Posted by Pete DeMola on 5. Jun 2010
BEIJING, JUNE 5 - "There are only two artists that I really wanted to see live," said Nevin Domer, D-22's Booking Manager and a member of the creative team for local record label Maybe Mars, as we chatted in a hospital room on a balmy afternoon in mid-May.
"And I'm not going to see either of them."
Burgeoning American lo-fi punk musician Jay Reatard died in his sleep this past January from cocaine toxicity exacerbated by booze and then there is King Khan & the BBQ Show, a band who, well, did not die this past January.
Reatard, 29, was in negotiations with local promoters to come to China before his unexpected death. But the latter will perform in Shanghai on Fri, June 11 and the following night here in Beijing at D-22.
"But I've got to go to my cousin's wedding back in the States," Domer mused. "This really sucks."
"It does," I agreed, although I had absolutely no idea who King Khan & BBQ Show were, was or is.
"We have some cool gigs coming up," enthused the show's organizer, Nathaniel Davis, in an email message that I received about an hour after Domer left, disappearing into a tree-lined boulevard as the sun set over Shunyi.
"King Khan & BBQ Show," he said.
"I know," I wrote. "Nevin just told me about these guys and he's really bummed about missing them. And I'm laid up in the hospital and may miss out, too."
"Scary, dude," he said. "Recover well. Maybe we'll bring King Khan into the hospital to play a little bed-side set. Stay tuned."
A hospital show? I'm tuned.
I wanted to know more about this duo -- they go by the names King Khan (aka Blacksnake) and "One Man Disaster" Mark Sultan (aka BBQ) -- that may or may not be enthused about bringing their garage rock speckled with Motown soul influences to Chinese impatient wards, which probably would not be too much of a departure from their usual band practices in a Nazi-bunker rehearsal space.
Except, that is, for the old folk and pregnant women shuffling through the corridors in their blue-and-white checkered pajamas.
During my long stay in the hospital, I learned about an old custom that I'd like to share with you:
When parents leave the hospital with their newborn, they call the baby's name and ask her to come with them so that her soul doesn't remain in limbo after leaving, becoming a sad and tragic little ghost trapped among the sick and dying.
That struck a surprisingly-emotional nerve in my heart that is difficult to tie down, particularly when one is reassessing their shitty and fucked-up life and the path that led them directly to the confines of a ward full of the sick and dying.
While there, the only name I heard called was mine, 27-years-later, by the nurses who would drop in to present another bill of services rendered that rose with each consecutive visit.
But the Montreal twosome's sound is also emotional and difficult to tie down.
They cite the Velvet Underground, the Cramps, Sam Cooke and Black Flag as influences -- they are all there fighting for space in their glorious clamor -- and the band's bio says that they're always the last ones dancing and drinking at the bar after their messy shows.
Cool. I do that, too. Or at least I used to.
Allen Ginseng, writing on Sultan's website, calls their shows "orgiastic, anarchic, hypnotic and personal."
I like all of those things and find debauchery agreeable. And I think Beijingers do, too.
"I've seen the blow-jobs and blood, the pick-ups and puke, the dancing and the laughing." Ginseng continued. "Two guys. One smashing snare, bass drum and tambourine with his bare feet, molesting his guitar and singing like a possessed angel."
They have 24,552 friends on their MySpace page and it is plastered with fan testimonials -- from Berlin to Serbia to Austin, Texas -- calling them everything from geniuses to admiring their ability to make tables dance.
"Okay," I told Domer and Davis. "I'm sold. Let's do an interview."
That was about two weeks ago.
Online meetings were scheduled, interview questions about blow-jobs, offensive on-stage comments, Beijing BBQ and funeral epitahs were drafted and sent.
Quotes from various parties were requested ("Sorry I haven't have time to give you a quote," said Domer in a beautiful demonstration of irony. "I've been really busy") and left unanswered in the void of our collective state of being always on-the-go, consumed by our collective passions and working ourselves into early graves.
But Blacksnake and BBQ are on tour -- their most recent gig was at the Primavera Festival in Barcelona, Spain on May 30 -- and I suppose that they are strictly adhering to their philosophy of being the last guys standing at the festival.
Perhaps they are still there now, drinking and dancing out in the dregs of the Parc del Forum, waiting for the last stragglers to pick themselves from the ground and stagger away.
Maybe we can keep them here in Beijing for awhile, too, because we need more people like them here.
And knowing how the scene is at D-22 after the last band finishes their set and we all go outside to sit among friends and laugh, smoke, flirt, try to pick each other up, exchange horror stories, puke and yes -- dance, drink and sometimes spill blood -- that very well may be possible.
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