We had a half day off in Suzhou before heading to Beijing for our next gig, so we enjoyed walking in the city a little bit. Suzhou is a beautiful city that kept its ancient charms, with many rivers crossed by wonderful arched bridges. Walking in the city is like going back in time and discovering an ancient China… We then headed to station, where we once again attracted attention… I can’t say if it’s the white skin, the guys’ the long hair & beards, the girls’ platinum blonde hair, YB’s fashion, or the overload of suitcases and music equipment that we have, but we leave nobody indifferent everywhere we go…
We then arrived in Beijing, very happy to be back in the Chinese capital, as this place holds so many memories for the band… That city has played such an important role in the band’s history! We were looking forward to going back to the Starbucks by the lake, a peaceful oasis in the middle of the busy city… Yes, Starbucks again. You might have come to the realization that we can’t live without it now… 🙂
We left Starbucks to go to the soundcheck, one that proved being very difficult on a technical level. We managed to set everything, and make it sound good. Everybody on stage knew the conditions for the night wouldn’t be perfect. But it was alright. The emotions of the moment would lead the way, not the technicals. And it’s with that in mind that we impatiently waited for the doors to open and the gig to start!
We were once again playing at the Mao Livehouse, the same venue where we played 3 years before! The owner of the place was really excited to see us again, as he said we were the craziest and most intense band he’s ever seen in the venue since its opening! And let’s just say we’ve been faithful to this once again! We lived wild moments, touching moments, both on stage and in the crowd… It’s so refreshing to see people let go in such a way. Not only the crowd, but all the band members on stage, too. Every second screams “We are alive. The moment is now. We’re not going to let it slip away. We’re going to live it to the fullest. We are alive. And this is the only thing that matters now!”
From Beijing the day after, we took a night train to Xi’An! It was a very long train, but we made sure we wouldn’t get bored! Indeed, Jeff, Ben and Moose wandered the streets of Beijing looking to buy a cake for YB’s birthday! There was no way we wouldn’t celebrate this very special moment… And what better time and place than on a funky night train to Xi’An? They managed to find a very beautiful one (that got messed up in the travel but that Miss Isabel gracefully restored!)!
We arrived in Xi’An after a long and very bumpy train ride! We explored the city a little bit, before settling in Starbucks for a few hours before going to the soundcheck! One thing we learned right away was that the city sure was a risky one… Repairing electric wires in such a way is quite something… We then stumbled upon a local street food stall, where Sef tried local flavors (that he didn’t seem to enjoy much), and had a great encounter with police officers regulating traffic (if such a thing is possible in China!).
We were greeted into the venue by the owner and his 2 cats, as well as his son! The venue was a very cool one, the best in all Xi’An. It was cozy with it’s couches, reminding a living room, yet trash at the same time, with a collection of international beer bottles on display, polaroid pictures scattered around the place, and complete with a pool table.
What made the place even more special is that we invited all the SFCC members to the soundcheck, by broadcasting it live on the community website! It was a truly special moment, as it was the first time we ever attempted broadcasting live from China. And we were so happy to be able to do so! It made us feel that little bit closer to you all! With communication being so difficult in China, we were more than happy to be able to bring you into our universe in such a special way!
And then came time for the gig itself! And what a truly wonderful moment it has been! The place was truly on fire with youth thirsty for something real, something they could relate to. Rock is still a very underground culture in China. Not so long ago, music was only something for the nobles. It started spreading to the masses, but in way of traditional Chinese music or pop idols – from China, Korea and Japan. Rock is still not widely known, and majorly frowned upon. But still, that subculture is very alive in China, and the least we can say is that people who embrace it do so to the fullest!
We enjoyed a full day off on the day after the gig. Even if we were all tired from the gig on the night before, we decided to head outside the city center in order to see the Terracotta Army. We arrived at the station and were faced with a problem. We were on a limited time frame, having a train to take at night, and the queue to buy tickets to see the Terracotta Warriors was 3 hours long. Much longer than we could afford. We decided to go for a private taxi, that would be able to transport us all, much faster anyway! Finding one wasn’t exactly easy, but we met Jack, a very sympathetic guy, who told us about the history of Xi’An and the Terracotta Army on our way there!
