Going Cold and Warming Up

When was the last time you felt infatuated? You met a new person, and there was just chemistry and excitement, and you couldn’t wait to see them again. But pretty soon, the spark was gone. You start to wonder what happened. Were you out of your mind before, or are you in a funk now? Pretty soon it doesn’t matter… the infatuation is over.

I have to admit: that’s how I feel about the Shanghai band Cold Fairyland (冷酷仙境).

Don’t get me wrong — Cold Fairyland is an awesome band, and I respect them a lot. They do an amazing and artistic mix of traditional and modern sounds. I also like how they almost never use English, no matter how many foreigners are at their shows.

The first show of theirs I saw at the Ark left me reeling. It was a truly amazing set, paced and executed expertly, driving the whole place into a dizzying climax. I was totally infatuated after that show. The two shows I have seen since then–one at the Ark again and one at the Creek Art Center–have led to me falling out of the infatuation.

I realized that they only have two songs that I really like. Those are their two rockingest songs. The others are cool, but when it comes to music, I have pretty simple tastes. For me, going to a Cold Fairyland show is kind of like going to an art museum to see an exhibit where I only end up liking one or two paintings. It’s sort of interesting, in that artsy “I’m appreciating culture” way, but it’s not exactly fun for me.

After the show on Saturday Brad and I headed over to Tang Hui (唐会). Ever since I first caught the live performances there, Tang Hui has been the only bar in Shanghai that I can say I really like. The shows I liked were put on by the owner, 张笃, a Chinese guy from Xinjiang who goes by the nickname of 竹马 (get it? 笃 = 竹马). He’s also the front man in his own band. He does a wicked cover of “No Woman No Cry” (who would have thought a Chinese guy could do such an authentic-sounding Jamaican accent??), some classic rock, and some cool ska Elvis covers. He and his friend from Xinjiang (who does a great “Nothing Else Matters” cover) also do some amazing rock versions of Xinjiang folk songs. I have no idea what they’re singing, but it sounds great. I thought Shanghai entertainment didn’t get much better.

Well, it gets a little better. Recently Tang Hui started giving this one Chinese woman a lot of time on stage, and she is amazing. She’s got a low, throaty voice, and the way she belts out songs makes for top-notch entertainment. Her songs are covers, and on Saturday night she did a bunch of Nirvana covers. Holy crap, I never thought a woman could do such awesome Nirvana covers. They weren’t even all the ones you’d expect, either — she did a few not on Nevermind like “Stain.” I was enthralled.

I was never really into cover bands before, but damn… that’s entertainment.

P.S. If you go to Tang Hui for the live music, don’t sit in the outer “hallway section.” It reduces the experience by approximately 60%.


Micah’s opinions of Saturday’s Cold Fairyland show (he liked it)
Dan’s review of Tang Hui, with address (this review was written pre-kickass singer chick, btw)


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. See, this is why I don’t write on my blog anymore — I can just come here and say, “I agree 100%”.

    BTW, I have my own tag? Cool!

  2. Brad,

    When you told me at the concert that it was going to be your last Cold Fairyland concert, it got me thinking. This is the conclusion I came to. I think part of the reason I liked to go see Cold Fairyland was that Micah’s enthusiasm for the band is somewhat infectious.

    Yeah, you have your own tag. Congratulations. I have to go back and tag a bunch more old entries before it’s really very useful, though.

  3. Chicken Pox, Chlaymdia, Conjunctivitis, Contact, Dermatitis, Genital Herpes, Head Lice, Hepatitis, Measles (Rubeola), Meningococcal Disease, Molluscum Contagiosum, Mumps, Nongonococcal Uretheritis (N. G. U.), Pubic Lice, Salmonella, Scabies, Tuberculosis (TB)… Micah’s enthusiasm for Cold Fairyland.

  4. Wow, everytime I read your entries, there’s something new to China that I missed out on and haven’t experienced yet – good stuff!

    To me at least a Jamaican and Chinese accent go together like Ketchup and Apples (that is, they are very different), so now I’m insatiably curious as to how the cover of “No Woman No Cry” sounded.


  5. Pketh,

    The man does a better Jamaican accent than I could ever dream of doing. It’s not really a mix of accents at all.

  6. Zhang Du also does an eerily realistic James Brown.

  7. color me impressed; maybe awed 🙂

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