This One Goes to 11

Posted by Pete DeMola on 5. Mai 2009

Beijing's G-ELEVEN is one of those bands.

The blues-inflected sextet would fit right in at a Texas roadhouse full of good ol' boys (and girls), amidst the clack of pool cues, clanking of beer bottles and the revving of many pickup truck engines in a dusty parking lot.

Or in the Worker's Stadium, for that manner, an occurrence that will surely come to fruition once rock and roll spills out of the city's dozen-odd live music venues and into the living rooms of the post-80s generation.


Formed in 2005 by singer and guitarist Gao Feng, G-ELEVEN has recently resurfaced after having undergone a period of reorganization, leading to a series of electrifying, albeit low profile, performances over the past few months.

They excel at eliciting warm and passionate human emotion -- dredging up feelings of love, power, loss and hope -- via their cathartic brand of searing blues-inflected rock: awash in soaring, feel-good vocals layered over major league guitar riffs and earthy keyboards.

These are all attributes that find the young sextet (their average age is a tender 22) firmly entrenched in more conservative, accessible musical territory -- a major departure from their peers who relish their roles as inventive sonic alchemists: often welding together as many genres and influences as possible into their repertories (Bigger Bang!, Steely Heart and Rustic immediately come to mind) or are actively pushing the boundaries in how we listen to and interpret modern rock music, a path taken by the Offset! Spectacles, Guai Li and Ourself Beside Me.

"It doesn't matter -- we're just doing things our own way," said Gao on the band's choice to buck the trend towards the progressive, explaining that the blues genre offers more emotional flexibility than its counterparts.

"It's very impromptu," he added.


Bassist Jet "Terminator" Chong joined Gao in 2007, and sites the seminal bluesmen B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and John Mayer as the band's major influences. "And Tokyo Incidents, too," he added. "But only for myself."

The addition of lead vocalist Celia Sun to the ranks last summer acted as a further maturing agent to their sound, which the band themselves describes as "crossover rock."

"Our outlook changed," said Jet, discussing how Celia's vocal stylings took the band in different directions and away from a straight-ahead rock and roll template.

"She brought in different elements and influences and enriched our sound," added Gao.

That's not surprising, considering the 22-year-old singer is working towards a degree in Musical Communication at the Communication University of China. (Jet studies Recording Arts there, as well, while rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Captain T.C. Zhou is currently a student at the Central Conservatory of Music.)

Songs that were written before Celia's inclusion have been rearranged to showcase her prowess, most notably the lounge-y "Purify Me," which purrs away with sultry vocals laid down over chiming keyboards, fluttering percussion, xylophone tinkles and guitars as smooth as liquid silk.


The band is at their zenith when all showcase their mastery collectively: particularly during "Blind's Way," a mid-tempo jam highlighted by dexterous finger-picking guitar duels, and "Walk Slowly," a grand-fucking-slam of a rock song driven by Jet's pulsating bass foundation, Celia's earnest bilingual vocals and soaring lead guitar work by Gao.

That song netted them First Prize at last November's 5th Levi's Rock Party at the Star Live (they also took home top honors for Best Band and Best Live Performance) and further cements the role of Beijing as a city who produces some of the world's most invigorating songwriters and guitarists.

The band, which is rounded out by percussionist Stevie "Screaming Chick" Liu, just wrapped up recording their first EP of original material. Although currently unsigned to a record label, they're currently looking at distribution networks for the DIY, self-produced effort.

G-ELEVEN will perform on May 9 at the New Get Lucky Bar, and at MAO Live House on May 17 and May 30. Detailed info, as well as their songs, can be found at both their MySpace and Windows Live pages. The band is also rapidly rising in Pepsi's current Battle of the Bands competition. Click here for more info.

From left: Stevie "Screaming Chick" Liu, Captain T.C. Zhou, Jet "Terminator" Chong, Celia Sun and Gao Feng. Photo courtesy of the band.

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