We came back to our hotel, packed everything up, and then headed to Xi’An station for our night train (another hard sleeper) to Chongqing! And what an adventure it has been. We arrived to the station with all our gear. Waited in line to get our ticket checked. Waited inside to get our luggage scanned. And you need to understand that this is an awful process for us, as it means unstrapping all the guitar cases, putting them on the scanner belt, and strapping them back again. But we made it! We queued for our train. And then, in that sea of people, we were told that there were no elevators to our platform. Not only this. There were no escalators either. That meant we needed to go up all those 200 stairs with our equipment, amongst the ocean of people that was already there, getting them onto the platform, and coming back downstairs, against the flow, to pick up what was left. We arrived upstairs, all in sweat, strapped everything back again, and walked the long corridor as fast as we could. And then… stairs. We needed to go down. Same pattern. Unstrap, go down with equipment, come back up, bring what’s left, strap the equipment back, and then RUN to our train. Let me tell you, cabin 14 is very far away from cabin 1… We arrived at cabin 14, started getting the equipment in. It’s too tight, we’re on the other side of the train, and we can’t move with the suitcases in the narrow alley already packed with people as the train was overbooked. Take everything back outside, on the platform, and head for the other door of the cabin. Get the equipment in. The door is locked, we can’t make it to cabin 15. Get back outside, head to the other door again, resolute to get our gear through the narrow alley. Our translator then decides she could talk to the train officer, who unlocks the door between cabin 15 and 14. Head back to the other side of the cabin again. Get told that the train is leaving in 2 minutes and that no delay would be accepted. We’re still outside the train, with our 20-something suitcases to bring inside. But we made it. WE MADE IT! We were all on board, the people and the equipment! And then we were on for another 12-hour train… covered in sweat!
We arrived in Chongqing early in the morning, headed to our hotel, walked around the city a little, visited the Nuts Bar where we would play the day after, and made sure to relax and take it easy a little… 🙂
Chongqing was the last gig of the tour. It was hard to believe that we were almost over with the tour already. Time went by so fast! But somehow, we knew that this gig would be an incredible one. Ever since we visited the venue on the night before, Alex had the feeling that it would be very particular. And for that, he was right! What a night it has been! People went completely crazy! It is very hard to put words on the night that we shared with the people at Nuts Bar in Chongqing! Simply said, it was from a moment to eternity. The girls were screaming (think young girls in front of their Favorite boys band, but these girls were all in their twenties, and we are no boys band), fists were in the air, we’ve seen mosh pits, head banging, and at one point, people in the last row were all holding one another by the shoulders and doing one massive head banging wave. Alex went in the crowd more often than I can remember, body surfed quite a few times as well, and the drums ended in the crowd! All of this, broadcasted live online on our fan club, the Secret Family Cult Club! A true wonderful moment of communion… from China all over to North America, Europe, Japan and Australia!
We stayed a very long time in the venue after the show, taking pictures, signing autographs, and discussing with people. We left it was well past midnight. And despite an incredibly intense night (Alex’s soaking wet t-shirt being a testimony of it!), we would have loved for this moment to last much longer… Cool thing in China, we’ve not been kicked out of venues very often… To the contrary, people embrace that human feel after the show! We finally ended up in the hotel lobby, talking about the show, expecting to make it last a bit longer!
We left the hotel very early, at 9:30, and headed to the station. It took us 90 minutes to get there…! 90 minutes in Chinese traffic, as a national holiday started today. Chinese traffic is quite something usually. They use horns to communicate, lanes are absolutely nonexistent, you have buses sharing the highway with bicycles (yes, bicycles, not bikes). It’s a huge cacophony out there… We finally arrived at the hotel around 4pm, checked in, dropped our suitcases in our rooms, and then left for the venue in a hurry. We walked, walked, walked, with all the equipment and our backpacks… And found the place, a nice venue in the middle of an oasis of silence after 20 minutes. The venue is closed. Our translator calls the owner of the venue. It’s not the right “Little Bar”. No. That venue-bar has 5 locations in the area, and this one is not the good one. Walk back to the hotel, another 20 minutes… And then another 10 minutes to the actual location we are playing tonight!
And the show has been to the image of the day we’ve had… Intense, wild, and covered in sweat! That last gig of the tour being sold out, some people came with a hope of buying a ticket at the door… Seing there were so many unsuccessful people waiting outside, the staff decided to open the door… “They may not be able to see the gig, but at least they will be able to hear it”! Alex must have spent more time in the crowd than on stage, and it’s a wonder how he managed to do so, as walking in the middle of that crowd was mission impossible! The room was packed! Once again, I couldn’t count how many times he jumped in the crowd… But I did count how many times he jumped from the second floor balcony, and that amounts to 3 times! The very last time he jumped from there was quite something… He was body surfing, and managed to tell people he wanted to go there, and climbed onto the balcony while still being carried by people! People went mad, completely mad… and it was the only way to do it!
And this is how the tour in China ended… In the very same city it started, 3 years ago…
A true human experience, that once again has left us changed and transformed forever.
Reminding us that everything is possible, as long as we believe in it.
We can be whoever we want to be.
We can dream whatever we want to dream.
We are free. And we are flying. Even when we don’t see our wings.
Because truth is, we don’t need wings to fly.
As much as we don’t need gills to breathe under water.