Written by Hector Herrera
It’s always a rush to watch a live performance from a renowned band, no matter their style. Just the idea of having a group of revered musicians come together—musicians that have stood the test of time (which, in my opinion, is the majority of China’s elite talent) and rocked the nation with bestselling albums and singles that have, in more than one occasion, made us sing along or at least tap a toe to the contagious rhythms of their mainstream euphonies—is incredible to me. But venturing into a venue where the headliners are said to be the cream of the crop of a country that you are not quite familiar with? Well…let’s just say it tends to be a hit or miss kind of situation. I’ve been lucky enough to have seen many local bands in their very beginnings as bands with solid ideas that dare to embark on tours in uncharted territory for their musical message that doesn’t always fly with locals, as well as their transformations to more polished and defined groups. But when that big band comes into town, even though the genre isn’t appealing, it’s exciting to be in the presence of people who give the fortunate few music enthusiasts a chance to come out of their shells and enjoy the grandness of music.
Despite the limited number of fans willing, or even available, for a night/day of hypnotizing lights, loud music and good times, our beloved home away from home has seen its fair share of superstars that have stopped by, like 脑浊 (Brain Failure) on New Year’s Eve 2014 and underground rap legends IN3 2013, and these big names always leave us wanting more.
But only some of the seasoned professionals of the country’s most prominent and listened to genres dare to go back to scratch and explore the furthest corners of not only the gargantuan art that is music, but also the camaraderie and coexistence that being part of a band entails. I am pleased to have a chance to be able to tell you about one of these exceptions, in which a couple of China’s best musicians got together to explore styles that, in their comfort zones, would’ve been impossible.
THE BAND: Jungle Mico Project is a Beijing-based power trio borne of a friendship that started between MICO刘为 (木马), a classical piano bachelor and later a drum student in the conservatories of Viena, Austria and Berkley, USA; and a Techno rat of nature and keyboard player FEIFEI臧鸿飞 (龙神道), a natural born musician that took a liking in the keyboards from the age of three and breezed through Beijing central conservatory of music. Together, they started Junglecat in 2005 but after 3 years they disbanded which lead to the meeting of MICO and 高宇峰 in 2010 which lead to the formation of JMP, a perfected version of FEIFEI and MICOs’ Junglecat.
THE MUSIC: The JMP is a break beat, techno, trance, dubstep-influenced band with a kick. Each member delivers their trademark sound, 高宇峰 with his punk rock tone and aggressiveness, 臧鸿飞 a true nationalist with vocal samples of traditional Chinese recordings and clear touch of his reggae background, and MICO with an unusual splice of ethnic/jazz that makes you want to make it rain and rave at the same time.
You could consider MICO to be steering Jungle Mico Project’s direction. Ever since Junglecat, MICO was haunted by the idea of replicating the electronic feeling with musicians. Since then， he has collected an arsenal of rhythms, samples and melodies that make up 70% of the music they play now. As he explains, “Rhythm is very important in electronic music…When I compose, I try to keep a lot of space because I want [the band] to be able to improvise and use their feeling.”
THE SHOW: I wouldn’t be writing this article if it wasn’t because of the show. Live means no fake feelings, what you are at the time is what you pitch to the audience. The mix of these guys’ emotions was clearly emitted by their awesome stage presence and visual entertainment that was no less than another instrument. The visual art of 素素 delivered, from the old western movie scenes, to the Matrix-inspired code-unraveling sequences that really set a different mood the band definitely did not foresee. Despite a Tuesday night visit and the limited amount of attendees that managed to stumble upon such a rare and exciting display of experimentation towards music, everyone was into it, a small tribe dreaming in the dance.