Yesterday a friend in Chongqing posted on facebook that he'd just seen 6 rats at Big Pizza in Three gorges square. That was right after I'd returned home from eating, no more than 100 meters away, at Tianlu Sushi, and witnessing 1/6 of what went down at Big Pizza.
Now, if you want to eat delicious, traditional, inexpensive Chinese food, you're going to eat in in restaurants with rats. The aforementioned restaurants however are expensive(ish) and nice(ish) by local standards.
There is a time and a place for Rats. My favorite noodle shop for instance. Sushi. Sure as shit isn't one of them.
As 2010 comes to an end, I'm left to reflect on the year that was. Doing so evokes memories of events, and changes Chongqing has seen in the past year; CQ beer festival, legitimate western food, an Irish Pub, and main-stream media coverage. But what stick out in my mind most of all is the music. For 2010 was a great year for music in a city often referred to as a cultural desert.
And as I look out my window into a thick haze of urbanization, I try to recall where, for me, the year started. Of course I could say January 1, or February 14(Chinese lunar new year), but anyone who's been here as long as I have knows that due to the perma-grey skies, and bone chilling weather December through February, new year's day in Chongqing might as well be March 1. Or in my case, March 13.
March 13 is when I was blown away by Shanghai via Guizhou singer/MC ChaCha at Nuts Club, where many of my fondest memories form 2010 took place. Not to mention a mere few days later when I had a night out with the infamous Dead Elvis, which included a vomitus high schooler, and a tranny-bar. Or on April first when a Norwegian Jazz trio played, featuring one of the sick-nastiest drummers I'd ever seen. And later that spring when, 2 of China's best producers of electronic music, Liman and Sulumi(particularly Liman) rocked CiCi Park, Carsick Cars(in its original line-up) and 24Hours, played great high-energy sets at a near empty Nuts Club, Reptile Retard taking the energy through the roof with their unique style of "techno-soul," and Maybe Mars' return to Chongqing with Ourself Beside Me before the lull of summer.
And as the weather started to drop, the calendar began to fill-up, beginning in September with three nights of non-stop music from bands both foreign and local to celebrate Nuts Club's 3rd anniversary, featuring Chongqing's best Narrenschiff, BendT., The Wheels, and The Deep Green Sea. As well as spectacular performances by Seattle freak-folksters the Cave Singers, and 'psycho-billy' band Knuckle Bone Oscar from Denmark. October saw the return of ChaCha, this time with the entire Uprooted Sunshine Soundsystem, as well as legendary reggae producer Clive Chin. And later that fall when, recently named 'best band in China' Miserable Faith played to a packed house, Beijing up-and-comers Guai Li made their Chongqing debut and American instrumentalist Daniel Hart pulled off an excellent rendition of 'One Night in Beijing,' with his violin and dance-pad. Before the year was rounded out by two of my favorite bands from China's east coast, Dalian's Wang Wen, and Boys Climbing Ropes from Shanghai.
Its hard to believe so much has happened in so little time. It was no more than a year and half ago when Chongqing's live music options were limited to the odd show in a dark, dank, basement of a youth hostel, and the even more rare occurrence of 'dance' or 'electronic-music' parties. And to think, the above is a mere selection from the artists' performances that stick out in my mind, having left out acclaimed artist, both foreign and domestic.
The aforementioned local band The Deep Green Sea celebrated their 8th anniversary on New Year's day. Having seen them a dozen or so times, I was once again captivated by their somewhat eerie, somewhat funky, chilled-out sound. And if Chongqing's first 2011 show is anything to go buy, we should be in for yet another great year music, in what may be the only 'desert' in the world that is not expanding, but shrinking.