Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shuffle Demons just back from tour of China!

The Shuffle Demons just back from China

Yes, the Shuffle Demons just completed a 6 city 3 week tour of China. What an amazing experience. I will have more detailed blog emtries soon, but here's a little sampling of my impressions of the place. Had a wonderful time, ate some great food, played for some bewildered Chinese peasants come city dwellers...the whole trip was drenched in irony, as on May Day, May Day, the holiest of holy days for communism, we were shilling for condo developers in front of a half finished mall that was chalk full of condo demonstration booths. Audience members had to navigate through a phalanx of pamphlet pushers, stuffing ads for condos with names like crystal hills and cool mountain and prideful village into the rusty baskets of their heavy Chinese bicycles, dreaming of the day when they could afford a concrete box in the sky. I'd definitely rather live in the village at street level, seems a lot more fun to me, but I haven't done it all my life, farming the hard soil, fishing the increasingly polluted rivers , breathing the toxic air while dragging the mule out to the fields.

These are the days of the neon revolution, a revolution fired with cheap coal and cheap labour, a revolution built on the backs of a steady stream of cloth shoed workers, digging day and night, 1 floor every 24 hours. They are the Yellow Army, their hard hats gleaming in the night work lights, their wives cooking in the portable labour camps that are set up right next to the job site, cubicles stacked 5 stories high, plumbing on the outside, a stones throw from the every present cranes. This is the Yellow Army on the vertical march of progress, leading to mutually assured destruction of heritage and homesteads, the antiseptic Singapore-designed industrial cities rising on the ashes of a nearby town where the kids chased pigs through the cool mud and old men fished by the river as they always had. Now gleaming towers stand amid gardens of show plants and odd sculptures, a Disneyland with the death penalty for expats and the few Chinese who have the connections, balls or education to afford...the good life. Was it such a bad life before? When the kids ran around with slits in their pants, no need for diapers. Now advertisers jump on this vast, emerging market and peddle a whole host of Western vices to a burgeoning middle class. Diapers, so your baby can be like an American baby and be resposible for the death of several trees and the filling of a landfill with kiddie waste and fibre. Whitening cream, so your skin will be a ghastly ghostly pale, more like the white expats here to sell you junk and party with the daughters of the revolution. And for those aspiring daughters, breast enlargement ensured by pill and cream, the little fat molecules driven to the breasts if by magic. And, from a basement warehouse in LA, 70's deadstock fat jigglers, the revolutionary burning belts that were all the rage at one time or another....ahhh, impressions of China.

The air in Beijing thick enough to block the sun, so on a cloudless day it is reduced to an amorphous glow somewhere in the sky. It's impossible to navigate by sun moon or stars because they just aren't visible. climbed the great wall and boy were my lungs sore, let alone my legs! I eventually dubbed Beijing Etobeijing, riffing on the name of a hapless Toronto suburb, it felt so similar, travelling down shapeless freeways past rows and rows and rows of condos and sprawl. We finally rented bikes in Beijing so that we could get downtown and explore the Hutongs, the little backstreets that give the city so much character. Dumplings 8 for 40ยข, beer for $1.20, why bother cooking, good food is everywhere!

Shanghai. Not a bad flight over....why it was only 12 hours from Vancouver, 5 from Toronto, only 18 or 19 hours in total, a piece of cake. Childs play. The ozone will recover in weeks, no big one. When we went to India we actually flew 1/2 way around the world and on the way back, the rest of the way around the world. We had the audacity and apparently a storehouse of carbon credits (and I ride my bike every damn day but even I didn't have that many carbon credits) to actually fly over Europe AND over India to Singapore, 18 torturous hours on 1 flight, followed by a 4 hour lay over and 6 hours back to Mumbai, absolutely incredible. On the way back we flew from Calcutta to Singapore then over the Bering straight on the way back to New York...we actually flew around the world and a bit more...a horror show. So this flight was easy, just 19 hours to Shanghai.

And landing in Shanghai was nothing big. Out in a field somewhere, no great production, modern, clean, efficient, disorganized, an airport of international calibre, we've seen them all before. None quite so filthy as Charles de Gaulle in Paris, a 60's concrete experiment gone horribly wrong, a labyrinth of escalators to nowhere and chalkboard signs, bored employees and inch thick dust on the top of washroom concrete dividers (it really doesn't pay to be tall). Having suffered throught, the Shanghai airport was nothing major. But when you got downtown, total bladerunner! as you can see from the skyline shot above, it is a neon future dream gone mad.

We'd been noticing band-like structures on the plane, had connected with the Rheostatics in Toronto and Vancouver, and were off together on some adventure to the other side of the world. When we arrived, we had a press conference and got a chance to meet the other bands. Good bunch, really, nice guys all.

And what a collection of bands. Where the hell did they find these guys?? A legendary aging jazz, funk hip hop band in crazy costumes with a mad dancing drummer, an equally respected poetic Canadian band minus most of it's front men, but with character still intact, a Journey cover band, a young guitar hero, a couple of rockin' bar bands.... The best Canada had to offer...All aboard the Shanghai train.