THE year 2012 was another growth year for the Shanghai music scene, a step forward in the post Expo-era. Not a spectacularly great year, it was steady as she goes in many areas.
To put things in context, the World Expo Shanghai in the summer of 2010 brought a lot of international culture and welcome attention. However, it pulled audience attention and resources away from local artists. This led to what many felt was a low period for local artists.
From that summer, amazingly few music institutions have endured: Few bands are still together, few active band venues are still open, and much of the media has changed.
Things are still in flux, a sign of healthy competition and the expat-heavy involvement, but much has built up.
One of the biggest stories is the continued entrenchment of party promotion and planning companies. Each of them is establishing their own particular niche, and all seem to be attempting to set up a vertical structure in which they plan, book, perform and promote series of events.
For example, The Ice Cream Truck (TICT) has an active culture website (www.tictcreative.com), a popular series of rooftop and beach parties, a house crew of DJs, and are even now doing consistent consulting work for other organizations.
Similar promotion group STD has even moved into managing venues. After a false start, opening a now-closed venue in northern Shanghai, they now watch over bar Arcade (7 Fuxing Road W., near Yongfu Road) and club and concert venue Arkham (1 Wulumuqi Road, near Hengshan Road). Time will tell if they'll be able to keep it up.
For bands to play and hopefully fill the venues, the biggest winner may have been local post-punk band Duck Fight Goose, who consistently draw good crowds, and have also played multiple international gigs in the United States and Europe.
Another contender for band of the year would be punk duo Pairs, who put out a few well-received releases and have inspired many with their DIY ethos.
A gaggle of young bands without the same pull do show great promise. Two that fit that bill are saxophone-heavy rock group Round Eye and metal duo Death to Giants, as well as Alpine Decline and others.
Although those bands aim for the future, the biggest show of the year was about the end of one of Shanghai's most consistent rock acts, Boys Climbing Ropes. In a two-day event on June 1 and 2, dubbed "The Last Waltz," many of Shanghai's biggest acts shone, but none as brightly as Boys Climbing Ropes.
It was a true watershed moment, capped by the moment when bassist of the band Morgan Short proposed to lead singer Pei Pei. Between the sweat and tears, every one of the hundreds of faces was salty and soaked.
What will take its spot next year? I don't know, but I look forward to finding out!