With the general feeling of renewal at Chinese New Year, it is unfortunate it begins with a “death.”
One of Shanghai’s best and most important bands, Death to Giants, is ending its run tomorrow at 9pm with a concert at Yuyintang (851 Kaixuan Rd, by Yan’an Rd W.).
Opening acts include funky alternative rock act Friend or Foe and electronic music maven Laura Ingalls of the Acid Pony Club.
As is almost customary with Death to Giants shows, you can expect some special guests.
The whole thing only costs 40 yuan (US$6.60).
The band is calling it quits as one half of the Death to Giants duo, bassist/vocalist Dennis Ming Nichols, is leaving Shanghai.
Death to Giants started as a side project for Nichols from his other band, Rainbow Danger Club. Rainbow Danger Club played melodic and polished indie pop music in a style similar to popular groups like Arcade Fire.
Early in their run they wore coordinated outfits, had meticulous artwork to their releases, and generally put forth a pretty professional front for a local rock band.
In contrast, Death to Giants, also seemed designed to open up small shows in front of crowds made up of their friends. That doesn’t speak to the quality of their music so much as the group’s general demeanor.
The group was also a side project for drummer/vocalist Ivan Belcic, who at the time was fronting metal group Moon Tyrant. That group was also presented with some care, playing each show with stage makeup.
For Death to Giants shows, both Nichols and Belcic showed up in T-shirts and shorts, and there was rarely any semblance of a setlist. They would talk casually with the audience. Songs would frequently turn into extended jams with whoever happened to be at the show.
Despite this, or because of it, Death to Giants worked.
The breakout moment for the group was perhaps their song “Anyone Can Learn to Count in Chinese!.” The song features complex signatures as the duo count in Chinese up to seven in a pleasant singing tone.
It then switches inexplicably into a hardcore stomp as Belcic explains the many practical uses of being able to speak Chinese.
That song, and the group’s expanded live sets, allowed Death to Giants to attract many Chinese fans, a feat virtually unparalleled in Shanghai music.
The group’s music, which they describe as death-pop, combined as much of a heavy sound as they could muster from a bass guitar and drums, but with an irreverent sense of humor and looseness. A song that was less than a minute long one week could be an extended jam the next.
By letting their guard down, Death to Giants allowed the members to reveal themselves as goofy and nerdy music fans who live in Shanghai.
They and the lighthearted fun that was part of the band’s persona will truly be missed.