Xi’an Rock City

Article By Hector Herrera


We all know how hard it is to include ourselves in a new place. Cultures, habits and priorities are all in somewhat different strokes than what we usually come by in our regular lives. As a resident of the far southeast, it was very hard to incorporate myself as a student, rub shoulders with scientists, engineers, “professional students” or people working in several fields that surpassed me in every single aspect; professionals and not-so-professionals that were as or more ambitious and perseverant, despite the adversities and complications, relentlessly trying to push limits, to excel in work in hope for a better position or a better paycheck or to simply live up to a boss’s expectations to make that quick buck, a common story that, unfortunately, so many of us have fallen victim of. But then there are those to dare to step aside from that apparently secure and easy road to the future to step on that endless hazy road that, at times, shed light bright enough for us to catch a good glimpse of what life would have been if we would’ve followed our own colorful road that always leads to endless tiles of fun but a hazy, unclear horizon.

I’m here to share with you the story of one of these brave and fearless people that had no second thought when that thread of light shined across his eyes.

Rockie Long is the promoter at Aperture Livehouse (光圈). A Guangdong person by birth, he came to Xi’an with the same kind of goals most of us have: trying to finish a degree and pursue a career that for the most part wouldn’t completely satisfy that hunger for satisfying work but we still insist for one reason or another, for one person or the other. Rockie, a freshly graduated e-commerce college student was having his routine coffee back in 2008. when he stumbled on an idea that changed the Xi’an music scene forever, and played host to bands from every corner of the country and the world.

I finally had a chance to have a beer and a chat with him, during which he told me the story of how he ended up coming to Xi’an and fulfilling his dream of working with music.

Hector: Where did you see your first show?

ockie: In Xi’an it was in 2004. That’s the year I came to Xi’an for university. After class, my roommate told me that there was some underground music we can see in Xi’an. He told me it’s not so far from there, in Defuxiang the bar was called 八又二分一 (bayouerfenyi) I was just a freshman that year.

H: When did you decide to become a promoter? When and why?

R: I came to be a promoter in 2009 and the reason is I hadn’t thought so much about what I could be, but I just helped my friends from Canton. In those years, the livehouses in Xi’an were not very open to different kinds of music. But there are so many bands who tour in China, they won’t come to Xi’an, but I just want to watch them…after that, because of the Internet, there are many, many people who know what you have done, so they can know me, and I can organize some gig in Xi’an, so more and more bands just come and ask me for help. So, after that, I began to be a promoter.

H: Why stay in Xi’an? Why not, after graduation, go somewhere else?

R: I always think of this question; I just stayed for my ex-girlfriend. In 2008 I graduated…I started to interview for some jobs in Xi’an and after my graduation I was a waiter in a restaurant, and I used to be a software engineer also. After that, as a promoter for indie music.

16H: Your job right now is in Aperture basically, right?

R: From 2010, because the first time I went to Aperture Club, I just went there for coffee. But, my first time in the club, I think the venue is very suitable for the bands. But, there was no stage, no drum set, not any instruments, nothing. I just talked to the boss…Their first idea was they wanted to be a seller of photographs…But, after more and more shows were organized in Aperture, he came to like the indie music. The most important, there are so many young people in Xi’an, they enjoy live shows, and [Aperture] can get the balance for music and commerce.

Hector: How about the first show that you organized yourself?

Rockie: That was in 2009. I organized a gig for my friends from Canton. They were two hardcore bands because one of my favorite music is hardcore music.

H: How about some of the best shows you’ve been to? Can you tell me some of your best shows, as a promoter?

R: As a promoter, my unforgettable show I organized was a band from Sweden called EF. Post-rock style. Because, in my opinion, in 2011, less people knew the feeling of post-rock live….and post-rock music, most of post-rock music has no vocals. They just play instruments so different people get different feelings from the meolodies.

H: As a promoter have you worked in any other cities, have you helped any other shows outside of Aperture?

R: I have my own music label, it’s called Polo Party. I also organize some tours across China, and I’ll take some bands from other places to travel all over China and play in different cities.

H: How do you organize the shows? Band by band? Week by week? Month by month? How do you do that for Aperture?

