What if the entire history of 20th century alternative music – from rock’n’roll and punk to new wave and all-night raves – happened in a single place over a single generation?
For two decades, Beijing was that place: a laboratory and a temple for some of the world’s most vital music. In the late 1990s, there was a spark in the smoggy air – a post-Tiananmen generation crafting surrealist, apathetic sonic fables of a forbidding, alienating city.
That city, their city, was busy overturning itself for the 2008 Olympics, which meant a paradoxical freedom: to explore, push, subvert traditions and expectations. There were no rules, and anarchic abandon reigned. Like 1970s Manchester, No Wave New York and Berlin before the fall of the Wall, the musical possibilities were endless. What emerged, from riot grrl punk to dissonant psychedelic rock, was unparalleled – a phenomenal, inventive underground scene that absorbed and reinvented many forms of contemporary music.
This comicbook is a telescopic, panoramic view of that Beijing underground – from the grimy dive bars that birthed Chinese punk rock to the livehouses and clubs that incubated the city’s many other musical experiments and movements. Built on a decade of lived experience, journalism and in-depth interviews, it’s a window into a parallax China of wild creativity and avant-garde pioneers — reported and drawn by two insiders of the scene.
It’s an illustrated love letter to the music that first defied, and then defined, 21st-century Beijing.