government; we’re here to ask the government to fix the law, so that live house operators can survive and bands will have a place to perform,” Mayday bassist Masa (瑪莎) said.

Cheng said she plans to organize public hearings for amending relevant laws.

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