R: China has a saying, 有容乃大 (yourong naida). You should get different culture. Different cultures depend on different kinds of music. Different kinds of music let people have different kinds of character. Different cultures, they give such different information to different people. So, as a professional, you just arrange the schedule for different kinds of music. So, if the bands, they contact me, they want to have a show in Xi’an, if the schedule is okay, I always give the date to them.

H: You must know a lot about local bands. Our Xi’an local scene. What’s it like? What’s it look like? What can you recommend? What’s a good band to listen to right now? What are some bands that you liked in the past?

R: When I was a student in university, I saw so many local shows. Most are old bands, they disappeared. They can’t impact me so much because they appeared for a short time, but after that they disappeared. It’s a pity. Because I like emo music, I can introduce an emo band called Maichong 脉冲. The members of that emo band, they are also the members of Amber. In different ages, they can play different kinds of music. I think it’s really good, because the most important is emotions.

17In the past, so many people say Xi’an is a heavy metal town. So many different kinds of heavy metal music! The heavy music scene in Xi’an has been very awesome in the past ten years…This generation is developing. More and more young people, they are interested in indie music. Music should be like a supermarket—everyone can get what they want —I think that should be the base of a livehouse too. Now, I’m very happy that the Xi’an local music scene has different kinds of bands. There’s many cool bands—it’s not just punk, or heavy metal. I think it’s really good. I recommend The Fuzz. They’re my favorite local band in Xi’an. They play post-punk, a little bit of new wave, a little bit disco. They’re not just focused on the indie music scene in Xi’an. They focus on what music is in China, what music is in Asia, what music is in the world. After that, Amber, post-rock. TBOR for electronic rock music.

H: In the future do you have anything that you want to do? What do you want to achieve in music, for Xi’an at least?

R: My plan is that Aperture can get bigger and bigger. Maybe we’ll have a new location, a bigger area to have more big shows. It’s a pity that there are some foreign bands that can’t come to Xi’an, because they don’t know we can have a big place for them. So, one of my plans is looking for a new place, for a big area to have big shows. I also hope Aperture can be an indie music label. They can do more for the local band development. Maybe we can supply the location for practice, we can also have a recording room for the bands to record their music, and we also can have a music school, and local musicians can be the teachers, to teach kids to play music. But, I think this, the potential market, will be very good. Will be very big.

Aperture Club
Address: Yin Ma Chi, Ju Hua Yuan, Dong Da Jie. 东大街菊花园饮马池光圈CLUB

  • 11.1 Rampart Label Anniversary Showcase
  • 11.6 祁紫檀 (Pop)
  • 11.7 相对论 (Hard Rock)
  • 11.8 ??? (Hard Rock)
  • 11.11 卫均 (Folk)
  • 11.13 小老虎 (Hip Hop)
  • 11.14文雀 (Post-Rock)
  • 11.15 战旗 (Mongolian Metal)
  • 11.20 December(Metal)
  • 11.21 奉天 (Metal)
  • 11.22 Lars Akerlund (Electronic)
  • 11.25 Brandt Brauer Frick (Techno/Electronic)
  • 11.27自画像 (Rock)
  • 11.28 低苦艾 (Rock)
  • 11.29College Band Showcase

By Dave Wright

This Month’s Shows You Shouldn’t Miss
By Dave Wright
小老虎 (11.13) Hip-Hop

MC小老虎, otherwise known as J-Fever, is considered to be one of the premier MCs on the Beijing hip hop scene after twice winning the Chinese MC Battle Contest. Since teaming up with Los Angeles based DJ Soulspeak in 2014, they have released two EPs, most recently 色弱 on September 18 of this year. The album reminds one more of De La Soul than Kendrick Lamar, with slower beats, funky guitar lines and atmospheric overtones. Although the current tour is in support of this album, don’t be surprised if you see some freestyling and beat boxing though, MC 小老虎 is one of the best in China.

战旗(11.15) – Mongolian Metal

Though less well known than their fellow Mongolian metal band杭盖, 战旗 are still effective at combining western music with traditional Asian instrumentation and techniques. Utilizing Mongolian throat singing and folk melodies over powerful rhythms reminiscent of Rammstein, these guys put on a hell of a show. They are not however, a ‘balls to the wall’ type of metal band, but rather make use of contrasting rhythms and sounds to elicit a reaction in their audience.

2 thoughts on “Xi’an Rock City

  1. Hi there, I can’t seem to find schedule for aperture online. Can anyone put me in the right direction?

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