Back in the mid to late 90s, a college friend introduced me to Slowdive, highlighting their other titular song ‘Dagger’, and letting me listen to their Souvlaki record by way of a CD-transfer to cassette.
A few years later, I became the owner of a Mojave 3 CD, a bargain bin purhcase. Neil Halstead, Slowdive’s frontman, leads Mojave 3, but this predominantly acoustic-sound undertaking didn’t make much of a splash in my own music consciousness. More than a decade later, I was more than surprised to see them slated to play around here in Shanghai. I knew it would still be a good nostalgia trip if I did catch a show, but this was one of those things I just decided to skip.
NOTE: Other shows I decided to skip? Cat Power. DJ Shadow. Behemoth. God Is An Astronaut. Don’t ask.
When I saw the name ‘Slowdive‘ show up in these expat-centric online gig listings, it didn’t take me long to get my hands on a ticket, and head on over to Youtube to catch up on what their recent reunion shows look like. I read a review or two. What I’ve watched and read pointed a watered-down version of their old glory. After watching the actual show, though, I’m sorry, I must’ve seen a different band than everyone else did. They were fantastic.
Best band photo of the year, so far. Maybe all I really needed was to start taking photos of the better sex, rocking, again.
I found myself sleeping well at a bottom of a double deck bed at the hostel staff’s room in Yangshuo. We hurried the accommodations the day before, so we had to settle for that. I was now with Raymond, Ariel, a young Chinese couple, and another enthusiastic lady companion who appeared to spearhead the trip. Forgive me for not being so keen to remember names, and if that shaves a good load of my genuine gratefulness towards our little tour group, so be it.
The day started with a Li River tour cruise, where I didn’t get what I wished for: a front row seat on the raft I was in. I got to be with a group from the Guilin hostel where I knew no one, and half way down, the lady tour guide asked me to move rafts, not knowing the reason why I had to, but there wasn’t really any real interest to know. On that other raft I was still occupying a second row seat, but I was beside the tour guide, so yeah, I now had an advantage over the others, though an unexpected one. I asked how the cruise would be during the winter time (only few tourists take it), and she pointed at what the locals would refer to as horse’s heads on the mountain faces. I can’t decide if she was pretty. I’ll settle for amiable.
I have to admit Shanghai doesn’t get the hot, trending bands from the West. If it happens, expect ticket prices to soar. Finding out Deafheaven will play in Yuyintang was a headtrip itself. I possessed a 100RMB pre-sale ticket not long after the gig announcement.
Deafheaven was a band I found out from 2013 year-end lists, and they were good. Tickled my current black metal fancy, reminded me of my not so fervent but ongoing fascination with anything post-rock and shoegaze.
Without referencing to the plane ticket, my email inbox, and a calendar, I would just say the decision to take a solo trip to Guilin went through because an officemate helped me book my flight online the night before my trip. I remember finding myself in an airline office just a few hours before that, retreating after finding out the rates were double than what I found on their website. I was just glad I was at the Pudong airport for domestic trips late Thursday afternoon, having left work early, though I wished I could’ve taken the train instead. See, I like trains. I went to Beijing, and I went to Xian on trains. The crammed, stressful haste of flying just couldn’t compare to the serenity of a train ride.
It was past midnight on a Friday when I was greeted at the hostel. My skin was feeling Guilin’s humidity, a sharp contrast from Shanghai’s current spring chill. I told the front-desk staff I wanted to be on the tour for the rice terraces the day after. I wasn’t sleepy at all. The excite, the minor thrill of this sudden decision for this short work vacation hasn’t sunk in completely yet.
Woke up next to an empty bed on a twin-bed room the day after. Blame in on Filipino paranoia, a slightly skewed sense of security and trust, that I find it hard to locate myself in a hostel dormitory with strangers; also, there’s being single, and not possessing the current luxury of like-minded friends. The room looked the same as it was shown online: rustic, with cute hand-drawn art. The toilet didn’t seem to stop filling its tank.