Back in the (punk) day…

Having written about yaogun’s long, strange march through today, I have been blessed to be writing in an age where Youtube offers glimpses – fleeting, yes, context-less, often, but glimpses, still – of the past. A few brave souls lugged what was heavy and user-not-so-friendly gear to shows, filmed away, and, eventually, some of them even uploaded the footage to the internet. Guys like David O’Dell, whose Youtube channel is filled with great pieces from the late-nineties and turn-of-the-millennium punk scene (and who wrote a memoir of that very period); when folks like Liang Heping and Vic Huey, who have been filming from day one, have their collections sorted and available, well, things will change.

What we’re also blessed with, those of us interested in glancing backward, is the occasional Big Score, usually, I’ve found, accidentally big scores. Such is the case with this video, which I came across while searching for goodies related to another post, soon to come, that takes us back to 1998, the height of Beijing’s punk scene…

It’s a Japanese newscast that followed the band alternately known as as Anarchy Jerks, Anarchy Boys and A Jerks. It’s a pretty lengthy “clip” to be sure, but first off: The Japanese news gave the Beijing punk scene a whole nine minutes and forty-five seconds. And second off: Glimpses of the punks’ bedroom, the Beijing Street, and a handy juxtaposition between the governmental celebrations of the twentieth anniversary of “Reform and Opening” (the reforms put into place by Deng Xiaoping that cracked open the nation’s doors, proverbially and actually) and the punk show taking place simultaneously across town are gorgeous nuggets no matter what language happens to be alongside it.

Note, non-Japanese or -Chinese speakers, that the question, at around 1:52, posed to the punks that elicits laughter somewhat uncomfortable but mostly hyena-ish is “What about the Communist Party?” to which the response is quickly given, “The Party? They’re great!”

The theatre concert shown near the six-minute mark seems to have had Anarchy Jerks on the bill, but the band was yanked last minute. It was hard, says lead singer Shen Yue, to know what he might’ve said to upset the cultural authorities because “once the music starts…I go crazy and don’t know what I say. I say what’s truly on my mind…”

At around the five-minute mark, the band is asked whether they’d go on China Central Television if they were asked, and the answer comes quickly: “Definitely! Why not?” Which is followed, quickly, by the realization that they never would be asked (unless, I believe the response goes, it was to be killed). Five years earlier, first-generation metal band Tang Dynasty was asked the same thing; their take was that CCTV wasn’t ready yet, but that, eventually, there would be a spot for them on the network. And it wasn’t long before they were on the most Official of Official channels (and, more recently, in the lead-up to their third album). And as you’ve hopefully already read, yaogun has been on CCTV recently, and over the course of the millennium’s first decade, the televisual opportunities for yaogun have opened up tremendously.

Perhaps the best part of returning to the Japanese news coverage of Beijing’s early punk days is to revisit Anarchy Boys’ guitarist Li Peng, who, like many others in the punk scene, played for several bands, including Reflector, who still continues to this day. It was he who answered quickest about punk’s chances on CCTV, and, below, a fan records Relector’s most recent TV appearance, during the festivities surrounding the 2012 World Cup, in which several yaogun bands were highlighted.