School Bar 10th Anniversary Collection: A Documentary

This is a fun documentary about the recording of the compilation album for the 10th Anniversary of School Bar in Beijing, a small bar and refuge for alternative music run by some of China’s rock veterans. It’s a short film that really conveys the atmosphere and bond between groups of musicians on this scene. Sadly, there are no English subtitles, but the gist of it is that the production was a long and hard journey that tested the patience of the team. Xu Chen the Ops manager, even postponed his wedding to finish it, hence the ceremony at the end. The bands, who seem more used to playing live, went through sessions that lasted for hours on end where one song was recorded over and over again. The album’s producer, Wang Di, one of China’s rock pioneers who’s worked with the likes of Cui Jian and He Yong, is clearly still a highly respected figure among younger musicians.

The production of this album is full of rock history significance. The recorded edition took place at the Baihua Studios ( Baihua meaning “hundred flowers”, those familiar with Chinese history will appreciate the revolutionary reference), in Baihua Shenchu Hutong, near Beijing’s Xinjiekou with its streets full of instrument shops, where many of China’s classic rock albums were born. The live recording lasted for days, following the bar’s usual format of five bands per night til midnight. Personally, I’m excited about the ceiling mic used in this live recording, that Wang Di had especially borrowed from Baihua Studios, the very one that recorded Wuliao Contingent’s eponymous compilation, live at Scream Club 20 years ago. It’s been 10 years now since I first delivered my talk on the Beijing punk movement in the UK.

The black text over a red background interspersed between the footage is extracts of lyrics from songs featured by different bands. There’s a comical five minutes at the beginning, when the producers ask the rockers to shout in unison a polite phrase to express their love for the music, because this being a formal recording for a Chinese label, all the swear words had to be bleeped out. Enjoy!

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